If you've used balloons as party but for one reason or another, a balloon can pop, it can explode.
Most balloons however will just slowly leak until they're deflated. That can happen in a marriage too. And today on Truth for Life we'll learn how to avoid broken relationships by paying close attention to the basics. Alistair Begg is concluding his message titled, How to Avoid Marital Failure. As with most matters in life, the breakdown in marital affairs comes not as a result, usually, of the extravagant and the bizarre, but on account of a failure to pay attention to the basics consistently. Now, some of you are perhaps tempted to press, say, a kind of a mental ejection button at this point, because you know that you've heard all this so many times now that you're experts at it. Well, then, the first thing I wrote down on my notes will be particularly appropriate for the likes of you.
So here it is. Number one, in preventing marital failure, do not be so foolish as to maintain that it could not happen to you. Secondly, do not assume that a great marriage can be discovered and enjoyed without some solid hard work. Thirdly, do not allow the busyness of life to disguise neglect. Do not allow the busyness of life to disguise neglect.
Fourthly—this is a simple one—don't make the mistake of taking each other for granted. 1 Peter 3.7, Peter says to his readers, he says, Husbands, be considerate in the way that you live with your wives. I'm going to be biased to speaking to husbands. It's inevitable, since I wrote the note to myself. You ladies can just apply it the other way around.
But this is what I've found most recently. I've found this strange phenomenon, especially as it relates to the great calling of motherhood. I'm deeply saddened to find how many men, after a period of time, begin to denigrate their wives because they have chosen to make the ultimate sacrifice in the calling of motherhood—that she will be a keeper at home, that she will be a tender of her children, that she will be a provider, that she will give all of that sustenance and security within the family unit. I find many men saying out loud, You know what? All that my wife is is this.
And they somehow find far more attractive at eleven o'clock in the morning somebody wearing a navy blue suit and high heels than the thought of what they have left behind within their own home. And they begin to take their wives for granted. In recent days, in talking with a couple, I asked them to write down what had contributed to the demise of their marriage. On the column of contributing to the demise of the marriage, the man had written, My wife appears to be content just to be a mother.
Life goes by very quickly, and if you have been given the privilege of having someone in your home who is prepared to be that for you and to you and to your family, you ought to get down on your knees and thank God every day. But instead of that, there are too many people that are reading their Bible too little and reading Cosmopolitan magazine too much. And if you read that godless drivel and allow it to filter through your brain, you will inevitably spit out the world's view, and you will not have sufficient biblical awareness to be able to declare spurious what is clearly spurious. Number five, don't dig up old failures or past disappointments.
It's a really tragic thing to see how many times, especially in disagreements, husbands and wives have discovered an immense capacity for remembering bad stuff. Philippians 3.14, I press on towards the gold to win the prize. Forgetting those things which are behind, I press on. Psalm 103 verse 3, God forgives all of our sins. He heals all of our diseases. He renews our lives. The devil's great strategy is to bring us down, and having brought us down, to see if he can't keep us down. Don't let him bring you down.
And if he brought you down, make sure that with Christ's enabling, you stand back up. Sixthly, don't compare your spouse unfavorably with others in terms of looks, abilities, or anything else. Now, remember, these are notes that I wrote to myself. I'm simply sharing with you out of my own notes.
You understand this. Again, Solomon is really wonderful when it comes to these issues. In Proverbs chapter 5, he makes this wonderful telling statement, which I will now quote to you. Verse 15 of Proverbs 5, Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares, Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. This is within the framework of a call to marital purity and the resisting of adultery.
You understand what he's saying? May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. Now, notice it is the wife of your youth. He doesn't say, May you rejoice in the wife who looks like a youth. He describes her then. I'm not sure necessarily we ought to send this on a card to our wives, or over lunch, to remind her that she looks like a loving doe and a graceful deer. That obviously has some kind of Middle Eastern sentiment to it. It's not usually on cards in Hallmark.
Picture of a deer on the front with your wife. May her breasts satisfy you always. May you ever be captivated by her love. Do you get the impression there that this is something that is directly related to the will and not to the emotions?
You're right. Does it come across with clarity that what Solomon is saying there is that this is a decisive activity of the mind, a preparedness to say, This is my focus. This is my commitment. This is all that is mine. And everything else beyond that is nothing. Do we really think that we can sit on the plane and leaf through People magazine—right?—and read about the exploits of the rich, the famous, the foolish, the cute, allow those images to penetrate the computer of our brain, and then realistically to apply the Bible to our marriage?
The fact is, it can't be done. And the degree to which we play with that stuff in our minds is the degree to which we make it increasingly difficult to live out this principle—namely, don't compare your spouse unfavorably with others in terms of looks, abilities, or anything. It's one thing for you ladies to make yourselves attractive. It's another for you to make yourselves deliberately seductive.
