We have made it to the last week of our long series called Nuptially Challenged. We have spent the last month and a half talking about marriage, and all the challenges that come with it.
Marriage is beautiful, but hard. It’s not for wimps. If you’re not willing to work, you should never get married. If you’re not willing to serve and sacrifice, you should never get married.
Throughout this series, we’ve kept coming back to this core principle of marriage. My marriage is not about me. That’s the key to unlock a healthy, joyful, lifelong marriage. It’s not about me. It’s not about what I want. It’s about serving my spouse. It’s about putting his/her needs ahead of my own.
That’s the kind of marriage that God will honor. That’s the kind of marriage that God will bless. And that’s the kind of marriage that will make it for a lifetime.
That’s the last challenge that we’re going to talk about as we wrap up this series. It’s the challenge of a lifetime. When it comes to marriage, we’re in it to win it. We’re in it for keeps. We understand that marriage is a one and done proposition. It’s a commitment for a lifetime.
This entire series is based on Hebrews 13:4. “Marriage should be honored by all…” (Hebrews 13:4a, NIV)
We honor marriage when we do marriage God’s way. That’s what this last month and a half has been about. And that’s what today is all about.
Let’s pray, and then we’ll jump into this last nuptial challenge. The challenge of a lifetime.
I have a little confession to make. I might have poked a little fun at Duck Dynasty fans in the past. In public. From this stage. But today, I need to confess that Duck Dynasty has become a staple in my house. I might have been a little late to the party, but now I’m here, Jack.
And one of the things that drew me into the show was the way the show depicts marriage. And that clip from Phil and Miss Kay pretty much sums it up.
You know what marriage is? It’s a wife saying, “I’m not going anywhere. I will love you forever.”
It’s a husband saying, “You are my best friend, and I love you dearly. And I’m going to be with you for the long haul, until they put me in the ground.”
That’s marriage. It’s a commitment, a covenant that lasts a lifetime.
In Proverbs 5, Solomon wrote, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19, NIV)
“May you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” There is something special about young newlyweds. They’re so in love. They just sit around, gazing into each others’ eyes. They’re all touchy feely. It’s so overly sweet that it will make you gag.
Seriously, it’s an awesome time of life, and the Bible recognizes that. “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
But then, did you notice the turn that happens in the next verse. In the next verse, Solomon uses words like “always” and “ever.”
“May her breasts satisfy you always.” And if you thought the sex message ended last week, you have a huge misunderstanding on the sexual relationship in marriage. Like we talked about last week, you simply can’t separate sexual health from overall marriage health. God never does that. He never makes that distinction in the Bible, so we can never make that distinction, either.
Solomon wrote, “May her breasts satisfy you ALWAYS.” May her breasts satisfy you when you’re newlyweds…and after she’s nursed your children. Always.
“May you EVER be intoxicated with her love.” There is something about sexual love…there is something about the romance in marriage that is intoxicating. And it’s not something to be avoided. It’s something to be embraced. And it’s not something that is meant to go away.
Yes, in some ways, the ooshy gooshy feelings get toned down as our marriage moves along. But if those feelings go away entirely, there’s a problem. These words from Proverbs tell us that, in reality, the honeymoon is always in progress.
But it also tells us about a decision that we make. Remember what we talked about earlier in this series. Devotion is not an emotion. Devotion is a decision. And we honor God when we decide that we’re in it for the long haul. We’re not backing down. We’re not giving up. We’re in it for life.
There’s a great picture that is painted in the Old Testament book of Zechariah. It’s not a book that we talk about very often. Some of you may have never even heard of it. But check out this picture that Zechariah paints for us.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.” (Zechariah 8:4-5, NIV)
When God returned His blessing to Jerusalem, the result was old men and old women, still sitting together. Holding their cane in one hand, and holding the hand of their spouse with the other. And they sat, watching their grandchildren run and play and grow up.
That’s what God’s blessing on marriage looks like. And that’s what I want in my own marriage. By God’s grace, I want to be sitting next to Nicki 50 years from now. We’ll both be in our mid-80s. Her hair will be silver. My hair will be gone. And we’ll be watching our grandkids grow up.
By God’s grace, that’s what I want. I still want to be intoxicated with her love. I still want to know that we are completely devoted to one another. I want to see how God has blessed us because of our commitment to doing marriage His way.
