This is the second week of our series called Nuptially Challenged. It’s a long series that is going to carry us all the way to October.
And as the name suggests, it’s a series that’s all about confronting some of the major challenges that are present in any marriage. On one level or another, every marriage is nuptially challenged. Every marriage has areas that are just flat out challenging…areas where we just don’t have things figured out yet. In this series, we’re allowing God to grow us and change us and lead us through those challenges.
Like I said last week, I realize that not everyone here at Connect is married. And I won’t rehash everything I said last week, but I just want to remind you not to check out on this series. A lot of you who aren’t married right now will be married someday. Or, if you are a widow or a widower, you may be in a position to give some advice and wisdom to younger, married folks. This series could be a tool that will help you minister to them.
God told us straight up in the book of Hebrews that, “Marriage should be honored by all…” (Hebrews 13:4a, NIV)
Marriage should be honored by all…singles, divorcees, widows and widowers, married folks…God commanded that marriage be honored by everyone.
Our prayer is that marriage is honored in this series. Let’s pray for that now.
Last week we learned a foundational truth about marriage. My marriage is not about me. It’s a challenge to have a selfless marriage in the culture that we live in. But in our narcissistic, self-serving culture, we want to be people who honor marriage. And the first foundational truth about marriage is that it’s not about me.
Today, we’re going to listen to God lead us through a second nuptial challenge…the challenge of priorities.
Stephen Covey is famous for this quote: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
That is so true and so timely for our marriages and our families. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
In your marriage and in your family, the main thing is Jesus. Jesus is not an afterthought. Jesus is not the icing on the cake. Jesus is not a Sunday morning routine. Jesus is the main thing.
In Psalm 127, Solomon wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1a, NIV)
You are building something in your family. You are building something in your marriage. But unless the Lord is the foundation…unless Jesus is the centerpoint…everything you’re building will be in vain. It’s not going to matter. It’s not going to last. It’s not going to work.
Now, a lot of us would agree with all that…in theory. Here in a worship service, that all sounds good. It sounds right. But this has to leave the realm of theory. This has to be our reality.
In your family, in your marriage, if the Lord isn’t the one building the house, then it’s all in vain.
When you look at the priorities that your family has, is this your reality? Or is this something that sounds good in theory? Something that you give lip service to, but it doesn’t actually take hold in real life?
Last week, I said that this series isn’t about creating fairytale marriages, because fairytale marriages don’t exist. This is about real world marriage.
It’s still possible to have a marriage that honors God in the real world. As screwed up as our world is, it is still possible for God to build a marriage and a family in a way that honors Him and blesses us.
But God needs willing partners. Look at this verse from Psalm 127 again. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1a, NIV)
Did you notice that there are multiple builders that are mentioned? God is the primary builder, but not the only builder. We build with Him. We partner with God. And that partnership determines our priorities.
If you’re not sure what your priorities are, there’s an easy way to figure it out. Look at your bank statement and look at your calendar. Put those two things together and you have your priorities.
When you look at where your money goes and you look at what you devote your time to, you are looking squarely at your priorities. And when you understand your priorities, you see what you are building in your marriage and in your family. Which brings us back to this truth.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1a, NIV)
Do your priorities…do the priorities that you see in your marriage…reflect what God wants to build in your marriage? Or do they reveal what you’ve been trying to build on your own?
There’s a great story from the life of Jesus in Luke 10. Listen as Luke describes the scene for us.
Starting in verse 38, Luke writes, “Now as they were traveling along, [Jesus] entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.
But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NASB)
At first, this story really doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a series on marriage. But the contrast we see in Mary and Martha can teach us so much about our priorities. And your priorities will determine what is being built in your marriage. So let’s go back and walk through this story again.
Luke opens the story by saying, “Now as they were traveling along, [Jesus] entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.” (Luke 10:38, NASB)
Things started out well for Martha. She welcomed Jesus into her home.
