Greg Laurie - How To Do Marriage Right?
I heard about a mother and her five-year-old daughter. They were watching "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" together. The little girl had never seen this Disney classic, and she was so excited and couldn't wait to tell her dad all about it when he got home. So Dad gets home and the little girl runs up. "Daddy, Daddy, I just watched 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' I wanna tell you all about it". So she tells them the whole story and how the prince came and kissed Snow White, and she woke up again. "And guess what happened next, Daddy"? she says. Daddy, knowing fairytale, said, "Well, they lived happily ever after". The little girl said, "No, Daddy, they got married".
See, can we live happily ever after? Is marriage a fairytale? No, it is not. I don't think you can live happily ever after, but I do think you can live happily even after if we do this God's way. Sometimes you'll see a marriage that's coming unhinged, and you'll say, "That is a marriage made in hell". Then you'll see another one that's doing well. "You'll say, That's a marriage made in heaven," as though it were really arbitrary, the luck of the draw. No, if you see a strong and vibrant marriage, that's because the husband and the wife are putting effort into it, and if you see a marriage that is failing, then that's a result of neglect. Those people are living out that simple statement that says marriage is like a three-ringed circus, engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering. But it doesn't have to be that way.
So I wanna talk about how to do marriage right. Marriage God's way, he shows us how to do it in scripture, but I think each generation thinks maybe they can improve upon marriage and do it their own way. I read about a survey of millennials that found that 43% would support a beta-marriage model, which means testing relationships for two years before deciding to commit or dissolve. Thirty-six percent back what is called the real-estate marriage model, in which couples commit to a set period of time and at the end renegotiate and decide if they want to remain married. There's a word for that, stupid. And I can tell you, it's not going to work. Listen, people think, "Let's live together before we get married. That'll be a good way to find out if we're really compatible". No, that will be a really good way to sabotage your potential marriage.
Stats have shown that couples who live together are gambling and losing, as 85% of the cases end up in divorce. A trial divorce is more what you're headed to, with eight out of ten couples who live together before marriage end up breaking up before the wedding or afterwards in divorce. Listen, marriage is a complete commitment. If you're not willing to make that commitment, stay single. Do us all a favor. Wedlock should be a padlock, and I wish we could strike this word "divorce" that is used so flippantly from our vocabulary altogether. Listen, the Bible tells you how to have a strong and lasting marriage. We ignore it at our own peril. So let's look at what the scripture says. Ephesians 5, verse 31, "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless, let each one of you in particular so love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband".
So, here's point number one, if you're taking notes. God created marriage. God created marriage. Adam didn't think of marriage. God did. Creating a mate for Adam was not his idea. It was God's idea. Before God created the church, before God created the state, before he created the school, God created marriage, and that tells us something, which is marriage is the very foundation of the family, and the family is the foundation of the nation. As marriage goes, so goes the family. As the family goes, so goes the nation, and that is why our nation is having so many troubles today, literally, because of the breakdown of the family.
As I've said before, and I could bombard you with statistics to prove this point, but as I've said before, you can take almost any social ill today, be it violent crime, be it other things that are happening in our culture, and you can trace it to the breakdown of the home. You see, Satan hates marriage, why? Because Satan hates what God loves. God established marriage. You know, it's worth noting, the devil doesn't even show up on the book of Genesis until after God created Eve. I'm not blaming Eve. I'm just saying once God says, "Okay, man, woman together," Satan says, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on here. I don't like this one bit," because he sees what it can become, and he wants to destroy it and undermine it. If we want marriage to succeed, we must do it God's way.
So number two, to have a marriage that works, it requires you to do two essential things, two essential things. They are leave and cleave. The purpose of marriage can be summed up in those words, leave and cleave. Verse 5, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh". The Hebrew word for cleave is translated abandoned, so the idea is to abandon ship. The man must abandon the ship of his parents, and the daughter the same. The two of them now have their own little ship, or maybe it's just a little boat, and that's called marriage. That's a new family.
So a successful and lasting marriage begins with a leaving. In effect, you're leaving all other relationships. The closest relationship outside of marriage is specified here, that of a son to his parents, meaning it's necessary to leave your father, mother, and also lesser ties must be broken, changed, or left behind. Now, that doesn't mean you're no longer a sibling or a son or a daughter, but it means that this new family, the union of the man and the woman, takes precedence over everything else. The primary responsibility now of the husband is to the wife and of the wife to the husband and of the parents to the children. Leaving means other relationships have a lesser degree of importance. You can still have friends, but now it's different 'cause you're a married man. You're a married woman.