I want to see the promise of Psalm 30 in my marriage. “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:4-5, NIV)
God’s favor lasts a lifetime. I want to know His favor in my marriage. I want to experience His blessings that come when we commit to being faithful to Him for the long haul.
But this isn’t just some grand, hypothetical picture of marriage. There is some incredibly practical stuff in these verses. God’s favor lasts a lifetime, but a lifetime is made up of moments. And this Psalm says very clearly that there will be moments of rejoicing, but there will also be moments of weeping. If we want our marriage to make it for a lifetime, then we have to navigate the good times and the tough times.
What do we do when hard times come? What do we do when there are issues of conflict and division that arise in our marriage? Maybe it’s something small that is keeping your marriage from being all that it should be. Instead of moving forward, your marriage has kind of stalled out.
Or maybe it’s something huge that threatens to destroy everything you’ve built together. Things have reached crisis level in your marriage.
If you want to have a marriage that lasts for the long haul, then you have to know how to navigate rough waters. What do you do? I want to pull three key things out of God’s Word. These three things can help you over the little bumps in the road. They can also bring your marriage back from the brink. They are that powerful.
The first thing is to get rid of pride.
There is something that we all need to understand about pride. Pride never fixed a problem. Ever. Never ever. Pride creates problems. Pride intensifies problems. But pride never fixes problems.
If your marriage has problems, the first thing you have to do is drop your pride.
We read this verse last week, but we’re coming back for more today. In Proverbs 16, Solomon wrote, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, NIV)
Pride goes before a fall. Pride precedes destruction. That is a flashing red warning light for our marriages.
There is one common denominator in every marriage that has fallen apart: pride. Every marriage you know of that fell apart, you can bet your bottom dollar that pride was at the root of it all.
Pride says, “I can do it my way. I know what I’m doing. I’m the one that matters. It’s all about me. And who do they think they are, telling me what to do? Telling me where I’m wrong? Telling me that I need to change?”
And all you have to do is fast-forward a little bit, and you see that God’s Word is proven to be true. Pride really does go before destruction. It really does come before a fall.
If you want your marriage to last for a lifetime, then you have to take a posture of humility. Assuming a posture of pride will only create new problems and make existing problems worse.
But a posture of humility opens the door for growth and change and healing.
How do you know which posture you have in your marriage? Well, let’s think through a few things.
Does your spouse know that there are certain things that are never supposed to be discussed? Do they know that certain topics are taboo? Do they know that if they go there, you will automatically get defensive? It’s a fight waiting to happen? Or you’ll just shut down?
If so, then you are living with a posture of pride. And I will promise you that while you are living in pride, your spouse is living in pain.
We’ve used this verse several times in this series. Here’s how Genesis 2 describes the creation of the first man and woman. “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25, NIV)
Obviously this is a verse about sex. Adam and Eve were unclothed and unashamed. And last week we talked about how there is no shame…absolutely no shame…in married sexuality.
But it goes even deeper than that. Adam and Eve weren’t just physically naked. They were emotionally naked. They were spiritually naked. There was absolutely nothing that had come between them.
That all changed when sin entered into the world and messed up God’s perfect creation. But even in this broken, screwed up world that we live in now, this is still the picture of marriage by God’s design.
Marriage is two people who are completely unashamed to be naked before each other. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.
There is something incredibly humbling about being naked before someone, isn’t there? Ladies, when you go clothes shopping, what is one of your main concerns? You’re concerned with what the clothes will hide, aren’t you? Does this shirt cover up this problem area? And what husband hasn’t been asked this question…do these pants make my butt look big? It’s all about what you can conceal.
But now, let’s be honest. This isn’t just a woman thing. Guys, we’re all about concealing too, aren’t we? How many of you suck in your gut to hide the fact that you’ve gained some weight? You know you have. And how many guys have you seen that do the combover? You know what I’m talking about. They’re going bald fast, but they let this part of their hair grow super long, and then they comb it over their head because…you know…that will fool everyone. Until the wind starts blowing, and their combover blows this far away from their head.
We’re all about concealing. So there is something really humbling when you are naked before someone, because there is no hiding anything. Whatever your flaws or imperfections might be…when you’re naked, there they are. They’re out there in plain sight.
