This weekend, Todd continues our series “Can You Relate?” by teaching us about the relationship of marriage. In order to rightly relate to marriage, we must remember to do three things: Trust the giver, live for another world, and understand that people are married for a single reason.
How We Relate To God
Oh the covenant
That we are living in
It's more than rings on hands
It's a yes to the unknown
In seasons of doubt,
And when famine comes around
We go to the storehouse
To the One who is always faithful
We are holding on
Holding on to Him.
As He is holding on
To our covenant.
We can feel the ache,
His sovereign hand turns the page
What was easy to say
Is now staring us down
Is it till death do us part
Or till a change of heart
Feelings go so far
But where are we when they're gone
We are holding on
Holding on to Him.
As He is holding on
To our covenant.
We reflect the greater story
Of our King and His bride.
We're not hidden
But shine brightly
Bearing witness in the night.
Todd Wagner: Well, it's a treat to get to share that song with Plano and Fort Worth, here in Dallas also. That's our friend, Beth Barnard. She and Shane wrote that song about marriage for her sister who was in the middle of a tough marriage relationship and was having a hard time holding on. Don't we all? Marriage can be really, really hard, and it's the relationship we're going to talk to you about this week in the Can You Relate? series.
Marriage is having a bit of a PR crisis, isn't it? More people are getting divorced than ever. Fewer people are getting married than ever. Our Supreme Court has redefined marriage in our country forever. Thirty percent of Millennials says they don't believe marriage is that big of deal in their life, which is down 20 percent from what just one generation ago thought about the importance of marriage.
Forty percent of Americans think marriage is moving toward being obsolete. Marriage is having a real PR problem. There are fewer Americans who are married today than ever before. In fact, just a few years ago, for the very first time, we had more single American adults than married American adults. In the 1950s, we had 80 percent of America who were married as adults. Today it's below 50 percent.
That changes your culture significantly. It changes housing issues. It changes children issues. Seventy-five plus percent of African-American kids are born into homes that do not have a mother and a father present. It's changing things. This is especially a big deal because marriage is proven by every sociologist who has ever looked at this… Anthropologists will tell you, "This is the foundation of a society. Marriage is a big, big deal."
When people study individual's lives and they ask them how they're doing, they would tell you it's a fact (not Scripture's promise, it's a fact, which is always consistent with Scripture's promises) that marriages improve a person's mental and physical health. People who are married have better and more frequent sex.
People who are married provide a more prosperous, protective environment for children. People who study children's behavior will tell you the mental, emotional, and physical health of children increases when marriage relationships relate the way, it just so happens, a loving God tells you we should relate.
We're in a series called Can You Relate? What we're doing is every week we're taking some relationship in our lives, and we are talking about how we should prosper in it. We're trying to grab one word that if you can associate it with that relationship it's going to help that relationship do better.
The very first week we talked about how to relate to God our Father. The answer was you do it not by imposing upon God and making God a reflection of your earthly father, but you come to know that, in fact, your heavenly Father is the perfection of your earthly father. Everything your dad wasn't the loving heavenly Father is. Many of us have had good dads, and probably increasingly many more haven't.
The word we said you need to think of when you think of God is not judgment. It's not behave. It's good. We have a good, good God. God wants a relationship with us far more than we'll ever want one with him. He doesn't love us because we're good. Because he is good, he loves us, and he makes every provision for us. He wants it to go well with us, and that's why he has given us his Word.
That was the second relationship you have (with the Word of God, the Bible). The way you view the Bible matters greatly in your life. If you have an indifference toward the Bible, if you see it as a moral rulebook you have to behave so your Father will love you, then you've got a bad understanding of God's Word.
Your good, good Father, because he is good, has given you instruction. He has given you truth that will set you free. It will help you understand why you're here, why the world you're in has gone crazy, how he is going to make it right, how he wants to reconcile you to him, the provision he made for you, where you're going and what you do while you're here to have ultimate meaning and purpose.
The way you treat the Word of God is a treasure. That's the word. If you don't see the Word of God as a treasure, you will not mine through it to understand more of God, understand more of his intention for you, understand how he has been working in human history. It's not a collection of fables. It's God working in the context of human history that you can test and verify. He wants it to go well with you. So you should treasure it and just be excited to sit at his feet and listen to what your loving Father says to you.
The third relationship we talked about is a relationship all of us have with a certain life stage. At some point, every single one of us was single. When you think of singleness and how you relate to singleness, this is the word you should use. The word is gift. It's a gift. JP did an amazing job last week. I was so excited to share that message. About 36 percent of our body is single. All of us, as I said, at one point in our adult lives were single.
Adult married people need to view our single friends as a gift. Our single friends who are still there need to take advantage of the gift they have at this particular place in their life and use it well. If you weren't here, I beg you to listen to that message. It is the best theology of singleness you can ever hear because it's rooted in God's Word.
