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About this series
Backup Singers to the Duet of Marriage
Marriage - one man, one woman - is the foundation of cultures that thrive. Guest teacher, Doug Fields explains who the backup singers are. We call them Christians who live like Christians. You’ll hear three songs the backup singers need to be singing in order to support and encourage the covenant of marriage.More from this series
What does it look like for you to honor your spouse? I’m going to give you a way that is very, very simple. I recently read an article from the University of Georgia. And this article was published in a journal on – an academic journal – on human relationships.
Listen to this. After interviewing married couples on relationship satisfaction, covering everything from communication habits to finances, they found that the most consistent, significant predictor of happy marriages – ready for it? The most significant, consistent, significant predictor of happy marriages was whether one’s spouse expressed gratitude.
What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t last is not how often they argue, but how they treat each other on a daily basis. The study goes on to show the power of thank you. And suggested as small, practical ways couples can help strengthen their marriage.
Isn’t that amazing? The most significant, contributor to marriages that last is gratitude. You know how you can honor your spouse? By saying thank you.
So, the first song. Marriage needs to be honored by all. You understand that one? You with me? We’ll go to the second song. The second song that I want you to sing is a powerful duet is, “Marriage needs to be enjoyed.”
See, God did not give you your spouse to beat you down and drain the life out of you, to make you more like Jesus. Alright? And there was a whole movement in the Christian space about: marriage is to sanctify you. Marriage is to make you holy. It’s not about making you happy. It’s about making you holy. Okay? Am I a deeper follower of Jesus because I’ve been married thirty-two years to Cathy Fields? Absolutely. Has it made me holier, a better man? Yes.
But marriage has also made me happier too. That I think there’s a balance between happy and holy. And in the book of Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament, as we look at the wisdom literature, it talks about how to avoid a meaningless life and take advantage of living. Look at this verse. Ecclesiastes chapter 9. It says, “Go eat your food with gladness and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now what God favors what you do.”
Read the next five words with me. “Enjoy life with your wife.” “Enjoy life with your wife whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun.” Isn’t that a great verse? I love, I love God’s Word. I really do.
But, like, but that word “meaningless” – meaningless can actually be translated as fleeting. Fleeting. Meaning life is moving by. It’s going by so quickly, so enjoy time with your wife.
Men, you don’t have to choose between a wife or a life, that you can have both at the same time, you can enjoy life with your wife. God has given you a spouse. Not to grind the life out of you, but to help you live life, holy and happy.
If marriage needs to be enjoyed by all, how do you enjoy your marriage? Let me give you one practical tip that all social science points to and it’s this: date one another. Date one another. I mean, that’s what we do before we get married.
And then they get married, what happens? People get married, they’re like, “You know, we did all this stuff and then we get married, like…” And we miss it! Life gets in the way. We don’t enjoy each other as much. Now, you know, when you go out to a restaurant tonight and you look at couples, they’re sitting across from each other, looking at their phones, it’s like they are enduring one another, listening to each other chew their meal. I mean, that’s not life.
When Cathy and I, thirty-two years ago got pre-marital counseling before we got married, which is a great advice for anybody, I remember two things the marriage counselor said. First, he said, “Sex starts in the morning.” I was nineteen years old. I was like, “Awesome. I love that. I love that.” I was writing that. I don’t even need to write that down. I was a nineteen-year-old, starts in the morning, into the afternoon, I’ve heard about that. In into the evening, woo!
And then what he explained to me is, “No, it starts in the morning in how you treat her.” Which that wasn’t as exciting. But the second thing that he said, he says, “If you want to win in marriage, date your wife. Continue to do what you have done in the past.”
Why do we stop? I think most of us in here we don’t understand the power of dating or we say – people have all kinds of excuses, “I don’t have any ideas. I don’t know what to do.” Key word: Pinterest. Pinterest, alright? A lot of ideas on Pinterest, alright? Seriously. I’m kind of sad to admit that I know that. My wife caught me on the computer looking at Pinterest and you just Goog… you know put in “date ideas” and just thousands show up. It’s awesome. But what my marriage counselor said, thirty-two years ago,
just out of his gut, out of his intuition.
Now fast-forward today, there is all kinds of empirical evidence that dating leads to enjoyment. There’s the National Marriage Project out of the University of Virginia that suggests dating leads to increased marital satisfaction and suggested five benefits from the research.
One, dating keeps lines of communication open. Two, dating allows couples to shatter routines and get out of a rut. Three, dating models commitment to their children. Four, dating relieves stress. And five, dating rediscovers passion and sparks sexual intimacy.
Some of you just woke up. Alright. But without, here’s what happens in all marriages. Without an intentional plan to date, a marriage will begin to drift. And then other things get in the way. And when a marriage just gets one degree, two degrees off course, over a long period of time, that actually leads to a shipwreck. You want to enjoy your marriage? Then date one another.
As a matter of fact, these two fit hand in hand, because when I said, “Marriage needs to be honored,” it’s a lot easier to honor your marriage when you enjoy your marriage.
Alright, there’s a third song that I want to ask you to sing. Not only does marriage need to be honored by all and need to be enjoyed by all, it’s: marriage needs to be prioritized. Now, this point is going to bother some of you, the ones it’s going to bother are those of you who put your parenting over your marriage.