And that is exactly the point. Your marriage is the one place where you can be naked without shame. Your spouse is the one person who can see you naked. They can see your flaws. They can see your imperfections. You are absolutely vulnerable in front of them.
And we’re not just talking physically. When you are with your husband or your wife, you are absolutely vulnerable emotionally and spiritually. You are out there. No concealing. No hiding. Totally naked.
That takes incredible humility, because there is nothing to hide behind. And that is exactly why God designed marriage the way He did. You have that one person who sees you as you really are, and loves you anyway.
Pride totally dismantles that. Go back to Adam and Eve. Initially, they were totally naked and totally without shame. But then pride entered the equation. God had commanded them not to eat from one particular tree in the Garden of Eden. But in pride, they decided that they knew better than God. They ate the fruit from that tree.
And here’s what happened after that. Genesis 3 tells us, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:7, NIV)
Sinful pride created an immediate division, not just because God and Adam and Eve. It created a division between Adam and Eve themselves. They went from naked and unashamed, to covering and hiding.
And pride is still doing the same thing in marriages today. It is still taking marriages from naked and unashamed to covering and hiding.
Pride won’t talk about certain issues. Pride won’t admit that there is a problem. And pride is certainly not willing to pray about it.
But that’s the second thing I want to pull out of God’s Word today. Three things that can really change the game in your marriage. The first is to get rid of pride. The second is to get into prayer.
Our marriages struggle needlessly because we just don’t really believe that prayer will make any difference. It sounds like a churchy sounding answer to a real world problem. It doesn’t feel practical. We don’t believe it will change anything.
Can I remind us all of something? God has never said that about prayer. Ever.
In James 5, the Apostle James wrote, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b, NIV)
Did you notice those words? Powerful…meaning that prayer really does change things. Effective…meaning that if you have an issue or a struggle, the most practical thing you can do is pray about it.
So, when you flip the coin over, what do you see? When we don’t get into prayer, we rob our marriages of power. Our marriages become weak. Things stall out. Problems overtake us. We are open to Satan’s influence and attacks.
And also, when we don’t get into prayer, we are ignoring what works. This is huge for a pragmatic person like me. When I see a problem, I will immediately look for the most practical way to attack it…which is why I ignore prayer so often. That might sound weird to hear a pastor say that, but it’s true. I’m just being honest with you. There are times when I don’t pray simply because it doesn’t feel like a practical solution. But James says the exact opposite. He said that prayer is effective. In other words, it’s practical. It’s pragmatic. It works.
When is the last time you prayed about your marriage? When is the last time you prayed within your marriage? Do you and your spouse pray together?
“Well, it just feels weird. I don’t know what to say. It’s just a little awkward to pray with my husband. I’m just a little uncomfortable praying with my wife.”
So let me get this straight…are you telling me that you can have sex with them, but you can’t pray with them? Something’s not right there.
Your marriage is too important for you to ignore the most powerful and effective weapon in your arsenal, which is prayer.
When you are praying for someone…and especially when you are praying with someone…it’s hard to stay angry with them. It’s hard to hold onto resentment. It opens the door for God to work. It opens the door for grace and forgiveness to take hold.
It opens the door for an Ephesians 4 moment. In verse 32, the Apostle Paul wrote, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32, NIV)
Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are constant themes in a healthy marriage. Your spouse is going to disappoint you. We talked about that in the very first message in this series. But prayer opens the door for God to work. It opens the door for forgiveness. It opens the door for healing and restoration.
But we also have to understand this. Prayer isn’t going to automatically cure everything all the time. Prayer opens the door for God to work, but we have to partner with Him. We have work to do, too.
Andy Stanley asks a great question. Are you trying to pray your way out of something you have behaved your way into?
This is where pride can still short-circuit prayer. You can pray all you want, but if you’re not humble enough to admit that your behavior caused the problem, then it’s all a waste of time.
Check this out from Proverbs 28. “If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.” (Proverbs 28:9, NIV)
Dang. God’s not exactly beating around the bush here. If you don’t pray with a posture of humility…if you are not open to seeing where you’ve been wrong…if you’re not ready to grow up and own up…then prayer really does get short-circuited. God has the power to heal your marriage, but your pride can stop Him cold. God needs a willing partner to work. And sometimes, He needs partners, plural.