Now watch this. Singleness is a gift, and you need to trust the Giver. Then we talked about how in your singleness, you need to take that gift you've been given by a good God, and you need to use it to live for eternity. Then we said ultimately we need to understand people are single for a reason. That reason was to glorify God while they were single, not to make hay while the sun shines. JP did a great job of talking to you how he completely misunderstood that for much of his life.
Now we're at the topic of marriage. How do you relate to marriage? What's the word? There are a lot of words I could have used, but guess what the word is going to be? Gift. It's the same word. Marriage is a life stage (if you're not single, you're married) God has given us. He defines marriage. He sets us up for success in marriage.
We need to trust the Giver, which means we need to trust his design for marriage. We need to trust his provision in it. We need to take his advice as we move into it, and we need to live inside of it the way he wants us to. "Well, how do you live, Todd, in this gift of marriage?" Well, as you trust the Giver, you live for eternity in it, not for your own pleasure today.
Then thirdly, you need to remember just like we said last week, people are single for a reason. We relate to marriage by understanding we are married for a single reason, and I'm going to explain that reason to you. We're talking a lot about gifts and gift giving, so to start this whole talk off, I thought I would give us a gift because we're talking about gift giving.
I have here three envelopes that are absolutely identical in size and in appearance, but they're not identical with what is in them. What I want to do is just grab somebody who would like to have a gift, somebody I don't know, somebody who is here. Okay. Come on up here, ma'am. I would love to give you a gift.
All I want to do is just to start. You can take these and feel they're the same weight, same size, and all that different stuff. Take whichever one you want. Just grab one. That's the one? Are you sure? All right. Go ahead and open that really quickly. Tell me what's in there. Okay? What you have in there is a bunch of paper. I'll hold it up for them to show them. Now you grabbed one that had a lot of white paper in there, right? The good news is there's one little piece of green paper there at the top. It's a Benjamin. Bless you! Enjoy the gift. All right?
Now that's pretty fun. That's what you get for sitting in kind of the Shamu splash section here as I speak and spit. You get $100! Enjoy that. Go grab lunch with a friend. Take some folks out, and use it to minister. Do whatever you want. That's just a gift to you. Gifts are like that. When you get them and you like the gift, you're like, "Wow! That's amazing! I just got $100. I'm pretty excited about it."
When you get married, isn't that the way you first looked at your spouse? Right? That's the way! Notice I said, "When you got married, it's the way you first looked at your spouse." When I do weddings, I love when I stand there by the groom. I've done…I don't know…well over a hundred weddings.
As I'm standing there, I love that tension as it mounts. I kind of nod at the mother of the bride, and she stands. Everybody else stands. That guy is just… You can feel the electricity. That woman has been doing everything she can to make herself as beautiful as she can for that particular moment.
Those doors kick open. The music builds. Here she comes, and often tears are associated with it. I've never seen a bridegroom go, "Whatever." I mean, no! They're at attention. They're so excited. Here comes this gal, and it's like, "What a gift! Oh, God! That's all I asked for, all I prayed for. Look at her! This is an amazing moment. I am so proud of her. I want the whole world to see how I love her. I've bought an expensive ring to slide on her finger to show I care for her."
Here's the problem. So many women are treated as kind of worthless trash at the hands of their husband, even though they slide on their finger precious jewels. We're so careful. We rehearse weddings, right? We want to make sure we don't do anything in a wedding ceremony in this public moment that would bring shame to our family.
But how much is said often in marriage that really hurts our family name because we stop seeing our bride or our groom as a gift? That's what happens when you start to compare. Comparison is comparing your spouse to other people, your Eve to other Elaines, Ednas, or whatever other women's names might be. It's the fast track to discontentment.
This is something Adam and Eve didn't really have a problem with, right? When God created Adam, he was just going to show Adam, "Look. I'm not done with all of my creation yet. I've made the animal kingdom. I've made the plants. I've made nature. I've made the sea. I've made the dry land.
I'm making it all perfect, but there's something missing here, Adam, because in creating humanity in my image, I'm not done yet because humanity is male and female. It's not just male. I want you to see part of the gift I'm going to give you is this beautiful other thing that will come forth from you and is part of my creation."
It says God put Adam into a deep sleep after he had brought before him all the animal kingdom. So Adam had seen giraffes. He goes, "Those are really crazy looking, but I'm not really drawn to it. That hippopotamus is not really what I'm thinking I'm going to take to prom. The platypus is curious, but I don't think I want to, you know, swipe right on it when I'm on Tinder" and on and on.
Adam was like, "I don't see the right thing for me, the right helper, the right completer, the right yin to my yang. I don't see pieces that fit." Then all of a sudden, God put him to sleep. When he woke up, there was Eve. For the very first time in creation as creation was complete and Eve was there, God said, "This is very good," and so did Adam. He was like, "Oh my gosh! That is like me, except it has breasts, and I am all in." Right? I mean, literally. Right? I mean, he was like, "I'm in! The pieces fit. That is soft and beautiful."
There was nothing else to compare her to, and he was filled with delight. There was nothing! Now we know a little bit later Adam had an unhealthy fear of snakes, didn't talk well with them, and was passive. We know he didn't do great in the game of telephone because God told him to not eat from the Tree of Life, and he told Eve, "God said don't eat or touch it" and set her up. We know Eve wasn't the best at picking out the best fruit in the produce aisle.
