|Marriage is not a debate to be won. It is a dance to be enjoyed.|
The following is the transcript from the August 7, 2016 service at the Little Brown Church, during the 64th Annual Marriage Reunion, Nashua, Iowa.
The family is under attack from all sides in this culture in which we live, and one of the reasons why families are disintegrating is because of a lack of joy. This flies directly in the face of what Jesus said would be the byproduct of those who follow Him.
In John 10:10 Jesus says,In other words, Christians should be having more fun and have more joy than anyone else. Why; because your past is forgiven and because your future is settled and secure. So it stands to reason that we should stand out from the rest of society because, as Christians, we are experiencing this “life to the full,” that it should multiply within our homes as there are several there who are living in this community of faith within your home.
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”
But here’s the irony. Most people would claim that family is their Number One priority next to the Lord, but why then don’t more children feel important to their parents? Why don’t families spend time together? Why are we going in so many different directions?
Is it just me or do you see the distractions and diversions of this world sucking the life out of families? And in a world of electronic devises and hectic schedules and temptation at every turn, the family is suffering.
Someone said, “If Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll keep you busy.” And he has. And we’re so exhausted that we drag ourselves through our days, we fall into bed, and then we get up the next morning and we do it all over again. And joy and fulfillment has been replaced by worry and hurry.
So today, I want to talk about three building blocks that will make a home joyful. I want you to think today of a pyramid, and I want you to think about the base of that pyramid – the foundation – being a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You say, “Why is that the foundation for a joyful home?” Well, that’s easy. It’s because Christ is the source of our joy.
And I want you to go back in your mind. The year is around 62 AD. The Apostle Paul is sitting in a musty, smelly room, seated on a dirty floor. The Bible tells us he’s chained to a prison guard. He has no freedom. He has bad food. He has limited visitation. He has failing health. And it’s in the midst of that setting that the Apostle Paul pens these words:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”Be content regardless of your situation.
Joy? Contentment in that setting? From an earthly perspective, Paul should’ve been the last person on earth to have joy. The joyless person thinks he will only be happy if his circumstances all perfectly line up. “If I get that promotion, if I land that job, if I get the girl, if I’m able to retire early…” We have our litany of lists. But that’s not where joy comes from.
Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13:That’s the secret! Christ is the One who gives the strength. Christ is the One who gives us the joy. It comes from the inside out. God’s joy is within you.
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”
Here’s what I want you to remember: Happiness is dependent on circumstance but joy depends on your relationship with Christ. And that is why this is the most important part of the pyramid – the foundation. It is the one thing you can control and it’s the one that can make the most difference.
But another key building block to having a joyful home is right smack-dab in the middle of the pyramid, and that is a Christ-centered marriage. There are a lot of marriages that start off that way, but in the years that come, when children arrive on the scene, something happens.
In some homes there is this transition and it moves from being a Christ-centered home to becoming a child-centered home. And you say, “Well, what’s bad about that?”
Well, it can cause a lot of tension between the husband and wife, because now they are consumed with pouring into the kids. They use the children’s activities as a diversion from having deep conversations. They never pour into each other. They never go on a date night. They never have anyone watch the kids. Everything is all about the kids. They fail to resolve conflicts because they are so consumed with just taking care of the needs of the little ones as they get older.
We need to understand the moment you marry someone, you and your spouse begin to change in profound ways, and you can’t know who your spouse will actually be in the future until you get there. But a Christ-centered marriage allows us not to worry about this, but to be excited to see all that God is going to do in our marriages. There is joy in that.
I love that passage in Ecclesiastes chapter 4. You hear it at a lot of different weddings, we use it here. It starts in verse 9,
“Two are better than one, because you get a great return on your work. (And) If one lies down, the other can keep them warm.”But then it wraps up with verse:
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”All through the passage it’s talking about two…two, two, two, and then all of a sudden three is introduced, and it says, “A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” When you have a Christ-centered marriage, He becomes the third strand. He is what keeps you together. He is what brings joy into your home. And this is an opportunity for your marriage and your family to flourish.
Now God created man and woman quite differently. That’s no surprise. Most men communicate by looking for a solution. We’re looking for the facts. We want to bring resolution. We want to get things solved. And women don’t communicate that way at all. They want to communicate through their feelings.
Guys there are times when you must go out on a limb with your spouse and transparently and honestly communicate what is on your heart. It might seem like an interruption and you might start to be defensive, but hopefully it will cause you to listen and to change. You see, “Marriage is not a debate to be won. It is a dance to be enjoyed.”
If one spouse places a higher priority on the kids rather than on their mate, it will cause problems years later when you have an empty nest. The kids will grow up; they will leave home, and you will look at each other and you have nothing to talk about. What that shows is that all those years of marriage your marriage was side-by-side instead of face-to-face.
That’s why we need to have a Christ-centered marriage where prayer is a part of that relationship, with constant tweaks and constant improvements and just honest communication asking, “How can I be a better spouse?”
Now some of you are single parents and you’re trying to overcome the conflict and tension that used to be present in that rough relationship that you were a part of. And now you’ve found after the divorce that there still is conflict and there still is frustration. It still exists maybe just in a different form. Maybe it’s over the custody. Maybe it’s over the fact that your ex is with someone else now and that they don’t parent the way that you would want your kids parented.
I would say to those of you who are in that situation, my heart goes out to you. But make wise decisions in the setting that you find yourself in. Make certain that you’re making wise choices that set you up for a Christ-centered marriage should God bring that your direction.
The best way to have a joyful family is to have that base of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and then to have a Christ-centered marriage, and finally to have children who understand their purpose. You see, our children are fed a steady diet that they are here by accident, that they’re the result of a cosmic explosion or that they evolved from a monkey. And yet we wonder why our young people struggle with their self-image and they struggle with discovering their purpose in life and who they are?
People say, “Well, you live, you die, but first you pay taxes—that’s all there is to it. There’s nothing more; there’s nothing less.” If that’s true, what a futile existence this life would be. That’s why our children need to know who they are and why they are here. God created them. He created each of us in His image.
So teach your children who they are and teach them why they are here. We are put on this earth to bring glory and honor to God. That is God’s general will for us and for our children.
And the church must improve in this area of marriage and family. The influence and the power of the church are negated when our marriages look like the worlds. And the reason that this is so important in our culture at this time is that when it comes to Biblical truth and the sacredness of marriage, our voice, as Christians and as the church, is muted if our marriages don’t reflect the values that we espouse in Christ.
What is the purpose of the church if we look like the rest of the world? What is the benefit of a body of believers if we merely come together for a weekly dose of information and inspiration but we never truly allow transformation to take place in our marriages and in our homes and our families?
Usually we run into trouble when we try to do it all on our own. And we say, “God, I got this. I got this figured out.” And we’re not willing to get help from Him. That’s when the trouble starts; alone leads to a fragmented relationship—not just from your spouse but also from your Heavenly Father.
And I think you will find the same is true in your marriage. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be some bumps along the way. It doesn’t ensure that one of you will never get off the path. But it does mean that you’ll be able to go faster, farther and be more fulfilled. And if there is joy in your marriage, it will spill over to your family.
There is no greater disappointment for a Christian parent than when their child is not walking in the truth. And my prayers and my heart goes out to all the families in this church. It’s not easy these days. It is tough.
But if we continue to turn to God’s Word, if we rely upon one another, if we trust in the Spirit of God, if we allow Him to dictate our decisions and we trust in what His plan is for our life rather than what our own agenda is—incredible things can happen. And my prayer is that you will become the family that God wants you to be: not a perfect family and not a pretend family but a family who loves the Lord.