Marriage Bliss?

I remember reading a quote by a pastor who said, marriage isn’t so much designed to make us happy, but to help make us holy. Likewise, God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. For happiness comes and goes and is based on what is happening around us and to us. However, holiness is based on what is happening inside us. Holiness involves our heart condition and allows us to experience joy through the Spirit despite our happenstances. 

Of course, this sanctification process is rarely without its struggles and neither will our marriages be free from struggle – but thankfully, they are also embedded with great blessings:    

Purpose: For the longest time, I didn’t realize my marriage had a purpose, other than to contribute to my happiness. This outlook however is a trap that eventually leads to discouragement and disatisfaction. The reality is a holy marriage is designed with divine purpose. Two people surrendered to God are a powerful team and witness. They are a representation of the Trinity, are called to raise Godly children, and help each other learn to love more like Christ loves (Malachi 2:15). 

Pleasure: Although not solely for our happiness, marriage does come with great pleasures and rewards. We are even instructed to enjoy one another as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 9:9). Over time, our Kingdom value and impact increases as we grow closer as friends, as allies, as lovers and as soldiers in Christ. I recall traveling on business trips to exotic locations and staying at lavish resorts, wishing my family could be there to share it with me. Today, as we walk with God, we share in something much better than resorts – we get His glorious riches and get to experience life’s adventures together, instead of alone.

Prosperity: Blessings from God flow to Godly marriages, and finding a good wife is said to be like finding treasure and receiving favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22)! For true prosperity flows from living for the Lord.  I once lived to be monetarily rich, but today, I am thankful and blessed to know where true riches are found – in the love of Christ and the love I get to share with my wife, a glorious gift indeed!

Application: “Kingdom Wisdom”  – Ecclesiastes 4:12

Marriage isn’t always easy, and it isn’t designed to be. When two imperfect people come together, there is bound to be an imperfect marriage. However, when both parties are surrendered to Christ, He can blend and bind our differences and potential divisions to work for His good purposes, glory and our purification. Marriage over time doesn’t have to grow old and stale. Instead, it can grow stronger and better. Something enjoyable and something that abounds in love.  

Where God Guides – He Provides

When we are young we dream about what we want to be when we grow up. For my children these career dreams have ranged from wanting to be a chef, a race car driver, a veterinarian, a dentist and even a CIA spy. It’s a joy to watch children dream, but for many of us, what we eventually end up doing is rarely what we dreamed, or even go to school for. When I think back on my days of deciding what I wanted to be, it would have been nice to have had someone tell me to seek God’s direction for my life and let Him guide me. Granted, I know this today, but admittedly, there are still times I temporarily forget He has plans for me. Truly, God will guide us when we seek Him, but an even greater promise is that wherever He guides, He also provides (Isaiah 58:11):

Calling: Have you ever felt called to something? This is a mission and/or cause we do no matter the compensation factor and is driven by a deep seeded passion. For the longest time I tried to find my calling, never realizing that my calling is not a place. Instead, it is my position in Christ, to be made more like Christ and to be His ambassador on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). As a result, this can be done wherever we are, through whatever we do and wherever we go.

Direction: If our ultimate calling is to be made more like Christ, it makes sense that we are to ultimately share His attributes. However, we aren’t capable of this by ourselves. Therefore, He gives us direction and guidance through His word, Spirit, prayer and counsel from other believers. For me, I soon realized how as my Shepherd, God is dedicated to serve as my protector, provider, pastor and preparer. This means He not only does this for me, but all believers and in turn, He directs me to serve others the same. I too am a shepherd to the flock He has assigned me, and I too am to teach them Biblical truth (pastor), protect and provide for them spiritually and physically; and help prepare them as good stewards to continue the legacy of discipleship (John 21:15-17).

Provision: God promises to work in us and through us. He also promises to meet all our needs as we pursue our calling in Christ (Philippians 4:19). We may want a different job, different circumstances and different conditions, but none of these things change our calling. Our calling can happen right where we are and right now. Nothing has to change other than our decision to act. He has given us all time, talents, treasures and testimonies to share. The question is are we investing them wisely to advance our calling as disciple makers as we go forth about our days never forgetting our roles as Godly shepherds who help pastor, provide, protect and prepare others? 

Application: “Set Free” – Exodus 8:1
God invited Moses to participate in His plan to set His people free from slavery in Egypt. Likewise, Christ has set us free from the slavery of sin and invites us/calls us, to participate in His plan to set more free until His return. Thankfully, our current job, family members, community and friends serve as ideal gateways into the world so that we can live out this calling.  

