Matt Hagee - Labor of Love, Part 1
The Bible is a book of signs and wonders. And when God did miracles through his son Jesus Christ here on earth, what it did was it made cynical people into saints. The doubters, who saw Lazarus come out of a grave, no longer doubted that Jesus Christ had the power over death. They just saw it and suddenly they believed. One of the problems that we have in our modern context is that we believe that when those who are lame begin to walk, that's a miracle. When those who are blind can see, that's a miracle. When the dead come back to life, that's a miracle. And indeed they are, but those are not the only miracles that God does.
Here in this sanctuary, there are miracle marriages that the enemy had on the brink of divorce. But God walked in and resurrected dead things and brought new life where there was no hope. Here in this sanctuary, there are testimonies of individuals who were so crippled and so hindered in their relationships that when they came into the presence of the Lord, only he could fix what the hands of others had tried to destroy. What I'm telling you is, if we could line up wheelchairs and say that the individuals who were sitting in these are now walking out of the sanctuary, the saints would shout for joy. But what would we do if we began to celebrate restored relationships and renewed marriages just like we did the miracles of healing in other cases?
God wants to do a miracle in your house. God wants to fix what the enemy is trying to destroy. God wants to break every chain that is in any way hindering your home. God wants your children and your grandchildren and your great grandchildren to live in the generational blessings that he wishes to pour out through his power, through his word, through his Holy Spirit. And what I want you to do today is have enough faith to believe that if God can do the miracles in the New Testament, he can do a miracle in your marriage today! But that miracle requires something from you, work. You don't get to outsource this one. You've got to be an active part of it.
This is what the Bible says, "This is my commandment", that's Jesus, "Love one another", say that with me, "Love one another", and then he qualifies it, "As I have loved you". Now there's your standard. How did he love you? How many of you are glad that Jesus loved you when you weren't really lovable? You see, the currency of the kingdom is love. What did the Old Testament say? "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind, with all of your strength". The New Testament adds to it, "And love your neighbor as yourself". In 1 Corinthians 13, in it you read, it doesn't matter how intellectually astute you are. It doesn't matter how financially rich you are. It doesn't matter how much you possess.
Without love, you're broke, as far as the kingdom is concerned. Kingdom currency is love. And if you're going to restore your relationship in your marriage, it's going to require a labor of love done in God's grace and by his mercy. If you're going to have a good marriage, it's going to take good work. It's going to take the kind of work that shows how much you care. And right now, whether you know it or not, you are engaged in effort. The question is, is it good work or is it just work? Are you building up or you tearing down? Are you encouraging or you discouraging? Are you bringing unity where God commands a blessing? Are you building trust? Are you bringing division?
If you're going to have the kind of relationship that God wants you to have, you're going to have to commit yourself to doing good work. And you need to understand that that work is going to be met with resistance. It's not easy. The reason it's met with resistance is because everything that God wants to bless you with, the devil wants to deprive you of. This is what Jesus said, "I have come to give you life more abundantly. But the thief has come to kill, to steal and destroy". Your abundant life does not fully become what it can be until God brings a spouse in it. How do you know that God wanted your life to be with them in it? Because God created man. And then right after he created him, he said, it is not good for this guy to be alone.
That's one of the biggest things that jump out at me in creation. I was looking for the right word. But here's why: God creates the sun. He says, "It's good". God creates the earth. He says, "It's good". He creates water. He says, "It's good". He creates fish. He says, "It's good". He creates land. He says, "It's good". He creates man. He says, uh-oh. We can't leave this guy unsupervised. That's not really what it says. If you've read your Bible, you'd know. He didn't create the spouse for supervision. He created it for partnership. He said, "It's not good that he's alone". We need a compliment. We need to have someone that he can share his life with. At that moment, Adam was the king of the world. He was the only guy on the earth. But he couldn't enjoy his kingdom because he had no queen to compliment him. He had no one to enjoy his success and all of the things that he had in it.
