Craig Groeschel - 3 Secrets to the Marriage You Want
Today, we are wrapping up our message series called Book Club, and I'm honored to bring the final message, I wanna talk to you from a book that I wrote with Amy called From This Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage. Amy and I are very, very passionate about speaking into the lives of those who may not be married yet, but hope to honor God with a very Jesus-glorifying marriage, or to strengthen those of you who are already in a committed relationship today. And so in our book, we talked about five different commitments, I wanna review those with you.
If you remember them from years ago, the five commitments that we commit to. Number one is, we're going to seek God, number two is, we're gonna fight fair, number three is, we're gonna have fun, number four is, we're gonna stay pure, and number five is, we're going to never give up. Wouldn't it be fun today if you all helped me out by saying those aloud? What are we gonna do? We're gonna- Seek God, fight fair, have fun, stay pure, and never give up. One more time? We're going to: Seek God, fight fair, have fun, stay pure, and never give up. We're gonna dive into the have fun part one today, and the title of today's message is Three Secrets to the Marriage You Want. Let's all pray together.
Father, we thank you that you are the author of relationships, and God, that when we submit ourselves to serve someone else, we actually honor you. We pray, God, that you would prepare us in our hearts to love another in marriage, and God strengthen the marriages existing today, that we could glorify You in all we do. We pray this in Jesus' name and everybody said. Amen. Amen.
Hey, question. How many of you would say you've ever made a fool out of yourself for love, raise your hands. You ever made a fool out of yourself for love? My bride, Amy, is here. When we met, I was so ridiculously in love, so fast, I made a fool of myself moment by moment. I'll show you a original photo from our early date. This is what I call our Top Gun photo. Is it crazy I'm irrationally excited about Top Gun coming out again, I don't know if anybody else is, but I just feel close to God and like it's 1986 again. And so when I met Amy on our very first date, we had talked on the phone for a while and I prepared a mix tape. This is how excited I was.
Now, some of you don't know what a mix tape is. If you don't, there was a time when you had something called a BoomBox that had two little places to record something called a cassette and I went and picked songs, what you had to do back then, is you had to like, put one in one side, press play and record on the other side and then you could record one song to the other song on a tape so that you would have the exact songs you want long before Spotify or Apple Music and so, you had to actually plan ahead to make a romantic mood on your date.
So, Amy got in my very biblical car, Honda Accord because all the disciples gathered in one, Accord and I put my mix tape in and it was perfectly designed to win her heart. It had a Christian song because we seek God, followed by a Christian song because we seek God, followed by a love song because she's pretty, followed by a Christian song, followed by a Christian song, followed by a love song, love song, Christian song, love song, love song, love song. The spirit directed me on this very strategic mixed tape that I built just for her, I was so in love, it was crazy. We did indoor camping one time, where like I made a campsite with stuffed animals that were the wild animals. We did crafts in our house.
In fact, there may be a picture. Do we have a picture of the craft? So this, you can't really see it but you can see the hair because in 1980s, the hair took up 75% of the photo. But in the very bottom, there's letters on my shirt that actually spells Christian with a T as a little cross, we actually made that with glitter paint. Mine said, "Christian stud". Hers said, "Christian babe". I don't even know if that's appropriate, but that's what we did back in the day. We made little crafts together and I was so in love. We actually started naming our kids before we were engaged. We decided we were gonna have two kids. We had no idea God does exceedingly and abundantly more than all I can ask, think or imagine. And we had no idea that we would have a marriage that was six kids good.
So we named our kids Josh and Joy back when we were dating. Oddly enough, we never had a Josh, but we did have a Joy, our sixth kid and I was so in love with her that I was in a big box store and I saw a joy pillow that had joy on it, it was 50% off, so I bought it. I took it home and I realized the reason it was 50% off because it was a Christmas pillow that I didn't realize. And it was in February, so that's why it was half off. But then I didn't realize it wasn't a pillow. It was actually a latch hook rug that looked like a pillow on the edge of the box and so I, your pastor, all by himself, took 43 million threads, folded them over, put 'em through this and made Amy her very own joy latch hook rug. That's how in love I was. That's how in love I was.