The Bible teaches that your marriage is to be the primary relationship, not the parent/child relationship. In Genesis chapter 2, right at the beginning, right? At the beginning of the Scriptures, here’s what it says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife and they become one flesh.”
If you look in the New Testament, Jesus quotes the Old Testament in Matthew chapter 19, in Mark chapter 10, you see Jesus saying the same thing. That word united, “they are united to his wife,” that word united is another word for intercourse. That two become one and they are united in God’s eyes.
Men, women, you are not one with your child. Your child is eventually to leave. Buh-bye, buh-bye. You graduated. Go out of the house. You know that type that, I mean, you love them deeply but you are not one with them.
And in today’s culture, a lot of homes are experiencing what I would call a kid-centric home. Or a child-centric home where the child is the center of everything. And mom and dad make their entire life around the child. And then eventually when the child is older, the child doesn’t want to leave, hence no longer getting married at twenty-two but twenty-eight. The child doesn’t want to leave. And the parents don’t want the child to leave.
In order to prioritize your marriage, it means you put your marriage before your kids. You put your marriage before your kids. And as a matter of fact, those of you who are a little bit on the younger side, if you do that, your empty-nesting years will be amazing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love being a parent.
But Cathy and I, we were wise enough to anticipate the empty nesting years. And empty nesting is joyous.
Here’s what’s frightening, what’s frightening in today’s marriage, again, we’re talking about strong families in a broken world, what is frightening for couples of kid-centric marriages, will you even have a marriage when the children leave? Researchers out of Bowling Green University write this, “In 1990,” so do the math, what is it, twenty-seven years ago. 1990. “One in ten individuals who divorced were fifty years or older. Twenty-seven years later that number jumped to more than one in three point six. There is a phenomenon now in our culture called the greying of divorce. Greying. G-R-E-Y. Grey hair. Meaning older people are getting divorced.
Why? Because helicopter parents who made their whole life about their kids, when the kids were finally gone, there was, there was nothing left of their marriage. You put your marriage before your kids. That’s the priority. That’s God’s design for marriage.
I can hear your pushback. Some of you are like, “Well maybe you just don’t like your kids as much as I like my kids.” That’s not true. Okay? You can’t prove that.
Then secondly, if you really do love your kids like I think you do, if you really do love them, can I tell you that one of the greatest gifts that you can give your children is a strong marriage? They need to see mom and dad dating and talking and laughing and playing together. Friends, too much hangs in the balance.
And can I tell you that the job of the children’s ministry and the youth ministry is to come alongside of you to support you? But it’s your primary job to help kids walk in the faith. And too much hangs in the balance if they don’t see a loving marriage.
The Journal for Scientific Study of Religion says, “Children of divorced Christian parents are more than twice as likely to leave the Church. That’s fascinating to me. It’s an alarming statistic. Sixty percent of children of divorce walk away from the faith. Why? I think it’s because maybe mom and dad promoted God’s love, but apparently God’s love wasn’t strong enough to keep them together. And the hypocrisy was just too great. I mean, studies are just still coming out on this.
Just a few months ago in The Washington Post, there was a headline that said how decades of divorce have helped erode the faith.
So why talk about this today? Why should the Church help marriages win? Because we are about discipleship. We are about discipleship in adults and we are about discipleship in the next generation. And we want to help kids walk in the ways of Jesus.
And they are more likely to do that if mom and dad do and mom and dad stay together. So what am I asking you to do? I’m not, I’m hoping nobody feels guilty in here. It’s not about guilt. This is about growth.
What am I asking you to do? I’m asking you to do these, sing these three songs and apply them to yourself, that we should honor marriage, that we should enjoy marriage, and we should prioritize marriage.
When I talk about “honor marriage” – well, how about this? What if I said, “Is your, is your marriage worth one percent of your time?” One percent.
Okay, let’s just take that concept. One percent of your time. There are fourteen hundred and forty minutes in a day. One percent of your time is fourteen minutes and forty seconds. Not sitting next to each other and watching TV. But fourteen, four – round it up. Fifteen minutes a day, knee to knee, eye to eye, expressing gratitude for one another. Talking about what you, what is honorable about that person. That would change your marriage.
That’s what it means to honor your marriage. I’m just – fifteen minutes a day. Start somewhere. Maybe it’s only one minute a day. But start there. That’s what it means to honor your marriage.
Then to enjoy your marriage, I talked about dating. What is one percent of your week? Well, do the math out, one percent of your week is an hour and forty minutes. That’s a date! An hour and forty minutes is a date. I would say to date weekly. An hour and forty minutes. “What do we do with the kids?” Duct tape always works. Okay?
Then it’s to prioritize your marriage. Prioritize your marriage means to stop the kid-centric homes. As a matter of fact, the first time you leave on a date, your child might cry, but guess what, they are going to get used to it. And they are going to grow up in an environment where they understand that mom and dad are modeling something to them that will last them for a lifetime. It actually will create a confidence and a security in them as children.
And some of you are struggling. And I get it. You have never, ever had anybody singing those songs to you. And I want to encourage this church to become that type of church that are about strong families in a broken world, that we lift up marriage, we talk highly about marriage, we model the enjoyment and the prioritization of marriage because when you change marriage, you change the Church. When you change the Church, you change the community. And when you change the community, you change the culture.