You know the difference. So do I. So does every guy. So in the Eastern picture, when the bride of Isaac comes to meet him, what was the attraction? Well, he couldn't see much.
He'd just see her eyes sticking up. But through the eyes you find the soul. We can't baptize so much of our Western trash into biblical orthodoxy. We have imported so much garbage into our lifestyle that we don't know how messed up we really are. And that's why our marriages are in the dreadful condition in which they are. Because we are playing around with stuff in our minds while all the time professing to be erudite and straightforward and in the clear.
Seventhly—we're gonna speed up now? Don't take someone of the opposite sex into precincts that are the exclusive domain of your spouse. Don't take someone of the opposite sex into precincts that are the exclusive domain of your spouse. Cut through it. What does it mean?
It means this. There's a lady in your office who thinks you've got broad shoulders and she'd like to cry on them. Tell her to keep moving. Go find someone else to cry on, because your shoulders are only for one girl to cry on, or a few more if you've got daughters. So only three people can cry on here—girls, that is—Sue, Michelle, and Emily. All the rest can go cry somewhere else. Oh, you call yourself a pastor and you say things like that?
Yeah. Why? Because I want to be a sensible pastor. Because I want to be a married pastor.
Because I want to be a pure pastor for my kids growing up underneath me. Oh, well, pastor, there's this lady in my office, and all I'm doing is witnessing to her at lunchtime. We just get a sandwich, and we go down, and she's got all these questions about the Bible. Stop it.
Stop it yesterday. She won't listen to anybody else. Secondly, don't fatten up your ego with nonsense like that. If she is interested in the things of faith, she'll listen to anybody. She doesn't need you.
So go find a girl that she'll listen to. Oh, you're away with it, pastor. I mean, what are you? Are you some kind of foolish individual or stuff?
No. The situation that I just crossed the Atlantic for in four days started with, have you ever heard of the four spiritual laws and ended up with the disintegration of a family? Don't be so naïve as to think that we can take into our lives that kind of stuff. You can't do it.
You're not supposed to do it. You start to understand the principles of women ministering to women and men ministering to men in a way that takes us beyond those kind of precincts. I could say more about that I can. The only intimacy that should be enjoyed with someone of the opposite sex is your wife or your husband, your sons or your daughters. Eighthly—eighthly—do not allow each other the kind of freedom that so readily breeds neglect. Don't allow each other the kind of freedom that so readily breeds neglect. What does that mean in practical terms?
It means this. When you say you're gonna phone, phone. And phone. And don't go off on business trips and say, Well, I'll call you whenever. Say, I'll call you at six o'clock. Or I'll call you en route. But I'll call you. You'll know where I am. You'll know who I'm with.
You'll know what I'm thinking. Why? Out of a sense of fear?
No. Because it's a great pain to be separated. And it's a great joy to be united, even if it's only to hear the sound of one another's voice.
Even if it's only to see the scrawl of one another's handwriting. Now, I've got eight more, and I'm just gonna tell you them, and we're done. I won't expound on them at all. After I'd written these eight down, I decided I'd better write some positive ones down to myself. Because I had clear, now, what I shouldn't be doing.
And then I thought, Well, what should I be doing? So, ninth, be daily in prayer for the health of your marriage and the harmony of your home. Daily in prayer for the health of your marriage and the harmony of your home. Ten, be sacrificial in the expression of your love for each other.
You want to check that? Just ask yourself the question, What have I done in the last seven days that was an act of sacrifice on my part for my spouse? Eleven, be imaginative, daring, and occasionally extravagant in displaying your affection.
Be imaginative, daring, and occasionally extravagant in displaying your affection. Righteousness is not a synonym for boring. How's your marriage? Very holy. Speak to me a little bit about that.
What does that mean? Well, we have a very holy marriage. What do you mean, you always keep a Bible between you or something? I mean, what's… I don't want to be unkind, but I'm gonna tell you something. I am scouring the face of God's earth to find good marriages that I can copy.
Now, it may be that I'm just missing them all, and you know where they are, and you can come and tell me where they are, but I don't think so. And the amount of boring marriages that I uncover in the course of my days is incredible to me. Guys whose imagination went south after they walked down the aisle, they thought up the craziest things to do to tell their bride-to-be they loved them. They used to write on big sheets of wallpaper and roll it up and send it UPS. Huge, big letters, I love you! Send it in a roll of wallpaper. That's what the girl said.
He's crazy, but I love him! Okay? She would do these bizarre things—make him ties and embroider them and do all this and get these amazing ties that he would… Then all of a sudden, there's no wallpaper, no ties, no nothing.
Just business as usual. Now, here's the funny thing. The guy goes off and takes a lover. Suddenly, he's Mr.
