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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 2
Four Biblical Skills Great Marriages Have in Common
It’s hard to believe there are couples who’ve been married for thirty, forty, or even fifty years. So, what’s their secret? In this series, Chip shares the newest volume in his ongoing series, “Keeping Love Alive.” As he teaches from the book of Colossians, he'll highlight 4 important skills every healthy marriage has in common. Learn how to be better connected spiritually… communicate more effectively… resolve conflict peaceably... and manage your finances wisely. Discover what you need to improve your relationship and start making a change or two, today!More from this series
There are few things that will make a bigger difference in the watching world than your marriage.
If you want to have intimacy, it can’t be like, God, I really want a great marriage and, okay, there are some really good verses here for my wife. “Hon, you need to read these.
Man, these are really good ones. Yeah.” I’m not sure what all the “submissive” stuff is, but it sounds pretty darn good.
You want to have a great marriage? I mean, can you imagine the designers and the engineers and the people that have put together the things that you all do all around the world – can you just imagine going, “You know, I just don’t read manuals. I’m just going to do this any way I think is better.” How would that work?
The Creator of the universe has made it clear what He wants you to do and what it looks like and He did it because He loves you, He did it because He is good, He did it because He cares. And, yes, it counterintuitive. And, by the way, ready? It’s hard.
I had a guy come to me and he’s a young guy in the Silicon Valley and has done really well financially and he’s, you know, we’d meet him and think, Oh, you have this beautiful wife and kids and a great job and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we were playing nine holes of golf and he goes, “You know, I’m just, it’s – I just, something is really, really wrong.” I said, “What’s that?” He goes, “Like, this, man, I’m really trying hard to be a good husband and it’s just, it shouldn’t be this hard. There’s always something. I mean, there’s always something.”
And then he – I don’t want to be too crass; we’re good buddies. And, by the way, he has now done a one-eighty. But it was like, you know, “This and this and this and this,” and I’m thinking, Would you grow up? Those are such nickel and dime stuff.
And so, finally, he actually played in the area of football, was an excellent athlete. And so, I just asked him. I said, “Excuse me. Can I ask you a question?” I said, “Did you ever do two-a-days growing up in football?” “Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” “Or what about in college? You know, you, all-American, all that kind of stuff. Did you, like, hit the weight room and nutrition and…?” “Oh, man, it was like your life. And that’s what we did.” “And when you played pro ball, what was that like?” “Oh man.”
I said, “So, what you’re telling me is to be a star and be a football player, it’s really hard. You get hit. You get up early. You lift weights. You eat, you go to sleep, and you focus your whole life. But your wife is not worth that? Really? Really? Who told you it’s supposed to be easy?”
In fact, here’s the deal. I’m convinced, this is Chip Ingram, not the Bible. So, put this in your notes, asterisk, “Ingram thinks this. Don’t know if it’s really true.” No, I’m serious. I have a lot of Chip Ingram and I try to keep to the Bible. But this is one of mine.
I’m convinced that God actually has created marriage in such a way that it really doesn’t work. I mean, it really – two people with different personalities that are both selfish and both sinners, it really doesn’t work unless you follow the design and you get to where He gives you unconditional love and you can put the other person first and do all the super counterintuitive stuff.
Everything that has made our marriage really, really good is like, “This is crazy! I am the man! I should get up and make coffee in the morning? I should bring it to her? I should affirm her? I should do this? What about me? And every time I keep little by little learning what it means to cherish her and serve her and help her discover her gifts and understand in ways that they still don’t make sense to me how she thinks. You know what? I don’t have to understand it. But I’ve learned to not fix it and just listen.
And the more, the more you become like Jesus, the easier you are to live with. Can you imagine that?
Can you imagine being married to someone who is very kind? Can you imagine being married to someone who is humble, that just on a regular basis just not acts humble but just actually puts your needs ahead of theirs?
Or someone that bears with you that the underwear is still on the floor, the toothpaste is still like that, you still interrupt me when we’re with other people, and I love you. I mean, it’s an amazing thing. And that’s the core of building intimacy.
Let’s jump into how to get really, really practical. Why build a marriage God’s way? First, because He commanded it. And second, because it’s for your benefit. And let me give you some very specific benefits of marriage – doing it God’s way. These are so helpful. I listed them and you’ll notice there’s a little asterisk and at the bottom: Divorce Proof Your Marriage by Gary and Barbara Rosberg.
