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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
The greatest thing you can do for your marriage is draw closer and closer and closer and closer to walk with God. The only one, that can ever satisfy the deepest needs of your heart and your life is Christ. The only way that you or I or anyone will be able to treat our mates in a way that will cultivate and develop them becoming who God wants them to become is when God gives that to us, by the Holy Spirit, through the Lord Jesus, through His Word and the community of God’s people.
And so, it’s super counterintuitive. We are all human. We just so want that other person to come through for us. And so, what I want to do now is I want to talk about how to effectively communicate.
And when I talk about communication, not so much in the classical, the meeting of meanings. That’s I think a good definition of communication. It’s the privilege of exchanging vulnerabilities, in the words of Norm Wright. It’s the process of sharing yourself verbally and non-verbally in such a way that the other person can both accept and understand what you’re saying.
What I want to do is I want to talk about how do you communicate God’s love to the person He gave you?
The gift that He gave you, this person, how do you communicate that? And you’ll notice on the top of your notes, it’s more than just words. Right? I mean, we know that, right? Seventy percent is non-verbal. Thirty-eight percent is your tone of voice. Fifty-five percent is facial expressions, gestures, posture, right?
I can say, I can look at my wife and say, “Yeah, I love you.” Right? “Yeah, I’ll do that.” With my hands on my hips and I’ve communicated anything but what my words were. But it’s more than just listening and understanding your life partner. Those are skills too.
One of the great benefits of counseling is I got to hear my wife’s story. I got to hear what it was like growing up. And as I did, my empathy, instead of frustration, grew. I got to hear what it was like to deeply, deeply love someone and be rejected and have your husband abandon you.
I recognize the level of wounds and pain that she had that I just glossed over because I loved her and I didn’t realize that when I said even what I thought was not even a harsh word but just had a tone of rejection, that what I thought was a one or two registered about an eight or a nine to her.
And so, there’s so much more than just understanding and listening and developing skills. I want to encourage you that biblical communication is the transfer of God’s love – and underline each one of these words: in meaningful, understandable, supernatural ways through you to your mate.
It’s kind of hard to grasp that other than the Lord Jesus Himself, other than the Spirit of God living inside your spouse, the number one agent of expressing God’s love to your mate is you. I mean, that’s sobering.
There’s great books if you haven’t read something like Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. I mean, I had no idea. I was so ignorant. I just thought however I felt loved, that’s what I would give my wife and certainly it would be meaningful to her.
And I learned there were five different love languages and mine was verbal affirmation and physical touch and hers were acts of service. And so, I never thought of cleaning the house or helping with this or doing that. She didn’t feel loved at all when I said, “Oh, you look beautiful today.”
And so, there’s lots of skills you can learn. But what I want to walk with you is something far deeper. And, by the way, don’t minimize those. Those have all been very, very helpful.
But I want to talk to you about how do you take a supernatural love and understanding the very way God feels about your husband or your wife and how do you receive it in such a way and then give it unconditionally, supernaturally, the way that He has given it to you?
Our text is Colossians chapter 3 verses 12 through 17. And it starts out with what we already possess. “So as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,” in other words, as those who are valued, precious, loved, and secure, deeply loved regardless from that position, here’s the command, “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
I want you to imagine what it would be like for you to discover. In fact, that little word “put on” – it’s an idiomatic expression. It’s literally “clothe yourself”. In other words, wrap whoever you are in your personality, in your needs, and all that you are, clothe yourself with this, it’s not just the activities, with this heart of compassion and kindness and humility, gentleness, and patience.
And so, what I’ve done at the bottom of the page is I have given you some definitions of what these words mean. And if you have a pen, pull it out, because I’ll give you a passage or two where Jesus exemplifies these.
But I want you to listen not just with sort of your academic, “Oh yes, I want to understand what that word means.” But I want you to listen to, “This is what compassion is, and I want to learn, Almighty God, to have a heart where I would pass this on to my husband.” “I would pass this on to my wife.”
So, putting on a heart of compassion, compassion is empathy to action versus being cynical. It’s one thing to identify, to feel. Empathy means you so understand how the other person is hurting or is wounded or feeling rejected, but you so feel it, that you are compelled to act. You’re moved out of their pain, you’re moved out of their situation, you’re moved and it’s not just you feel for them, but you feel to the level that you have to act.
If you ever want to do an interesting word study, get your Strong’s concordance out and look up this word “compassion”. The word in Greek is splagchnon. And just look wherever you find this word with Jesus.