Imagination. His wife is left to say, He never thought of that with me. He never said he'd meet me in that place.
He never planned to take me on that trip. Guys, let me tell you something. If you don't get creative, daring, and imaginative with the wife of your youth, you will either die as a boring old claptrapper, or you will find yourself getting daring, imaginative, and creative with somebody who isn't the wife of your youth. So you have three choices— boring old joker, involved in adultery, or give it your best at home.
Only one choice may keep you on the Christian path and following after Christ. Twelfth, be sure that you don't use your children as the glue that holds you or the wedge that separates you. The children that hold you are the wedge that separates you.
Happens all the time. Remember this. The kids are the ones that are leaving. We're the ones that are staying. They're going.
We're staying. So if all we have to talk about is them—did you go to school today? Yes.
How was it? Fine. And did you drive them there? Yes. Did you pick her up? Yes. Did you go to the cello lesson?
Yes. How was it when…? This, this, this. After about five minutes of that, we think we've had the most meaningful family time conversation, when in point of fact we haven't spoken about anything. And the children stand up, they walk out of the room, and it's like, Well, what should we do now?
And that's, of course, what happens so many times. Thirteen, be ruthless—ruthless—in resisting anyone or anything that will draw your affections from each other. Fourteen, be ready to listen to and willing to speak about what's going on inside each other's heads. Okay? Every time, this is what they tell me. She never listens to me.
Or he won't speak to me. There is no intimacy in our marriage, says the woman. Says the man, What do you mean, intimacy? And he thinks in physical terms. She's thinking in emotional terms. She's thinking in companionship, in abiding enjoyment of one another's company, and his brain has completely gone off.
Peter Sarstis in the Sixties had a song, Where do you go to, my lovely, When you're alone in your bed? Tell me the thoughts that surround you. I want to look inside your head. Do you know what your spouse is thinking about? She's obviously thinking about something funny over there, but the fact is, many husbands haven't got a clue about their wife's fears, their hopes, their dreams, because they never asked them in the longest time. Never said, you know, Tell me five things that have been bugging you about me.
Never said, What do you hope for? So on, so on. And what happens is, again, you go in the office, and somebody comes in and says, You know, I'd like to talk to you about something. And then the husband's driving home in the car and says, You know, it was so wonderful having that conversation with her. Such a talkative person, so open, so easy. Not like my wife, man. Can't remember the last time we had a decent conversation.
Click. Can't wait to get back tomorrow for another one of those conversations. Fifteen. Be certain that a great marriage is possible with divine enabling and human effort. God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or even imagine. We're not gonna just settle for adequacy when God could give us abundance. Finally, sixteen. Be aware of how quickly time is passing, and seize the day. Seize the day. Yesterday is dead and gone, tomorrow's out of sight, to quote Chris Christofferson. So this is all the time we've got. Sixty seconds right now, that's it. All the thank-you notes we never wrote yesterday, all the cards we never sent yesterday, all the endearances we never sent yesterday, all the compliments we never gave yesterday—they're all gone, and tomorrow is not here. There's just today, there's just this afternoon.
So what are we going to do about it? Our lives are like a vapor that appears for a little while and then passes. When we neglect enough of the little things in a marriage relationship, eventually, that can add up to something that is seemingly insurmountable.
Details matter. This is important and practical advice for all of us who are married or who might be one day. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. What we just heard reinforces what we know, that marriages can become strained and are at a greater risk of failure when a couple strays from God's design. Now, unfortunately, as sinners, we bring our shortcomings into our marriages, and this can create some of the difficulties. The book Gospel Shaped Marriage—Grace for Sinners to Love Like Saints—looks at some of these challenges. The authors, who are a longtime married couple, provide biblical insight for how to resolve marital tension. As you read Gospel Shaped Marriage, you'll learn ways to remove the strain from your relationship and to make your marriage more fulfilling and more God-glorifying. This is the last week we're offering the book, so be sure to request your copy today.
Visit truthforlife.org slash donate, or you can call us at 888-588-7884. If you are finding this series, We Too Are One, valuable, you can own the study, along with other teaching on Christian relationships. This collection of studies from Alistair is titled God's Design for Life Together.
It's available on a USB for $5. You'll find it at truthforlife.org slash store. In addition to listening to Truth for Life, you can read Alistair's teaching when you use his devotional book titled Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions. This book presents a verse or a passage of scripture for each day of the year, followed by a commentary. Then you'll be prompted to consider how what you read will shape how you approach the day ahead. You can purchase your copy at a cost of $8 at truthforlife.org slash store, and shipping in the U.S. is free. I'm Bob Lapine. Are there biblical grounds for divorce? Is remarriage permissible if you're divorced or widowed? Join us tomorrow to find out how the Bible addresses these issues. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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