And spiritual intimacy allows you to connect at the deepest level. I mean, we connect emotionally, we connect spiritually, but I will tell you the deepest possible connection will be a connection of your spirits in the presence of God that will build a bond that it puts the emotions on steroids and the physical on steroids.
Spiritual intimacy, as you draw closer to God and as you begin and we’ll talk about how, and by the way, I’m going to tell you a little bit later, it’s really a challenge to develop spiritual intimacy. It’s a lot easier to develop physical intimacy, or even emotional intimacy.
Second is spiritual intimacy links you with God’s purposes and plans for your life. He says, “I know the plans that I have for you,” Jeremiah, right? 29:11. “They are plans for good, not for evil, for your welfare, to give you a hope and a future.”
When you connect, you with God and her or him with God, then it aligns you to know His voice and His plans and His direction for your life.
Third, spiritual intimacy allows you to bless each other with God’s love. That’s what I have been talking a lot about.
All I can tell you is we have over played, you know? I’m not going to go down my Hallmark story right now, but if I watched, like, fifty Hallmarks, I would think that all of love is about ooey-gooey emotions, starry-eyed, meeting people, and kissing when it starts to snow. Based solely on physical attraction by, seems to be, very, very pretty people who live in really nice houses, who actually have a lot of time to do everything except work, because they, I mean…
And within the first seven minutes, I have no idea how it’s going to end except I think they are going to fall in love. And ten minutes before it’s over, it doesn’t look like it’s going to work and, oh! Yes, it does!
And I don’t mean that as crassly, but there’s a diet of that that has so permeated our culture, we actually, people actually believe love is romantic feelings. And we have developed such a narcissistic culture that you think when you’re unhappy, something is wrong. You understand, Jesus was unhappy a lot. Hebrews says in the course of His lifetime, He shed many tears. He hurt for people. He was lonely. He was rejected. He was tempted in every way, just like you and just like me. He was fully human, yet without sin.
Part of life is down days, hard days, struggle days. “For you have been called to this purpose since Christ also suffered for you. Who though He suffered, He didn’t revile, or pay back, but entrusted Himself to a faithful Creator.” Suffering is, it’s a part of life. We have lived in this last thirty to forty years and it has creeped more and more into Evangelical Christianity at all levels that somehow Jesus wants to make you self-fulfilled and happy and make everything go great. And when Jesus doesn’t do that, you are disillusioned. When you demand from God promises He never made, you are worshipping a God that doesn’t exist.
His agenda is not to make you happy. He doesn’t work all things together for your good, to those that are called, to those that love Him, so that you’ll be self-fulfilled and happy.
How many people, by the way, know Romans 8:28? See, we interpret that verse as, “God works all things together for the good, for those that are called according to His purpose.” And the “good” that we define is: My life works.
I mean, like, “Hey! You say God is in control? I don’t have a job, I have lost my house, and I don’t have very much money, and my kid has got to drop out of school for a year. So, is God in control?” Of course, He is. So, when did God ever promise that…so, other people can lose their house but not you? That someone else can go out of business, that you don’t go through hardship?
Verse 29 doesn’t say, “God is in control, so your life works out great.” It says, verse 29, “To conform you to the image of His Son.” God’s agenda is to make you like Jesus.
By the way, the challenges in your marriage, God’s number one issue probably with the person that you are married to, it’s like sandpaper against sandpaper, it’s probably to make you more patient, more kind, more humble, more loving, more compassionate by living with them.
Some of you think God gave you kids for you. God gave you kids to change you. Boy, you want to learn patience, it’s like, Oh God, may we just get through the diaper stage? Right? Or can we just get through pre-teens? I’ve got a pre-teen that is, like thirty-five right now. Right?
And then it’s like, “Oh my, I thought it was bad when they were two. This early adulthood, you know? Eighteen to twenty-two, twenty-three. They want all the authority but no responsibility. This is just like when they were two!”
“I want to do whatever I want!” Well, who is paying for the car and you live in the back bedroom and who paid for college and…? I think I have said enough to make a point.
The benefits – spiritual intimacy opens the door to the deepest levels of communication. When you are loved and chosen by God, you can be vulnerable at a level because you know God accepts and loves you. Part of our problems with communication was we both had such warped views of God and warped views of one another, we couldn’t be honest.
Until I began to grasp that God accepts and loves me and that I’m secure, then you can risk. See, what happens is the spiritual intimacy, the stronger that gets, it opens the door for every other area.
Spiritual intimacy empowers your marriage to survive. Every couple encounters circumstances that feel overwhelming. The power of God is bigger than any situation you will ever face and can enable you to stand firm in the storms.