And what you will find is every time this word is used in connection with Jesus, He deeply, deeply identifies. The word, the Greek word has to do with coming out of the bowels. The idea is it means it’s something so deep within you, you so identify with the hurt and the need and the struggle and the hopelessness and the pain that this other person is going through, you’re just compelled to act.
Matthew 9:36, Jesus looked at the multitudes and when He saw the multitudes, He said they were helpless and hopeless. They were downcast like sheep without a shepherd. And if you know anything about sheep, the word “downcast” is if a sheep is lying down and eating, sheep are very interesting animals. I think it’s why God calls us that. If they tilt and they roll up on their side, they can’t get up. They can’t get up. If there’s not a shepherd, they just die.
And often they would eat a lot and then they might, and if they get off balance, if they roll up on their side, that’s a cast sheep. And when Jesus looked at the multitudes of people, they, left to themselves, they are going to die. They are filled with anger and rage and division and rejection and pain and poverty and injustice. And He saw all that and it says, “And He was moved,” and interesting, if you follow His life with this word, and so, He was moved to teach them, or He was moved to feed them, or He was moved to say, “Neither do I reject you. Go and sin no more.” Or to forgive them.
God longs – you talk about something that’ll change your marriage more than any technique or any skill? You start putting on a heart of compassion. Study your mate. Study their family background. Start to notice what makes them angry, what makes them hurt? Where they struggle. Where they feel pain. Think about what they have been through.
Empathy is the first step to every great relation – it’s beginning to look at life through their lens. The second, he says, “Put on a heart of kindness.” Kindness is whatever is helpful, beneficial, versus being critical.
It’s interesting, in Jeremiah 9:23 and 24, it’s this very interesting verse. It’s a very, very sad book. You know, the people have worshipped idols, God has given them chance after chance after chance after chance. Finally, judgment has come. And there’s this ray of hope and then in chapter 9, he says, “Let not a wise man boast in his wisdom and let not a mighty man boast in his might.
Let not a rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he both understands and knows Me, that I delight in loving kindness, justice, and righteousness.”
The kindest person in the earth is God. It is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. Every breath you take, every blessing in your life, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
To begin to see your mate and get up in the morning and say, “What would a kind act look like? What would uplift her day? What would make his day? What small thing could I do? What word of encouragement? What is something is special to them?” It’s just being helpful.
I learned so much of all these things just the hard way and the slow way. And it was just a battle all the time. And I wanted my way and she wanted her way and her dad was Mr. Fix-it and always filled the car with gas and fixed everything. And I couldn’t fix anything if my life depended on it.
But in her mind, that’s what a man did. And it took me years to realize not being asked, but noticing that the trash is full and just taking it out meant, “I love you,” to her. I mean, it’s not that hard. You pull it up, get the strings, you know? Like, I can actually do it. But for the first ten, five years, I didn’t even notice it. And what would that have to do with, “I love you”? Because I didn’t understand her. But I didn’t take the time to understand her. I was so preoccupied with what she wasn’t doing to meet my needs or measuring up to my “invisible” standard, instead of asking, “How am I doing meeting hers?”
Kindness. A thousand little things. Remember when you were dating? It kind of came naturally, didn’t it? The note, the unexplained phone call, you know? Most of us were pretty poor when we were dating, you know, coming home with two flowers instead of a dozen. Knowing that she kind of likes that kind of chocolate or this is really what says, “I love you” to him and, “I can’t wait ‘til you get home. I farmed out the kids. We’re going to have a great evening.” Kindness.
Third is humility. It means putting their needs first. It’s the posture of a servant. By the way, I didn’t give you one for Jesus on kindness. Just jot down John chapter 4 and think of a Jew and a Samaritan woman who has been married five times, who is shacking up with someone, and Jesus’ response is, “Would you like a drink? Would you like some living water so you don’t have to keep coming back here?” Kindness. Someone who feels rejected and unworthy – would you mind helping me?
Do you realize sometimes the kindest thing you can do is say, “I need your help”? A person feels deeply valued. “Excuse me, but could you – I don’t have anything. Could you get me a drink of water?”
See, empathy and kindness flows out of concern for a person. It doesn’t judge them. Humility is putting the needs of the other person first.
