How To Build The Right Marriage

Title: How To Build The Right Marriage

Bible Book: Genesis 2 : 18-24

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Love; Marriage; Valentine's Day



Today, as we wind up our study of marriage, I thought you might enjoy hearing some more quotes from children-answers they gave to various questions about matrimony. When asked how best to make marriage work, Alan, age 10 said, “You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.” Alan seems to be displaying chauvinistic tendencies early in life! When asked the same question, how to make marriage work, 10-year-old Ricky advised, “Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck.”

When asked why people fall in love in the first place, 9-year-old Mae said, “No one is sure why it happens, but I heard it has something to do with the way you smell. That’s why perfume and deodorant are so popular.”

When asked what falling in love is like, 9-year-old Bart commented, “It’s like an avalanche where you have to run for you life.” And a 7-year-old little boy named Gary warned, “Love will find you, even if you’re trying to hide from it. I’ve been trying to hide from it since I was five, but the girls keep finding me.”

Another 7-year-old little boy was asked what role good looks play when it comes to finding a mate. He said, “It isn’t always just how you look. Look at me. I’m handsome as anything and I haven’t got anybody to marry me yet.”

And Gavin, age 8, gave this insight into why married couples often hold hands. He said: “They want to make sure their rings don’t fall off because they paid good money for them.”

Gavin’s wisdom brings us to this morning’s question. Here it is: “As husbands and wives, how do we make sure our rings don’t ‘fall off?’” Or to put it another way, “How do we beat the stats that tell us that marriage has a greater than 50% failure rate these days?”

Someone who is obviously not big on matrimony once said that “Marriage is a three-ring circus: the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and then the SUFFERing.” How do you avoid the suffering that ends so many marriages? How do you build a marriage that is mutually fulfilling? How do spouses go about building the right marriage?

This morning I want to use the Bible to point out three foundational principles of marital health, but before I do, I want you to note two things in our text for this morning, things Brian Bill points out in these words from Genesis that record the beginning of the institution of marriage.

a. First, as this text tells us, God designed marriage to meet our core need for COMPANIONSHIP.

God creates Adam, breathes life into him, and puts him in the Garden of Eden to live. Then He says, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Vs 18) These two words, “not good” are important to note because six times in the creation account, after every other major creation event, God looks at what He has done and says, “It is good.” But now, after man’s creation, after making a being in His own image, ironically at this, the highest point in creation, for the first time God says that something is not good. Man has a core need for companionship so God moves to solve this problem by creating a “helper.”

Now, contrary to what ten year old Alan, and many older males think, this word does not mean that a wife is intended to be some form of indentured servant, simply someone to “…keep the chips and dip coming…” for her husband. That’s not the idea at all. In Psalm 46:1 this same Hebrew word is used to describe God Himself. Do you remember the words to that beloved Psalm? “God is our Refuge and Strength-an every present help in time of trouble.”

This Hebrew word for “Helper” doesn’t mean a wife is subservient to the husband. No it literally means someone who supplies what is lacking in another person. In other words, God created Eve to do what Adam could not do by Himself.

It’s not that man is better than woman or woman better than the man, but that each one is inadequate alone. That’s why God designed the marriage relationship. Husband and wife both need each other. I think this explains recent studies showing that only 5% of those over 65 remained “never married” in life. Almost everyone takes at least one shot at marriage because inside we instinctively know it is not good for us to be alone. We are relational beings in need of companionship as much as the air we breathe.

This is seen in Tom Hanks’ character from the movie Castaway, who when stranded alone on a desert island and met his relational needs by befriending a volleyball that he named “Wilson.” If we were stranded alone somewhere like that we’d all be talking to volleyballs or coconuts before long. Each of us need someone to share life with. We need someone to talk to, someone to listen to. We need that one person to whom we always go to first to tell everything. This leads me to a second thing I want you to note in our text.

b. Everything else is a poor substitute for HUMAN companionship.

Remember, after saying it was not good for man to be alone, before He made Eve, God put Adam to work naming the animals. And I think God was doing much more than keeping Adam busy. I think this zoology identification term project was part of Adam’s pre-marital counseling session. Think of it. He named Mr. And Mrs. Aardvark, and Mr. and Mrs. Elephant, and Mr. And Mrs. Llama, and by the time he got around to naming Mr. And Mrs. Zebra he was feeling pretty lonely. He began to hunger for a partner of his own, a being who would be “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.” And, as if to say, “Yes-you understand. You are ready!”, at the height of his loneliness God put Adam to sleep and made woman from one of his ribs and when he awoke verse 22 says, “God brought her to the man.”

