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About this series
Keeping Love Alive
Four Biblical Practices Great Marriages Have in Common
How do you keep love alive when you see your marriage starting to teeter, or crumble, and everything in you wants to give up and get out? In this series, Chip provides four biblical practices that all great marriages have in common. For each one, he provides key principles, then practical implications, and finally, super practical tools to make those practices a reality in everyday life. This is a no-holds-barred, candid look at the way marriage really works and how to make yours better. If you’ll invest the time, what you’ll find in the end, are love, hope, joy, and peace - for you, and the one you love.More from this series
As we get started, I have on my wall and I haven’t memorized it, but I read it almost every day because left to myself and you left to yourself, we all focus on, “What about me?” right? My needs, my will, my desires, this is what I want to see happen.
And on my wall is this prayer. And it says, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. And where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is sorrow, let me sow joy. Where there is injury, let me sow pardon. Where there is darkness, let me sow light. Where there is despair, let me sow joy. O Divine Master, grant that I wouldn’t seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, as to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
And that’s attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi but just, I need every single moment to get the paradigm shift. This series is about four biblical practices that great marriages have in common. And the first one is about love.
But when Jesus wanted to show His love, what did He do? He took up a towel and He got down on His knees and the King of kings and the Lord of lords and the Son of God who has been worshipped by myriads of angels from eternity past, bent down and He washed the feet of people that were too proud to wash their own or anyone else’s.
And not only of the eleven that He knew that would be faithful, but He washed the feet of someone that He knew was going to betray Him. And all I can tell you is when God tells us to serve, you can’t do it and I can’t do it in my power. That’s like one of those assignments like, “This is what you really need to do,” and unless you come to, “I can’t,” and say, God, but You can do this through me.
And there’s a promise. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap. For whatever measure you give, you’ll receive.” And it’s a process and it’s a journey, but I think one of the most fundamental shifts if you want a great marriage and it starts in your mind and moves to your heart and then has to get into your hands, is that this will only be a great marriage, not if or when my mate changes, but when I begin to serve them as an act of worship of serving Him with the recognition that I don’t have the power to do that.
And as you do that, and you say, “Well, I just can’t. I don’t feel it.” Here’s what happens, it’s that classic picture is you can stand on the edge of the water and say, “There’s no way,” it’s the moment when they stepped into the water, that’s when you get the grace.
But just like you go into training for other things – discipline, God gives grace through discipline, discipline is learning to do, over time, what you can’t directly do currently.
I’ll never forget my assistant of many years ago had never done anything athletic and we were learning this idea of what you can’t do directly you can learn to accomplish over time when you go into training. So, in other words, I can’t love my wife today directly, but I can go into training to build the capacity to be sensitive to meeting needs. But it takes times in training.
So, I’ll never forget, she had a friend who was a marathoner and she goes, “No, no, here’s the plan.” And she, “This is how many hours you sleep,” and she started walking, then she did a little bit of jogging, it was like six months later and she says, “Is there any way I could come in late on Friday?” I said, “Well, why? What’s up?” She goes, “Well, my training, I need to run ten miles Friday morning.” I said, “All at once?” And she hadn’t said anything. I said, “Can you do that?” She goes, “Yeah!” And I said her name, I said, “You couldn’t walk around the block six months ago! How can you run ten miles?” She goes, “Well, this is what we ate and then I jogged, and then it was this, then I got up to one mile, then up to two miles, and I have a ten-mile run and we only have five more weeks.”
She did twenty-six point two miles without stopping, because she went into training. It affected what she ate, how much she slept, how she exercised. Here’s what I want you to understand. There are many things you can’t will and do today, you have to go – the spiritual disciplines: praying, renewing your mind, reading Scripture, having fellowship from the heart – you go into spiritual training and you can actually build a capacity to love in ways that you currently can’t do by willpower.
And that’s how God dispenses. Now, sometimes He gives these flashes of supernatural, amazing, you have new eyes and see everything different. I have a handful of friends who, that’s how they overcame their porn addiction or their drug addiction and they cried out to God and, wow! But the great majority was recognizing they had a problem, getting in a group, putting limitations on their phone, giving their passwords to someone else, having weekly accountability, and they went into training to renew their mind.