Philippians chapter 2, verses 5 through 11 are the key passage. We are told, “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus. Although He existed in the form of God, He didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself,” literally, He veiled His attributes, “taking the form of a bondservant and becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a shameful cross,” is the idea. “Therefore, God highly exalted Him,” it goes on to say. Because of his humility, “Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Humility isn’t thinking too high of yourself; it’s not thinking too low of yourself. It’s not being too positive about yourself, too negative about yourself. It’s not thinking about yourself. It’s having a sober self-assessment of, “These are my strengths, these are my weaknesses,” but the mark of humility is self-forgetfulness.
In verse 5 of Philippians 2 he says, “Have this attitude in yourselves,” because in verses 3 and 4, he gave them a command. He said, “Do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind, consider others more important than yourself.” Don’t just look out for your own personal interests, but also the interests of others.
If there is a quality, if there is a singular quality that will change your marriage, it’s learning and going into training in the practice of humility. I don’t think you ever get humble, but I think you practice humility to the point that little by little by little you are a lot more humble more times than you’re not. At the heart of all your relational problems, my relational problems, is pride.
One of my favorite authors is a guy named Gary Thomas. And this is a book about the virtues. And he talks about humility. And he says, “While pride is the father of hate and dissention, humility is the mother of love and unity. Without humility we become thoroughly disagreeable and demanding characters. John of the cross tells us that from humility stems the love of neighbor. For we will esteem them and not judge them. Estrangement, hate, anger, bitterness, and resentment are the killers of human relationships and they are all born out of judgment.”
“Think about someone. I’d like you to do this, or maybe even think about times with your mate. Think about someone that you cannot get along with. If you’re honest, somewhere along the line you have judged them. You haven’t esteemed them very highly. In fact, you have elevated yourself over them. Maybe he or she was wrong, but were you absolutely right? And they certainly have faults that you rehearse in your mind. But you have faults as well.”
“Years ago,” he writes, “I finally realized that marriage is for holiness more than happiness.” It certainly brings happiness, but it’s more for holiness. “I finally realized that for me, marriage creates the best environment in which I can serve God and grow in the character of Christ. And that’s the greatest thing that I should expect from it. Once I understood this, the nature of marriage underwent a distinctly radical shift in my mind.
“When I was married for happiness, I went through the inevitable seasons of unhappiness, or just the routines of life, and I assumed my unhappiness means that Lisa wasn’t measuring up. I judged her failings and she judged mine. When I realized I was married for holiness, I never measured up and I became more satisfied with my wife as I focused on what I needed to change. My growth was not dependent on Lisa changing, but on my attitude and my perspective of changing. What is divorce but millions of spouses saying, ‘You’re not good enough for me’? This lack of humility is destroying families and lives.”
Humility is something that you just don’t get overnight. And just in times when you actually do put the person first, if you’re not careful, you’ll start going, “You know, if she was more like this,” or, “If he was more like this, this marriage would be a whole lot better.” Because when you do it there’s a joy that you get and then you’ve got to be careful, because then you can get this air or superiority and you get proud about your humility.
Earlier in this chapter he says, “Set your mind on the things that are above.” And I don’t know about you, but I didn’t learn much of that growing up. But did you ever, did you ever just find yourself maybe reading toward that early part of Revelation, you know, where the angels are going, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,” you know? How awesome – myriads of myriads and thousands of angels worshipping God the Father and the Lamb.
Did you realize that for all eternity past, that was Jesus’ experience? And His humility was He left the worship of angels as the most supreme Creator, Sustainer Being who spoke the galaxies into existence, and came born as a hopeless, vulnerable baby, by Himself. And that He went through the rigors of humanity and rejection. He came to His own and those who were His own did not receive Him.
And why? It was for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross. And the omniscience of God looking down the tunnel of being outside and seeing all things of time, He saw you! And He said, “It is worth it,” to leave that glory to take on human flesh, to live a perfect life, to die for you, unfairly. To be rejected, to be stripped naked, to feel the rejection of the Father when He took your sin and my sin.
And He says, remember when He told the disciples? This is sort of missing in Christianity today. He didn’t say, “Follow Me and you’ll good. Follow Me and you’ll be happy. Follow Me and you’ll be upwardly mobile. Follow Me and everything will go out right. Follow Me and all your desires will be fulfilled.” He said, “Follow Me, take up your cross, deny yourself, and walk in the same manner that I walk.” “Because unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.”
At the heart of my human marriage struggles is I need to die to myself and I need to be co-resurrected and live with the perspective to put on a heart each and every day. The reason I go over this each and every day, I pray this each and every day, “God, today, please, give me a heart of compassion. First, for Theresa and then for everyone I meet. God, please give me a heart of kindness. Help me to see through Your eyes.”
