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Challenge #4 - Stagnation, Part 1

From the series Keeping Love Alive - Volume 3

Whether you’re running a business, playing a sport, or staying in shape - hard work and dedication are key. But what happens when things get too routine or old? In this program, Chip continues his series “Keeping Love Alive, Volume 3” by talking about the issue of stagnation, what it looks like, and how to keep your marriage from falling into unhealthy habits. Don’t miss the ways to preserve intimacy in your relationship.

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Message Transcript

Pull out the notes, I think the final challenge is stagnation.

The picture when I think of God’s marriage is an equilateral triangle that you see is there. God is at the top and you’ll notice that if you put, in fact, if you’ll put your notes down, put your fingers on the right where it says “woman” and where it says “man” at the bottom, kind of at the bottom of the triangle. And then just move your fingers up halfway.

And as you, as the man and the woman each get closer to God, what happens to their relationship? And then move it all the way up within about a quarter of an inch to the top. See, the greatest thing you’ll ever do for your marriage, it’s the thing that you can control is walk closely with God.

Because as you get closer to Him, He gives you the power and the perspective to give your mate what they need, to forgive your mate when it’s really hard to, to not let the wounds fester.

And then you’ll notice that in that picture, there’s, it’s spirit, emotions or soul, and body. And on the right side where it says “spirit” just write the word “fellow worshipper”. Is this is just a part of – this is God’s diagram. This is the engineer saying: This is how marriage works. You want to have a spiritual connectedness with one another. Be fellow worshippers.

And on the left side of that, write the word “agape”. Agape love is an unconditional giving of love with no expectation of return. God so loved the world, it’s agape love.

And so, you want to experience God’s love and you want to provide that to one another. Where it says, “soul”, if you put a little arrow to the right, and write “best friends”. So, God wants you to be fellow worshippers, but an awful lot of marriage is just being best friends. We will talk about what that looks like.

And to the left, then, write the word “phileo”. It doesn’t matter how you spell it. Just be phonetic. But phileo love is, it’s a friendship love. It’s – when Jesus said, “Do you love Me?” to Peter, Peter responds, “Phileo – You know I love You.” And he goes there a couple times and finally he gets to the, “Lord, You know, You know who I am. Yes, we are friends, but only You.” And he makes a little distinction between agape love and phileo love.

But this is, it’s the kind that friends have, that you care for one another. We would call it, “You’ve got each other’s back.” You have fun; you share.

And then, the body is “passionate lovers”. Put that to the right.

And so, there’s fellow worshippers, best friends, passionate lovers, and then on the left side write the word “eros”. We get our English word erotic. God wants us to have deep, intimate, passionate sexual relationship with one another.

And it starts with your connection; there’s a very high correlation. By praying together and having passionate love, physically. Because there’s something that happens that opens the heart and the soul of one another. There’s a connectedness.

And so, that’s the picture.

The problems are three or fourfold. There are spiritual issues, psychological issues, gender issues, and history issues. And by spiritual I mean I am basically a selfish person; even after coming to Christ, I want my way. And my wife wants her way. And so, I’ve got to, the only way I can get that straightened out is by God’s power.
And then there’s the psychological. And what I mean by that is you have different personalities: introvert, extrovert. You like different things. You connect in different ways. You are different. And differences are great for connecting, but differences also repel.

And then you have gender issues. Women and men don’t look at life the same way, don’t respond in the same ways, and so, that old, old book, what was it? Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. I mean, there’s – contrary to what we are hearing in our day, there is dramatic differences, not just physically, but between men and women in terms of everything from processing information to relational styles to abilities and capacities.

And then finally, we have history. And some of that is family of origin, some of it is trauma. You married someone that has been abused, someone who has been raped, someone who has been in an accident. All I’m trying to tell you is there’s lots working against you having a great marriage.

And then, finally, there’s a process. And I think the process, primarily, is this idea of learning to communicate and share openly so that you can deal with those issues and realize, yes, we are different. We have different personalities, we have different backgrounds, we can learn about one another, but we have – God the supreme engineer has told us, Put Me first, draw near to Me, you’ll draw near to one another.

And at the very bottom where it says Genesis 2:24, just write the word “oneness or intimacy”. That’s God’s goal in marriage. Genesis 2:24 says, “We’ll leave our families and become one.” And it says they were both naked and unashamed. And certainly it was physical, but it’s more, it’s emotionally, it’s the vulnerability, being safe with one another.

And so, all I wanted to do is just give you a picture of exactly, kind of, that’s the goal. That’s the design.

And so, I think there are four things that keep stagnation at bay. And the first one is commitment. And commitment is a lifelong, notice, choice of unconditional love. Circle in your notes, if you would, “choice”. So often, we think it’s commitment is when it works.

The focus here is to love. And as we have already shared, love is volitional, not just emotional response to our spouse. It’s that agape word. It’s Jesus in the garden choosing to go to the cross. And our model is Hebrews chapter 13, verse 5.
And we are only going to look at four verses, very shortly. So, I’d like you to go ahead and turn to them so you can – I’d like you to see them in your own Bible or your own phone, if you will.

Hebrews chapter 13. It’s written to a mixed group of believers and unbelievers, and the big issue of the book is people are drifting. They are drifting away from God, under pressure.

Verse 4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.”

