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How to Make Your Marriage the Exception, Part 1

From the series Broken Hearts Broken Dreams

Til death do us part - when you walked down that aisle and said, “I do!” you had hopes and dreams for your marriage that were off the charts! In this message, Chip shares a life-skill with you that can keep your marriage going strong!

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Message Transcript

Dwight Eisenhower said, "The urgent is rarely important and the important is rarely urgent." I've met very few people unless they're in a crisis in their marriage, that are seizing the day in terms of building the kind of relationship with their mate and with their kids and with their family. It's one of those things where "Yeah, I know it's really important, it really, really matters, and you're doing enough to get by," but we're not talking about an okay marriage. Not even a good marriage.

God wants you to have a great marriage if you could grasp what God wants for a marriage and how He's designed it, and what He wants for us compared to what most people even followers of Christ experience, you would seize the day. You would say, "There's nothing more important in my life and in my lifetime."

You're setting a trajectory about what matters. And other than your relationship with God Himself, work, school, hobbies, looks, success, money, they will pale. They will fade. It will make no difference if you don't have a marriage that works.

And if you were just ruthlessly honest with yourself and said, "Where does my energy go, and where do my thoughts go, and where do my dreams go, and where does my money go, and what do I think about ,and what do I really have a plan for, and what really matters, and what do I have a strategy to achieve,” and if marriage isn't up there, then something's fundamentally wrong.

Most marriages don't work, primarily not just because of communication, not because a lack of commitment, not because of ongoing conflict that doesn't get resolved. Those are symptoms. Most people don't even know the design. God made marriage.

On the front of your notes is a review of that design. God is at the top. It's equilateral triangle. The man is on the left-hand bottom side, the woman on the right-hand bottom side and the arrows point to one another. And the key marriage verse in all of Scripture is Genesis 2:24. For this reason, after God made man, made woman, For this reason a man will leave his father and mother. He will cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh. Jesus would quote that verse twice, the Apostle Paul in the epistles, every time marriage comes around, it's about two people becoming one. Intimacy. Oneness.

He's created this relationship, so you need Him because He loves you. He wants to experience you. He wants to talk to you. He wants to bless you. He wants you to have a great marriage and not an okay marriage. And He wants your marriage to be the kind of thing that would reflect what Jesus’ relationship is like with the Church.

He wants your marriage to be something that people would stop and pause and go, 'You've been married ten years or twenty years or thirty years or forty years and you're really in love? You're not in a rut? You don't just go through the motions?" That's God's plan.

His plan is that your kids, when they're twenty or twenty five or thirty, would be sitting around with other people talking about the kind of home that they grew up in. And it wasn't perfect, and you didn't have it all together. They talk about a mom and a dad that made time for one another. They went on dates. They loved one another. I watched them pray together. I'm sure they shared hard stuff, but there was a solidity. There was a security. All my friends parents were getting divorced, but I never thought that that would happen in our home.

You notice that on the top of our little diagram, we'd looked at the picture but the problem was, genders have a hard time figuring out how to love each other. We have past baggage. We have different personalities. We have work demands, time demands. Kids come. There's a lot of challenges, so it takes a lot of work.

And then the process. You have to leave. Cut the emotional and financial ties with parents, you have to cleave and make each other the number one priority, and then you have to become one flesh. That's a lifelong journey.

I want to show you four specific ingredients that every great marriage has. You find a great marriage, from God's perspective, they'll have these four ingredients. Four non-negotiables. Four things that I need, you need. You're always growing in them. But if you recognize these four things and say, "We are going to build..." See, you can have a house but these are like four pillars that will make it a home.

Number one is commitment. It's a lifelong choice of unconditional love. Would you circle the word choice and would you underline lifelong? A lifelong choice of unconditional love. Unconditional means you love them when they're nice and you love them when they're not. Remember those vows in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, no matter what til death do us part? See, when you stand before God and you come and you're married, it's called a covenant.

If you'd look up the word covenant, it is a holy and sober commitment that you make with another person or with God that is unbreakable. Most people think of their marriage as a contract. I'll do this, you do that, we hope it works out. If it doesn't work out, then we’ll renegotiate the contract. That singular mentality is the downfall of many marriages.