And the bottom line is most of you, you probably have a similar story, somewhere along the way with your lovey dovey. You drove overnight just to spend 10 minutes with your love muffin, you spent all the money you had on some concerts, to take them to their favorite concert. You would talk on the phone, if you're my age, you would talk on the phone, like the phone used to plug in the wall and you wouldn't hang up at the end. You would just sit there and just breathe. I'm not hanging up. You hang up. You'd breathe, not heavy breathing. Just like, Christian appropriate breathing. Then you get married and seven years later, you're like, "Don't breathe on me. Don't even look at me". Where'd the love go? What happened is, somewhere along the way, you stopped having fun. You stopped pursuing.
And so one day, couples who used to do anything possible to communicate their love, find themselves not in love and they give up and they get divorced. I always say this, to get divorced because you ran out of love is like selling your car because you ran out of gas. If you're low on gas, what do you do? You refill the tank. If you're low on love, what do you do? You refill your marriage. You do what you did at first. And I wanna show you today, the joy of having fun in your relationship and continuing to pursue your spouse. We're gonna look at Genesis chapter two as our main text. To give you context to Genesis two, "God had created humankind in his own image, male and female, he created them". And scripture says, "Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib," everybody say from the rib. From the rib. "He made a woman from the rib and he brought her to the man".
He made her from the rib, that's why I say Amy is the barbecue sauce on my rib, but that's just what I say. "At last, the man explained, at last, this one is bone from my bone and fleshed from my flesh. She'll be called woman because she was taken from the man". This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife and the two are united into one. The two are united into one. The word united comes from the root Hebrew word dabaq, and this word means to cling or adhere. This word literally means to catch by pursuit or to pursue hard with affection and devotion. They were united. They were clinging. They were adhering. They were pursuing, they were pursuing hard with affection and devotion, dabaq.
In fact, I wanna show you some other places this word is used in the Bible. It's a very interesting word. If the two are ever gonna be united as one, let me show you how this word dabaq is used. Psalm 63:8, the word dabaq has translated, follow close. It says, "My soul follows close behind You". This is a stalker's memory verse. My soul follows close. Little bit like the song, The Police saying years ago, who remembers the song every breath you take, every move you make, I'll be watching, that's a stalker song. Why did we like that song, I have no idea. Dabaq, it means to follow close. It's also translated to pursue hard, Judges 20 verse 45 says, "They pursued hard after them".
Bottom line is, if you want your marriage to thrive, never stop pursuing your spouse. If you run out of love, you simply refill. And I wanna tell you briefly, my very favorite story of pursuit in all of the Bible, it's in Genesis 29. It's a very beautiful story, when Jacob was actually pursuing Rachel, if you don't know the story, there were two sisters. Leah was the older one and Rachel was the younger one. And the Bible says, and I quote, and you can look this up as Bible's funny, if you haven't noticed the Bible can be funny, the Bible can be funny. The Bible says that Rachel was lovely, was lovely in figure and was beautiful, that's what it says. She was lovely in figure and was beautiful. And then it says Leah had weak eyes. That's in the Bible, in the Hebrew what that means, is that Rachel's hot and that Leah had a great personality. That's what it means in Hebrews. It's in the Bible.
And so, if you know the story, Jacob loved Rachel. And so he said to the dad, "I wanna marry her". And the dad, Laban, said, "Oh, you can, but you have to work for me for seven years". So you could say, for seven years, he pursued her seven years, he worked for her and time passed quickly because he was so in love. And then he was gonna get married and the dad pulled a little switcheroo. Instead of giving him lovely figure, he gave him weak eyes and he's like, "Wait, no, I'm supposed to marry Rachel". And the dad said, "No, in our culture, you marry the oldest one first". He said, "No, I wanted to marry Rachel". And so Laban said, "Okay, you can marry her but, you have to still work for me for another seven years. You can marry her now, but you still have to work for seven years to come".