There were things about both of them that weren't exactly correct, right, excellent, and best, but there was no one to compare them to. You and I do. We compare our brides, don't we? We compare our grooms to other people. Our comparison is the fast track to discontentment.
By the way, this is why pornography is such a problem. When you look at pornography, when you look at another woman with lust, whether it's an actual video image, a still image, or just a woman walking in front of you in the street and you start to fantasize about that, but pornography explicitly… When you compare your woman, you're on a highway to discontentment. When you look at pornography, you're traveling at light speed toward discontentment. You're creating a fantasy world that doesn't even really exist about how a woman should respond to you.
If you want to see your Adam start to struggle as you read fantasy romances or, as they call Fifty Shades of Grey, "mommy porn" and be discontent with your life, then you just start to compare your Adam to somebody else. In fact, scientists will tell you, you are literally neurologically hardwiring your brain to be discontent with your spouse when you lust at other people.
This is, by the way, the kindness of God. When God teaches us stuff, he doesn't just do it to burden us. In Exodus, chapter 20, verse 17, he said this to us. He said, "Look. I don't want you to covet your neighbor's house. I don't want you to covet your neighbor's wife, his male servant, his female servant, or his ox. I don't want you to lust after anything anybody else has. It's going to make you discontent."
What we see now as we study this scientifically and sociologically is the reason God tells us that is not because he is mad at us if we do it but because it hurts us when we do it. This is why 1 John 5:3 is true. It says, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome." They set us up free.
When you start to go, "Gosh! I wish I had Elaine and not Eve… I wish I had Allen and not Adam… I wish my husband was like that, he made this money, he did this, he was handier," whatever it might be, it's going to lead to discontentment. Let me just give you a simple way to illustrate this.
Let me grab my envelopes again. Come up here. I just need a couple of other guys who will help. All right. Good. All right. You two come here. That was quick. Yeah! "For sure, dude. I'm in!" Come on over here so our friends in Plano and Fort Worth can see this. What I want you to do is just grab either one. I'll let you go first. What's your name? I'm Todd.
Ben: I'm Ben.
Todd: Hello, Ben. Good to meet you, bro. Grab whichever one you want. Are you sure? All right. It's yours. Excellent. Why don't you open that up really quickly? I'll put this one right here. What do you have? There's some white in yours, I see, but not quite as much white. Let me just see here.
All right. We'll take this. We'll put this out. Put your hand out there, Ben. Let's see. There's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten." Bless you, bro. There's $1,000. So now you look at that, and you're like, "Whoa! I'm going to start sitting up front from now on." Earlier, I didn't meet you. What's your name?
Todd: Okay. Carmen. How are you feeling about your envelope now? You had three envelopes there. That guy just got 10 times what you got. That $100. I mean, you're like, "Ugh." You're right there. The guy is going, "Hey. I'm going to pick that one, right?" All of a sudden, it's just not quite a deal, right?
Carmen: I'm grateful.
Todd: You're still grateful? All right. Well, good.
Let's let this last envelope come out then. We have one. That's all I have. Open that bad boy up. Let me show you what you got. Let me see it. There's no white in there. I'm not going to count them out, but there are 50 of them. There's $5,000, baby. Be blessed. All right, now… Yes! Yeah! You'll never complain again when your parents say, "Let's go to church," will you?
Now look what just happened right there. There were three envelopes. They kind of all looked alike. You chose the one. It was yours. It was a gift, and you got it. I don't know what's going on in your life, but it was an amazing blessing. I mean, you guys could go, and you could grab a movie and split a Coke (if you go to LOOK) for $100. You know? But then you go, "Gosh! If I had picked that one, I would have gotten 10 times that, what Ben got." What's your name?
Todd: Then Austin grabbed one, right? He got 50 times what you got. All of a sudden, you start to go, "Man, that other envelope. Bro, there was a 33 percent chance." You're like, "Dude, I was 50 percent to get 5K." You start to compare, and there's a little discontentment. Didn't you feel great about your envelope when you grabbed it? Then you were like, "Are you kidding me?"
Now let me just tell you something. I'm not crazy. I'm not giving $26,000 this weekend. I know Ben, and I know Austin. That money is going to continue to be part of the money we've all stewarded here together. It will go back into the mission. Carmen, you really get to keep your $100.
So first of all, don't come back at 5:00 today and sit up front. You're not going to get the money. Second of all, don't you feel now pretty good about your gift? The one you picked is really the one I was going to give you. Okay? I had it where I was hopeful you were going to pick that one. You did. These guys grabbed those.
What happened just for a moment is like, "Are you kidding me? Oh my gosh!" Then when I tell you, "No, that's the real gift. That's yours. That sticks," you're like, "Good. That's a good gift." You love it again. See, when we start to compare, we lose some of our appreciation. When the Enemy can make you think what God who… James, chapter 1, verse 17, says this that God is the giver of every good thing. "…every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."