When it's a covenant, when you make a commitment, "I'm going to love you. I'm going to choose to stay in this. I'm going to choose to work through it. I don't know what we have… but will you go to counseling? We'll go to counseling. If we need to move to a less expensive area, if someone needs to change jobs, whatever we have to do, apart from our relationship with God, I've made a covenant we'll do whatever we have to do." That mentality builds a security and a foundation that allows you to make it through things.

See, even in the back of your mind, "Well, if it doesn't work out or this might work out or I'm not very happy right now, or I'm not very fulfilled right now, or I thought our standard of living would be better by now, and we're getting older and it feels so dull, and if I'm ever going to..." Those thoughts are the beginning of how this happens. It's a commitment. It's a covenant.

I'm going to ask you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews. And Hebrews was written to a mixed group of people, and they were fading in their faith. Persecution was coming and they'd started really well and a number of them were starting to bail out in their relationship, not keep their commitments.

And so in chapter 13 as he's closing the book, notice what it says in verse 5. “Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Few things will destroy a family or a relationship like the love of money. Few things will destroy a marriage or a family like being not content with what you have. You got to have the next new cool thing, you have to have a bigger house, you have to have a second house, you have to have this kind of car. That puts all kind of pressure.

But notice the reasoning here. For He has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. In fact, in the original languages, there are five negatives. I will never ever leave you nor forsake you. It's God saying, You don't have to try and find it in money. You don't have to find your contentment anyone else. You can keep your commitment because I will never leave you. In fact, he then quotes the Psalmist. He says, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?" That's the model for our marriages.

God says, I'll be there for you. When you communicate to your mate by words and by actions, I'll be there for you. Not anything, not anyone can come between us. It produces a foundation and a security for the kind of relationship that you long to have and that I long to have.

Commitment says I love you. See, love is not an emotion. It's a volitional choice. When Jesus was in the garden, being fully human, He was wrestling with what we do. I know this is the right thing to do. I know from the foundations of the earth, Me going to the cross and dying for the sins of all people. I know that's the game plan. But He was fully human and He knew that the moment that He was on that cross and your sin and my sin and the sin of all people were placed upon Him, the Father would turn away. And that's why He cried, My God my God why have You forsaken Me? For the first time in eternity, there would be a division in the Godhead and He would absorb - the theological word is propitiation - the just wrath of God was placed on His Son to pay for your sin and mine. And in that garden, three different times, "If there's anyway, if there's a plan B, nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.”

He emotionally did not want to die for you or me. He chose, despite the screaming of his emotions, knowing that He would be flogged, knowing that He'd be humiliated, knowing He'd would be stripped, but He chose to endure that. That's love. And that's what God calls me to do with my mate, and that's what God calls you to do with your mate. Love is giving another person what they need the most when they deserve it the least. A great personal cost. And that's what Jesus did.

Now the reason I put that picture of the equilateral triangle, I can't do that in my power. Left to myself, I want my will. Left to myself, I want Theresa to meet all my needs and I want what I want when I want it all the time. It's only when I'm crucified with Christ when I'm in the Scriptures and when God's Spirit is filling me that I can love her the way God wants me to because Jesus actually lives inside of me. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. That's a promise.

Question: Is your view or emotional attitude more like a covenant or more like a contract? Do you think about, Yeah, I'm in this as long as it's going good. But when it gets difficult, do you allow those little thoughts to play in your mind like, Oh, I don't know how much longer I'm going to... You have to eliminate those. The word divorce should never be said out loud in your home or to one another.

Now, I do understand there are times where people break the covenant by sexual immorality, but for the great majority of time, I will guarantee you there's going to be times in your marriage at every season that everything in you will say, This is just too hard. I want out, and you choose, God give me the strength to do whatever we need to do.

Unfortunately, for Theresa and myself, that came really early. We didn't have any premarital counseling. We didn't know anything about baggage. We didn't know about children of alcoholism. We didn't know what it was like to be a blended family. I didn't know anything about being a dad and I became an immediate dad. And we're like a year in and she's awesome, but she was making me nuts. We couldn't communicate. We couldn't resolve anger. I'm in seminary preparing to do what I'm doing right now and we don't get along at home.