There are some marriages represented here today that started out well. You started out by inviting Jesus in. You welcomed Him into your home. You wanted to build a home that reflected godly priorities. You wanted the Lord to build the house, so you wouldn’t be building in vain.
But then, slowly, gradually, you began to fall into the same trap that Martha fell into.
To be fair to Martha, there was a lot going on here. Let’s picture the scene. Martha invited Jesus into her home, and from verse 38, we can assume that all Jesus’ disciples came into the house, too. So there’s a big crowd for Sunday dinner this week.
The Bible doesn’t tell us Martha’s last name but I think it was Stewart because she hops right to it in the kitchen. She’s got meat marinating, she’s stirring the sauce on the stove, preheating the oven for the dinner rolls, mashing the potatoes in the mixer, cutting up vegetables for the salad, cracking eggs for her cake mix…all at the same time. There was a ton of stuff to do, and Martha felt pressured to get it all done.
But it wasn’t just pressure that she placed on herself. It was pressure that her culture placed on her. In his commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Mark Black wrote, “It was expected that Jewish women in the first century were to find their place serving men in situations such as this one.”
The pressure that Martha was feeling wasn’t just from inside her. It came from outside cultural pressures as well. Pressure to go, go, go. Don’t stop. Put the pedal to the metal. Get it all done.
But when you look at verse 40, you see the result. “But Martha was distracted with all her preparations…” (Luke 10:40a, NASB)
Martha was what? Distracted. She had welcomed Jesus into her home, but then she got distracted because she caved to cultural pressure to do more, and more, and more.
And the busier she became, the more distracted she became. The more she had to do, the more she lost sight of her priorities.
How many of us can honestly say the same thing has happened in our marriages? It wasn’t immediate, but gradually, over time, we have gotten busier and busier and busier. And our busyness has distracted us. We’ve lost sight of our priorities.
How did Martha handle this? She’s way too busy. Things are crazy hectic. She’s totally distracted from what really matters. How did she handle it? Did she realize that she needed to make some changes? That maybe everything she was doing really didn’t have to be done? That maybe she could simplify and slow down?
Nope. She handled it the same way most of us handle it. She complained about it.
“But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” (Luke 10:40, NASB)
Martha was going crazy in the kitchen. And all the while, with all this work that had to be done, Mary was out in the living room, sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him. And Martha finally blows her stack.
And I love how she opens up her complaint. “Jesus, don’t you care?”
“Don’t you care that I’m so busy? Don’t you care that I’ll never get all this done? Don’t you care that I’m so overcommitted? Don’t you care? If you do, then make my sister help me!”
I love Jesus’ response. He doesn’t yell at her. He doesn’t belittle her. He just shakes his head and says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things…” (Luke 10:41b, NASB)
Does that sound like your life? Does that sound like your family? Does that sound like your marriage?
You are worried and bothered about so many things. Things that have the power to distract you from your real priorities.
But Jesus doesn’t just gently rebuke Martha. He takes advantage of a teachable moment.
But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NASB)
Jesus plainly says that all the preparations Martha was making weren’t essential. Her culture may have said that Martha had to do all this stuff, but Jesus never did. The expectations of culture and the expectations of Jesus are never the same.
He told Martha that she was worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing was necessary. His presence in her home was what mattered. But she had become so busy that she was distracted from her priorities.
Jesus used Mary as an example for her sister, Martha. Mary had spent her time sitting at Jesus’ feet, enjoying His presence. And Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the good part.
Mary has chosen. Your priorities are a choice. Your schedule is a choice. Your busyness is a choice.
You can argue all day if you want, but it’s still true. You choose your priorities, they don’t choose you. You choose your schedule, it doesn’t choose you. There are no victims here.
That’s where a lot of us try to end up…playing the victim. It’s where Martha ended up when she yelled at Jesus, “Don’t you care that I’m so busy? Make Mary help me?”
Translation: I’m a victim here.
There are no victims when it comes to priorities. It’s all a matter of our own choosing.
But Jesus shows us that, just like you choose your way into the wrong priorities, you can choose your way back into the right ones.
