the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship
A great marriage shouldn’t be the focus or purpose of Christian couples. It should not be pursued or idolized as the ultimate fulfillment in this temporary life.
Marriage, for those who choose it, is not something to work on; it’s something to work with. It should be viewed as a tool, a multi-purpose tool.
If only marriage came wrapped in packaging with detailed instructions and a description of all the things this tool can do for you as a believer!
It might list a few like these:
1. It will sharpen you.
2. It will prune you.
3. It will run a daily diagnostic test revealing areas that need to be conformed to Christ.
If you choose to marry only for companionship and physical satisfaction, you’ll be disappointed when function #3 starts happening and you are unwilling to allow functions #1 and #2 to work properly.
Your spouse is a member of the body of Christ and they happen to be one that you decided to vow to both them and the Lord that you will partner with until death. That’s a pretty serious promise you’ve made. It’s also an amazing honor and privilege to commit yourself to someone else in that way. If you embrace the gift of marriage as God intended it, you won’t regret it!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Let’s take a closer look at how these functions work according to scripture.
Proverbs 27:17 says “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
As you walk through life, struggles come, both big and small. The function of the body of Christ is to strengthen and sharpen each other through exhortation and prayer, to remind each other of the hope (confident expectation) we have in the resurrection and the coming Kingdom. Your marriage should simply be a partnership of believers within the greater body of Christ.
Every passage of scripture that addresses how believers are to love and serve one another is one hundred percent applicable to a husband and wife. Don’t view yourselves as infatuated roommates, view yourselves in the context of brother and sister in Christ both in this age and the next.
While sharpening is something we can do for one another, pruning is between you and the Holy Spirit. Your spouse can encourage you to flee temptation, but you are the one that must choose between walking in the flesh and walking in the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-21 says “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
A man can only serve one master, and it’s either God or himself.
Philippians 3:19 references people “whose god is their belly.” Their mind is on earthly things and their end is destruction. The daily opportunity to serve a spouse and children is a BLESSING. Your beautiful family just may be the thing standing in the way of you living a life that is entirely self serving, bowing to that god of your own wants and desires. Be thankful for the people God has given you to serve.
Each time you serve someone else instead of yourself, every moment you make a deliberate decision to set your desires aside to care for your spouse… you are training your flesh to submit and obey to a higher authority than your own “belly.” This is a great example of “dying to self” and “picking up your cross.” Don’t live under the illusion that you would be a martyr for Christ if you won’t make small daily sacrifices for your spouse.
If your resistance to serving your spouse in this way comes from a place of resentment, feeling like you are on the short end of the stick, always serving and never receiving anything in return… you just revealed who you prefer. You may be physically going through the motions, but your heart is in serious need of pruning.
3. A Daily Diagnostic: Conforming to Christ
Clearly this goes hand in hand with sharpening and pruning. The state of marriage automatically puts you in a position to prove just how willing you are to put someone else before you. There’s a difference between paying it forward at Starbucks or letting someone ahead of you in the grocery checkout line and putting your spouse’s needs and desires ahead of your own every moment of every minute of every day. No time outs, no breaks. A marriage vow is a promise to lay your life down daily and you get to prove to yourself and your spouse and to the Lord every day that you meant it.
Sounds pretty intense when you say it like that.
It’s basically a situation inviting the Lord to hold up a mirror, showing you where you need to conform yourself more and more to His image. He does this through His word.
James 1:23-24 says "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”
If our goal, as believers, is actually to deny ourselves, live for Christ and be a reflection of Him in this life, then we should welcome something that shows us where we need to change.The problem comes when you are shown your own shortcomings, and want to ignore them, or even embrace them.
Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
So yes, if we are looking at the Word, or our spouse is reminding us in some kind of way what Christ looks like, we can’t help but see that we don’t measure up, and we need to be pruned. So the question remains, as our own sin and selfishness is revealed, will we allow our spouse to sharpen us and will we allow the Holy Spirit to prune us?
As believers, we are called to die to self, and to submit to one another in love. As married believers, we are called to both submit and love with the same sacrificial love Christ has for the church. This doesn’t just mean taking a bullet during a home invasion. This means preferring your spouse above your own desires.
It goes against every instinct of self preservation that we have.
We actually aren’t even physically capable of doing it.
Praise God for GRACE.
Grace is the God given strength and ability to do something beyond our human ability,
and not just anything… it specifically empowers and enables us to WALK IN THE SPIRIT and not in the flesh.
No, grace isn’t some kind of mind control hypnosis that forces us to do the “right thing.” It’s the ability to lean into the Spirit, letting him override our natural will, strengthening us to align our hearts in such a way that has our body following along, put into submission by our Spirit, walking hand in hand in unity with God’s Spirit.
By GRACE we can shift our mindset to the age to come, and with that perspective shift, our afflictions become suddenly so much lighter than previously thought.
There is a patience, a love, a faithfulness that grows out of that shift. Galatians 5:22-23
To the onlooker, it may appear that you are simply choosing to be patient, choosing to rejoice in a bad situation. You might even irritate those around you if you seem to exude peace in the midst of disruptive life upheaval, but you’re not picking yourself up by your bootstraps or pushing through with your own willpower. That might work for a little while, but it’s unsustainable and an effort made in vain.
A perspective shift, a revelation so to speak, of the coming Kingdom and the hope (confident expectation) that it holds for you is the only thing that will prove to be sufficient armor to stand against the struggles of this world and more specifically, our own selfishness.
Let your marriage be a tool that prepares you for the coming Kingdom, not a ball and chain that holds you to this temporary life.
Ask God for GRACE to die to self and serve those around you, focused on eternity and not just the wants and desires of our daily lives.
Pray for GRACE for your spouse, asking the Lord to use your spouse to sharpen you and for the opportunity to lift up and encourage your spouse daily in return.
Let constant meditation on the Word of God encourage you, correct you and comfort you as you remain faithful to the Lord, living in light of the coming Kingdom.