How to Develop a Marriage That Please God
Jerry A Collins
P Why are so few marriages, godly marriages?
P How can a wife impact her husband in a godly way?
P What is the key that turns a marriage into an opportunity to become godly?
As you drive past the billboard you read the message: ‘Loved the ceremony;Now invite me to the marriage’ God
I want to encourage you to keep doing that. The way to do that is to influence one another by developing a godly marriage. What does that mean?
Godliness is developed though the process of intentionally impacting the life of someone in the direction of Christlikeness. Godly friendships are developed this way. Godly people are too. So are godly marriages!
(1) It is Intentional. It is not simply someone learning about Christ. It is not accidental. It’s intentional. Someone must intend to do it. Jesus mission was to produce disciples. He says so in John 17:4-8. It is the more mature who initiate with the less mature.
(2) It is Impacting. It does not happen because a student is excited about or impressed by a teacher. It happens by bringing about a change in virtues, values, beliefs and life-style. Jesus thinned the crowds every chance he could. It is not just about impacting people so they will follow you. It has to do with impact that really changes people as they are impacted by your life.
(3) It is Personal. It is not covering material with someone. It is not being part of a group or class studying material. It is one person dealing with another person personally. You can be impressed with people at a distance but you can only impact the close up. Marriage brings us real close. Jesus did this even within a crowd of people. A woman touched him and he knew it but disciples had no idea who it could have been. Jesus walking thru a crowded street spots Zacheaus points him out in middle of a crowd.
(4) It is Christlike. It is not just
becoming a mentor in someone’s life. The modeling
must be moving another person in the direction of Christlikeness
so that they are motivated to make godly decisions in their lives. Jesus
ministry with the disciples motivated them to pursue what he was pursuing (the
will of His Father). To value what He valued (the
So what does it mean to develop godliness in my marriage?
(1) BEING TOGETHER
Godliness is incarnational meaning it is done in-the-flesh. If you ask mature couples, Does or how does your husband or wife impact your life spiritually?, most may say, He or she doesn’t or I don’t know. Yet they are very much like each other in their values, ethics, morals, convictions, and priorities, especially if they have been married for many years. The people we will most likely influence and be influenced by are those we spend most of our time with. Sure, it is quality time that counts, but the price for that is quantity time. Any photographer knows that the secret to taking top-quality pictures is to take a lot of pictures. Quality only comes out of quantity. If your spouse spends more time with his or her boss, friends, or the kids than with you, making a godly impact from you is less likely. It requires being there. Doing things together. It is done when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up Duet 6:6-7. This is especially true for marriage!
The first and only time God said ‘it is not good’ about His creation was ‘for the man to be alone’. Except for those very rare exceptions a mature man will become a husband. Males were not designed to reflect the image of God, carry out the purposes of God or become mature in God without a wife. So God has placed the man in a high-risk situation. God is a risk-taker. Maturity for a man can only go so far for a man until he takes on the responsibility of becoming a husband. The relationship is established by a commitment to being together and that togetherness is permanent. This being together requires that a husband become a student of his wife (1 PT 3:7). The idea is that a husband is to be always learning, Good husbands are not ignorant. That is one reason why becoming a husband is the next step of growth after becoming a man. Becoming a husband is the most stretching thing a man can do. So becoming a student of your wife means knowing: what makes for good relationships, what specific things make your wife happy, grumpy, hurt, sad, insecure, and how your relationships with your parents effects your wife.
(2) BECOMING SPIRITUALLY REPRODUCIBLE
Making a godly impact has nothing to do with insisting that our spouse be productive. Some productivity is necessary for marriage but it does not bring about godliness about. Bringing home a pay check, making sure the house is clean, getting supper ready on time and paying the bills are all essential aspects of married life but these only have to do with productivity not reproductivity. Insisting your spouse do these jobs or complaining when they do not has nothing to do with godliness.
Godliness in marriage results in multiplying the spiritual qualities of Christ’s life in each other. The reproduction of spiritual qualities is not something added to a good marriage. They are what makes a marriage good from God’s point of view. Biblically good marriages are spiritually reproductive (Acts ). What a spouse can reproduce are the moral and theological values we live by. What are you reproducing in the life of your spouse?
The man was ‘formed’ the woman was ‘fashioned’. The man was created for God’s sake, the woman was created for the man’s sake (1 Cor 11:9). The man was created from the dust, the woman was created from the man. The man is to bring glory to God. So is the woman, of course, but the way she does it is by being ‘the glory of man’ (1 Cor 11:7). The word ‘glory; seems to be used in the Bible as multiplying the character or reputation of someone. Here the idea is that a husband is to handle his life in such a way that he reveals the character of God. In a sense, he is to advertise God’s reputation by his own. What the wife does is to multiply the reputation of God, His righteousness, goodness, justice, by magnifying, advertising to all creation those aspects in her husband. So within the context of the marriage relationship, God has designed it such that spiritual reality and truth is reproduced through the marriage relationship top advertise the character of God before the watching world. The husband therefore must be someone his wife can advertise to the world and have the result of being an enhancement of the reputation of God among His creation.
