I want to preach to you about an arm and a leg, and you say, “What is that about?” Well, I heard a story of a young man one time, that desired to get married, and that's a good thing. And so he went out and he found a young girl, and he brought her home and introduced her to his mother, and his mother said, “I don't like her.” So he went out and she didn’t like the next one. And finally, the fifth girl that he brought home looked very similar to his mother. Talked like his mother, and she dressed like his mother. Acted very similar, and he brought her home, and his dad couldn't stand her. I don't know what that says, but Barbara Bush said, “Success does not depend on what happens in the White House. It depends on what happens in your house.” And that's true.
I want to read you a statement from My Life Today. “A house with love in it, where love is expressed in words and looks and deeds, is a place where angels love to manifest their presence.”[MLT-84] That's a beautiful statement. Do the angels enjoy being in your house? Do they wear earplugs? Do they enjoy what happens within your walls? How are things? I'm not aware of whether your marriage was made in heaven or not. I don't really know that, but I do know that 100 percent of the maintenance work has to be done right here on the job. On the spot. On site. Some couples have enjoyed 50, 60 years of happy marriage and others may be thinking that they married a lemon. Your marriage is in the repair shop more than it is at home, and you wish that your lemon would be recalled by the manufacturer, but it doesn't happen.
Marriage undergoes a lot of changes. Change is imminent. It's inevitable. There are many changes in marriage that are taking place. One couple, she said, “We never communicate anymore.” He said, “What do you mean? I text you a message. Didn't you get it? You didn’t fax me back.” We have more and more tools than ever before to communicate. Let’s use them, whatever it takes.
God never changes. Lamentations chapter 3, verse 23. “For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness.” God never changes, but times do change and we have to do things to maintain our marriage. We can always depend on God's faithfulness. Can your spouse depend on your faithfulness? That's the question. God's love is always there for us. It's always there for our marriage. He united you together and He will do the maintenance work if you will allow Him to do that.
There are many changes in marriage. One that I would like to talk about are role changes. We’re used to the wife doing this and the husband doing this, but so often today that begins to bleed across and it's not a clear distinction anymore. Marriage is more democratic, more flexible in today's day and age. Many men even run the vacuum cleaner. Some men do most of the cooking. I called one home last week. I won’t tell you who it was, of course, but the man answered the phone and he said, “Merritt's houseboy.” I said, “Why did you do that, Clar...” or whatever his name was. He said, “Well, I am. I'm cooking right now.”
Families have wheels under them. We move. We move about every six to eight years, on the average, here in America. Because of employment or family needs. Health needs. Retirement. Whatever. The kids move, we move. Don’t ever follow your kids, cause they’re going to move and move and move.
Number two. There are uninvited changes in marriage. Illness comes. What do you do? You marry for in sickness and in health, but you hope it’ll be health, but sometimes it doesn't always happen. There are financial troubles. My 401(k) lost about 5 thousand dollars over the last 3 months. I pity the person that lost 2 hundred and 50 thousand dollars. Often couples who file for bankruptcy also file for divorce, so manage the money if you can. Keep your job. If you have a good job be fireproof. Do your work.
Number three, there are normal changes in marriage, and let's look at several of the stages of marriage. Several of the seasons of a married life.
Number one is the beginning stage. That's the honeymoon stage. You just got married. You get acquainted with each other. She's a doll. He's so handsome, and they make mutual friends together. They merge 2 individuals into 1 couple. They merge their careers. They begin their careers. They negotiate guidelines. It's the honeymoon stage. It's a great stage.
Number two is the children stage, where you have preschoolers at home and there you have diapers to contend with, and praise the Lord you don't have to contend with cloth diapers like my wife did. That's a horrible time. We’ll go on to another subject.
Number three. The school family. Renegotiating workloads. Who’s going to provide transportation back and forth to school? Who’s going to help with the homework and who's going to, how are we going to pay all this tuition, and there are all kinds of challenges with that.
Then you enter the teenage years and some people would just as soon skip this one. Who is in charge and what about all those rules we had? Do any of those rules exist anymore? And what about dating and temptations and challenges and trying to deal with their friends and their problems, and trying to deal with their haircuts and their music and their hardware and their tattoos that they want to get.
Then you have the empty nest stage. The kids graduate. They get married. They split up into various segments of America. Some live here. Some live over there.
And then, “Dad, I need some money.” The assistance stage. Dealing with your son-in-law. Dealing with your daughter-in-law. Having an older single adult child that's still in the nest and appears to be anchored to the thing. When is he ever going to move out? And wishing the nest was empty, and when are they going to move all their stuff out of our house? Wishing that.
Then there's the post-parental family. Now that the 2 of you are home alone, what do you do? You sit there and stare at each other all day. Got to find something, got to get out of this house, and you negotiate brand-new marital relationships. You negotiate your time and your work schedules and adjust to retirement and adjust to all that money and to the honeydew lists.