Now Proverbs, chapter 19, verse 14 (which is why I chose the word gift) says this: "House and wealth are an inheritance from fathers, But a prudent wife is from the Lord." If it's from the Lord, you know it's a good thing. Now here's the deal. Some of you are thinking, "Bro, you don't know my wife."
Let's just imagine. There's a story of a guy who was sitting there at church just like this. Then all of a sudden, "Boom!" There's the satanic presence right there in front of everybody. I mean, people freak out. They storm. They run out of here as fast as they can. They're climbing all over each other, except one dude. He is still sitting right there. Satan looks at him and goes, "What are you doing? Don't you know who I am?" He goes, "No, I know exactly who you are."
"Well, what do you think about me?"
"I think you're horrible. I think you're the Prince of Darkness."
"Don't you know what I can do to you?"
"I know exactly what you can do to me."
"Aren't you scared of me?"
The guy looks back at him and says, "Why should I be scared of you, man? I've been married to your sister for 48 years."
Look. When Satan gets you to believe your spouse is your problem, he has you beat. Let me just say this to you really quickly. Your spouse is not your enemy. Your spouse is a gift from God. Satan is your enemy. Every single marital problem is a spiritual problem. Now some of us make decisions early on that get us into a relationship that God would say, "That wouldn't be prudent," which is why God instructs us to marry well. You have to treat your wife or your husband as a gift. Stop comparing it. That's what you chose that person for. Hopefully you chose well.
I know even when you choose well, it can go sideways. I'm going to tell you even in a marriage that goes sideways, marriage is still a gift. I'm going to prove it to you biblically here in just a moment. What I'm going to say today is going to be really hard, but it is true. Because it's true, it's life-giving. You have to trust the Giver of the gift, you have to live for eternity in the midst of the gift, and you have to know you are married for a single reason. Let's talk about this.
1._ Trust the Giver of the gift._ I will tell you this week I started to pray something I can tell you I haven't prayed my whole life consistently for, and I'm upset I haven't. I was reading around this this week. I read an amazing book that was really helpful to me that made me think about things I can do better in my marriage.
One of the things the guy said in that book, which was really helpful to me, is, "Hey, man, you ought to start praying every day, 'Lord, let my wife define beauty to me. Let her be my Eve. Give me eyes only for her.'" I just started praying that.
Now I have to tell you, if you've not been around Watermark very long, you don't know. When I was pre-pubescent (8 years old to really 15 years old), I was shown more visual images of Eves in seductive settings than anybody should see in their lifetime. I was exposed to massive amounts of women doing things that even before my body was designed to respond, it was being just juiced. It was being neurologically wired to want multiple partners and to satisfy itself. It was poison to me.
I married a beautiful gal. When I was 28, I got the gift of marriage. I have to work every day at making sure I don't want to go back to what, for a long time, I was hardwired to find as that which stimulated me. By the grace of God, I have done that, but this week even as I was praying differently, just saying, "Lord, let my wife be the definition of beauty…"
I'm glowing a little bit because my wife and I got away. We went to Mexico, got some sun for four or five days, and got to hang out together. You know, while we were there, I was reading. I was praying. There were other Eves around attired in swimwear. I just said, "Let her be my definition of beauty." What's really interesting is while I was there, I was reading. I read about another hotel in Mexico that is the number one rated hotel in all of Mexico (that I wasn't at).
They were offering something in a three-day period called "marry thyself." It was a three-day immersion to enjoy yourself and learn to satisfy yourself under the guidance of their own shaman. I thought, "Man, how sad is that?" that people are falling more and more in love with themselves. I kept praying, "Lord, help me fall in love with my wife. Help me cherish my wife. Help her be a gift to me."
When we left Mexico, we went back to the airport, and we were checking in. You know, we gave our passports to the attendant right there. They got my passport, and they processed it. They got my wife's passport. They said, "Ma'am, where is your immigration form?" She goes, "Oh!" My wife is always the one who tells me, "Don't throw that away, Todd." I'm like, "What? It's just a piece of paper." She goes, "Keep it. You need it to get out."
My wife, my Eve, had lost hers. I said to the lady, "So what do we do?" She went, "Well, you have to go back over to immigration, and you have to pay to get another one." I can remember when I heard the phrase "pay to get another one" what flashed through my mind, which was like, "Eve! I should've married a kangaroo so she had a marsupial pouch, and she wouldn't have lost it." That's what went through my mind.
Just for a second, I was like, "Look. We came here this way, so we didn't pay that much for a ride. I'm sure it's going to cost us." It turned out it was $30, but still my flesh… This all happened in a second in my head. I was like, "Come on, man! Thirty bucks? We just were down here for a week. We don't have money just to throw like that. Come on! What are you doing?"
The first thing I wanted to say inside a second was I literally thought, "Okay, $30. I get to redeem my Eve from being kidnapped by Mexican immigration for $30." I'm not kidding you! That happened inside a second. I went, "Thirty dollars? Baby, you're worth $30,000. Let's go get that thing!" You could just see my wife. She went, "What just happened right there? That's not the response I expected."