Oh, I just, I have told so many couples, “Don’t give up too soon. Don’t give up too soon.” Spiritual intimacy connects you to a supportive body of believers. One of the things, if you don’t know it yet, is that you can’t make it and you can’t have a great marriage by yourself. You need other couples and you need some people that you can do life with, that can share.
When you’re spiritually connected, when you’re a part of a local body, God has a group of people that, when you’re down, they can be up. You know, you do life together and you watch their kids and we never had any money. “You watch our kids and we will watch your kids. And we can get that little window to get away.” Spiritual intimacy is powerful.
How do you develop personal spiritual intimacy? I have given you a little Bible study. It’s from Colossians. And I’m not going to go through all the verses, but let me just show you from the passage, from the book, how the apostle Paul encourages that church and those people to develop spiritual intimacy. In verses 1 through 9 he just asks for it.
Read – it’s an amazing prayer. “God, I want them to know You.” And the word is a relational “know You”, “…and Your will to know specifically in a deep, authentic way.”
And then he says, “Beware of counterfeits.” He talks about three different errors that people have in seeking to draw near to God. And then he says, “Guard your thought life.” The battle for your life is between your ears. Ninety-five percent of all spiritual warfare is in your thinking. You have to learn to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.
And then you have to kill the spiritual competitors. You know? We’ll look at this a little bit later so it’s just an overview. But after he talks about this new life that you have, he says, “Consider the members of your earthly body to be dead to immorality and impurity, to evil desire, to lust, to greed, which amounts to idolatry.” You know, there’s just here are certain things that you’ve got to cut off the supply lines of people and of things that create desires that pull you away from God and away from your mate.
And then you saturate your mind with God’s Word.
Three different times in the verse, verses 12 through 17, did you notice? I circled them in my text. Three different times you’re told to be thankful. It’s one of the most powerful things in your relationship.
It’s hard to be tempted by someone else to do something else when you are grateful for who you have, you’re grateful for what you do have.
And being thankful isn’t a feeling. You actually say it. God, thank You. She is loyal. God, thank You. He is a provider. God, thank You. Thank You for little things. Before I went to bed last night, out of the blue, my wife is an introvert, so I sort of take most of the initiative and I wish she would take a little bit more initiative even after forty-two years. And out of the blue she called me in the middle of the day and just before I was about ready to go to bed, I got this long text and she called me, “I was just thinking of you and wanted to hear how you are doing.”
Now, for some of you, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But for my wife, and I just went, God, thank You. We have been away from each other about twelve, thirteen days. I really miss her. I really love her. And I missed her. And just that the Lord would prompt her just to call.
Well, you know what? When you thank God, it’s hard to be resentful or bitter or unforgiving.
Well, let me give you some practical ways to remove the barriers and build some bridges. And uhm, Perspective, first, I think this is a super big challenge, especially for men. When I talk about spiritual intimacy and this is a general rule and may not be true, but most women are like, “Oh, yes. Yes. Yes. I hope he’s listening. I want a – if we could just pray together. If he would just hold hands with me. If he would just go to church with me. Oh, if we would just, maybe we could read the Bible or maybe we could read a book together. Oh, it would be so great!”
And most guys are going, “You know something? I know what I’m doing at work. When it comes to this spiritual stuff and leading a family and being spiritual, I’m not only not confident, I’m not competent. I really don’t know what I’m doing. And I am not sure I want to admit, but it’s very threatening. And I know you really want to do some stuff and this is just out of my territory.”
I mean, I’m a pastor and after I got married, and I knew the Bible quite well before I got married, I just, I was intimidated by developing spiritual intimacy with my wife. And so, ladies, one thing I would say is let him take some baby steps. And, guys, what I want to say is it really is not rocket science. And we are going to learn some steps that you can take. And by way of motivation, you’ll have to think really hard about this.
You know that triangle where there’s the spiritual, emotional, the soul, and the physical? Okay? Would you be shocked if there’s a relationship between those? And, by the way, there’s a very significant relationship between the bottom one. Women, in general, not always, I’m not trying to make, you know, but they are nurture and more relational. I mean, they love to talk and just sit and, “Can we just take a walk?” And, “What do you want to do?” “Just be together.” Okay. We’re together. Now what do you want to do? “I’m really enjoying this time with you, Chip.” “Great! Now what do you want to do?” Right?