What I love about this, is that Jacob continued to work for Rachel after he already had her. How amazing would it be in our relationships? If we continue to work for our wives, for our husbands, after we'd already married them. We continue to pursue our spouse. If you want your marriage to thrive, what I promise you is, you must never, ever stop pursuing your spouse, think about it. Is there any other area of life that you can be lazy in, take it for granted and see that area of life improve? Can you ignore your physical body? Can you eat whatever you want? Blah, blah, blah, blah, never exercise, just, you see it, you eat and have your body get better. You can't do that. Think about your business. Can you not care about the culture of your business? Can you treat your employees badly? Can you not fight for excellence? Can you just ignore good customer service? Your business won't get better. You will go broke.
Think about your yard. Can you just like, look at it every day and do nothing with it? Don't water it, don't fertilize it. Don't mow it and expect it to get better. There is no other area of your life that you can be lazy and expect improvement and yet people do it all the time in their marriage. And that's why I tell people all the time, if the grass looks greener somewhere else, it's time to water your own yard. Jacob continued to work for her after he already had her. Three secrets to the marriage that you want. And we wanna drill these in, if you're not married yet, put 'em in your spirit, start practicing them with people now. If you are married, apply these in your relationship.
Number one, first secret is this. Anytime you think something good about your spouse, say it, bless them with the blessings in your heart. Any time you think something good, say it. Why would you ever rob someone you love from a blessing of affirmation and admiration? I love what scripture says in Hebrews 3:13, that we are to encourage one another, how often? Every single day, as long as it's called today, so that none of you will be hardened by sins, deceitfulness. This is something that I want to live by with Amy. And if you ask her, "Does your husband encourage you daily? Every single day"? Amy would tell you. Yes I do. Does she encourage me every single day? Is it natural? No. Do we have to work at it? Yes. Does it matter? Yes. Is it important? Yes. Every single day. And I would say to the men and let me just kind of clarify this, what I'm gonna say will be generalizations, that means it's not all true for all men, this isn't true for all women. A generalization is generally true and so I'm gonna give you some general advice.
Men, I would say, this is generally what you wanna do, is to pursue her with words of affection. Affection, what she means to you, treasure her, show value to her and one of the most important tips I can give you, gentlemen, is this, when you show affection, make sure a lot of your affection is what's called non-sexual affection. Non-sexual affection. Now I know what some of you're saying. You're gonna go, "Now, what does that mean"? And so let me try to explain it and I'll make it as simple as I can. What non-sexual affection is, it is, you may wanna write this down, it is affection that is non-sexual. And what that means is, that means that there's not a sexual prize necessarily, at the end of your affection. That's not the goal, there's not some kind of boom, boom payoff at the end. What you're trying to do is, for no other reason except for you love, is you're communicating affection. It's affection that's not, say it with me gentlemen, it's nonsexual.
Have you ever said those words together before? 'Cause guys can make anything sexual, anything. She'll say, "We need to rotate the tires". Like, "I'll rotate your tires," right? Guys can do, I mean with anything like, you know, "Hey, you need to mow the yard". "I'll mow your yard". They can do it with anything and the weird thing is, that sometimes when a guy does that, he's cute. And the very next day, the very same time of the day and the very same place in the house, he can say the very same thing and on that day, he's not cute, he's a jerk. And we have no idea why, but that's just the way things work. And so, what we're gonna do is we're gonna pursue her with words of affection.
And my biggest tip, suggestion is, gentlemen, don't just say, "I love you", but add one word and then put something different after that word every single time. Add the word "because". "I love you because," and then add something different. And I would just say to Amy, I love you because you are the most godly person that I know. I love you because you have sacrificed your entire life to serve Jesus and serve me. I love you because you love our kids and have raised them better than any mom that I've ever known. I love you because you are funny. I love you because you're fun. I love you because you like to kiss a lot. I love you because of your integrity. Most of all, the thing that I loved about you first, was your love for Jesus and I will always love the way that you love Jesus. And I love doing life about you and I tell you this all the time, my favorite thing about everything, is you. I love you because you're my best friend.