There have been other times in our marriage when I'm just like, "Come on, man! You backed the car into that? What? You got a…what?" In this time, I just said, "You're a gift to me. Praise God I have a wife who can back a car into something." We did. I swear to you, I grabbed my wife's hand. I never raised my voice. I wasn't even discouraged. I went, "Baby, listen. How many times have I done that?"
"I can't believe it."
"Don't worry about it."
"I'll find it. I'll find it!"
"Don't worry about it."
I walked her into that immigration office. The guy was sitting over there. I went, "The word is you need something from me so I can get this thing so I can get my Eve back." The guy looked at me and went, "What?"
"How much do I need to give you?"
"It's $30 cash."
"I'd give you $30,000, bro. Look at her!"
This dude who was there just stammered and looked at me. He got a big smile on his face, and you could just see him kind of go, "Bro, I don't get that very often." I went, "Wouldn't you pay $30 to take this thing back home with you?" I had some fun. I had a chance to talk to the guy and encourage him a little bit. I said, "She ain't for sale for $30, dude, but I'm going to buy her back from your hostage-taking government now for $30." So off we went.
I'll be honest with you. I literally got the $30 out, was ready to give it to him, and Eve went, "I got it!" I went, "Oh sweet! Baby, you're even better looking than you were a second go." I saved the $30. I saved the $30! Even more, my wife was like, "What a blessing my husband was in that moment." I thought to myself, "What a blessing I was in that moment" for one reason.
By the grace of God, what Todd Wagner typically does is just berate somebody and make them feel small. "What the heck? You can't even hold onto a piece of paper? It's $30! I know it's $30, but it's $30!" She gets over it, but instead, my wife felt cherished, loved, and celebrated. I showed her off. I told everybody she was worth $30,000. How do you think that worked out for me? It's going to work out for you the same way if you just are somebody who just starts to go, "This is my bride. I trust the Giver of my gift."
Now let me just do this really quickly. Let me say this to my single friends. Because in the gift of singleness, God says to you, "Be free. You don't need to get married if you don't want to. But if you're going to get married, make sure you listen to the treasure that is my Word, because I'm a good, good Father. You don't want to get married to somebody who is going to think marriage is all about them."
Second Corinthians 6:14 is really talking about who you yoke with in life as you go through life, but it has implication in the most intimate of all relationships. It says, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers…" They don't think there's a good, good Father who has a Word that's a treasure to you because it shows you the way of life.
For if you know you have a good, good Father, what partnership does that right view of God have with the wrong view of God? Somebody would tell you God gives bad gifts, and if you just had something else, you'd be happier. No. "…what fellowship has light [a right view of God] with darkness [a clouded view of God that believes there is something better than what God calls you to] ?" What harmony has Christ with the Enemy? Why should an unbeliever who is going to live a different way be yoked to a believer?
This is why God tells you be very slow in choosing your mate. Don't lower your standards, single friends. Lengthen your patience. Figure out who your Master is. Is he a good, good Father? Once you determine who yourgood, good Father is, you treasure his Word, and you study it so you get on mission with him.
As you're on mission with him, you make sure then you find somebody else who is on the same mission with the same view of the Master, and let that be your mate as you go through life. What a joy and what a privilege to share my life with that kind of gal.
I remember when I was taking my oldest son to college. We went to Arkansas, and we were walking around the campus at University of Arkansas. Everywhere I looked, I saw a good-looking 18-year-old Arkansas co-ed. I was just kind of looking this way and looking that way and seeing them. I was not lusting after them. I'm glad for my Eve, but I was noticing. I'm not blind.
I was walking with my 18-year-old son. I had my other son with me who was 13 at the time and my wife there. I just put my hand on my son, and I said, "Slow down a second." I let Eve and the boy get in front. I just said, "What do you see?" Because he is 18, he went, "I don't know." You know? I went, "No, no, no, no. What do you see? I mean, look around you, man. Do you see what I see?"
Then he kind of looked at me like, "Dad, I'm not sure I'm comfortable with this conversation we're having." I went, "No, I want to ask you. What do you see? What do you think of specifically when you see all these cute girls walking left, right, and all around us? Man, there's a bunch. I've seen 10, and we're just walking for 15 minutes. What do you think?" He went kind of like that.
I said, "Here's what you'd better think. 'Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.' Do you see that 50-year-old up there? She is still beautiful and charming to me, but she's 50. She fears the Lord, and it's a blessing. I'm telling you, buddy, you'd better find one when she is 18, 20, 21, or 28 who fears the Lord, or you're going to be miserable. You'd better not be duped by the beauty of youth. You'd better find somebody who loves the Ancient of Days."
Single friends, let me just tell you, you have a good, good Father. You need to treasure his Word, and you use the gift of singleness. You can't be the spouse God wants you to be unless you become right now the person you're supposed to be. The person you're supposed to be is somebody who has a right view of the Master who is on mission.