And for a marriage to endure all of these changes you need stability. You need God's blessing and you know how you get God's blessing? Obedience. We don't earn salvation by obedience, but you get God's blessing by obedience. Obedience unlocks God's storehouse of blessings.
In Numbers 36, if you would care to come there in your Bible, there is an interesting story. Take the example of Zelophehad’s daughters. Have you ever heard of Zelophehad? I'm glad my name is not that. In numbers 36 they were instructed that marriage is to be kept within certain legal boundaries and you can read this story in Numbers 27, in these 2 chapters. All four girls went to God's church. They consulted with the leaders of the church to find God's will and I believe they followed God's will. These noble women sought the instructions of God concerning their future, and they did not look for a husband outside of God's parameters. They obeyed God, and I think He richly blessed them, and if you need God's blessings in your home then you need to obey God. You need to put God first and then have patience that God will answer your needs.
If I were to ask you how many marriages fail because of divorce, you would give me that statistic, wouldn't you? It’s 50 percent. 50 percent. One out of every 2 marriages fail. More than 3 thousand children and teenagers every day see their parent’s marriage split up.[warm2kids.com]
But there is good news, and I sought for this and I found it, and other research has been done and if you are a true born-again Christian, and you marry another true born-again Christian, and you are from the same church, the same denomination, and you received premarital counseling and you attend church regularly together and you pray regularly every day together, that that type of a couple experience 1 divorce out of every, nearly 39 thousand marriages. That’s a lot, and I've got the reference on the website.[Dr. Tom Ellis, chairman of the SBC’s Council on the Family]
Ephesians chapter 5 and verse 25 gives us the example of how this could happen. Ephesians 5:25. Let me read it to you. It says, “Husbands,” and a lot of this is on the shoulders of the husband, “love your wives.” Now this doesn’t mean for you as a husband to love your wives. This is saying, “Husbands, love your wives,” if I'm pronouncing it correctly, “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy.” That's beautiful, isn't it? You have the same love that Jesus had for the church for your wife and watch what will happen. If you both are active in the same faith, if you're both active in your religion at home and you both are involved in your community and you both pray together, you study the Bible, you have a Christian home, you’re active in the church, you’re going to stand an exceedingly high chance of marital happiness. You want your marriage to be fireproof, don't you. It will be if Jesus is in the hearts of both people. So begin your marriage right.
I would like for you to come to Deuteronomy, chapter 24. I doubt if one of you has done this, and I'm going to ask you to raise your hand after we read this verse. Deuteronomy 24, and I want us to look at verse 5. “When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business. He shall be” what? “Free at home,” for how long? “For one year.” To do what? What does it say he should do? “To make his wife happy.” To make his wife happy. Never forget your goal. Your goal is to make your wife happy. That's your goal. In fact both of you need to have that goal, to make each other happy. In most marriages there will come a time of disillusionment and disappointment. You think, “Do I even know this person I married? This is awful. Why did I do this?”
But you know I'm going to tell you a secret to a great marriage. Stick it out. Make the discovery of who you did marry. Discover who they are. You learn to love that person. Communicate together. Look at Genesis, chapter 2. Adam and Eve did it bad. Verse 22. “The Lord God made a woman from the rib that He had taken out of the man. He brought her to the man and the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called Woman because she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united, or cleave, to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” How long did Adam and Eve's marriage last before they fell into sin? Well, several people have asked me that question and I don't know. It's not in the Bible, that I can tell. I think it might've only been just a few weeks. Not long at all, and they fell, she ate the apple or whatever was, and they sinned. In the short time they both sinned, and the first thing they tried to do after they sinned was to cover up their differences. They got some fig leaves and tried to cover the very things that made them different from each other, and it is our differences, sometimes, that attract us, and as soon as we are married we start to change each other. The goal of many a wife, or many a husband, “If I could just change him or her.” Don't try to change each other. If you want to change somebody, change yourself. Don't try to make him just like yourself. You don't need 2 of you. You don't need 2 people that think identical. Trying to change your spouse is a major cause of pain. Differences can be creative. So don't squelch the differences. Celebrate the God-given differences.
Look at Hebrews, chapter 13 in your Bible. Hebrews chapter 13 and verse 4. “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer, and all the sexually immoral.” You need to keep your love pure, and to do that you need to keep your eyes pure. You need to keep your body pure. You need to keep your hands pure, your speech pure. Make sure your speech is soft and tender. Honor each other.
First Corinthians chapter 13. Our scripture reading describes love by describing what it isn't. “It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.” All these negatives describing what love is, and finally it gets into verse 6. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.” So don't get in a rut. Openness is essentially a willingness to try something different.
