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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 3
Four Challenges Great Marriages Have in Common
If you could take a step back and really evaluate your marriage… how does it look? Is it just a little out of sync... are there a few areas that need some work... or is your relationship on the verge of completely falling apart? Through his newest volume of “Keeping Love Alive,” Chip reveals a humbling truth… every marriage has its struggles… even the ones that look perfect. In these programs, Chip addresses the 4 challenges great marriages have in common. He exposes how - busyness, temptation, kids, and stagnation - can ruin relationships. Discover from God’s Word how you and your mate can handle these trials together - and become a stronger couple, more effective parents, and create a happier home.More from this series
I’m going to talk about four challenges in our time together that all couples have and the first one is the challenge of busyness. You just, when life gets going fast, when there’s pace, you don’t have time to really talk. When you get going really fast, you don’t parent the way that you know you want to parent. When you cross each other in schedules and over time, busy, busy, busy.
And so, we are going to talk about how not to be crazy busy. In your notes, these are six symptoms of misplaced priorities. Are you ready? I’ll go through them rather quickly and rather than overly analyze them, I’d like you in your mind, not like, Wow! Two and four really apply to my mate. Maybe think about you. These are the symptoms of misplaced priorities.
Number one, it’s, I’ll just use the word “busy”. It’s called the activity trap. People who are close to you are saying you really need to slow down. You are always in a hurry. When you walk into the grocery store or the bank, you’re constantly looking for what is the shortest line. When you’re in your car, you’re driving mostly in the left lane and sick and tired of the person that won’t get over and allow us to get through. You’re trying to analyze if you don’t have one of those little things on the dashboard of your car, “How far over the speed limit can I go without actually getting a ticket?”
You rush. You find yourself eating fast, driving fast, thinking fast. Apart from areas where other people will see, inside your dresser drawer is a mess. Your closet is disorganized and your desk is a mess as well, because you’re constantly going here, here, here, there. If it’s not a mess, it’s because what you do before you leave is you stack everything together in a very unorganized order, but it looks good on the outside. And you are just, you are just busy, moving fast all the time.
If you have children, the worst symptom is when one of them is grabbing your leg as you are walking out the door, and looking up at you like, “Can I really have some time?” As you say, “Yes, real soon. As soon as this is over. As soon as I get back; as soon as things calm down.” Busy, busy, busy. You feel held hostage, you feel like there is honestly not enough time and you actually have believed the lie that there’s just not enough time, instead of misplaced priorities.
Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators said, “Emotion is no substitute for action, action is no substitute for productivity, and productivity is no substitute for reproduction or real accomplishment.”
The second is emotional stress and pressure. You feel uptight, you might have tightening in your chest, trouble sleeping, uneasy feelings, restlessness, can’t get your mind to stop, indecisive, decisions are on the line and you can’t quite make up your mind, you feel like there is way too much to do, there’s too many balls in the air that you’re trying to juggle.
And it’s not the hours of the work, it’s the stress and anxiety, when you are honest, of wondering whether the important things are really getting done. And you feel the tension. And you know there are really important things and you are moving and you feel it inside and it’s eating at your soul.
If it happens long enough, some people burn out. If it happens long enough, some people break down. And depending on your personality type, sometimes you blow up. It causes marital tension, outbursts of anger. Or if you stuff it, you find yourself, after a while, getting really depressed.
Busyness, emotional stress and pressure, [third] low-grade nagging guilt. You feel bad about yourself, it’s a different kind of restlessness. You don’t, I’m not fulfilled. A lot of things you know that are really important that you are actually telling other people how important they are, and that they ought to do them, but if the truth is known, you’re not even doing them yourself.
Relationships are more and more superficial, little time for celebration, daily pressures push aside the need to envision and plan and pause. You have that feeling down inside like, I know this is the kind of man, or, the kind of woman, the kind of Christian, the kind of mom, the kind of dad I’m supposed to be, and I’m juggling and I’m moving and I’m juggling and I have this low-grade nagging guilt that tells me that I’m a hypocrite. And I will tell you one thing about life: everyone hates hypocrites.
But what is really painful is when you look in the mirror and realize that person you’re looking at is you. And so, you fake it and you skim and you juggle and you pose and you find yourself projecting that things are better and find yourself in moments that aren’t really good inside. And then someone that you know, “Oh, yeah! Hey, man! Yeah! Right at you, man. Good to see you again!” And these things build. And some of them have some really deep causes.
A fourth symptom that your priorities are misplaced is financial debt, financial problems. Money is tight. You used to give the first portion to the Lord, and you look at your finances right now and think, Man, I would love to. I don’t see any way. The fact of the matter is is that debt gets higher and higher.
And, see, when you have busyness and emotional stress and low-grade guilt, what you do is, a lot of us at least, is it really feels better short-term to go buy something, or to go out to eat, or to buy a toy, or to pay for a vacation because you really need to get refreshed with money that you don’t have.