Gifts Lift 

Every life has meaning and value. Sometimes this can be forgotten, but it still doesn’t neglect its truth. Unfortunately, many do not feel as though their lives have value. I have met many who have lost the desire to dream. They have lost hope and confess to simply be in survival mode. The same is true for many in the workplace. They feel as though they are trapped and simply punching a time clock. This is true even for Christians. Is this the abundant life Christ promised? Without hope, goals, dreams and desires, life can be rather drab, but the good news is for followers of Christ, He restores dreams designed after His own heart. Better yet, he equips us to accomplish all the desires He calls us to do:

Personal Strengths: We all have gifts and strengths. Some use theirs to promote personal agendas, but for those who surrender their gifts to Christ and seek to invest them for His Kingdom, a great power and benefit is realized – gifts lift. When we focus on leveraging and developing our gifts for Godly purposes, we are energized and discover the beautiful peace and rest that comes from being “poured out”(1 Peter 4:10). So that rather than a restless sleep, we discover the restful sleep Christ promises His workers investing the gifts He gives for His purposes. 

Others’ Strengths: When we begin to focus on the strengths and gifts of others, rather than their weakness and shortcomings, we help release their potential. Godly leaders see the best in others and desire to help them develop their strengths (1 Thessalonians 5:11). For confident leaders seek to multiply and develop other leaders and promote their strengths. As a result, greater benefits and advancement can occur when various gifts are leveraged, developed and deployed. 

Combined Strengths: Any team can testify to the benefits that come from unifying every players strengths. The same is true for family, business, work, church and community. Anywhere a team can be found, by focusing on strengths, the burden is lightened and progress is made. This is a powerful truth for the body of Christ. When we seek to build one another for the advancement of the Kingdom and seek God’s direction in our lives and then surrender our gifts and abilities to Him, He works through His body, the church, to most effectively go into all the world and share the gospel with all creation (Ephesians 4:12). 

Application: “Given Tools To Use” – Romans 12:6  

Sadly, many struggle with insecurities, doubts, discouragement, distractions and strongholds that prevent them from fully deploying their gifts. Some may even say they don’t have any strengths, but of course this is a lie Satan loves to tell believers to keep them sidelined. For our enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy all God loves and created – that includes us, our God given dreams, our potential and our Kingdom impact. Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be our realty for God has set us free from such bondage and declares victory. We simply have to trust, obey and deploy.

Garden Party 

When a seed is planted, it begins a process. First, it is surrendered to its new environment deep in the ground. Second, it begins to grow from within and break through its hard outer shell. Finally, it begins to grow by spreading its roots deeper and its stalk higher. Eventually, it is strong enough to begin bearing its own fruit and multiplying by spreading more seed. As Christians, this is a beautiful illustration to what happens to us. However, weeds also start as seeds. Therefore, it’s important to be aware that similar processes takes place for both the good seed and bad:

Surrendering: A vital question to consider is what we choose to surrender the majority of our time, talents and treasures to. What have we buried ourselves to? For this reveals our priorities. For the longest time, what I said were my priorities, and what I chose to invest the majority of my time and thinking to were not the same. They were in conflict. I said I prioritized my family, but was mentally disengaged due to my over-concentration to work. I said I was a Christian, but wasn’t surrendered to Christ as my Lord. He may have been my Savior, but I wasn’t allowing Him to be my Master. For I was placing other things in that role. Thus, may we always take the time to investigate what our life choices are saying about our surrendering (Matthew 16:25).      

Shattering: When we surrender to something, it begins to grow within us. It begins to occupy more of our thoughts and our time. Thereby, other things begin to get choked out. As we surrender to Christ, His desires, His ways and His word begin to grow within us and choke out those areas that don’t belong (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, when we choose to surrender to other priorities such as work, money, hobbies and self, which in and of themselves aren’t bad, they begin to multiply and choke other areas. When Christ is first, He transforms all of these areas that threaten to rule us so that can can be used as tools to for His glory and His purposes.  

Spreading: Shattering must take place in order for spreading and multiplication to occur.When Christ is primary, He takes our Spiritual roots deeper so that we can grow stronger. We then are equipped to multiply and be fruitful. Yet again, the danger is sin will always try to compete and pursue being spread out rather than choked out. It also wants to grow its roots deep and grow stronger in our lives and multiply its weeds among the wheat. Therefore, we must always prayerfully seek what is being multiplied and spreading in our life – is it weeds, or wheat (Mark 4:7-8)?   

Application: “Sprout Don’t Pout” – Psalm 1:1-3

Seeds are a beautiful illustration to many of God’s promises for us. For they provide nourishment to other living things, and have placed within them the power to multiply. They also begin with outer shells that when shattered begin to sprout to create new life. All this resembles what Christ does in and through us. The caution is, weeds and other displeasing seeds have potential to multiply as well. Ever seen a garden overrun by weeds? The same damaging result can happen to us, when we fail to realize their multiplication power when ignored and other areas left neglected.