What is the first major part of every wedding? Once you have the preliminaries out of the way, once the candles are lit and the mothers and grandmothers are seated, and the bridesmaids and the flower girl have made their appearance. What happens next? The doors are opened and everyone stands and looks back as the father of the bride escorts her down the aisle to her groom. That custom originated here in Genesis. God was the first Father of the Bride and He presented her to Adam, because He knew nothing else in all creation would meet man’s need for companionship. He needed a friend, a helper, a being more like himself. Eve was not made identical to Adam, but different so as to compliment him and vice versa.

I like what Walter Bruggeman says about this, “The woman was created to ‘help’ the man out of his aloneness so that together they could form a community of oneness.” From this text in Genesis then we learn that God planned the human heart for love, marriage, and companionship. Marriage is one of His greatest gifts to us. Think of it, the only thing man brought out of the Garden of Eden was marriage. As someone once put it, “Marriage in a fallen world is truly Holy Matrimony and the only touch of paradise we will ever know this side of heaven.”

With this in mind I want to suggest three thing things that will enable us as spouses to fully appreciate this wonderful gift of God, three foundational principles from the Scripture that will help us build the right kind of marriage relationship, the kind God has intended literally since the dawn of time.

I. First, couples must embrace a Godly COMMITMENT.

And when I say Godly commitment, I mean that both spouses must enter marriage with a mind set that theirs will be a permanent relationship, that this is for keeps, that their marriage is one they will both work on and benefit from literally “’til death do them part.” That’s the kind of commitment God intends in marriage. One of the greatest causes of today’s high divorce rate is this fact that many couples enter marriage believing it to be terminable. They walk the aisles of churches thinking, “If this relationship gets too demanding, I always have an out.” In fact, the whole concept of establishing a permanent bond between a husband and a wife is quickly becoming a foreign thought. “Til death do us part” is, unfortunately, a mere verbal formality to many newlyweds. More and more it is being interpreted, “Till disagreement do us part” or ‘Till other interests do us part.” Thanks to this change of mind-set, the average length of marriage in the U.S. today is 7.2 years which means that many marriages are much shorter than that.

A great example is celebrity marriages. They are notoriously short.

Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman’s marriage lasted only 9 days.
Dennis Hopper and Michelle Phillips-only 8 days
Robin Givens and Svetozar Marinkovic-less than 24 hours.

Perhaps these couples frequented a jewelry store in California where Charles Swindoll says he once saw a sign that said, “We RENT wedding rings.”

If marriage is to be the blessing God intended, this attitude must stop, because no relationship can last if spouses believe they have an out, that there is always the option of quitting when things get tough because things do get tough. As I said a couple weeks ago, when two sinners live under the same roof there’s going to be conflict. There are going to be trying times in any marriage.

This week I came across the following saying that appeared on a church marquee: “The most difficult years are those following the wedding.” They are difficult at times! But spouses must commit from the beginning to work through their difficulties every day of their married lives. Doing so deepens love and increases intimacy!

I’m reminded of the joke about a woman who had been married for seventy years and decided to petition the court for a divorce. The judge asked her, “After all of these years? Why?” She answered, “Look…enough is enough!” Well, couples must never think enough is enough. They must have the mind set that their relationship is a permanent one.

The scripture we read a moment ago from Genesis says that in marriage, husband and wife are “united” to one another. And the Hebrew here for “united” means “to glue or to cling” in a lasting sense. A literal translation would be this: “to meld two separate entities together to form a permanent bond.” This is the way marriage was intended to work. God designed it to be a life-long union between one man and one woman, and if marriage is to succeed brides and grooms must embrace this principle from the beginning.

Years ago I polled several husbands and wives in our church about marriage and as part of that survey Charlie and Louise Brinkman commented, “From Day 1 and every day thereafter, husbands and wives must maintain the attitude that ‘I am in this marriage for keeps.’ Never ever entertain the thought of quitting.”

Frank and Virginia Coffman said that, “In marriage you have made a lifelong commitment and you must do whatever it takes to carry it through.”

Bill and Meredith Jones said if marriage is to succeed both husband and wife must believe that, “Divorce is not an option.”