And then about thirty days later, when the credit card comes, and they tell you crazy things like, “Well, you only need to pay a minimum of sixteen dollars and forty-four cents on the four hundred and ninety-nine dollars that you just charged.”
Except that you do that and you keep pushing that can and you realize you’re paying twenty-three, twenty-five percent interest and you’re getting robbed. And the hole gets deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper.
And the car is on time, and the TV is on time, and this is on time, and this is on time, and the credit cards come, and the mortgage issues come. And pretty soon, you start drowning. Over half of all marriages that fail, fail because of financial pressure. And the issue has nothing to do with finances.
The next one is, I just call it prayerlessness. It’s leakage in your devotional life. When you get going really, really fast, it’s not like you don’t pray, but instead of – you know those times when you’re walking closely with God and you find yourself where you have built-in times and you realize you have nothing to bring to anyone unless you are with Him, and you sit down and you make time. And maybe it’s not as long as you would like, but it’s not rushed. And you’re in His Word and you close your eyes and you think about it and you really pray and you process and He brings things to your mind and, Ooh, yeah, oh. I’m sorry. Father, thank You so much.
And then you think about what is coming up and those issues that do bring anxiety and then you begin, one by one, cast them to the Lord. And, I don’t know how it’s going to work out with schooling and this is going to happen with the finances.
And there’s a sense that you are walking with God. And when prayerlessness kicks in or there is leakage, pretty soon, when you pray, it’s, like, in the car when you can turn off the radio. And you pray on the run. Or you meet with someone else and you pray with them. But what you realize, again, it’s like you start to skim.
And then there’s this, just this weird feeling like someone moved, but God feels distant. You know what I mean?
You close your eyes, you’re ready to pray, and it’s like, I mean, I know what the promises say, but He just…
And then it creates low-grade nagging guilt. And then the low-grade nagging guilt causes you to buy stuff that you really don’t need. And then that causes more emotion and anxiety and as you have more anxiety, I don’t know what it is about we are the, maybe the only species that we think when we don’t know what to do, we’ll do what you don’t know faster. Right?
I remember sitting on a plane and feeling so overwhelmed and a mixture of all these things and I opened up my phone and unlike some people who want to get it down to zero, I just sort of, ah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And a bunch of it’s a bunch of junk and you unsubscribe, and it seems like somehow they resubscribe you somehow. And I remember, and I remember sitting on a plane doing this. Delete, delete, delete, delete. And I looked down, I deleted a hundred and sixty-six of these things. And I had this little feeling like, I accomplished something. And I thought, Is that sick or what? To think that deleting an email that is meaningless, but I just wanted to do some kind of activity that made me feel like I was actually accomplishing something when I felt paralyzed and anxious and struggling.
And what I really needed was to clear all the decks and draw near to God, have Him draw near to me, and get refreshed in my soul.
The final one, as I have alluded to maybe in a sense, but it it’s escapism behavior. It’s the quick fix, it can be the vocation, or the vacation, but often it’s bingeing on a Netflix, it’s logging onto porn, it’s going to the refrigerator and eating food that you’re not hungry for, but you just feel better for a little while, until about three weeks of that and then your clothes don’t fit and you don’t feel good about yourself and you buy some stuff that you don’t need, that you buy them in another size, then you…anyway.
These are just symptoms. And then what we tell ourselves, and this is the lie, this is from someone who was a class-A workaholic. And that grew out of some of my father issues. My dad loved me, but he didn’t know how to put his arm around me, I didn’t him say those words, “I love you,” until probably he was maybe in his fifties. Not because he didn’t, but…
And he was a Marine. And he was a great athlete. And he was a schoolteacher, math and science. So other than needing to go four-to-four, up to bat, scoring a lot of points, getting a basketball scholarship, and getting almost straight As all the time, and when you did that, it wasn’t enough to, then you get a degree. And then at the graduation, instead of, “Great job,” it’s, “Eh, not bad. So, when are you going to get your masters?” And when you got your masters, “Oh, that’s pretty good. When are you…?” And it didn’t matter. You go three for four, “How many times have I told you?” It’s, “Hey, it’s an inside curve ball! When you open your hips and step here, you’re always going to ground out to the shortstop. Come on!”
He was drafted by the Saint Louis Browns, amazing athlete, and I can just tell you this, he loved me, loved me, loved me. But it did not matter what I did, it wasn’t quite enough. And I have lived a big portion of my life learning my heavenly Father is not like that. And my adult boys would tell you, “Dad, you recovered a lot and you made a lot of progress, but whatever he was passing down to you, you gave us a pretty good dose of that yourself.”
So, what I want, here’s what I want you to know. Those are just symptoms; they are not the root problem. And the lie that those of us that live like this more than we want to admit, and by the way, for whatever level right now that you’re saying, Yeah.