(3) INVITE PERSONAL DISCOVERY OF TRUTH
A godly impact with your mate is not getting them to change into what you want them to be but giving them a model by which they can discover what God wants them to be. Peter tells wives that their husbands may be (not that they necessarily will be) won without a word as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior (1 PT 3:1-4). Next, Peter turns to husbands and says, you husbands, likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way...and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life ( 1 PT 3:7). In both cases Peter recommends not telling your mate what to do but to live in such a way as to provide a context for them to discover godliness through your living model of faith. It is personally discovering more about Godliness as a result of your relationship with me.
Jesus often presented things in such a way that people had to look beyond the obvious and make the effort to discover what He meant.(1) After throwing money changers out, when challenged about it said destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up (Jn 2:19). How would anybody have understood He was talking about His own resurrection? He had only just begun His ministry. (2) He required Nicodemus to discover what it meant to be born again. (3) The woman at the well had to discover what living water was. (4) The disciples had to discover what eating my flesh and drinking my blood meant. You would have to hang around awhile if you wanted to discover what He meant. Well, we get to hang around a long while in marriage to one another and our marriage should become a laboratory for the personal discovery of godliness with one another. Creating a context which encourages discovering truth. It requires a faith and focus that leads to self-discovery. Are you making Spiritual truth appealing to each other?
(4) MAKING YOUR CASE
Making a godly impact is not based on mysticism, emotions or blind faith. Notice that Peter says husbands live with your wives in an understanding way. (1 PT 3:7). He did not say ‘in an emotional way’. Twice Peter tells wives to be submissive to their husbands. He did not say do this after you first ‘after you feel good about them’. Emotions are a large part of getting married but they are not the substance of godliness in marriage.
Romantic love is a legitimate factor for initiating marriage. Jacob fell head-over-heels in love with Rachel. She was beautiful and dominated the rest of his life. Willing to work 14 years in all to have her. He favored the children he had with her and after she died he never married anyone else to replace her. Even the Song of Solomon teaches us about the legitimacy of romance as a motive for getting married. It must be traded in on real love after marriage--giving instead of getting must govern our relationship. Emotions come, go and change. Marriages based on them are doomed to fail. Things like understanding and respect must replace it for a godly marriage. That only comes about through a godly impact. This requires reasoning, persuading and giving of evidence about spiritual realities being learned so the marriage can mature and ripen. You become someone worth emulating. It is about changing ourselves into someone who models a Christlikeness which my mate can discover.
(5) MAKE EACH OTHER SECOND TO GOD
The Bible tells me to love my wife (Eph ). But it also tells me to hate her (Lk ). The point is to make God the priority over my wife. I cannot love my wife otherwise. It is the choice to prioritize one over the other. Do you have a set of priorities? If you do not someone else will have them for you.
1. Maintain my personal and spiritual integrity. If you lose this then you lose your voice. It may even be repairable but the damage done may not.
2. Develop marital intimacy. You took vows to your mate that you never took to your job, your children or yourself!
3. Fulfill my parental responsibility. This must not be passed on to any institution including the church.
4. Establish my professional competency.
You cannot reverse the process and expect to have a godly impact in your marriage.
Now love is doing the best good for someone, which always results in giving, which cannot be reciprocated. You can only receive it you can do nothing to give it back. God’s love for us in Christ is the standard. This love must be first initiated with God. This is how Jesus commanded me to relate to my Father in heaven. Then flowing out of this I can love my neighbor, my enemy and my wife. There are three possible targets for our love.
1. Loving ourselves. If we serve ourselves selfishly we will be miserable. People who are trying to love, give to themselves at the expense of others. These people usually sabotage relationships only resulting in more misery for themselves and others.
2. Loving others. If we serve others we will be happy but disappointed. The advantage of serving others is that it gets our focus off ourselves. The problem with serving others is if you stop and evaluate the effect of your work it will be disappointing. Most people are selfish and take what you give to them and squander it. Serving, loving, giving to others will be ultimately disappointing if you stop to evaluate your service long term.
3. Loving God. The only way to be happy and not disappointed us first and foremost to serve God. Since God says love, we will find as we do that as part of our love for God we will reap the benefit of joy and peace.