So the thing that God wants to give you is someone that you can enjoy the abundance of his blessings with. But as soon as that person comes into your life, you need to know that there is an enemy who wants to rob, to kill, and to steal that relationship. And so it's going to take a labor of love, in which you engage on a very intentional basis to make sure that the walls of your marriage and the gates and the boundaries don't ever get destroyed. This is where Nehemiah comes into our story. Because while Nehemiah is not considered the love doctor of the Bible, he did rebuild what had been destroyed. If the nation is strong, it's because the church is strong. And if the church is strong, it's because there is Bible teaching in the pulpit and there are strong families applying the Word of God at home.
If those things happen, then you fulfill what the Bible calls in 1 Timothy, "The pillar and the ground of truth". And if we're going to save this nation, then the first thing we need to do is save the family. And that requires commitment. And commitment is not convenient. Everything that you're committed to, at some point or another, is going to require a measure of inconvenience. And until you are willing to be inconvenienced by your marriage for the purpose of keeping your commitment, it's not going to work. The national center for health and statistics said only 50% of marriages today are going to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Why? Not because in two decades they tried everything. But because in order for the marriage to be improved, they would have to do more work to rebuild it than they would to start over.
You see, Nehemiah didn't go out and look at the walls of Jerusalem, and say, "This is hopeless. We can't do anything. Let's go start a new town". He said, no, this is my town. I'm going to rebuild it. Likewise, when you're marriage is in disarray, don't look at the rubble that's there and decide it would just be easier to quit and start over: you start right where God left you. Because that's the place he's going to bless you. Nehemiah shared some very important principles. But the first is he made a commitment to doing good work.
The next principle that we see in Nehemiah is that before construction began, he got a permit. Now how does this apply to marriage? Before marriage begins, you need a permit. There's a lot of people that want to practice marriage without permits. Right now, the university of Texas just printed a study that said that 60% of people under 24 are sharing an address but they're not married. Now it said, when they get married, within a year from the time that they're married, they get a divorce by 40%. The remaining 20 don't stay together for three years. Why? When you cohabitate with somebody, you are living with them for your selfish needs. When you're in covenant with somebody, you have killed your desire to take care of their needs. One is self-sacrifice. The other is selfishness.
Nehemiah hears about the condition of the walls of Jerusalem, and he goes before king Artaxerxes. And king Artaxerxes sees his fallen face, and he says, "What's the matter"? And he says, "My city's torn down". He says, "What do you want"? He says, "I want a permit to rebuild it". The message is clear. Before you get married, you need a permit. So young man, what does that mean? That means that you need to ask her father or her spiritual authority for permission to marry her.
The other thing that you need is the materials. Nehemiah asked Xerxes for a permit so that he could show it to anyone who asked, "By what right are you rebuilding the walls"? And then he asked him for another permit so that he could go to the forest and get the materials that he needed for the rebuild. Once you have permission from the family, you need to get connected with a church that can give you the materials that are going to be required for you to build a strong family. Why? Because the Bible says, "Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it". If you're working on building a family without God at the foundation, everything you're doing is a labor in vain.
Before you start building, before you move in together and start playing house, you have to receive authorization from the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Why? Because he created you and he created the person you want to spend your life with. You're not in charge of yourself! You didn't create the world! He created you! Nehemiah got a permit from the king, and he didn't look at the king, and say, "Thank you for the permit. Now will you find someone else to do the work"? All too often, when we want something fixed in our lives, not only do we get the permit, but we want to outsource the work. Who can I find to fix this for me? There's nobody who can fix your family: that's your job. Some of the work needs to be done in the area of communication.
How many of you have found that it's difficult to communicate with your spouse? One of the reasons why it's difficult to communicate with your spouse is because you are either a male, which makes her a female. This is one of the principles of biblical marriage. Or she is a female and you are a male. And what I have learned is that males do not speak female, and females do not speak male, and there is no Rosetta stone course that you can take to figure it out. For example, females use terms like, "Honey, can you pick up that thing over there"? What thing? Where? And where should I take it? You see, men are very literal creatures. That thing is nothing specific. But in the female mind, she knows exactly where it is. She knows exactly what it needs to do. And she knows that she's told you exactly how to put your hands on it.