I was, yesterday, just in between times, and I went to a little coffee shop and I got a cup of coffee and there was a, let me just say this nicely, a very sad, unattractive woman who gave me my coffee and I asked her, “How are you doing?” And she looked at me with these sad eyes and said, “Okay.” And she didn’t have to say much more, but I…
There’s a man that gave me a checkbook and he put five thousand dollars in it and he said, “Meet me in three months, and I have money, but I don’t have a whole lot of time. I own this company and you’re a pastor in this high-need area. Whenever you find someone that can’t pay their electricity, you find a girl that was going to abort her baby, whatever you need to do, you just, just for me, you just pay for it”
And so, I found myself in these early years and at first it was like this huge responsibility, and then it was like, I kept this checkbook back in the days when people had checkbooks, in my back pocket. And I mean, I would be at a grocery store and here would be a young mom and I found out she was abandoned by her husband and three kids and they are crying and she’s putting groceries back because she can’t afford it. And I was able to come by and say, “No.” I ended up walking around the grocery store and I heard her story and I paid for all of her groceries and I filled her car with gas.
Who do you think left filled with joy? And I made that a habit, you know, in the early years I couldn’t do very much, so maybe five-dollar bills. And then as life got a little bit better, twenty-dollar bills. And as life even got a little bit better, when I travel, just certain times, I keep four or five hundred-dollar bills. And I just think, God, if there is someone…
You know, the people, I’m in airports a lot, there are people that clean the restrooms in the airports. I walk in and I see a man who is sixty-six, sixty-eight, seventy years old, grey, bent over. And at this stage of his life, he’s cleaning the trash cans in airports. And this isn’t, this isn’t natural for me, but I think, God, I want to see him – he’s so valuable to You. Does anyone see that? I want him to know. And I keep those hundred-dollar bills and just only when God prompts me say, “Excuse me. Thank you so much for what you’re doing here, keeping this clean. The Lord Jesus told me that He knows you’re doing and He sees you and He cares about you.” And I give him, I just fold it up so he can’t see how much it is. And then I leave.
You know who is changed the most? Me. And it’s not because I gave him a hundred dollars. It’s because it’s in my pocket, I’m looking every day for someone that God wants to be kind to, that He wants me to be the conduit through. Do you understand what happened? New glasses. You look differently. This is what He is saying. This is – and if that happens out there, can you imagine what would happen if you said, “Oh Lord, what would it look like to be generous to my husband today? What would it look like to be generous to my wife, or one of my children?”
The next is gentleness. It’s strength under control, especially your emotions. Matthew 11:28, Jesus – it’s that great invitation. People are hassled and stressed out and, you understand when Jesus came, eighty percent of the Roman world was slaves. Rome was just flat brutal. I mean, the majority of small children died. But the rule of Rome was when a child was born, it was brought to its father and if it was a girl, often, “I don’t want a girl,” and they would just be killed. Or laid on the trash heap and the Christians would go and rescue them.
A little cleft lip? A little imperfection? The father would do this: kill it. It’s in this harsh, just terrible environment that Jesus said, “Those of you that are weary, come to Me, take My yoke upon you, and learn from me.” Here’s our word, “For I am gentle and lowly of spirit. Take my yoke upon you. My burden is easy; my load is light.” It’s a picture of the oxen that are, that have this yoke and Jesus says, “I’m on this side. I want you to come and let’s do life together.”
This isn’t a God whose arms are crossed and toe tapping and looking at your morality and, “Why don’t you go to church more? Why don’t you read the Bible more? Why are you looking at that pornography? And why did you blow up one more time? Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.”
This is a God who says, “Aren’t you tired of all of that? Come! Come. Let’s get hooked up together. Let me walk with you. I am gentle.” The word was used in classical Greek of a wild, powerful stallion that had been tamed. In other words, it’s extraordinary power under control.
Jesus didn’t stay on the cross because He had to. Jesus stayed on the cross because He was gentle. His power was under control. He didn’t demand His rights for legions of angels to come and say, “This is unfair! This is wrong! Wipe them out!” He goes, “No. I am willing to withhold My rights and channel My power for the benefit of others.
It’s the opposite of being harsh, demanding, arms crossed, those looks that say to your mate, “Did you do that again?” The look that says, “Don’t you ever do anything right?” to one of your kids. It’s gentle. It’s approachable.