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Perspective From The Word of God - Rev. Steward Murphy

I have been asked, “What constitutes a long lasting marriage?” For many persons, the qualifying term long is the focus of the question, but I hear the question as, “What makes a marriage great, and what makes it survive the test of time?”  Because a marriage has been long-lasting, is not in itself proof that it has been a good marriage. Some long marriages have long been dead.

As a Christian, the word marriage is what grasps me from this question, for marriage is a creation of God (Jehovah). Having a true Biblical marriage with your spouse, and Jesus being pleased with your marriage, that makes it good. We, as Christians, need to understand marriage as taught by the Holy Scriptures, and not by our societies and cultures.  Marriage is a concept originated by God and applied to the very first man and woman, Adam and Eve.  God said in Genesis 2:24, “So, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh [person].”

God does not require us to marry, but He is of the opinion that marriage is good. Proverb 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.” (ESV). Also, Proverbs 19:14b tells us that, “a prudent [wise] wife if from the LORD.”

I especially like Proverbs 31:10, “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” (ESV).  The Hebrew word (chayil) translated excellent means strength, power, might (especially warlike), valour; {from GESENIUS}.  This envisions back to Genesis 2:18 when God created Eve as a helper (military aid) for Adam.  An excellent husband is just as valuable and hard to come by.

The good long lasting godly marriage does not just happen.  Genesis 2:15, tells us, “The LORD God took the man [Adam] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep [guard] it.” He created marriage and the Garden of Eden, and as it was with the Garden, marriage also needs work and defending.  

…The World as well as Christianity has many long lasting marriages, and many of the Christian marriages, like the World’s, are carnal (fleshly), based upon natural things that anyone can have in any marriage, even without the Lordship of Jesus. A Christian marriage can be healthy and long lasting, just like a marriage in the World, but it is to excel beyond what non-believers can experience. 

There are many long lasting marriages that are unhealthy. I will list some of the rationales non-Christians have given for continuing their unhealthy marriages. Fear is at the root of a multitude of their reasons, but this will not be a venue to expound on them. The fear of change, the fear of losing the house, car, or financial stability, and the fear of losing their relationship with their children impact some spouses. Often there is the fear of abuse, or for someone who is already abused, the fear of change or uncertainty is even greater.

…There may be financial advantages in staying together such as avoiding pre-nuptials, not paying child support, tax changes, or unfair-alimony. Some more reasons given by partners for not ending long lasting bad marriages are that they are too prideful to admit having made a bad decision to marry in the first place, or not wanting to lose friendships, or avoiding the stigma of a divorce. Also, other known excuses are “happy memories of the good times”, “for the sake of the children”, and “because of religion.”  Believe it or not, some bad marriages continue just because the spouses say that they are simply too lazy for the work that it would take to end it!

I am not here to elaborate on the subject of divorce, or whether or not there are justifiable grounds for or against divorce, for either the Christian or the non-believer.

I have established that just because a marriage is long-lasting, it does not indicate that it is good, healthy, or breathing!  But, I have been asked to write on long lasting marriages with the idea of how to cultivate one, that being a God pleasing blessed marriage that stands the test of time, and everything that is thrown at it.

…There are many things that can be thrown into the pile of what can hurt your marriage. Pretty much the number one thing is you, not your wife (not your husband), but you. In Micah 6:8, the Lord says, “He has declared to you, man [i.e. human being], what is good; and what Jehovah is seeking from you, except to do justice, and to love grace, and to humble yourself to walk with your God.”

I have thought about writing the proverbial book titled, “Humility And How I Obtained It”, but I can sum it up simply with one word, “painfully”.  You can humble yourself, or God can do it for you.  You must humble yourself to walk with Jesus, and with your spouse.  Part of that humbling is for you to consider at times whether or not you are being harmful instead of helpful to your marriage.

…Divorce cannot be an option in your mind for your marriage. Are there biblical justifiable grounds for divorce, yes, but rare. You can read my before mentioned teaching on divorce, but pray that your situation has not turned into one of those situations.