I love you "because". Pursue her with words of affection and then women, I would encourage you to pursue him with words of affirmation, because as cool as we look, most of my friends are insecure. We all are. Guys are just insecure. And what we need is affirmation and I mean, it's the littlest thing like, when I preach a message, the first thing I do is, I walk back and I sit down by Amy and I'm just hanging, waiting for her to say anything good, I don't care. You got like somebody, like, I hate this mess. I don't give a rip what you want. If she likes it, I'm good. And if I slide in next to her, sometimes she'll lean over and she'll say, "Mmm, that was a home run". And I'll say, "I'll show you a home run". I just, we just need some affirmation. So ladies, don't tell him what he is not. And you do this way too often. You're not this. And you're not that. And you don't do this. And I wish you did this that, don't tell him what he's not. Tell him who you see him becoming, you build him up. When you see something good, you reward it.
Some ladies say, "Well, he's not spiritual". If he even just says like, "Hey," like, "let's go to church". That's spiritual. You just like, stick your tongue in his ear and say, "You make me feel close to Jesus when you invite me to church," I mean, just, you build up what you wanna see. Any time he does something that you like, you affirm that and you'll see more of that. Don't tell him what he's not. Tell him what you see him becoming. It boils down essentially to this, that women generally wanna know, do you love me today? Do you love me? Cherish me. Value me today. Not yesterday, not last month, today. And men generally wanna know, do you believe in me today? What do we do, we're going to pursue each other with words of affection and affirmation. Any time you think something good, set it free. Say it, be a blessing.
The second thing is this, any time you think something special, do it. Express love. Any time you think something special, do it. James is very direct in the New Testament. Chapter four, verse 17. "If anyone, then, who knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is for them sin". It's sin for them. I wonder how often in our marriages, to the person that we committed to before God, we often know something that's good to do, and we don't do it. And scripture says that could even be called sin. I mean, just do kind of the stuff you did at first, you can just like, come home early from work and, you know, grab takeout and go to the park or buy tickets for the game. Amy trained me, actually. She said one of the most romantic things you can do when we had little kids, she said, if you wanna really romance me, bathe the kids. That's so in love, unload the dishes. I've learned, I'll give you just some free points, this isn't in the Bible, but it should be. Like flowers, most lady love flowers.
So, I used to pick them on the side of the road. I just like, dandelions, whatever they are. Here's a big, old thing and I'll wrap 'em up and here they are, I can afford 'em now, and so I buy them for her often. And a little secret is, what I do a lot of times, is I give her flowers at her women's small group because points double when other women see them. That's the good news, the bad news is all points evaporate at midnight and you start over. It's just a kind of a rule, just so you'll know. You think something good and you do it. One of the most beautiful things Amy did for me, when I was overwhelmed in a season of ministry, she called my office and said, "Block this calendar, Thursday at three o'clock". And she went and came into my office and said, "I'm your three o'clock appointment". I said, "Whoa, that's kind of good". And she said, "The bags are packed. The kids are at family. I got a hotel booked and we're going away".
Oh, okay. Just do something. Doesn't have to be expensive. It can be a thoughtful note. I used to take like a hundred post-it notes and write little sweet things when I was traveling and leave them all over the house. You do that, you come home and your spouse might be wearing nothing but post-it notes, I don't know. You just, doesn't have to, it could just be thoughtful. You can watch the Hallmark Channel, lay down your life for those you love. We make errands fun, some of our most romantic nights or a hot date on the grocery store, you know, just choose a night. Cook dinner, light some candles, play some Ed Sheeran. If you got little kids, turn on Dora and say, "You got 30 minutes, go, Diego, go. Just go, right now".
