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About this series
Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage
Would you like a fresh breeze to blow in your marriage? Do you long for a marriage where intimacy and communication are a reality instead of a dream? Experiencing God's Dream for Your Marriage is a topical series by Chip Ingram that examines God's design for marriage, with practical instruction to help you make your marriage what God desires it to be.More from this series
Hearing God’s truth doesn’t bring change. Agreeing with God’s truth doesn’t bring change. Even agreeing that you need to change in what you’ve heard doesn’t bring change. Only one thing brings change. Acting on the truth.
When Jesus was preaching in John chapter 8 to a group of Jews, He says that to those Jews who had believed on Him, to those who abide in His word.
It’s a key word. Abide. Taking in the truth to put it into practice. He says to them, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
The fact is, most of us have learned, unconsciously, to traffic in truth. If I know it, if I agree with it, if I understand it, we get this small delusion into thinking, well, change is going to occur.
I want you to know, no change occurs until you put the truth into practice. And that’s what we’re going to do.
This is going to be one those – it is going to be so practical, it’s going to hurt. Okay? Very, very, I want to get to the practical, every day, what would it look like on Monday, what’s it going to look like next weekend? How are we going to do this together?
Because my experience is, that’s what you’re going to need if real change is going to occur.
I put together what I call the parable of the car to kind of give you an idea of how this is going to work and why it’s so important.
So this is a word picture, okay? I’m trying to get into your head, I’m trying to sneak around the corner to get you to really put some things into practice that you now know up here. But I just know, like, three days from now, your life’s going to be busy. I want to help you see how the change will occur and then give you some very practical steps.
Okay, I want you to pretend that you have a nephew. And he has been with your dear, beloved brother in the Amazon with his mom and dad, translating the Bible in the thicket of jungles and he probably speaks two or three tribal languages.
He’s never been to America. He’s learned some things, he doesn’t have a computer. His first exposure to Western civilization is they realize, that at about twenty, you know he probably needs to go to college and get an education.
And he’s very mature, in many ways, he’s a spiritual young man, he’s a godly young man. But he gets off the plane and he goes, “That big silver thing flew. This is wild.”
And he sees buildings and everything is brand new to him. Now, he’s heard about them and he’s seen some pictures but he’s never been here.
And so, you’re thinking to yourself, you better keep him kind of close. Why don’t we have him go to a community college, get him a good education and we’ll have him live here with us because my brother he ends up in one of those wild dorms.
You know, we’ll keep him at the house and so, you think to yourself, I do not want to get up every day and drive this kid to the community college.
And so you buy a pretty inexpensive second-hand car and you go out into a very big parking lot and you begin to teach him to drive. Okay?
And so you teach him the basics and he’s pretty athletic and so he picks it up pretty quickly. Scares you a little bit.
And you show him how the car works. You, kind of, get him moving a little bit. He learns just enough, goes down there, he’s a bright kid, passes his license.
And you do it once or twice together and then pretty soon you say, okay. Great. The fall semester starts, he gets in the car, he goes, and everything’s great for two weeks.
And then the other thing you informed him of is these magical little boxes that you can open up called cell phones.
And he carries one now and it buzzes and he opens it and he can talk to you anytime. In fact, he calls you at very odd times.
And so, now you get a call in the middle of a business meeting or maybe you’re home doing some things around the house.
And he says, “Uncle,” or “Aunt. The car you gave me doesn’t work anymore.” And he tells you, vaguely, where he is and you go down and you drive down and he’s right, it doesn’t work.
And you think to yourself, Now what’s wrong with this thing? You know, I had it all checked out by a mechanic and we got a problem here.
Well, what you find out is, it’s out of gas. And you say to him, “Well, why didn’t you put any gas in the car? And he says, “What’s gas?” “Oh, I know I should have told him about that.”
So, you sort of, okay. So he needs some fuel so you take him and you get the gas and you show him that every so often and here’s the dial, I really should have said something about. But he learns now.
And now for two, three, four months, things are going great. And then you get another phone call.
And this time he says, “Hey this car is making very, very funny smells and it’s very hot and there’s smoke coming out of the…I don’t know what’s wrong.”
And you say to him, “Well, when’s the last time you changed the oil?” And he says, “What’s the oil?”
And then you realize, oh brother, maintenance. I kinda skipped that one too. And you realize that hot moving parts need oil to keep things going in a good direction.
So you show him about that and how to change the oil and you go through that and everything’s fine and pretty soon he goes. His first year is just about over and he’s got about thirteen, fourteen months.