So, all I’m saying is your potentiality for not a good marriage, but a great marriage has little or nothing to do today with how your mate is acting or not acting or what you want them to do or not to do.
Because if you turn this one in and get another one, you’re going to have exactly the same problems. And the other thing is is this person you’ll have to live with that is really the biggest problem is you. It’s you!
I have a fairly healthy self-concept but I can look in the mirror and know the core of my life is I’m selfish, I want my own way. Now, I can put verses behind it and I can, believe me, I can make it sound sophisticated and very Christian. But left to myself, apart from the Holy Spirit working powerfully in my life, I am really about my needs, my wants, and I get frustrated and angry or whatever when that isn’t delivered apart from the Spirit of the living God living in me and me allowing Him, progressively, to have more and more control.
And as I give Him control, then the fruit of that relationship begins to come out in my speech and in my behavior and in my thinking. And that fruit is – what? It’s love, it’s joy, it’s peace, it’s patience, it’s goodness, it’s kindness, it’s faithfulness, it’s gentleness, it’s self-control.
As I abide, and then that is who begins to, by God’s power, express through the conduit of my personality to my wife. And guess what, her emotional needs are met and her heart feels safe and secure. And then this weird thing starts happening, then she wants to treat me that way, which makes me want to treat her even more that way, which makes her want to treat me that way.
See, every relationship is either on an upward spiral of growth and kindness and love, or, “He did that, so I do this.” “Well, you know what? She said that to me, so I’m not going to do that.” And then pretty soon, you play this silly game and you both lose.
I mean, I have been in the ditch in my marriage, I have been in the darkness in my marriage, I have been where I didn’t – love my wife? I didn’t even like her at all. Just angry and hurt and wounded. And it was just a choice, because I made a commitment to God. I said, “Till death do us part.”
If there was a plan B or if there was an exit door, I would have taken it. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it’s true. But the good thing what I saw was when you choose not to take it, then the only other option is you’ve got to work this out. And if you can’t change them, there’s only one person left in the room, right?
And so, that was when, that’s when my marriage started to really change. Okay, she makes me nuts, I can’t change her, God, You change me. And she came to the same conclusion.
Love is the foundation of any relationship. But the oxygen, what brings it forward, is hope. And I want to teach you now the second practices great marriages have in common is hope.
And if you’ll open your Bibles to John 14, I want to show you in the midst of a desperate, desperate crisis, how Jesus is going to give hope to His bride. Remember? There’s a great mystery and the great mystery is that there’s this marriage. And this marriage is between Jesus and His bride, the Church. And He is going to model for us exactly how we can love one another.
We are in John chapter 14. And the situation is they have taken the Last Supper, they have sung a hymn, He has told them a lot about: He’s going to leave. And think crisis. Think you’re going to be apart for a long time. Think of military, being deployed. Think of: I wonder if I’ll ever see you again. Think of the worst and most difficult parting. Think someone who has told you some very terrible things are going to happen to them and you don’t know how it’s all going to turn out.
What you need more than anything else is – what? You need hope. One of the great challenges in marriages is if you don’t have hope, if you’re not looking forward to something this week, if you’re not looking forward to something this month, if you don’t have a couple things that you’re thinking about, “Hey, this year, there are some challenges. There are ups, there are downs, there are struggles, there are kids, there’s sickness, there’s lack of money. But, oh, this is coming up.”
As long as you have hope – hope allows you to endure daily struggles because there’s something that you’re looking forward to. And what you’re going to find is that Jesus is going to give His disciples hope and follow along as we discover how He does it.
Peter said to Him, “Why can I not follow You right now? I’ll lay down my life for You.” This is a good reminder of those who make, those of us who make promises to God.
“Jesus answered,” at the end of chapter 13, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” Then He shifts gears. “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” Well, why? “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that,” notice the focus, “that where I am, there you may be also.” Their greatest fear is abandonment and He is promising, “I am going to prepare a place so that we can be together.”
And then He goes on to say, “‘And you know the way where I am going.’ And Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know the way that You are going, how do we know the way?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way,’” literally that word is road. Hodos. “I am the path,” or, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’”
These are great questions. Philip goes, Well, you know, maybe I have missed something in this three years, but, “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it will be enough.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long that you still have not come to know the Father? How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His work. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves,’” speaking of all the miracles they have seen.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I will do,” now, listen to this. There’s going to be hope because there’s a place. There’s going to be hope because, “I’m going to come back for you.” There’s going to be hope because, “You don’t really get it, but I am, I am God. And so, I’m going to keep my promises.”