Some of you don't know what Dora is. Look it up and just lean over your spouse, say, "Go, Diego, go". When you think something good, say it. When you think something special, do it. When you want something different, be it, be it. 'Cause here's what's gonna happen, somewhere along the way in your marriage, you're gonna recognize you married a sinful person that doesn't live up to all your expectations. And at some point you're gonna say, "I wish he was more fun or more adventurous or less uptight or less critical," or whatever. "I wish she was more romantic or more thoughtful or less passive or less distractive," or whatever. I would say this, don't gripe about what your spouse is not. You continue to grow into who you are supposed to be. You work on it. You work on you.
We're 31 years into marriage and it's good. It's good. It's really good. It's genuinely good. Because we seek God, he's first. 'Cause we fight fair. I mean, we fight. You're gonna fight. You're gonna fight, how you fight matters. We don't fight against each other. We fight for our marriage. We have fun. We have a blast together. We stay pure, the devil attacks, but we try to keep temptation away and we just don't give up. So before you think we're perfect, I do want you to know is, we have to work on us a lot because I am so uptight, you're like, "Oh, I wish I was married to somebody like Pastor Craig". No you don't. No, you don't. You have no idea how uptight and demanding and controlling I can be. Being on time, that's like, next to godliness. Being early is even more godly. Amy, on the other hand, when it comes to getting places, she's more what I call, artistic. More creative, more flexible.
And so, going to church, you have to be on time. And so like, literally, we'd lose our salvation just trying to get to church. So now what do we do? This is how godly we are. We drive two separate cars. That's what we do. Amy's pretty funny, too. She got weird things like, she is conservative. She doesn't like to waste. All you have to do to make her mad is like, turn the water on and like leave it on. Just let it run. Like take a real shower, like one where you can wash the soap off and that's too long. And she gets crazy on that kind of stuff. Leave the lights on, like, her perfect house is pitch dark all the time because we're honoring God by saving electricity. The house is 95 degrees outside. Why? Because we don't wanna waste electricity. And so what happens is, we'd fight all the time about dumb stuff, unless we just learn to roll with it, and not point out what's weird about the other person, what's weird about me, but we become something different.
Instead of me worried about how she's flexible, I'm going to become more laid back. Instead of her worried about how I'm controlling, she's gonna work on just being more agreeable in her heart. At the end of the day, what you have to realize is, God created us as multipliers. In the very beginning, he created a male and female and they were united, they pursued hard and God said, be fruitful and what? Multiply. We're multipliers. In other words, if Amy speaks life into me and builds me up and encourages me, I become more of a man of God for her. I multiply the blessings she pours into my life. She's been multiplying since the day I saw her.
I had this ugly bachelor pad and she came in, multiplied it and now shower curtains match the towels and stuff like that. I gave her my love. She multiplied. She gave me six kids. She's a multiplier. If I give her a hard time, she'll give me hell, she's a multiplier. And that's why, if you don't like what you're getting, look at what you're giving. Look at what you're giving. If you wanna marriage one day that thrives. If you want your marriage today to honor God, never stop pursuing your spouse. Some of you say, "I don't have time. We got all the kids and all this kinda stuff".
Listen, one of the best ways to love your kids is to value your marriage. Don't tell me you don't have time. That's not a reflection of your schedule. That's a reflection of your priorities. Prioritize your marriage. What is your marriage? Your marriage is or will be a result of thousands upon thousands of little moments and little choices, that's what it is. And I promise you, it will be as good as you both want it to be or as bad as you both allow it to be. Let me say it again. I want you to feel it. What is it? It is the result of thousands upon thousands of little moments and little decisions. And your marriage will be as good as you both choose for it to be, or as bad as you allow it to be. It takes two seeking the one.
What do we do? We seek God, fight fair, have fun, stay pure and never give up. We seek the one Jesus with all of our hearts, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And then everything else will be added unto you. Jesus is not an add-on to our marriage. He is first. The Lord of all. We surrender to him. You seek God, you fight fair. Meaning we don't fight against each other, we fight for our marriage and we fight against the devil. And we have fun, if you think something good, you say it.