A good friend of mine, when asked about the secret to his long lasting marriage, would respond jokingly with, “We do not believe in divorce, but we do believe in murder!”  This was his way of expressing that divorce was never a consideration in their hearts, because of their Lordship relationship with Jesus Christ. If you think your marriage has an escape-clause, called divorce, then you will not fight for your marriage.

…Are you familiar with the (non-biblical) adage, “A man marries a woman for how she is, and a woman marries a man for what she can change him into”?  All persons are unique, but please look at it in the sense that women and men, wives and husbands, are often different in the ways that they act and think, and a wife is more often like other women and a husband is more often like other men.

Husband, as a man you are more visual oriented and must get over the fact that your wife will not retain her youthful looks. Do not be so fleshly, and take a sobering look in your own mirror more often. Wife, as a woman you are more imaginative, but must give up on the idea that your husband can be turned into a great financial executive if you push him hard enough.

Husbands, more so than wives, are tempted with the sin of pornography. It is adulterous to use another woman to substitute for your wife. For wives, the fantasy of another man instead of your husband, meeting your emotional needs is also adultery. Fantasying about the leading man in a romance novel or movie, or even the “perfect” leader from your church, is just as sinful.        

…Your marriage, most likely, started off with a more frequent amount of sexual connection that you are presently experiencing. Sex isn’t everything, but it isn’t nothing either.  Let me simplify this some, if you wanted to be celibate, then you should have become a nun or monk. But, you are not rabbits either, and you must be gracious towards your spouse and compromise.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:3-6, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Now as a concession, not a command, I say this.” (ESV). 

“Have authority over” has been used as a dictatorial demand to force sex, more often by husbands than wives. That understanding does not depict the character of Christ. Since two have become “one flesh”, and sex is part of how it came to be “one flesh” neither spouse can just decide to eliminate sex from the equation, without extenuating circumstances to justify it. Paul says, in verse six, that he is not presenting this as a command from the Lord.  I have come to accept Paul’s suggestions as valid teachings from the Lord, since the Holy Spirit thought they were worth including in the Bible.

If your arms are not open to your spouse, then Satan will provide someone else with open arms, real or imaginary. Ignoring, forgetting, or denying your spouse’s emotional or physical needs and desires can push them into someone else’s arms. Before the Lord Jesus, they would have no excuse and could not blame you, but the Lord will have a problem with you.

You have probably heard some rendition of the adage, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”  It possibly dates back to 1545, an English translation by Richard Taverner, of Erasmus of Rotterdam’s reference to the Latin proverb, “The corn in another man’s ground seems more fertile then does our own.”  How does that apply to your marriage?  Do not imagine that everyone else’s marriage is better and that getting a different husband or wife will make things better.  This reminds me of a book by Erma Bombeck titled, “The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank.”  Not that her book has anything to do with our subject, but that which makes great fertilizer God can use to grow the prettiest flowers.

…Hollywood and our American culture promote the image that ex-spouses are supposed to be good friends, and often friends-with-benefits (sexual relations outside of marriage with no obligations).  If you do have an ex-spouse, the Lord would have you be Christ-like towards them, if you have to have contact with them. You are not to be hostile and definitely not inviting to him or her.

…Your marriage will also suffer if you always leave your spouse behind to visit friends.  You are “one flesh” now and leaving your spouse behind is leaving your heart behind.  If your marriage is now including children, then limit your visiting out or schedule it so that you can do it together.  Another option is for your friends to visit you occasionally at your home.  If they are not willing to travel to your house, or do not like your spouse or children, then do not like them.  You and your spouse and children, if any, are a package deal.

…Question, if your spouse had control of the television (or your phone, pad, radio, etcetera), would she or he turn it off more often than you would, in order to have your full attention?  All communication between spouses does not require a muted room, but there are plenty of times that you need to suspend what you are doing and make full eye contact with your spouse or even close physical contact.