Then notice He’s going to say there’s hope because, “I’m not only not going to leave you alone, but I have a mission and a purpose for you.”
“I say to you, you will also do greater works than these, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name,” notice, “I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,” speaking of the Holy Spirit, “that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or abide in Him, or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be,” notice it’s all future, “and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved of My Father, and I will love him and My Father and I will come to Him and I will disclose Myself to Him.”
The command is: do not be afraid. In other words, don’t let fear or anxiety – He is speaking to His bride. Men, as we go through this, I want you to be thinking first and foremost about what your role is, because you’re supposed to love your wife – how? The way Christ loves the Church.
So, first, He says to His Church, “You don’t need to be afraid and You don’t need to be anxious, because I am going to take some responsibility for our future.” That’s a man’s role. Second, He says why. “Because I’m not going to abandon you and I’m not going to leave you.”
A woman’s greatest fear is abandonment. One of her greatest needs is security. And so, Jesus says, “You don’t have to be afraid, you don’t have to be anxious,” why? “I am going to secure a place.”
You ever wondered why, I know some of you have had to move around a lot, and for many of us as men, I remember, we have moved from West Virginia to Dallas, from Dallas to the West Coast, from the West Coast to Atlanta, and from Atlanta, back. And each time, these are traumatic things for my wife.
But I remember we were leaving the West Coast to go to the East Coast and most of my kids were grown and still had a daughter at home. And it was a tiny, little house, but it’s where our kids mostly grew up. And my wife actually went through each room and said goodbye to the rooms and touched the wall. If I didn’t know her better, I would think she is really having a little moment here.
Because, see, for me, it’s a house. For her, it was the place, it was the unit, it was the security. It’s what mattered. It was the home that our best memories of the transformation of our marriage and of our children, where it occurred. And for us men, sometimes it’s – we’re utilitarian. It’s got four walls, it’s got a couple bathrooms, it looks good to me! Who cares if the curtains are this color or that color, and the furniture doesn’t really match or this…? It matters to her, because it’s an environment. It’s the nest. It’s the place.
And isn’t it interesting that when Jesus leaves the disciples, there is a place, not some mystical, floating around. There’s an actual place and there’s a place, a dwelling, there’s plenty of them, they are for you. And I am going to go prepare it for you. And I’m going to prepare it for you because only is there a place, there’s a relationship. And I want you to feel secure and know there’s hope for the future, because I promised to come for you and I have prepared a place for you.
And then He tells them, by the way, there is a strategy to get there. We are not just moving. There’s an actual strategy that you can know how to go from where you’re at in your anxiety and fear to where we are going to be. And often, don’t we memorize verses and quote them and sometimes we get them so in our mind. Okay, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” I got that down. Jesus is the only way. He’s truth. This is where He reveals His deity. “I and the Father are one.” We get all of our theology.
Do you understand the context? There were some very scared young men who He was telling them, “There’s hope.” There’s, it’s on My word. And I want you to know there’s a pathway to this hope that you can trust. There’s a game plan here. It’s not like I’m just coming home and saying, “I got transferred or I’m taking a new job and there’s not a game plan and the timing. He wanted them to know: how are we going to get from point A to point B? And basically He said, “I am the way. I am the path.” And then the thing about hope is – but what’s the purpose? Why are You leaving and why do we have to relocate? And He goes, “You will do greater works.”
And so, He tells them there’s a place. It’s rooted in a promise. He tells them there is a way to get there. And then He tells them, “I have a purpose for you that everything that you have seen Me do, you actually are going to do greater works. And I want you to believe in Me. And if not for all of our time and intimacy and relationship, at least look back on all those miracles and know this is the way.”
See, He is building a very clear pathway so they can know: you know what? What is He going to tell them later? “In the world you are going to have tribulation. But I have overcome the world.” “My peace,” at the very end of this chapter, “I give to you.”
And all of it is rooted around hope. Someone has rightly said, “Hope is the oxygen of the soul.”