So, there are a couple strong words there about sexual purity, about the danger of not money itself, but the love of it. And then here’s the purpose clause, “For God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”

Just that idea, “I will never ever leave you. I will never ever forsake you.” Your mate, knowing that that’s your commitment to them, creates a place of safety. You can be hurt, you can be angry, you can be frustrated, you can have arguments, but I don’t think you ever use the word “divorce”. It should never come out of your mouth.

The commitment says, “I love you.” That’s what commitment really says. I love you in the good times, I love you in the bad times, I love you when things are going well, I love you especially when things are not going well. Love, for certain, means fidelity to one another, sexually. Loving your mate when it’s hard.

And I just think that’s what helps you get through. There are dark valleys in every marriage. There are seasons and sometimes it’s because of children, or financial pressure, or struggles with in-laws, or health issues, or depression, or anxiety, or anger. But to know that there’s one other person that you just choose to say, “I don’t know how, I don’t have it all figured out, but I love you. I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you.”

Reinforcing that, and I’ll give you some ways to do that as we close up. That helps refresh. We sort of assume that, but over time, you’ve got to put that log on the fire. You’ve got to look your mate in the eye and tell them, “I love you. I’ll never leave you. I’ll never forsake you.”

Second is communication. The focus here is to know. It’s a lifelong skill, learning to understand each other. Circle the word “skill”. See, some things are just a choice. It’s: This is what I am going to purpose to do. But this is a skill.

And it’s not learning to talk, as I have had to learn painfully. It’s learning to understand each other. What you want, you want to know them. You know what makes them happy. You know what makes them sad. Over time, you know why they do what they do, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.

You know where they have been and where they have been hurt and where they have been wounded and why they might be sensitive to this or sensitive to that, or…

The skill takes time, it takes practice, it takes help, it takes effort. Theresa and I have read multiple books over the years, we have listened to lots of messages, we have made time to get away.

Our model is Jeremiah 33:3 I love this. It says, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.”

God says, “Let’s communicate. Just call to Me. Open up, ask, talk, and I will answer you.”
And I think that’s our model.

Isaiah 43, I remember it’s I think verse 21 through about verse 26, if you want to check it out later. But it’s a judgment passage where He is reminding them of all the things they have done and He said, “I wasn’t looking for all your sacrifices and all this and all that.” But He says, “You have drifted away from Me.” And then He says, “I, even I, have forgiven you for My own sake.”

And then He makes this invitation, “Come, let us argue our case together.” In other words, God is saying to a people that have rejected Him, Let’s just start talking again. Let’s just start communicating. Even though you are way over here, I have blotted out your transgressions for My own sake. I want to be with you. I want to connect with you so much, and I just think that’s the kind of attitude we want to have with our mates, especially when we are wounded.

Communication is the highway upon which love travels. Communication says, and this is a key word, “I trust you.” See, you can say words, but communication is I am going to open up and I am going to share some things that are vulnerable, and if you don’t treat them very well, then it’s going to be very painful.”
And at the end of the day, love is being willing to say some things that I would really like to do or are meaningful to me, if they hurt my mate, then I need to be willing to adjust.

See, because the thing, when you lose trust, you don’t just lose it in an area. Have you ever had someone do something and then pretty soon, everything is suspect after that and you read into this and you read into that and you take circumstances and you form dots that aren’t there? That’s why communication is so vital, and that we build trust with one another.

The third, there’s commitment, communication, the third I would call “log” that you need to put on the fire is caring. An adventure of lifelong friendship, fun, and mutual fulfillment. And circle the word “adventure”. Yes, you’ve got to be committed; yes, there’s a skill to learn. And communication doesn’t come easily. For Theresa and myself, it was really hard.

There was a book called Communication: The Key to Your Marriage by Norman Wright. And we read it and filled out the questions and then later he came out with another book. More Communication: The Key to Your Marriage; we got that one too. We were so slow. And…

You can actually learn. But there needs to be some adventure.

The focus here is to share. It’s becoming best friends. And it looks different for different people, but it’s taking walks, it’s dates, it’s talks, it’s hobbies, it’s weekends away, it’s thinking back to: What did you do when you were dating? What did you do that’s fun? Because what happens is work, work, work, work. And especially once kids, kids, kids. That – this is one of the areas that literally can just dissipate and we will talk about having a plan where at least once a week you and your mate say, “You know what? Our relationship really matters. It matters more than the kids’ sports over here and this over here and that over there.

We are going to have some time, we are going to do something fun together. You have to talk, sure. But life can’t all be serious. It has got to be an adventure and fun.

The model here is Matthew chapter 11, verse 28. And it’s an interesting passage, if you want to turn there with me.

But this is Jesus speaking to a group of people who are in great need of rest. And He says in verse 27, “All things have been committed to Me by My Father. And no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Yes, we have that with Jesus, but we need to have that as a couple. We need to be in the same yoke, doing some things together, things that you both like to do, things that are fun, things that are refreshing.

So, whatever that was when you were dating, whatever it is, when you get done and you look at each other and goes, “I’m glad we did that. That was fun. It was just great to be with you.” Begin to pencil those back into your schedule.

Caring says, “I like you.” Yes, we need to say to one another, by our commitment, “I love you;” by our communication, “I want to know you;” caring says, “I like you.”