How can a young man or woman in love, willing to give up anything to be together, end up down the road in a broken marriage? That happens because someone, somehow had love that was not accompanied by hate. That is, their love was not second to a love for God. So they could ignore, spurn and break God’s command for marriage. So in the long run Paul says it profited them nothing (1 Cor 13:3). The cost of a godly impact with your mate is not putting them before yourself but putting God before both of you.
(6) GIVE GODLINESS
God told the prophet Hosea to marry a harlot (Hosea 1:1). He obeyed but after awhile she left him to pursue her lovers. He continued to give her support but not her sin (Hoseas 2:5-6). When she became destitute and was sold as a slave, he brought her back much like Christ did for us on the cross. So we can conclude that:
1 Give one another a godly marriage
2 Do not support sin in mates life
3 Give to support repentance and renewal toward God’s commandments.
A great challenge for maturity in marriage is to learn how to become a giver to your mate. When paybacks are omitted from our giving motive we are free to enjoy giving by itself. Otherwise we are only swapping.
A wife, for instance, is first of all a fellow believer. That relationship takes precedence over all others. So she is primarily a child of God. Husbands must see their wives as, first of all, a spiritual partner. She is indwelled with the Spirit of God (1 PT 3:7). She must receive what any other believer must receive. Our spouse is not our personal property. He/she belongs to God. All we have done is added to our responsibility before God when we got married. We are now responsible to God for our role in this marriage. Husbands are responsible to God for husbanding. Wives are responsible to God for their wifing. Neither will stand before Christ to help evaluate the other at the judgment seat. God never gave a spouse the responsibility to ensure that the other is fulfilling their responsibility in the marriage. We are responsible, though, to give godliness first of all by giving to them what we are responsible to give to any believer and secondly by giving what we are biblically responsible to give as a husband/wife.
How do we give godliness when we have a conflict in our marriage?
First, we must always see every conflict vertically not horizontally. Godly people in the Bible saw the situation as a conflict between them and God not between them and the other person. When David prayed in Psalm 51 he stated that against Thee, thee only have I sinned to God. Well, what about Uriah? Apparently he went to heaven right on time. What about Bathsheba? He understood that he had violated God’s standard when he participated in murder and adultery. While the world sees conflict as between ourselves and someone else, godly people see all conflicts as not with the other person at all but between their own sin nature and the will of God. If I have a conflict with my spouse, it is between me and God. Second, So I confess that to God by agreeing with God that we fail to keep His expectations. This produces humility in my life and encourages; Third, forgiveness which is accepting the consequences for someone else’s sin against God. I can never forgive people of their sin against God but I must always forgive them of the consequences I have to live with as a result of that sin. Forgiveness is accepting those consequences without pursuing justice, seek revenge, harbor bitterness, or maintain hatred. Conflict should never prevent us giving godliness to one another in our marriages.
(7) SEE YOUR MARRIAGE FROM OTHER SIDE OF THE GRAVE
God did not give us marriage as an opportunity for happiness but as a laboratory for holiness. Jesus said Take up your cross daily and follow me (MT ). Your cross is your life situation. That could include a good or bad marriage. Either way, it should be viewed from the other side of the grave looking back from the judgment seat of Christ. Then the question becomes not am I happy but am I impacting my mate in such a way that Christ will be pleased with me? I will sin when I perceive that it is more valuable to live for this side of the grave than the next.
When I sin, I am disagreeing with God about what is in my own best interest. We determine that God does not have our best interest in mind when He gives us our current life situation such as a bad marriage. So our sin nature says we need to violate His commands or His character or His expectations to accomplish that which is in our best interests. It is an attempt to steer our present and future situation by disobeying God. Sin gives us less control of the future. The problem is God did have your best interests in mind when He gave you your present life situation. That is the case whether it be wealth or poverty, health or sickness, a good spouse or a bad one, obedient children or rebels. And it is the parameter of godliness that gives us control of our future. Every time we sin as was the case with Adam and Eve we have less control over our future. That may be more obvious with some sins like drunkenness, substance abuse and foolish gambling. But it is just as true with adultery, gossip, lying or seeking revenge. On the other hand, righteousness increase our control of the future. Givers have the most real authority in every situation. Truth sets you free. Faithfulness to your spouse allows you to parent your children. Lack of debt gives financial freedom. If you do not think about revenge, you will see the situation more clearly.
So our sinning is the result of believing that we are better than God at determining what is in our own best interest. Eve decided that a woman had a right to choose what was in her own best interest. Adam decided the same thing. God will always do what serves His own glory. But to participate in that is what is in our best interest. Sin is to decide that is not so. It says that in this particular area, in this specific temptation, I know what is in my own best interest. And that is only living on this side of the grave. That perspective will never produce endurance, faithfulness, self-control all fruit of godliness in the life. That only comes from living for the other side of the grave.