As you run, you find a mate to run with who will then love as God has enabled them to love and who will be a blessing. Trust the Giver. Seek the Lord. Don't seek a spouse. Even when you have a spouse, seek the Lord. He is the gift. That's the person who will help you become more like him. We told you not to trust just the Giver but…
2._ Live for another world_. That's what you do with the gift of marriage. First Corinthians 7 is where we hung out a lot last week, because Paul was talking about how you should use the gift of singleness. But there's this really strange verse in there in chapter 7, verse 29 that I want us to look at.
In fact, somebody just wrote this in to Real Truth. Real Quick. It's the question I answered for next week. They said, "What does this verse mean?" The verse says, "But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none."
The person said, "What does that mean that they should act like they don't have a wife?" Here's basically what Paul was saying around that. In the context, he is communicating to them that whatever happens on earth, whether you're single or whether you're married, you need to make sure you live for eternity.
What will happen is when you get married, you're going to have the tendency to let the monkey of marriage grow into a gorilla of distraction. That's all you want to do is build a nest, build a house, build a retirement income, have kids, make sure you're comfortable, and take vacations. What he is saying is don't you let that happen.
It's a fact that when you get married you're going to have a harder time staying on mission with God because while you're on mission with God, in addition to staying faithful for God, you have to appropriately, sovereignly take the assignment to temporally give yourself to another person.
"Because you love them and because if you marry somebody who knows who I am, who lives according to the treasure of God's Word, it's going to be a blessing to you when it comes time for you to do what Jesus wants you to do, and it's going to lead to persecution, suffering, loss, or maybe martyrdom. You're going to maybe want to pull back so you can stay with your Eve." He is saying, "Don't. I'll take care of your Eve. You keep living as if all you have to do is please me."
Note: If you seek to please God, you're going to care for your wife. You're going to honor your husband. But make sure that doesn't pull you off mission. It can happen. We start to worry about zip codes, picket fences, and college funds. We get off mission. All that verse is saying… We know what Paul is not saying is, "Act like you're not married and ignore your wife," because just a few verses earlier in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, verse 3, he said, "The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband."
The only time you shouldn't be fully present, even intimately engaged, with each other, is if for a season you pull away (in verse 4) for prayer or fasting to where you're more intimately acquainted with the Father so out of the overflow of that relationship, you can love your Eve and love your Adam. You always live for eternity with a gift. That's why you marry somebody whose mission is to live for eternity with the single gift.
I tell young adults, don't marry somebody who is not already well married. In other words, it's somebody who is married to Christ and has left and adjusted their entire life because their Bridegroom Jesus died for them and who cleaves to him. They evaluate every new thing by asking, "Will this draw me closer to Jesus or take me further from him, who is committed to becoming one with Christ as the Spirit wants you to be?"
When you find somebody (male or female) who is wanting to be more like Jesus, has left their old life, and is cleaving to Jesus and new things so they might be one with God, marry that person. Seek the Lord. Don't seek a spouse. "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…" You find somebody else who is doing the same thing, and it will be a gift. It will be a gift!
What about the third one? Now we're going to get to that truth that is hard, but it's true. Marriage is a gift, and we need to…
3._ Understand people are married for a single reason._ You're not married because it's there to make your life happy. I want to make it very clear to you. Married people have more and better sex. You might be thinking, "Bro, you don't know my marriage."
People who live underneath God and his treasure of his Word and live and love the way they would, they have more and better sex. They are mentally and emotionally healthier people. Children prosper and are protected underneath them. But if it goes sideways, marriage can still be a gift.
Let me give you one quick illustration. In the early days of Watermark, we were growing rapidly. About three to four years in, I had a couple come up to me. They just said, "Hey, Todd. We want to let you know we're transitioning out of Watermark." I said, "I get it. Sometimes that's maybe the right thing to do. I understand. Tell me what you're thinking."
They said, "Well, it's just not the same Watermark we used to be a part of." I went, "Oh, man. Would you forgive me?" He said, "Oh, I told you, sweetie. Todd, you don't need to ask our forgiveness."
"No, no, no. Listen to me. Will you forgive me?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Well, let me ask you a question. Are we still committed to the Word of God like we were three years ago?"
"Are we still committed to lost people? Are we still grounded in grace, living authentically, passionate about prayer? Are we still focused on ministry and service? Are we still all in for Jesus, and the Word is our authority, conscience, and guide? You're telling me the reason you're leaving is the music has changed. The songs we used to sing we don't sing anymore. We don't just have one service. We have two.
We don't meet for an hour and 45 minutes. We have two services that are a little shorter. You're leaving because some of your preferences have changed. Will you please forgive me, because you've been here for three years, and I've been supposed to help you grow as a follower of Christ? Somehow, three years later, you still think this is all about you. Will you please forgive me?"
That changed the tenor of our conversation, as you can imagine, but I wasn't being mean. I was just saying, "Look. Here's what I'm talking about. Listen, man. If there's a place you can go and prosper more, if you've grown up here and God is going to use you to serve somewhere else and honor him more in another place, or if there's a place the Word is being taught more, people are more serious about their faith, tell me, and we'll all go there with you!