If you think something special, you do it. If you want something different, you be it. And you never stop pursuing your spouse. And we fight against the temptation of the evil when we stay pure, as we're tempted, we're not gonna be conformed to the patterns of this world, but we're transformed by the renewing of our mind. And then, guess what, you never, ever give up. And the Apostle Paul said it this way, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, you will reap a harvest if you do not give up". No matter where you are, no matter what you have, don't let the world talk you out of what God wants to give you. Seek God, fight fair, have fun, stay pure and never give up.
So Father, today we ask for your Holy Spirit to do a work of preparation in the hearts of those who would one day be married. Or God, do a work of healing in the lives of those of us who are.
As you're praying today, wherever you're watching from, those who are not married but would love to have a marriage that honors God one day, would you lift up your hands right now, lift them up, lift them up, lift them up, lift them up. Ah, maybe you might even meet somebody with their hand lifted up as you walk outta church today. Those of you that are married, no matter how good it is, no matter how challenging your marriage is, you want your marriage to honor God even more. Would you lift up your hands right now? Lift them up.
Father, I pray for both these groups of people today, first that you would do a work of preparation, God, for those that are not married, that we don't seek marriage. We seek you. Help us God, to put you first in all that we do. God, help us to become the type of person that we're looking for, would actually be looking for. Help us seek you first. And God, for marriages, I know that there are so many complications, our spiritual enemy is always on the attack. We pray God, that somehow by the power of Your word and the presence of Your spirit, that You would do a healing work, strengthen the marriages that are strong, God. Heal those that are hurting. Help us, very simply, seek you. Seek God, fight fair, have fun, stay pure. And because our marriage is not a contract but a covenant, we never give up. God, I pray for blessings upon blessings. As you created male and female, that they would be united, joined together as one flesh. Bless relationships today, we pray.
As you keep praying, no matter where you're watching from, some of you, you may recognize you're not doing very good on the first commitment, seek God. Before you have anything that you're looking for in life, the very first ingredient is that we seek first, the kingdom of God. What happens is, so many people are looking for meaning, they're looking for happiness, they're looking for something in a relationship, money, material things, and whatever you search for in the things of this world, you always come up empty. Why? Because you are not created for this world. You were created by God for his kingdom and that's why we seek him first.
Some of you, you may recognize what you really don't know God intimately. Why is that? Well, we've all messed up. The Bible calls it sin. We've all fallen short. We've all sinned against God and our sin separates us from God. But the good news is, it's so amazing that, while we were still sinning, Christ died for us. Who is Jesus? He is God in the flesh. He is a holy and perfect God in the flesh. Jesus never sinned. He was perfect in every way. And he died on a cross as the innocent sacrifice, so that we could be forgiven. How are we made right with God? It's never by our own efforts, it's never by our own striving, our own religious works. It's only by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus.
Those of you, wherever you're watching from today, you may recognize I don't have that. What we're gonna do today is, we're gonna step away from our sinful life and we're gonna surrender to Jesus. We're gonna seek him first, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and then everything will be added unto you, those who say I need his forgiveness. I need his grace. You cannot earn it. You surrender to him. Jesus saved me. As you call on him, he'll hear your prayer. He'll forgive your sins. He'll make you brand new.
Wherever you're watching from today. Those who say, "Yes, Jesus. I need you. I, by faith, I surrender my life to you". That's your prayer, lift your hands high right now, all over the place, lift them up and say, "Yes, Jesus. I give my life to you today". Lift up your hands. Oh, come on, somebody. Let's give God thanks today. Those of you watching online. You can just type it in the comment section. Just say, "I'm choosing to follow Jesus". Just type that in. "I'm choosing to follow Jesus," and we're all gonna pray together. Pray:
Heavenly Father, forgive all my sins. Jesus save me. Be the Lord of my life. I seek you first. Fill me with your spirit, so I can know you and serve you and follow you. My life is not my own. I give it all to you, in Jesus name I pray.