And there’s this amazing thing that when your hearts and spirits connect, some of us men tend to be a little bit more on the activator side. And we want to do things together or we experience God’s love physically a lot. Not that sex is all there is, but there are few things that makes a man feel more affirmed and more valued than when his wife wants to make love with him.
Guys, what you need to understand is that when a woman doesn’t feel cherished, when she doesn’t feel connected spiritually, and when she doesn’t feel like there’s this emotional bond, it’s just sex. And she feels used. She wants to make love, but it grows out of the relationship.
And so many couples are, “He does that and you do this,” and then you fight about frequency, you fight about money, you fight about in-laws, you fight about schedules, and you fight about where your money goes. And all those things are – you know why? Because you are two separate people in the same house and I’m just going to be blunt. It doesn’t mean you’re bad people, but you are selfish, because everyone is.
And some of you are more stylistically selfish, more sophisticated selfish, but down deep, you want your way. And when you get your way, you’re a happy camper. And when you don’t, you’re not.
And God wants to reverse that. And that means you getting in close to Him. And so, here are some very practical ways to do that, and we will wrap it up. One, there is no one right way to develop spiritual intimacy with your mate.
Two, as a general rule, women find it a bit more easy, but there’s steps I’ll talk about in terms of how to kind of build that spiritual intimacy. There is no getting around praying together. I mean, literally, I have had guys start where, “We are going to pray silently together and hold hands.” And then start with a few words. I don’t know. I didn’t grow up as a Christian. It was two years before I prayed out loud and it was like, “Ah!” What do you do? What do you say?
Worshipping together. A lot of people are, “Oh, we’ll watch it later. We can watch the service.” As a man, “No, no, let’s sit down. Let’s watch this service. Let’s talk about what it meant. Where did God speak to you?”
Share what you’re learning. I would love to say, I have a friend, a very godly friend, he’s ten years older. Someday I want to be like him. He’s a missionary in Zimbabwe and just godly, godly, godly man. And I happen to know he and his wife get up every morning, they read the Bible together, they read a Proverb together, and they pray together, and read a portion of a book. Theresa and I tried that for about the first week; it almost killed our marriage.
We need separate time and then we come together and talk about where God is speaking to us, usually around the table. We usually sit at least fifteen, twenty minutes every day and just have a cup of coffee and just connect. “What’s going on?” Either really, really early in the morning or at a meal or two.
And it’s weird in our house, she’s funny. She prays like crazy, but as we go to bed, like, I want us both to pray out loud. She doesn’t want to pray out loud at night. It bugged me for about twenty years. I’m a pastor! We are supposed to pray together and out loud. “Chip, you pray. I’m here. I’m really…” I mean, she prays like crazy and we pray together other times. But to me, it’s like – are you getting my point? There is not a right way.
What – As a couple, how do you connect? Of course, you’ve got to be in the Scriptures somehow, individually. You’ve got to share. You have to be upward. You’ve got to pray. You’ve got to be a part of a worshipping community.
What I have learned is: Take baby steps. Take baby steps. Most of life changes are just the first incremental domino. That’s the key. And to do something small – consistency.
And it’ll grow. Pray for your mate. And let me encourage you, don’t pressure your mate and don’t judge your mate. Don’t assume where they are at with the Lord. Obviously, there’s some fruit or lack of it, but a lot – it’s not very motivating, you know, like, as one wife told me, “You know, I set the Bible out! And I put it right in the passage that I thought would help him the most! I couldn’t figure out why he doesn’t want to read the Bible.” I said, “Honey, let me tell you why.” He wants a wife, not a mother. And no one wants to be told what they ought to do. And, you know, I’m trying to be really kind to you guys.
Part of it is, just shut up and step up. Do what feels very unnatural. Just look at your wife, grab her hand. If you have a watch, set it for five minutes, you’ll never go longer. “We are going to pray together. You start and I’ll finish.” And hope she goes four. But I’m serious.
At some point in time, right? You know, it’s like getting in shape. Someday, someway I’m going to start. You know what? Someday, you just start. And you grab her hand; you’re the man. Grab her hand.
“I don’t feel comfortable. This feels awkward. I don’t know exactly what I’m doing.” Just get that out on the open if that’s where you’re at. And by the way, if you’ve got some tension and stuff going, just, “Why don’t we hold hands for two or three minutes and pray silently?
And just if anything comes to our mind that any resentment or bitterness, just privately, let’s…why don’t we spend a minute and ask God to help us forgive each other the way He has forgiven us?”
I’m just telling you, you take a step toward God, and He will run to meet you.