But if you're telling me you're leaving because in your little spiritual narcissism, there's music you like more or the parking is not quite as crowded as that and you still see God showing up here, what are you doing? Mature believers, 'Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.' This isn't about you. You're part of the body of Christ, and we are making disciples. We're on mission here. Of course, it's going to change."
You know, sometimes folks come into my world, and we're talking about their marriage. They go, "Bro, you don't know my marriage. This is not easy." I go, "Hey, bro. Will you forgive me? You've been underneath my leadership, and somehow you thought your marriage was all about you. Would you forgive me? Because your marriage was never about you.
I mean, God has given you a design that if you live your marriage that way, it's going to be a blessing. But you have to seek him. You have to abide with him. You have to become a servant to your spouse and not be upset that your spouse isn't serving you that way. By the way, God didn't want you to get into a marriage on purpose that was crazy. Maybe you made a bad decision in marriage."
Let me tell you something. If I was preaching, I don't know, 3,000 years ago and Hosea was in my congregation, I couldn't say, "God doesn't want you to marry somebody who is going to make you miserable."
Because God did tell Hosea to marry Gomer, who was a prostitute who was going to be unfaithful and have kids with other men so he would go, redeem her, love her, and reconcile with her again and again as an illustration, using his servant to love Gomer to show Israel, "This is what love looks like. You are a Gomer to me, but I am Hosea, Yeshua, the Lord saves. You watch the way Hosea pursues this woman who is a skank, but I will redeem her, make her mine, and make her my beloved."
God said that's the picture. New Testament. Listen to me. He isn't calling you to be a Hosea, so marry well. But some of us end up married to Gomers. We're like, "Okay, what do I do now with the gift?" Answer: you still have a chance. In fact, you have a horrible chance to do even more than maybe somebody like me who, by the grace of God, is abiding right now with Jesus with a wife who is abiding with Jesus.
So we treat each other as a gift, and we respect, we honor, we love, we reconcile, and we work through our problems. It's a blessing. We're not perfect, but we work at our marriage. We forgive, and we keep short accounts. We are one, and it is a gift. I got married not because it was going to be easy. I got married because I wanted to honor God.
Watch this. Are you ready? This is marriage. You're married for a single reason, Christian. Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 25. Let's talk about the men first. It says… "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her [like Jesus did us] , having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless [and adored and provided for] ."
Husbands, you ought to love your wives that same way. Watch this. This is the husband's job description. When you got married, you didn't say, "I'm in this. This is going to be awesome, man." You got in this because you said, "I'm going to, before the watching world, move into this honorable covenant where I'm going to love her the way Jesus loves the church."
Here's the job description. "I'm going to love her unconditionally, constantly, completely, endlessly for all eternity. I'm going to initiate with her with great patience. I'm going to be tender, unshakeable, sacrificial, selfless, even to the point of death until we part. I'm going to love this woman."
Now listen. I do that thinking, "The woman is going to love me back," but I don't say that. I've never done a wedding where somebody wrote into the vows, "Unless Eve puts on 20 pounds, some younger girl shows me a lot of affection, or Eve just gets distant or sick." No, I say, "For better or for worse, you're mine. I'm going to love you as Christ loved the church." Right, Christian?
Wife, let's look at you. The wife is to love the husband in a responsive way. Be respectful toward him. Be obedient. Be submissive, humble, adoring, fully devoted to him in every way, just celebrating the relationship. By the way, women, let's just go back and just put just the guys up there.
Who wouldn't want to do those things when a husband is unconditionally, constantly, completely initiating with great patience and tenderness, cherishing and honoring you, dying for you, and pouring out his life, and you are his gift? Everything about his life is all about adoring you. He'd give $30,000 to redeem you from Mexico. Don't you want to go, "I'll follow that guy! I want that guy"? Right?
Well, that's the picture God wants. Now listen. Let's put them both back up there. I just want to give you a little empathy with each other. Which of these two job descriptions is the harder? Now if you'll notice, I added another word now to the guys' side. Because if you're going to love as Christ loved, you have to do all those things perfectly. The husband's job was to love as Christ loved perfectly. The woman's job doesn't change.
Which one is harder? Are you ready? I think it's the woman's…by far. Do you know why? Listen to me. Because I've already told you, I'm on both sides of this equation. As a man in marriage, I am loving as Christ loved the church. As a part of the church, I am loved by a Jesus who doesn't aspire to that job description; he is that job description.
There are tons of times when I am non-responsive to Jesus. I am not respectful to Jesus. I am disobedient. I am not submissive. I am prideful that I could do better than him in leading my life. I don't adore him. I adore me. I am not devoted to anything but me. I am on this side with a perfect Bridegroom, and I still can't love well. Can you imagine how hard it would be to follow a guy who is impetuous, moody, selfish, and inconsistent?