Communication is tough. And because it requires work, do you know what most people do? They quit communicating. There's a study that came out in the U.K., as they looked at relationships and conversations. And they noticed that whenever people were dating, if they spent an hour together, they spent 50 minutes of the hour looking at each other in conversation. If they were married, they spent ten minutes of the hour looking at each other in conversation, and the rest of the time, they were distracted. Why? Because it's easier to quit trying, than it is to do the work of continuing to communicate. When you sit with your spouse, she needs to know that you need her and she needs you more than y'all need a wifi signal. Do the work.
Another principle that Nehemiah shares with us, not only did he get a permit, not only was he willing to do the work, but he surveyed the damage privately before he spoke about it publicly. When you read through the book of Nehemiah, in Nehemiah 2:11, it's a principle that you need to understand about every relationship you've got. He surveyed the damage privately before he spoke about it publicly. For three days, he rode around Jerusalem looking at all the things that needed to be fixed. For three days, he assessed the damage and all the things that needed to be corrected. And no one knew why he was there. The reason is because if he would have started talking about what he was there to do, he would have started getting information about what needed to be done first.
If he'd have gone and talked to the priest, the priest would have said, "Well let's start building the temple because that's the most important building in the city". If he would have talked to the Jews, they would have said, "Well let's build the wall around our neighborhood, because we're tired of it looking this way". If he had have talked to somebody else, they'd have said, "No, no, no, no. Start at my house, because my house is the most important house". Instead Nehemiah didn't tell anybody what he was there to do. He just looked at it privately before he started talking about it publicly. In your marriage relationship, there are going to be times when you need to fix some things that are broken.
My advice to you is look at the damage privately before you share it publicly. You need to fix something in your marriage: don't update your Facebook status, "Need advice. First 15 answers get a free shirt". No, bad idea. And the reason is because the longer you begin to look for others and their opinions, the more you lean on their wisdom rather than you recognize that God already has your answer. When Nehemiah looked at the damage, when he began to do the work, he only worked with those he trusted. In your marriage relationship, when you have to fix something that's broken, only work with those you trust. Why? Because the people you trust are the ones who talk to God more than they talk to others. They're the kind of people that want the best for you with nothing in return for themselves.
You know our culture and our society is so steeped in Judeo-Christian values that we do a lot of things and we don't even know why. For example, how many of you had witnesses at your wedding? You had a best man. You had a maid of honor, a matron of honor, you had people standing up there with you. Well, the reason that you did that was because in the Old Testament, when two people would get married, four witnesses were required. And those four witnesses held the corners of a prayer shawl over the bride and over the groom. And their purpose in holding the four corners of the prayer shawl was to stand there as witnesses as to what was going on in that covenant that was being exchanged. The prayer shawl represented the covering of God over their marriage. But these four witnesses holding the corners were individuals who were then commissioned for the rest of the relationship that if the husband wanted out or if the wife wanted out, they said, "No, dude. I stood there, held the corner, heard what you said. You can't get out".
The reason that the walls of Jerusalem were torn down is because for years, there was internal neglect. And then there was an outside offense. You see, for years, the children of Israel, who lived in covenant with God, were told, "Keep the commandments". Deuteronomy 28, "If you will heed my commandments, these blessings will come upon you". We hear them in messages all the time. "You'll be the head, not the tail: above only, not beneath: blessed in your going out, blessed in your coming in, blessed in the fruit of your womb, all of the nations of the earth will see the blessings and they'll rise up and call you blessed".
That's verses 1 through 14. But the verses in the chapter goes on, because in verse 15, God says, "If you do not keep the commandments, these curses will come upon you". "And in those curses," he said, "There will not be a way for you to protect your cities, because your walls will come down and a foreigner will take over your house". And that's what's going on in Nehemiah's generation. The walls of Jerusalem had come down, not just because Babylon tore them down. But for years, they neglected the covenant that they had with a God who promised to protect them. If they would have kept the covenant, then when Babylon showed up, they would have been wiped out just like Egypt. But because they neglected the covenant, when an outside offense came in, it easily decimated the relationship. And it's just like that in your marriage.