Younger couples can learn a great deal from these three godly marriages!

During England’s darkest days in the late 1930′s and early 1940′s, Prime Minister Winston Churchill held the country together. While other voices were shouting “Surrender!”, Sir Winston Churchill stood fast. Bombs, devastated entire city blocks, buildings crumbled, bridges fell, but the stubborn Prime Minister refused to budge. Never once did he consider capitulating or even negotiating with the Nazis. He operated on this rather simple rule of thumb when it came to winning a war: “Wars are not won by evacuations!” And he was right. Surrendering is not an option if you plan to win a war, and the same thing is true if you plan to succeed in a marriage. I agree with the San Francisco attorney who said, “There are two processes that must never be started prematurely: embalming and divorce.”

Remember, Jesus said that in marriage God binds two people together so that they become one and that, “…what God has joined together none should separate.” (Matthew 19:6) God did not issue this command to restrict us or to make us miserable. It is just that as the Inventor of marriage, He knows that real love and genuine relational fulfillment exist only in conditions where there is long-term trust and commitment. He knows that our dreams for marriage only become reality within a permanent commitment.

Someone sent me an article in the Washington Post by Abigail Trafford entitled, “In the End Love Prevails.” It’s a great article. Ms. Trafford began her report with the story about Jim and Nell Hamm, a married couple enjoying the golden years of life. Recently, while the couple was on a hike in California a mountain lion attacked Jim. Nell grabbed a log and started hitting the beast and eventually the lion let go of her husband and ran off. When asked about her bravery she said, “We were fighting for his life, and we fought TOGETHER like we’ve done with everything for 50 years now.” Nell went on to list all the benefits they have reaped from their long-term commitment, and Trafford built on her testimony by citing statistics that show that a special blessing waits for marriages that stay together for life.

Studies show that relationships may be tough, but they get better with age and because they do, older couples are happier and more satisfied than younger couples. For example, Laura Carstensen, Director of the Longevity Center at Stanford says, “Long-lasting love GROWS. Even unhappy couples get happier if they manage to stay together.” In short, researchers who investigate later-life marriage have discovered the advantage of age in love. They have found that older people are better at resolving problems and keeping the flame of attachment alive than younger Romeos and Juliets.

Robert Levenson says, “Older couples develop an ability to use positive emotions like affection more effectively, to calm themselves down, to negotiate conflict and regulate emotions when they get into areas of disagreement.” His studies show that older marriages have a reduced potential for conflict and greater potential for pleasure. All this shows the perfection of God’s design because these studies prove that the longer we are married, the better, the more wonderful marriage gets. Browning was right when he wrote, “Grow old with me the best is yet to be!” As the years go by our commitment empowers our love to grow deeper and we are able to draw more strength from our relationship. Spouses who give up don’t know what they are missing! As Trafford put it, “We have something to look forward to as we grow old as spouses. We may not be able to run as fast or hear as well, but we’re better at what matters most: love.”

I’m reminded of another story from the life of Winston Churchill. He was known not only for his courage in WWII but for the tender love that grew between him and his wife. They were married for 55 years and it is said that one day toward the end of his life, someone asked him if he could live his life all over again what would he choose to be. He replied, “Mrs. Churchill’s second husband.”

To succeed in matrimony, to build the right kind of marriage spouses need to embrace this Godly commitment.

II. And then, spouses must also learn to express a Godly LOVE.

There is a very stark difference between God’s caliber of love for us, and the typical love that sinful humans express to each other. Human love is a selfish love. It is oriented toward the lov-er…the one doing the loving. It is a love that is based on a feeling, a feeling that is fueled by whether or not the other person is physically attractive or has a good personality. This, human love is focused around what the other person does for us. Jesus described this brand of love in Luke 6 when He said that sinners, “love those who love them…and do good toward those who do good to them.” (Luke 6:32) The problem with this human caliber of love is that it is not nearly strong enough to withstand the storms that plague any marriage. This is a selfish love and selfish love is a weak love. It’s a love that endures only as long as it’s needs are met.

I’m reminded of the story of a young man, who, after breaking up with his fiancé, realized the error of his ways and wrote her a note saying, “Dearest Marie, No words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you! Yours forever, Jimmy…P.S. Congratulations on winning the lottery!”