So you leave and you cleave, the word cleave means to glue or to cling. It's something that you're holding on to, sort of like if you're scaling up the side of a cliff. You're holding on for dear life. I've watched these videos of people climbing with their little hammers and, you know, dink, dink, dink, and they swing over. It's insane, right? But you're hanging on. That's the idea. You're glued together. So you leave and cleave. You sever and bond. You loosen and secure. You depart from and you attach to. Listen to this, your spouse should be your best friend, your spouse, not someone else. There's a key verse that emphasizes the importance of friendship between spouses. Malachi 2:13 says, "The Lord has been witnessed between you and the wife of your youth to whom you have been faithless, although she is your companion and wife". Interesting.
So, basically, God is saying your wife should be your companion, and that means one you are united with in thoughts, goals, plans, and efforts. Are you united, husbands, with your wives in thoughts, goals, plans, and efforts? How well do you know your wife? If you don't get this right, it can hinder your prayer life, husbands, because 1 Peter 3:7 says, "Husbands, do well with your wife according to understanding. Give honor to the wife as to the weaker vessel as being heirs together of the grace of life so your prayers will not be hindered". So maybe I'm talking to a husband right now that feels like his prayers aren't going any higher than the ceiling, and I wonder, are you honoring your wife? Are you loving your wife?
Point number three, men hold the key to a happy and working marriage. Men hold the key to a working and happy marriage. Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holding him without blemish". Listen, so husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Now, it's worth noting that in Ephesians 5 that Paul has a lot more to say to the husbands than he does to the wives. It does not mean that the wives don't need to do their part and pay attention, but it is to say that if you count of the verses, Paul has three times more to say to a husband than a wife.
So, gentlemen, start your engines. It's time for you to take point. You are to love your wife as Christ loves the church. "That's easy". No, it is not. A tall order. I'll tell you how we can do this in a few moments, but here's a simple test to know whether or not you love your wife as you ought to. Do you love her enough not to just live for her but to die for her and die to you? Listen. Die to you, not just die for her. "I'd die for my wife". Yeah okay, you probably would. Maybe not every husband. Somewhat. But would you die to yourself? If you wanna love your wife, you've got to die for what you want out of the marriage and start living for what you can give to the marriage.
Let me say that again. If you wanna love your wife as you ought to, you've got to die for what you want out of the marriage and start living for what you can give to the marriage. Listen, marriage is not so much finding the right person as much as it is being the right person. I'd like to say to husbands and wives, stop reading each other's mail. Don't quote versus to your husband about what he's supposed to do, or to the wife about what she's supposed to do. Read your own mail, and do what God tells you to do.
So think about this, husbands, if you'll just take point, take the initiative and lead and love your wife as Christ loves the church, she will respond. I mean, why are we Christians right now? Why do you and I and all of us together believe in Jesus. The Bible says we love him because what? You got it. We love him because he first loved us. We responded to his love. His love won us over. His love broke through. Now we love him. In the same way the husband says, "I'm gonna love this woman. I'm gonna make her my priority. I'm gonna, to the best of my ability, and I know I'll fail, but seek to love her as Christ loves the church". You don't think she's gonna respond? Hey, you treat her like a thoroughbred, and she won't end up as a nag. I know that'll offend someone. "Women are not horses". Okay, whatever, but you get my point, right? Love her as she needs to be loved, as she deserves to be loved.
Point number four, doing marriage right requires constant communication. You know, a poll was taken among those who were divorced, and they asked them to say why they thought their marriage fell apart, and 86% said deficient communication. You need to learn how to bend, compromise, resolve, and forgive. When's the last time you told your wife that you love her, husbands, actually verbalized it, said it to her? Can you remember? You know, sometimes it's said women are more emotional than men. I don't think that's true. It's also said women don't park well. That is true. But no, but men are just as emotional as women. They just express it differently. You girls, you just do a better job with it.
You know, girls, we're mystified by the way girls communicate 'cause you can have four girls talking over each other and somehow being understood. We're like, "What's happening"? You know, a guy talks to a guy and is like, "How you doing"? "Good, how about you"? "All right, man". Very simple to understand. Girls, it's like it's mystical to us, and then they all go to the bathroom together in a restaurant. Guys would never do that. Guy would never say, "Going to the bathroom, wanna come"? Hey, if we see a guy in the bathroom, it's awkward. "Oh, hey, whoa, okay". But we feel the emotion. We think those thoughts. You don't think we think. We actually do think them. We'll look at our wife and say, "She's so beautiful today. Oh, I loved that. That was a great meal". But we won't say it, we'll think it. We expect her to read our minds. So you need to verbalize it.