Years of internal neglect make it easy for an outside offense to destroy the whole thing. A lot of people want to say, "Well it happened in this one moment". No, it didn't. It happened over time. You say, "Well what was the internal neglect"? Well when you read about it, what you realize is that the people in Jerusalem were going to the temple, and they were keeping the law of Moses. It looked like they were doing the right thing. But when they went home, there were a bunch of little statues on a mantle. So they would go to the temple, and they would say, "Oh God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: maker of heaven and earth, and keeper of the universe, I ask for all these blessings".
And then they'd go home and they'd look at their mantle where they had all these little idols, and they'd say, "And just in case that God can't do it, could you help me, and you help me, and you help me"? You say, "Well pastor, I don't do that". Sure, we do. We come to a church service, and we hear the Word of God, and we consider all of the things that the word says. And rather than apply it in faith believing, Monday morning, we go out and we turn on "The view. Well let's see what they say about marriage". You can't take it by some people who have been married seven times. God says, "My glory, I'll share with no one". So if he has something for your marriage, you need to go to him and ask him. And let him work it out and leave all these outsiders out!
That's the last principle that Nehemiah teaches us. Once he got the walls built, he kicked the outsiders out. Sanballat was his enemy. He's a man in the book of Nehemiah, who doesn't want the wall rebuilt for his own selfish reasons. There will always be people in your life who do not want your marriage to succeed for their on selfish reasons. But here's what Nehemiah says to Sanballat. He says, "The God of heaven will help us". He finally just took the straight approach, "If God is for me, you can't be against me". And then he says, "You have no memorial and you have no remembrance in Jerusalem". That's Old Testament language for, if you can't hack it, get your jacket. I'm here to do what God wants me to do, and I don't care if you like it or not. And you're going to have to take on that kind of attitude when it comes to your household. This is what Joshua did when he said, "As for me and my house, we'll serve the Lord".
We live in a world that's going to say, "Why do you want to spend that time with your wife and children"? Because as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Why do you want to go to church on Sunday? Because as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Why do you sit and read the Bible around your dinner table? Because as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Why do you live the way that you live? Because as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Don't let the opinions of other people become the outsiders that invade the relationship that God has given you until their desire becomes your direction. Kick them out! They have no place in your relationship. We all have work to do.
There are relationship barriers and boundaries that need to be rebuilt for some of us. There are walls that we should put up because the enemy has tried to destroy the family that God has given us. But not only did Nehemiah rebuild walls, he also rehung gates. And the difference between a wall and a gate is that a wall will bring protection, but gates bring provision. You see if you do a good job of monitoring the gates of your city, and you let the right people in, your city will prosper. If you don't monitor the gates of your city, and you let the wrong people in, you'll always have chaos.
And today, I want to encourage you, husbands and wives: I want to encourage you, single people: I want to encourage everyone who's watching, not only to let the Word of God become that hedge of protection that surrounds your relationship, but I want you to open up the gates in your life to God's truth. And I want you to take everything that is disrupting that truth, and put it under arrest, and throw it out of your city. Get it out of your relationship. Open up the gate of God's grace and let out every form of bitterness and unforgiveness.
You say, "Oh, you don't know how offended I am". Open up the gate and let mercy in and let the anger out. Jesus Christ opened up the gates of a kingdom and said all of this is yours. So let the love, and the kindness, and the grace, and the mercy of that kingdom go home with you today. And let God do a miracle work in your marriage. Would you stand right where you are?
Heavenly Father, your word does not return void. And your truth endures to all generations. Our families need your favor today. Our marriages need your strength. Our hearts and our minds need to be anointed that we might walk in the principles of this truth. And let it bring reconciliation where the enemy has tried to destroy. Let it recover what has been stolen. And let the joy and the peace and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be upon all who are willing to hear and do what your word has commanded us today. It's in Jesus' name that we pray and ask these things. And all of God's children said, amen.