Do you know what that makes me do? It makes me every day get on my knees and go, "Oh Lord, would you let me love a little bit more like Jesus so my Eve doesn't have it harder than I do? I know how hard it is as a fallen human to be yoked to a perfect God. Would you make me a vessel of grace to her? Would you make her a vessel of grace to me? May I not take advantage of the grace she extends, but let me be a gift to her. I can only be that gift to her if it's your love, not mine."
Listen to this. "Now if my Eve goes to another man, if my Eve is indifferent to me, if my Eve goes another way, I still, Lord, haven't lost the gift of marriage. I now have a gift to model what love looks like." The world is going to look at me and go, "What are you doing, bro? You deserve better than that. There's nothing you've ever done (which is not true). That girl is treating you like that, dude? You're still young. Go get you a young one!"
I'm going to say, "No, man. I told the world, I told my God, I use the gift of marriage for a single reason. This isn't about me. I love her like Jesus loves me." Are you confused by that kind of love? You ought to be. This is 1 Peter, chapter 2, verse 11, where it says, "…abstain from fleshly lusts… Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles…"
So they go, "Who are you? Who are you, like an otherworldly person?" "You're right. I'm otherworldly. I am loving with a love that is not natural. It's the love of Jesus for you." You can see it in my broken marriage, in my attentiveness to my Eve.
Eve, same thing right back there. "What are you doing? That guy is calloused. He is not loving. He doesn't initiate with you. He is catting around. Why are you still doing all you can to honor and respect him, to pray for him that God would change his heart?"
Answer: "Because this isn't really about Adam. This is about my Savior, Jesus Christ. I told him I would be in this covenant commitment to this man. I'm not going to stay here and be abused, but I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to pray Adam ultimately turns to me. Until that time, I'm going to remain single until God restores this covenant. He may never. He may take Adam home. Then I'm free. But I said till death I'm going to love and pray for this man.
Do you know what? Even sometimes my God… He gives me cancer. There are school shootings. There are earthquakes. There is stuff I don't understand about my God, but I know he is good. So I trust him. The way you see me trusting God is in the middle of this is the way I trust my God all the time. I have a peace that passes understanding. I grieve, but not as somebody who doesn't have hope. What you see in me is steadfast faithfulness not to Adam but to Jesus."
What do you think the world is going to say to that? "Who are you?" Answer: "I'm somebody who knows the gift of the love of Jesus Christ to whom I am wed. I'm on mission for him. It breaks my heart that my mate is not a gift, but I'm still serving my King. Marriage is a gift. It's the hard truth, but it's true."
Church, this is a big deal. You have to trust the Giver. You live for eternity, not for today. But he wants you today to be blessed. So make sure you trust the Giver in selecting your Adam and selecting your Eve. But even when your Adam or your Eve goes sideways, you can still use the gift, because it's not about you. You are married for a single reason.
Now folks, I'll do this very quickly. You can't do this, man. You cannot love if you just rely on your own resources. This is what so many married folks do. They get married. They're filled with emotion. They go, "Oh, this is a gift. I'll never look at anybody else. I love my Adam. I love my Eve. We're going to be committed to each other. This little flame is going to keep burning until we don't want it to burn anymore."
Let's just say you're a guy, and you're going to love your wife. "I'm committed to her." You get yourself in a closed system of your own emotions, and you get yourself in a closed system of your own way. You're going to use the tips and techniques of buying her flowers, writing her notes. Both of you work out, and you live in your own little closed system of your own will and your own works.
I'm going to tell you something. Eventually, that flame is going to go out. We can't love the way we're supposed to love. There has to be a resource that enables us to love like I'm talking. That's why he says don't yoke yourself with somebody who doesn't have access to that infinite resource to love like Jesus and to respond like a faithful Jesus follower. It goes out.
The only way that thing keeps burning is if it doesn't cap itself with human understanding and human ways. We become individuals who trust him, and we keep ourselves constantly attentive to the infinite provision of God.
Here's the thing. The Bible says even when the other flame goes out, you stay there. Maybe she is walled off, and hers went out. You stay there because your sanctifying presence (that light that keeps shining) is going to be the means maybe God has chosen as a source of love that's unfathomable to them that will potentially bring them back. "Even if it doesn't come back, Eve is not your business. Adam is not your business. You just stay connected to me, because it's not about you." It's a gift.
Father, I pray we would be people who understand you're a good Father, and we should treasure your Word and live your way. Help us to relate to each other, Lord, as if it's a gift. I thank you for the gift of this body that spurs me on, that reminds me to cherish my Eve. I thank you for my Eve who is on mission for you and sees you as a good, good Master and Father. Because of that, she is an amazing mate.
Help us to encourage folks who have Adams and Eves who are not on mission and who don't see you as a good Master to continually live on mission now to fulfill their covenant commitment so the world looks at them and goes, "Who are you people?" so we can say we are people of God called by his name who are loving the way he loves and staying faithful the way he is faithful.
May we have alien marriages in this church, and may most of them be alien because they're filled with blessing, filled with love, selflessness, constant cherishing, eyes only for one another because we're following your Word. Bless these people, Lord. Help them to hear this hard truth, to live in it for your glory and our great good. In Jesus' name, amen.