To be fair I must also share the story of a young man who was proposing to his girlfriend. He had a ring in his hand and said: “Sweetheart, I love you so much, I want you to marry me. I don’t have a car like Johnny Green. I don’t have a yacht like him or a house as big as his. I don’t have the money Johnny Green does but I love you with all my heart.” She looked into his eyes and said, “I love you too, sweetheart…but could you tell me more about Johnny Green?”

Neither of these relationships are going to last because they are based on selfishness and when you apply this selfish caliber of love to marriage, then when it doesn’t meet your needs, you just quit and find someone who does meet your needs. That is human love. It says, “As long as you stimulate me, as long as I can be proud of you, as long as you’re beautiful, I can love you. If you change, my love for you changes.”

Now divine love, Godly love, is different. Instead of being selfishly based on the one loving: the “lov-er” it, is selflessly based on the one loved, the “lov-ee.”

Let me put it this way. Human love is “Hollywood love.” It’s “R.E.E.L. love.” It is a love that asks, “What can I get?” whereas R.E.A.L. love, asks, “What can I give?” REEL love asks “How do I feel?” REAL love asks “What can I do?” Godly love is seen in a life-long commitment to sacrificial action. It involves willfully focusing not on our needs but on the needs of the other person-even if it is costly to do so.

C. S. Lewis once put it this way, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you love your spouse or not; act as if you did. As soon as you do this, you’ll find that when you behave as if you loved your spouse, you will presently come to love him or her.” Lewis is right because when we commit to acting in love toward our spouse, when we sacrifice, when we put our spouse first we experience a depth of passion that is not found in any other way.

A woman came to a lawyer and said, “I want to get a divorce. I really hate my husband, and I want to hurt him. Give me some advice.” The attorney said, “Look, you’re going to divorce the guy anyway, so for three months don’t criticize him. Speak only well of him. Build him up. Every time he does something nice, commend him for it. Tell him what a great guy he is, and do that for three months. After he thinks that he has your confidence and love, hit him with the news and it will hurt more.” The woman thought, “I can’t go wrong on this. I’m divorcing the guy anyway. Why should I speak badly about him anymore? I’m going to speak only well of him.” So, she complimented her husband for everything he did. For three months she told him what a great man he was. She acted loving toward him every day, and do you know what happened to that relationship? After three months, they forgot about the divorce and went on a second honeymoon! This shows that one of the secrets to success in marriage is learning how not to be a selfish person, learning to be spouse-centered instead of self-centered, learning to love each other in the same way that God loves us. And when both husband and wife obey Scripture and submit to each other in this other-centered focus, a beautiful relationship that is mutually beneficial to both is nourished. No doubt this discovery is what led Bill and Meredith Jones to advise all spouses to, “Put the other mate first, for this will usually come back to you in spades.”

This reminds me of a letter Ann Landers once received that described a couple who had been married for more than 50 years. The husband had spent the last eight years selflessly caring for his wife who had Alzheimer’s. He cooked for her and fed her every bite. He bathed her and dressed her every day all of these years. They had no other family. Listen to the letter she wrote depicting this faithful husband: “I cannot describe the tenderness and love that man shows for his wife. She is unable to recognize anyone, including him. But, I observed him when I parked my car beside his the other day. He sat in his old pickup truck for a few minutes. Before he got out he combed what little hair he had, straightened the threadbare collar of his shirt and looked in the mirror for a final check before going in to see his wife. It was as if he were courting her! They have been partners all these years and have seen each other under all kinds of circumstances, yet he carefully groomed himself before he called on his wife, who wouldn’t even know him. This is an example of the love and commitment the world needs today.” I would agree! Don’t you want to be loved like that!?

You must understand, this other-centered way of living is something that is not possible to maintain on our own human strength and this leads to the third requirement for right marriages, relationships that meet our inborn need for companionship.

III. To build marriage right spouses must rely on Godly POWER.

You see, as Brian Harbour says, “The greatest single cause of difficulty in the home today is lack of spiritual concern. Either purposely or inadvertently, we leave God out of our marriages.”

The fact is, it takes three to make marriage work the way it was intended. Remember? The first husband and wife didn’t start to have problems until they moved away from God. If marriage is to be all God wants it to be, both husband and wife must stay close to God. They each need a growing relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. I’m not suggesting for a moment that people outside the family of God cannot be happily married. Not at all. I know better than that and so do you. But what I am suggesting is that a Christ-centered marriage relationship adds another dimension to the marriage union.