Proverbs 31 says, "Her children rise up and call her blessed". By the way, kids, it's good to tell your mother you love her and appreciate her and call her blessed, but then it goes on to say, "And her husband also and praises her". He praises her. Brag on your wives, husbands, in front of your kids, how wonderful this woman is. Brag on her to other people. Never criticize your spouse publicly. What if they do something wrong? Learn the art of kicking them under the table. That's no open criticism. You deal with that later. You praise each other, and the same is true for the wife.
Number five, doing marriage right comes back to a commitment you reaffirm every day. Doing marriage right comes back to a commitment you reaffirm every day. Every marriage has its share of problems and challenges. You and your wife will change with the passing of time. Do your wives ever feel like you dated Dr. Jekyll and married Mr. Hyde? Do your husbands feel like you went to bed with Sleeping Beauty and woke up with a wicked witch of the west? Like, what happened?
There's actually an old Arab proverb that says this, quote, "Marriage begins with a prince kissing an angel and ends up with a bald-headed man looking across the table at a fat lady". Oh, brutal. It's true for our marriage, not my wife's part, but she ended up with a bald man, didn't she? But we changed. You know, things happen, but it's that commitment that we have made. Dating reveals the best of you. Marriage reveals the worst of you. All spouses are going to disagree. "Well, we just disagree all the time. We have irreconcilable differences". Oh, please. As I've said so many times, I've had irreconcilable differences with my wife for almost 50 years, and she with me. Listen, you need to press on. You can get through it because the best is yet to come.
"Well, how do you know that, Greg"? Listen to this. A study was done in couples who said they were having conflict but decided to stay together. Two-thirds of the unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported their marriages were happy five years later. Most striking, long-term studies demonstrate that two-thirds of those unhappy marriages out there will become happy within five years if the people stay married and don't get divorced. So just hang in there. No, fairytale marriages are not possible, but biblical, blessed, successful marriages are, but you need to apply effort and tend that garden and maintain and tune up that car and give attention to your spouse.
Last point, number six, I need the power of the Holy Spirit to be a good spouse, amen? I need, you need, we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Before Paul says to husbands "Love your wife as Christ loves the church," before Paul says, "Wives submit unto your husbands and respect your husbands," he says this in Ephesians 5, verse 18. "Don't be drunk with wine, because it will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs and making music in your heart to the Lord, and give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ," don't miss this verse, "and further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ".
The filling of the Holy Spirit will empower you to be a godly spouse. I cannot love my wife as Christ loves the church in my own strength. Ladies, you cannot submit to and respect your husband as you ought to without the help of the Holy Spirit. God will give you this power to put the needs of your mate first, and listen, we overly mystify the filling of the Holy Spirit, even the way we talk about it, "And you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit". Okay, whatever. I don't think it's that complex. You can be laying in bed in the morning and say, "Lord, just fill me with the Holy Spirit. Help me to be a more godly husband, a more godly wife, a more godly parent, a more godly single person. Lord, help me to be a godly man or woman". And if you're a Spirit-filled person, you will be a submitting person.
Oh, we don't like that word submit, do we? We hate it because we think it speaks of subservience and slavery, but that's not the proper understanding. We're thinking culturally, not biblically. Let me put it another way. If you're Spirit-filled, you'll think of others more than yourself. Here's the problem. I walk in the marriage, and I say, "How are you gonna fulfill me? How are you gonna make me happy? What are you gonna do for me? What have you done for me lately"? to quote a song title. "It's all about me. It's you doing this for me". And then the other person has the same attitude. "What are you gonna do for me"? Well, in time, we conflict, and the marriage falls apart because of selfishness, so if you want a successful marriage, you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and live a life of selflessness.
That's what Paul is saying. Submit to one another in the reverence of God. Before a single word is said to a wife about respecting and submitting to her husband, before a word is said about husbands loving his wife, Paul says submit to one another, and the word submit means put the other's needs first. It's not about superiority or inferiority. It's about sacrifice. Another way to translate it is supporting one another in the reverence of God. I want you to be the best version of you that you can be. I'm your biggest cheerleader. I'm in your corner, wife, husband. I'll tell you the truth when no one else will, but I also want to encourage you and help you be the man or the woman that God has created you to be. We have to find our place, and again, as I said earlier, stop reading each other's mail.