And then he calls you and he says, “[makes car noises]” And you hear this noise. “What’s that?” He says, “I don’t know, this car’s not working right, it’s making a really funny noise, it scares me.” And you say, “Well, when’s the last time you got it tuned up?” And he says, “What’s a tune up?” And you realize, “Oh…”
Are you getting the picture here? And so he takes it in and realizes you’ve got to tune it up and take care of things.
And then finally he has your confidence and he’s been there about eighteen months, he’s a good young man and he’s met this beautiful young woman but she’s in another city about seven hours drive.
And so he goes seven hours away and the highways it says I-75 and I-40 and I-this and he just thinks I don’t know what all these numbers mean but he gets there with someone else and then on the way back, he gets onto I-75 going the wrong direction and he lands somewhere about three or four hundred miles away from where he’s supposed to and doesn’t know how to get home and you get another call.
And you say to him, “You know, it wasn’t that expensive a car but did you plug in on the navigational system how to get home?”
He goes, “What’s the navigational system?” And you go, “Oh brother.”
Here’s the little parable. You know, you can have skill and you can know some basics but in marriage, it’s not about just getting started – fuel of commitment.
There’s going to be times, in your marriage, that things heat up. And so what you better find is you better learn the oil of communication.
And then, every marriage, I don’t care how good it is and you can set goals and work at things. There’s times where you’ve got to stop your marriage and get the marriage car off the road and get it into the shop and get some time away from everybody and have some nice walks and some good talks and some good food and reassess where you’ve been.
And you’ve got to tune up your marriage. And if you don’t do that on a regular basis, guess what. The same thing that happens to a marriage happens just like with the car.
And finally, you can be going in a marriage and be working and get so close to everything, you never ask yourself, what direction are we going as a couple?
It gets so focused on just us and our fulfillment and if you have kids, our kids and what are we doing here and there?
And so, all of a sudden, you drift, as a couple, and you wake up ten, twenty, twenty-five years and you realize that you never thought through. There was no navigational system about, what’s the mission? What’s our co-mission from God? Why are we here?
And what I want to give to you in just very, very practical ways with tools is to how to keep fuel of commitment in your marriage. How to oil it on a regular basis. How and why to take a tune-up. And then finally, how to lock in a navigational system that will set your car in alignment with what God wants do. Does that make sense?
So, see when you make up these stories, sometimes they make the point. They’re not all that interesting but you do the best you can.
But you’ve got a car called marriage. And it runs out of fuel quickly, doesn’t it? And it needs oil. Requires a tune-up. And you better know where you’re going.
So with that, open your notes with me and let’s dig in together. We’ve been through the parable of the car.
Most marriages do not work. This is how to make yours the exception. Most cars don’t run forever. But people who do these four things with their cars, they last a very, very long time.
And so, first, I want to talk about the fuel of commitment. The fuel of commitment. And the definition is a lifelong choice of unconditional love to an imperfect person. And circle the word “choice.”
The fuel. This is what keeps your marriage going. It’s not your feelings. That’s what you’re being told. Your feelings come, your feelings go.
The fuel of commitment is a lifelong choice. When you feel like it, when you don’t feel like it. Not to a wonderful, I love them all the time, they come through for me, person. But to an imperfect person.
Remember I said earlier? Love is giving to another person what they need the most when they deserve it the least at great personal cost.
And if there’s one thing I want you to get about the fuel of commitment, so many people give up on their marriage because they get love and infatuation confused. Love has nothing to do with feelings. Love is about choices.
Can I give you a biblical illustration? Final night on the earth. Jesus. He’s in the garden. Does Jesus love you? Yes or no? Yes. Did Jesus feel like going to the cross to pay the penalty for your sin? Yes or no? No.
In fact, so much so that here He is, on his knees and He’s praying. And He’s realizing, not simply that they’re going to stick thorns in His head. Not simply that He’s going to be drug through half naked. That’s He’s going to be humiliated by the people that He made and created and loved.
But there’s going to come a time where there’s going to be a separation from the Father, a cosmic division that has never occurred in all eternity as He would become your sin substitute.
And it’s so intense that He’s praying and He’s sweating like great drops of blood. And what does He pray? “Father, if there is a plan B that We haven’t thought of in the Godhead, let’s go with that one.”
Isn’t that really what He prayed? “I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to do it. But. Nevertheless, not My will but Yours.”
That’s what it requires for the fuel of marriage. Love is a commitment that you make.
The mandate is Matthew 19:3 through 8. If you read it, you find that classic passage that most of you heard where Jesus is asked about divorce and remarriage and He says, “What God has brought together, let not anyone pull apart or pull asunder.”
The word “divorce” has never been used in our home, I have a friend who actually took a dictionary and cut it out of the dictionary.
Because the moment there is an option, how you process your problems changes a hundred percent. Love is a choice.