You might compare it to the difference between a black-and-white TV and a Plasma HD television, or an old transistor radio with one speaker-to a home stereo with Sensurround Sound. Couples with an underdeveloped spiritual dimension are like an orchestra without a string section. They make music, but it lacks a fullness and a richness. The plain truth is Christian spouses are able to enjoy a greater depth of intimacy in marriage than spouses who do not know Jesus personally. The music they make together is just not as beautiful as the music made by spouses whose love for each other is not orchestrated by their relationship with God, the Creator of marriage. To make truly beautiful music requires intimacy and intimacy is based on how well we know each other. Over the years Husbands and wives reveal themselves to each other in increasingly vulnerable degrees, and as they do…as they know each other more, their intimacy deepens, and as it does their love for each other deepens and strengthens. Christ-centered couples have the unspeakable privilege of revealing to one another the most sacred dimension of their being, their relationship with Jesus Christ. Because of this, in a very real sense they can know more about each other than other spouses.

Some of the moments in our marriage in which our knowledge of each other has deepened most have come in the times when Sue excitedly shared an insight from Ladies Bible Study or I’ve shared something I learned in sermon prep. Our intimacy is deepened when we see answers to prayer, especially things we’ve prayed about together as a couple. The most important Person in both of our lives is Jesus and so sharing things that deepen our walk with Him, deepens our relationship as husband and wife. It takes it to a depth that couples who don’t invite God in their marriage never experience. The spiritual dimension of our relationship enables us to enlarge our scope of marital intimacy. But there are other reasons marriage is better, right-er when God is central.

A. For example, God gives spouses power to deal with life’s difficulties.

The trials and tribulations of life on a fallen world can sap your strength and a relationship with God gives Christian couples a source of anchoring power that others don’t have.

Engineers say that something is much more strong when you double it. For example when you double a 4 by 4 piece of angle iron, you increase the load 43 times. One piece can hold 2,200 pounds. But when you add another it can bear 96,000 pounds! The same principle is found in marriage. We’re stronger with a helper when it comes to facing life’s challenges, but if both spouses are in a growing relationship with God, that adds a third omnipotent cord. And as Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” God gives husbands and wives power to love and forgive even in the toughest storms of life.

B. A second benefit of Godly power in marriage is Guidance.

People who know Jesus personally and acknowledge Him in their decisions receive wisdom beyond our own feeble means when it comes to the complexities of marriage and life. This is especially beneficial when it comes to raising children. We need help every day in order to make the right decisions, and our Heavenly Father gives it!

C. And last but not least a shared faith prepares spouses for the end of life.

Someday, fifteen, twenty, thirty years from now, one spouse is going to admit the other spouse into a hospital, or worse. Some night one spouse is going to gaze in horror as their life-long companion grabs his chest and starts gasping for breath. And then an ambulance is going to come screaming down the street and take that spouse away. Then, in what seems like just a few minutes, a spouse dressed in black is going to walk away from a grave side with an almost overpowering sense of aloneness. It’s going to happen.

Every marriage eventually experiences this kind of heartbreak because death is part of life. And, in that moment, that widow or widower who knows Christ personally will cry out for the kind of comfort and companionship that only Christ can give, and they’ll get it, because God is indeed an ever present help in times of trouble. Only He equips us to walk through the shadow of the valley of death. When death comes husbands and wives will be so glad that they had a divine companionship unsusceptible to death’s attack, an eternal companionship that extends to the grave and beyond. They’ll be glad they gave their life to Christ and invited Him into their marriage. For all these reasons and more, to build the right marriage requires Godly power.

You may realize that the tough times you have been going through with your spouse are because you have been leaving God out of your marriage. If that’s true then you may need to respond by squeezing your spouse’s hand as if to say, “I want to finish what we have started. I want to grow old with you. In our marriage I want to experience the blessing God intended it to be. I want God to be central in our relationship.” Or, you may be an individual who realizes that you have left God out of your life. Our time together has helped you to see how lonely you are. You want to experience true wholeness, if that is so then I encourage you to talk to God right now, ask Him to cleanse you of your sin and to come into your heart and life. You may be a couple or a family who feel that God is calling you to join this church and get active here as a husband and wife team in the ministry that goes on here.

Any commitment you wish to make public we invite you to do so now, as we stand and sing. Won’t you come now as God leads?

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