That’s the last Scriptural principle I want to unpack today. Get rid of pride. Get into prayer. And third, get other people involved.
This isn’t something that gets discussed enough, but it’s true. If you know of a marriage that lasted a lifetime, that marriage had some outside help.
And conversely, there are a ton of marriages that are suffering and falling apart because pride is stopping them from seeking outside help.
In Proverbs 15, we’re reminded that, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22, NIV)
Can I ask a question…why in the world would we believe this verse applies to a business deal, but not a marriage?
You planned to have a great marriage. You planned to overcome any obstacle. You planned to let nothing come between you. You planned to have a marriage that would last a lifetime.
Those are great plans. They are godly plans. But remember, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Who is advising you and your spouse? Who is providing outside support and instruction? And maybe even a more important question…who has permission to call you out when something isn’t right? Who has permission to hold you accountable? Who is willing to speak the truth to you, even when it’s hard?
I’m not talking about people that will listen to you vent, and then they’ll get into the negativity pit with you. “Yeah, I can’t believe he did that. I can’t believe she did that.”
Can I tell you the truth about those people? They’re not rooting for your marriage. They’re not going to help your marriage succeed. All they’ll do is convince you that you’re always right and your spouse is always wrong, which does nothing but feed the monster of pride. And in case you slept through the first part of this message, pride never fixed a problem. It only creates them and makes them worse.
Listen to Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes 7. “It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:5, NIV)
Those people who will just vent right along with you and never point out the part that you had to play in the conflict…they are fools. And if you dance long enough to their soundtrack, you’ll dance your way right out of your marriage.
Instead, you need to surround yourself with wise people who will give it to you straight. Even when it hurts. Even when it’s hard.
I read this on Twitter as I was prepping this message. It’s so true. “A friend who steers clear of holding you accountable is more afraid to lose you than for you to lose your spouse.” – @UnbrokenBed
A real friend will tell you the truth, even if they run the risk of losing your friendship. A friend is willing to take the risk, because they don’t want to see you lose your marriage.
But it all comes back to where we started today. Are you living in a posture of pride or a posture of humility? Is pride stopping you from seeking help?
Humility will seek the help of trusted friends. But if there is a deep issue, humility will go beyond that. Humility will seek the help of a qualified counselor.
Sometimes the problems go deeper than your friends can handle. As a pastor, I only do very minor marriage counseling. I’m not trained for it. And I care way too much about marriages to tinker around with something that I’m not qualified for. That’s why I have marriage counselors that I constantly refer people to. I can do that for you, too. All you have to do is have a confidential conversation with me after church.
Pride will tell you not to do that. Pride will tell you, “Hey, counseling didn’t help this couple or that couple, so it won’t help me either.” Pride will tell you whatever it can to stop you from taking this step.
But humility will say, “You know what…we need help. And we’re going to do whatever it takes to get the help that we need.”
We read part of a verse from James 5 earlier. But now, let’s read the whole verse.
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16, NIV)
This is huge. Think through what James is saying here.
“Confess your sins to each other.” This might be the most disobeyed command in all of Scripture. Confess your sins…not to God…to each other.
That means that you have to be open. Honest. Authentic. And most of all, humble. You’ve got to bring people in, and you’ve got to be okay with them finding out that you’re not okay.
And after you confess your sins, they will hold you accountable. But they will also pray for you. Like we said earlier, that prayer opens the door for God to work. It is powerful and effective.
But notice this. Why do we make ourselves accountable to others? Why do we humble ourselves and admit our failures? Why do we seek outside help? Why do we get other people praying for us?
So we can be healed.
If your marriage is struggling, this is the roadmap to healing. And if you are prideful and you refuse to do this, don’t be surprised when healing never comes, because you are rejecting what God has said plainly in His Word.
As your pastor, I want you to have the marriage that God has planned for you. It’s not easy. We’ve been talking about the challenges of marriage for a month and a half now. But it is possible. It is possible to have a marriage that really does live up to the challenge of a lifetime.
These three principles are the key. I really hope you’ll take these with you when you leave today. Get rid of pride. Get into prayer. Get other people involved.