He said that Mary had chosen the good part. I love that line.
When you look at your marriage, is your schedule allowing you to choose the good part? Are you priorities helping you build up the good part? Remember, there are no victims here. It’s all a choice.
When is the last time you went on a date? When is the last time that you got away for a few days, just the two of you?
A lot of couples don’t do this stuff because it’s not easy, especially when you have kids. Yes, this stuff will require you to find a babysitter for your kids. It never ceases to amaze me how some people believe that their kids can never go to a babysitter. They can definitely never spend a night away from home.
Honestly, it won’t kill your children to have a babysitter, but not having babysitter just might kill your marriage.
Nicki and I have two boys. And you know the best gift I can give those two boys? I can love their mother well. That creates more of a solid, secure foundation than anything else I could ever do for them. But it takes time, effort, and intentionality.
Nothing in your marriage happens on accident. No priorities develop unintentionally. There are no victims here.
I know this question is going to be personal, but when is the last time that you and your spouse made love? Notice that I didn’t ask when was the last time you had sex? When was the last time you made love? When was the last time you purposefully set aside unhurried, unrushed time to reconnect in the bedroom? We’re going to talk more a lot more about that in this series, but it’s just like everything else we’ve been talking about. It’s a choice.
You can choose to make time for romance, you can choose to make it a priority, or you can choose to keep believing that you just don’t have time for that stuff anymore.
How often do you have long, drawn out, deep conversations with your husband or your wife? Something deeper than talking about yoru busy schedule for the coming week.
According to recent studies, the average married couple spends 27 minutes a week in meaningful conversation. That’s not even as long as a TV sitcom! That’s just not going to cut it. Not if we want our marriages to last for the long haul.
Do you spend more time looking at your iPhone than looking into your spouse’s eyes?
Is every email “crucial?” If everything at work will fall apart if you don’t answer every email immediately, then you work for an unhealthy, dysfunctional company.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You’re replaceable at work. You are. Your company could find someone else to do what you do. They could probably find someone who could do it even better than you. I know you may not believe it, but I promise you it’s true. You are incredibly replaceable at work.
But you are irreplaceable at home.
That’s a lesson that I had to learn. I’ll never forget the conference where Andy Stanley absolutely nailed me to the wall. He said, “Your church had a pastor before you. They’ll have another one after you. But you are the only husband and father that your family will ever have.”
I’ve learned that I’m replaceable here. I’m not indispensible in our church. I’m replaceable. In fact, I’m very replaceable. It’s kind of scary to realize how easy it would be to replace me here.
But I’m irreplaceable at home.
Now, I don’t answer every email immediately. On my days off, I don’t check my email at all. I don’t spend every waking minute on my computer or my iPad. If the phone rings and we’re sitting at the table eating dinner, I let it ring. I don’t even look at my phone to see who it is. That’s why voicemail was invented.
When I go on vacation with my family, I go on VACATION. I unplug completely. I turn my phone off. I don’t check email. I’m not on social media. I’m with my family.
For some of us, that sounds impossible. You can’t imagine spending an entire vacation unplugged.
Can I point out something to you? I spent two weeks in July completely off the grid…and I lived to tell about it. And my family is better for it.
Seriously, if Farmville is getting more time than your family, your priorities are royally jacked up. If you spend more time on Facebook than you do face-to-face time with your family, your train has gone way off the tracks.
One of the unintended consequences of our digital, always connected, social media culture is FOMO. Have you heard of this?
FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out.
I’ve got to check Facebook dozens of times a day. I can’t turn my phone off because I’ll miss a text. I’ve got to check my email every few minutes because something important might come.
One study that I read said that 56% of people are afraid of missing out on events, news and important status updates if they are away from social networks.
But my question is, at what cost? Look, I’m on Facebook. I have a Twitter account. Email is my favorite method of communication. I’m not Amish, by any means. My last name is not Yoder.
But I’ve also learned that FOMO is causing so many people to miss out. Just ask their kids. Just ask their spouse.