And I remember a very godly professor saying, "You know, Buddy? There's no use learning a lot of the Bible if it's not working in your house, don't export it.” And so we were broke, but we went for about $95 a session to marriage counseling. Twelve sessions. And as life would go on, we started reading books and working at things and God worked and God worked. Then you know what? A little bit later, we got stuck again and went back for some counseling. What do you need to do? But that started a lifelong journey of realizing we're going to really have to work at our marriage.

The second non-negotiable ingredient is communication. It's a lifelong skill of learning to understand each other. Communication isn't talking. Communication, literally, is the meeting of meanings. It's a skill. Only about eight to ten percent of communication, experts tell us, is words. Somewhere between sixty to seventy percent is tone of voice and body language. It's a lot different to say,
• "I love you.” “I love you too." Oh man, that's deep – right?
• "I love you." "Well, I love you."
• "I love you." "Boy, I love you too and I can't believe God let me marry you."

Those are three really big different messages and I said the same three words. Communication is the meeting of meanings. And for most of us, we don't do it well. Some of us don't listen very well. Some of us don't know how to communicate our feelings. Feelings that really matter that help you really get connected often are very scary to share, so you don't know how to do it. I'm going to give you a tool to help you.

But our model is Ephesians Chapter 4:15, 16. The context, Paul is talking about how the Church works. And after he tells us in :13 that the Church’s goal is that there are leaders to equip us so that we grow to maturity, he gives some evidence of maturity. He says, “But speaking the truth in love, we're to grow up into all aspects into the head who is Christ, from whom the whole body joined and held together by that which every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part, makes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

He's talking about when you're immature you get carried away by false doctrine, you get carried away by stuff and junk. He says, “But we, in maturity is speaking the truth in love.” Either one is easy. Doing both is really hard. Speaking the truth, being honest with each other, but being honest with each other in love. And I will tell you that is difficult.

Communication says, I trust you. I trust you. I trust you with my inner thoughts. I trust you with how I really feel. Communication makes direct request. It doesn't use satire and jokes to talk about serious stuff. It's mature.

I’m going to give you a tool called "The conference." And The Conference has three questions. And I'm going to use this chair to pretend I'm sitting over here. There are three questions...

And guys are you ready? I'm going to give your wives an assignment a little bit later, but I want you to initiate this one.

There are three questions. It's a really safe deal. So, men, you sit down – video, TV, papers are gone, distractions are gone - and guys this will sound funny but lean forward - it actually means something - make eye contact, and then you look at your wife and you say, "What are you concerned about?” Now I forgot one small thing, and some of you need to do this literally. There needs to be a small piece of duct tape about this wide. And what you do is you say, "What are you concerned about?”

And then you put it on your mouth and you don't say anything no matter what. You don't fix it. “Why are you concerned about that? Well, if you would have said that, blah, blah, blah.” I'm trying to help you guys. Okay? “What are you concerned about?” And here you can say, “Anything else? Oh, wow. Boy, that's hard."

And she might say, "Well, I'm concerned about the guy that our daughter is dating. And then you take the duct tape off and then ladies, you lean forward and you say to him, "What are you concerned about?” And you take the duct tape. And guys, by the way, ladies, don't be shocked if it takes him like...there might be a little bit of silence, “Hmmm, I ain’t concerned about not’in’…” And men if you'll do this, it cost me $95. I'm giving this to you for free. And when you think about what $95 was about thirty-something years ago. This was like probably $400 or $500 deal that you're just getting right now for free.

And if you would just have the courage say, "You know, I'm concerned about that guy too. I don't like him very much, but we've never talked about it.

Do you realize that probably ninety-seven percent of all that a married couple talks about is usually about what happened at work or logistics or kids or getting them to school or who picks this up or what are we going to do? And then anything that's delicate, anything that's money, or sex, or in-laws, you argue about that. You don't talk.

And so all you've done is "What are you concerned about?" You didn't fix anything. No one can talk when the other person is talking.