You know what? I’m ashamed to admit this but I’ll admit it. Have there been times that our marriage has been so difficult, so painful, so frustrating, if I could just get out, legally, before God, would I? Absolutely.
That’s how big our problems were. There’s times I felt so angry and so frustrated and, like, no amount of work can ever fix this.
But I chose to stay in my marriage. Man I’m glad I did.
Because most of us bail out of a very hard situation and we think it’s going to get better and it doesn’t.
The greatest thing you can ever do. You know, God wants to change your life through this process and what you have signed up, you’ve signed up for the spiritual NFL. And I’ve never seen an NFL running back come through the line, gain about five yards, get smashed, and then get up and go, “Boy, that hurt. How come you hit me? That wasn’t very nice.”
If you want to gain yards in the NFL, you get your head knocked off when you come across the middle of the receiver and linebackers take big shots when you come through the line.
But there’s not a lot of people that are running backs in the NFL who are experiencing, accomplishing what they are. And you know, this is a lot more than being a running back in football.
This is about getting some of the most precious experiences and quality of life with another person. But I want to tell you. The fuel of commitment begins with a lifelong choice.
And it says, the rational is, you can write the word, “to love.” Why do you do it? It’s to love. And then next to that, just write this little phrase: “I’m committed to you.” By the way, that’s the seed, that’s the soil, that’s the environment in which real love grows.
See, I’m not going to let you see who I am, as insecure as I am, unless I know that you’re not going to bail out on me.
People hold back for fear that, “Ooh, if I get vulnerable, they’re going to see how ugly and terrible and struggles I have and…”
Real deep love can only happen when that other person knows I’m in this and I’m in it for good. I’m in it when it’s good, I’m in it when it’s bad. I’m in it – are you ready for this? In sickness or in health. In happiness or in sorrow. ‘Til death do us part.
Do I understand that there are some, a couple biblical situations where someone can throw dynamite or TNT or nitroglycerine and blow up a marriage that you don’t have any control of?
That they just walk out on you and get involved with someone else? I understand. But in about ninety-eight percent of the cases, that’s not the case, is it?
How do you do that? You make a weekly choice to say, “I love you.” You know, it’s an amazing thing, every day choose. And especially try and do something you don’t feel like. Every day, try and do something you don’t feel like doing that you know communicates to your mate that you love them.
And you know what? It’s an amazing thing. You know, just like habits are built. Your love can be like a muscle that gets strengthened and little by little by little by little, you can become the kind of person that someone else is living with, “Wow, I knew you were tired and I knew you didn’t really feel like doing that and yet you loved me in this way.”
You know what that does? That causes a response. And that causes something very exciting to happen.
Now, you don’t do it. Now, by the way, love means if you don’t, nothing comes back, that’s okay. Because you didn’t do it for them, you did it for God. But, boy, as you do that, you’ll see great things happen. A weekly choice to say, “I love you.”
Our model is Jesus. You might jot in the corner of your notes, Hebrews 13:5. “I will never ever leave you or forsake you.”
Jesus has told me, “Chip, good days, bad days, hard days, terrible days, when you mess up, when you think terrible thoughts, when you’ve done things that make Me ashamed of you, as my son, after I’ve died for you. Chip. I will never ever leave you or forsake you.”
And if He’s going to do that for me, what’s He want me to do? He wants my mate to know, “I will never ever leave you or forsake you.” That’s the fuel. And that’s commitment.
The oil of communication is a lifelong skill of learning to understand each other. But notice it’s a lifelong skill. You just don’t get it and then you have it for good of learning to understand each other.
The mandate is Ephesians 4. Ephesians 4:15 and 16. “But speaking the truth to one another we’re to grow up in,” what? “All aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”And he goes on to say, “By that, which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body to the building up of itself in love.”
And so when parts start moving, you make progress. They overheat, you need some oil in the relationship and communication does that. And the rational is to know. You want to communicate.
Loving is, says I’m committed to you. Communication says I want to know you. I want to know all about you. I want to be a student of you. I want to learn your likes and dislikes. I want to be close to you so I need to know who you are.
And when you know them then that little phrase you learn is, I trust you. That’s what you communicate when you communicate.
You know? When you say, I really want to get to know you. If that choice says, I love you, this says I trust you. I trust you. Well, why do you say that?
Because I’m going to progressively take the zipper of my heart, of who I really am, and I’m going to keep lowering it. And I’m going to take my heart, with vulnerable stuff, that if you wanted to, man, you could hurt me very badly. You do understand, the people that can love you the most can wound you the most deeply.
And so it takes trust and so what you do is, little by little, you kind of put your heart out on that platter. These are my fears. These are my dreams. These are my struggles.
And how you handle those will tell me how I’m going to respond to you next time.