And others are a little bit more like, “Yeah, you know, I got a little bit of this,” you’re in denial. And what we say is, “This is only temporary, as soon as we get into the house, as soon as we get relocated, as soon as the kids start school, as soon as we can sort of balance our finances…”
In other words, it’s when/then, when/then. I just want you to know, then never comes. It’s a way to stay in denial and keep your life always focused around symptoms. And what I want to talk to you about is how to get a hold of your life, because you break out of busyness when you get your priorities clear and get them God-honoring, receive God’s grace, make some very hard decisions, learn to say no to some things, develop some new habits, and we heard about the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I’ll tell you the one that everyone misses, the very last one is self-control. Self-discipline.
And I’m not talking about a God who everything has to be in cookie-cutter order, but I’m telling you about a God who is a God of order. And so, let me shift gears and open your notes and let’s get to the solution side.
You might wonder then, so what are biblical priorities? What do they actually look like? I’d like to say that turn to 1 Priorities chapter 7, verse 3 and I will line this out for you, but there is no book of Priorities. But Paul wrote two twin epistles while he was in prison. And the first half of Ephesians 1, 2, and 3 is doctrine or what is true about us; the first half of Colossians chapter 1 and 2 is doctrine or what is true about us and what is true about God.
And then beginning in the second half of both books, he talks about, “Therefore, walk,” or, “live in a manner that is aligned with God’s will and God’s wisdom.” And I put it in your notes. And so, I’m not going to go through these, but just look. Each one of them start with your relationship to God, then your relationship with your mate, then your relationship with your family, relationship with your work, relationship with your ministry.
Now, here’s for years how I used to think about this and it never worked. I thought, That means every day, seven days a week, three sixty-five, then the order of what I do is it has got to be God first, then I guess I meet with my wife, then I meet with my kids, and, well, wait a second. One kid is in ICU. Oh, wait a second, we’ve got a – I’ve got to be overseas. Priorities don’t work. They are lined out in terms of what is most important. Can I give you a picture that is different of priorities that I think will really help you?
Have any of you ever seen one of those, maybe at a wedding or a super fancy hotel, a chocolate fountain? Okay, so you know there’s this, they shoot the chocolate up and it’s here, right? And it’s in a little circle. And then it has a little “V” and it goes to another ring, right? And then has another ring, then it has another ring, and so, it’s like these – I will date me, but for really old people before ice makers, they used to have ice trays. And you would fill the ice trays. And in between all the little diggity-doos, I don’t know what you call those things, but there would be a little “V” so that as you poured the water in it would go from this one to this one to this one to this one.
And then no matter what you did, you spilled it when you put it in. But you get the idea. Okay? When this one got filled, it would fill the next one. When it got filled, it filled the next one. Am I going too fast for you? You got this? Okay.
I want you to think of your priorities as a chocolate fountain. And at the top cylinder, and do you remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well? He said, “If you knew the gift of God that I have,” and then He talks about, “My life is like living water. It’s like it’s an overflowing fountain.” And what it is is the Spirit of God in your new life, what He wants to do is have you abide in Christ, talking with Him, being in His Word, the company of God’s people.
So, the first priority is being filled with God, abiding in Him.
Now, depending on where you’re at in your life, what happened that day, but what does it, what do you need? I mean, you don’t feed a baby the same thing as a three hundred- and thirty-five-pound lineman, right? So, we all have a little bit different diet, but what of God’s Word, what time, what prayer? And then what happens is now when that is full, guess what, now you have something to give to your mate.
See, you are commanded to love your mate, if you’re a man, the way Christ loved the Church. Well, what does that mean? Die for her. That’s not hyperbole. I mean, if you need to physically die for your wife, die for her.
But actually, it’s much harder to live for her, to put her needs first. Love is giving another person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost. That’s the cross. And I am to serve my wife in that way. I can’t do that. It’s impossible. So, I need to be filled up with the grace of God and the power of God so that I am having this kind of relationship with my wife.
As we connect and love one another and we build intimacy, that builds tremendous security in these kids. But she is more important than them and she is more important than my job. And as we connect then, that overflows into the life of our kids. And as that, you get the idea?
And so, I’m going to give you two words, two tools to start focusing on the important. This will literally be sort of like to get you started. But two words that hold the keys to enjoying the peace and the power of a prioritized life. That’s really what right priorities do.
And, by the way, do they flex? Of course. There’s no rigidity, there’s not legalism.
Here’s a prioritized life is, “Give me your phone, give me your calendar, give me your checkbook and if I could I would hook something up so I could see what you’re dreaming about when you daydream. And I could look on your phone, in your calendar, and where your meetings are, and I could tell you within a millimeter of accuracy the trajectory of where your life will be ten years from now, with absolute certainty.
Because, “As a man or a woman thinks, so you become.”