Whether you’re discouraged in your marriage or whether there are seasons, I just call it a grind. Anybody have that? It’s just like you get up, she gets up, you do this, if you have kids you take them here, you’ve got this, there are these evenings you’re supposed to do this, involved in church, you do this over here. Okay, every so many weeks.
And you just, you’re living in the present completely. And then when you have some challenges, right? You’re human. You have some challenges, she says a little something, he said he was going to this but he didn’t do it. One of the kids, you’ve got a problem with and one of you thinks you ought to do this and the other thinks you ought to do that and you have a little argument about it.
If you live only in the now, the grind will eat your relationship up. But hope is a picture of the future that says that what we are doing today is going to produce a better tomorrow. And enduring the grind of the todays and the struggles and the challenges and the little hurt feelings and the downtimes and the illnesses and the hurt and the kids who are going astray and the people that are treating you unfairly – the anchor of your soul is there is this hope.
And ultimately, yes, it’s heaven. Ultimately, it’s Jesus coming back. Ultimately, it’s – no one has the power to make you happy but if you’re a follower of Christ, He has told you, “I am your living hope. I am your security. I am the deep well of your life. My Spirit dwelling inside of You. He will be with you and will be,” here’s the promise, again, future, “in you.”
Did you notice how many times He said, “I will listen to you. I will come again.” It is all based on this promise of the future. In your marriage, you have to build in hope. And are you ready for this? This sounds so unspiritual.
Look at the title of this session. Planning. Do you realize this is what Jesus is doing? He’s sitting down with His bride and saying: I’m leaving, but I want you to know the plan. Here’s the plan. The plan is there is a future date and a future time that you don’t know about and I’ve got an amazing house. And that’s where we’re going to live. And here’s the plan. There’s an actual pathway, it’s not I-40, it’s not I-75, it’s Me. All you’ve got to do, I’m the path, I’m the truth, I’m the way. All you do, you follow Me and you’re going to land at the ultimate hopeful place where we are going to be together, no sin, no pain, no problems. Everything you have seen; all the miracles are normal. And, by the way, I have a purpose for you. You’re going to start doing what I have been doing.
In fact, later on, these disciples don’t know it, we are going to call this “the body of Christ.” We use, that sounds like a religious phrase. Think of, how did God express His miracles and His power when Jesus was walking on the earth? This is not a trick question.
Jesus walks in and He speaks, “Little girl, arise!” He touches a person and the leprosy is healed. He teaches a multitude. He is in Capernaum; how did He get from Capernaum over to Tiberias? He walked. You guys are looking at me. I’m making this way too hard.
Jesus was fully God, but He had a physical body, didn’t He? And when He did His miracles, the Spirit of God, Jesus, God the Son and God the Father are working together and in His physical body, He spoke, He touched, He walked, and He moved. And He accomplished the will of God through His body.
When He was resurrected and the Holy Spirit came and Pentecost and the Church was born, the Spirit of the living God came into whosoever would believe and turn from their sin and repent and receive Christ. And so, the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Godhead, came to dwell inside of you as a follower and now He says, “The body of Christ is not just one singular, physical body, it’s whoever the Spirit of God lives in,” so now, how does He touch people? How does He speak to people? How does He love people? It’s through us, right?
So, He is saying: not only is there hope about the end, not only do you know the path, but I have given you a purpose because each and every time where the Spirit of God comes through the conduit – I kind of see myself like a piece of PVC pipe. There’s all this grace in heaven that’s available. And the power of the Holy Spirit lives in me, and then I have to open the tap and surrender my life so the Spirit can flow through me.
But when the Spirit flows through me like it flows through any Christian that is open, and when something out of my mouth brings healing, or when I take something out of my pocket and give some money to someone who is hungry, or when I sit across the table and counsel a couple, or when I get to share the gospel, then the Spirit of God uses that and there is life and there’s healing and there’s restoration.
All I can tell you, it’s unbelievable. You have experienced it. You have sat across from someone and you heard them bow their head and pray to receive Christ. You have talked with them for hours and they decided not to leave their husband. You saw someone that was really hurting and was in a terrible situation, was clinically depressed and you came around them and now they are healthy. And what you realized, God used me. And what does it do? It gives you hope. It reminds you He is real. There’s power. It’s a reality.