Let’s circle back to what we said earlier. There are no victims when it comes to priorities. You choose your priorities. They don’t choose you.
If you are too plugged in, that’s a choice. If you are working too much, that’s a choice. If you are never home, that’s a choice. If you are overcommitted, that’s a choice. If you have no margin left in your life, that’s a choice.
Look, I get what it’s like to be busy. I’m a full-time pastor. My wife is a full-time preschool teacher. We have a son in 4th grade and another who is starting kindergarten. Both of them are playing soccer, and I’m the assistant coach on one of the teams. We’re busy. I get it.
But every single thing that takes up our time is a choice. None of it just happened to us. Everything is by our design. Sometimes when we start taking on too much, we’ve got to pull back. We’ve got to reevaluate our priorities. We’ve got to say no.
We said “no” to something that would have been a really good thing a couple of months ago. But even though it would have been good, it was going to cost too much money and it was going to take too much time…and we said “no.” Sometimes you have to say “no” to the good so you can say “yes” to the great.
Everything that is taking your family’s time and attention is a choice. Now, if you don’t like that choices that have been made, I want to help you get things recalibrated. Craig Groeschel wrote that it comes down to a simple change of words.
How many of you remember Conjunction Junction? Conjunction junction, what’s your function? And everyone under 35 is thinking, “What?” All of us old people remember that.
A simple change of conjunctions can make all the difference. A lot of us live in the world of AND. We do this AND this AND this AND this.
But instead of AND, we need to start living in the world of OR. We can do this OR we can do this. We can do this OR we can do this.
Martha lived in the world of AND. I can do this AND this AND this.
Mary lived in the world of OR. I can do this OR I can do this.
Which one did Jesus praise? Mary. And nothing has changed from the first century to the 21st century.
In Ephesians 5, the Apostle Paul writes, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16, NASB)
In his book The Best Question Ever, Andy Stanley points out that, “The phrase “making the most of your time’ is literally ‘redeeming your time.’ The Greek term used here is an accounting term. Paul was saying, ‘Get the full value out of your time—squeeze all the good you can out of ever moment of your life.’ Misappropriated time is misappropriated life. Be wise. Make the most of your time. You can’t go back and reinvest it.”
And did you catch the reason why we have to make the most of our time? “Because the days are evil.”
Again, Andy Stanley wrote, “If you aren’t on your guard, the culture will draw you into a lifestyle where your time is frivolously consumed rather than strategically invested. You will be busy. You may even be productive…If you are not walking wisely, your time will be fragmented by a thousand urgent, disconnected opportunities and events.”
Bottom line, you only have so much time in your marriage. You only have so much time to invest in the things that really matter.
Are you investing your time in building something that will really matter? Something that God will honor and bless? Or have you allowed distractions to change your focus and your priorities?
Here’s what I honestly believe about your family. Things can change. If things have gotten off track…if you don’t like where things are in your marriage…change is possible. I absolutely, wholeheartedly believe that.
And the reason is because I absolutely, wholeheartedly believe in Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 5, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV 1984)
Change is what Jesus does best. I know, because He changed me.
It’s honestly scary for me to think about who I would be if I hadn’t met Jesus. I’ll tell you this much, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be married to the incredible woman that I call my wife. We wouldn’t have the family that we have now. If it wasn’t for Jesus, I can absolutely guarantee you that my life would look vastly, vastly different.
That’s what Jesus does. When Jesus is part of the equation, there is no such thing as hopeless. There is no such thing as “too far gone.”
If things need a minor adjustment or a major overhaul in your marriage or your family, change is what Jesus does.
Because of His death on the cross, our sins have been wiped out. They are just gone. Forgiven. Forgotten.
And then came His resurrection. Jesus rising from the dead seals our hope that new life really is possible. And it’s not just new life in eternity. It’s new life, right here and right now.
It’s new life in your family. It’s new life in your marriage. It’s new life wherever new life is needed.
New life is what Jesus is all about.