There was a man who purchased a radio one time. He brought it home. He put it on top of the refrigerator. He tuned it in to WSM. Got it tuned in perfectly. Set the volume. Pulled all the knobs off the radio and threw them in the stove. He had tuned in the only station he ever wanted to hear. Some marriages are kind of like that rut. They're rather dreary, because either one or both have stopped growing. They have stopped expecting. Stopped hoping. Stay open, and the newness of marriage will continue to be new for you. Adapt. Be flexible. Change together. Grow together. Keep your marriage fresh.
Now there's a price to commitment. It may cost an arm and a leg, and that's the title of the sermon. One day in the garden of Eden, Adam said to God, “I'm lonely. I don't have, all these animals have a companion and I don't have anybody,” and God said, “Okay. I'm going to give you the perfect woman. She'll be beautiful, intelligent, gracious. She'll cook for you. She'll clean for you. She will never say a cross word,” and Adam said, “Well that sounds good to me. What will it cost me?” And God said, “An arm and a leg.” And Adam said, “What can I get for just a rib?” He got Eve. Well, be committed to your wife.
Malachi, chapter 2, right before the book of Matthew, gives us the secret. In fact, God attended your wedding, according to Malachi chapter 2. Look at the next-to-the-last page in the Old Testament. Verse 14. Malachi 2:14. “You cry out, ‘Why has the Lord abandoned us?’ I'll tell you why. Because the Lord witnessed the vows that you and your wife made.” God hears the vows that you make at your wedding. He witnessed the vows that you made on your wedding day, when you were young. “But you have been disloyal to her, though she remained your faithful companion, the wife of your marriage vows.” The wife of your youth, you were disloyal to her. Gentlemen, be loyal to your wife. Give all you have and a good marriage will be the result.
J. Paul Getty, who I am told is one of my relatives. I've never met him. Don't know anything about him. He once said, “I would give my entire fortune for one good marriage.” I don't know as he ever got it. You can't buy happiness. That's not the way that you can do it. You must be willing to give yourself. Not your money. Not your possessions. Give yourself. You will get the best if you give the best.
A happy man marries the girl he loves, but I'll tell you, a happier man loves the girl that he married. Love your wife. You need to come at marriage with a good attitude. You need to keep positive. Growth is going to happen and that growth needs to happen with you. You be the right person. You control yourself. Allow Jesus Christ time to develop your home into a mature place of fulfillment and happiness, and He will.
First Corinthians 13 verse 8 says, “Love never fails.” You need to allow the love of Jesus to come into your heart and make you what you ought to be. You see, marriage is not really a contract that God wants broken. It's a commitment for you to keep, Zig Ziglar said, “I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person, but I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make their marriage happy and successful. I'd be the first to admit that it is possible that you did marry the wrong person. However, if you are committed to the wrong person and you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. On the other hand, if you marry the right person and you treat that person wrong, you certainly will have ended up marrying the wrong person. I also know that it's far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right kind of person.” You need to focus on what you are and not what they aren't. So in short, whether you marry the right person or the wrong person is primarily up to you and your commitment.
Allow me to illustrate unconditional love. There are a lot of people today that are losing their jobs. I heard down in Dalton, Georgia that the Tecumseh engine plant went out. I heard that a carpet mill is shutting down an area. A lot of people are losing jobs out there, and there was this man who needed more money. And so he told his wife, “On Friday I'm going to go, and I'm going to ask for a raise. We need it.” Friday came. He met with his boss and the boss agreed. “You deserve a raise. You've worked hard here, you been a faithful, long-time employee. I'm going to give you more than you asked for,” and he gave him a big raise. Well the man just went home so happy, and when he got home he entered his house, and his wife had the best china on the table. She had candles burning. The best silverware was out. The aroma in the home was beautiful. It smelled so good and he thought, “They must have called her and told her the good news.” But she didn't know. And so he sat down and he told her the news and they had a terrific meal, and beside his plate was a beautifully lettered note from his wife which read, “Congratulations darling. I knew you would get the raise. I love you.”
After the meal was over she got up to go into the kitchen and get dessert and as she got up another note fell out of her pocket, and he bent over and picked it up, and he read it and it said, “Don't worry about not getting the raise. You deserved it. I still love you very much.” That is unconditional commitment. “I love you whether or not. It's okay.” If you have that type of love for your spouse, you will have a great marriage, eventually, so hang in there. Don't leave the marriage that you have. Does your marriage have the advantage of that commitment? Are you willing to give an arm and a leg and a backbone and a rib or whatever it takes to have a good marriage? To become the right person? I'm not talking about changing them. I'm talking about you changing yourself. You being the right person.
You know with Jesus in your heart your lemon will become lemonade. You'll have a wonderful and a happy home, and God can give that to you. You be the right kind of person, and Jesus will help you to do that.
Let's sing our closing hymn. Happy The Home Where God Is.
Hymn of Praise: #30 Holy God, We Praise Your Name Scripture: 1 Corinthians 3:4-7 Hymn of Response: #655 Happy the Home
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 11/9/08