…Let’s look at two more stereo types.  You, the husband, are a model employee at work and a deacon, but at home you are aggressive and mean. You blame car problems, increasing bills, and rising taxes, but you controlled yourself at work and church.  And you, the wife, you are friendly with neighbors, your girlfriends, and when the pastor called, but are verbally abusive with the kids and berate your husband. You blame the dog peeing on the carpet, the broken vacuum cleaner, and your menstrual cycle. Many children who have grown up with “Christian” parents, leave Christianity when they become teenagers.  This is because of the hypocrisy that had been exemplified before them.  They received just enough Christianity to inoculate them.  If you can control yourself in front of people when you are outside of your home, then you can control yourself before your family.  You have no excuses before the Lord.

…Let me again address a stereo-type that has often been found true in marriages. In the hierarchy of your attentiveness, the Lord Jesus is to be first, your husband or wife second, and your children third.  The Lord said that, “…a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24; ESV.  A woman is to “hold fast” to her husband also. Too many times I have counseled, when the wife and the children had become “one”, and I am not speaking of sexually, physically).  There is a time and place for mothering.  Children are to be nourished, trained, protected, and sent-off when they come-of-age.  The spousal relationship is not to be sacrificed until then or at all.  Husband-fathers can also fail in this way.

…Proverbs 25:24 says, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” (ESV)  This is true whether the contentious person is a husband or a wife.  Nothing can improve in a marriage if communication cannot even proceed.  This is not saying that the non-contentious spouse is in-the-right, it is saying that a quarrelsome spirit is wrong and that nothing else can proceed until that is corrected.

…Speaking critically of your spouse in public can only harm your marriage.  And, “public” includes in front of your children, mother, relatives, and friends.  I include with this, pastors speaking from the pulpit and saying that their wife is truly the one running their marriage. This is supposed to be a light-hearted joke saying that in his marriage, his wife is in charge.  He is alluding to their marriage being spiritually out of order. Not that it is being spoken as truth, but alluding that your wife is in sin is never positive.  Within almost every congregation, there are marriages in which the wife is domineering, so joking that this sin is “Ha, Ha,” funny, is not funny to the Lord. Also, some listener will be wondering if there is at least a hint of truth in the statement.

…Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (KJV) 

You cannot have the fruit of the Spirit without being filled with the Spirit. Jesus said that you will know a tree by its fruit, not its gifts. Without the fruit of the Spirit growing, you cannot have a truly long lasting godly marriage. “Longsuffering” indicates that there will be things and people in life, from which to suffer, and some for a long time. You need pray that your spouse will be longsuffering towards you.  Both of you will require all of the fruits of the Spirit for a long lasting marriage.

…You may have heard the saying, “Marriage is supposed to be 50-50.” If that is how you think of it, then your marriage foundation is cracked.  A Christian marriage is to be 100-100.  Agape, the Greek word used for God’s love toward us, is a love that is not earned. Please pardon my over simplification of agape, but this love is for the complete wellbeing of someone else, no matter their response to you.  Agape is a one-hundred percent all-in love that is based upon a decision in your mind, not your feelings. Do you truly love (agape) your spouse? Examine your heart.  If you find that you do not, then pray accordingly that you may become Christ-like in your love for your wife or husband.  Humble yourself.

…You need to be able to forgive and forget.  Psalms 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, that far he has removed our transgressions from us.” According to Jewish tradition, over the whole earth, east and west meet at Golgotha; that’s right, Calvary, where Jesus died on the cross for our sins!  If you are to be godly, Christ-like, then the sins of your husband or wife are to be nailed to the Cross and not harbored in your heart or mind.

…Go beyond the national and traditional holidays to demonstrate love to your spouse. Doing something for her or him when everyone else is doing the same thing for their spouse, on the same day, truly holds very little meaning. I keep a pair of scissors in the glove compartment of my auto, just for the purpose of cutting some wildflowers for my wife, any day when I see their beauty along the road.  Those flowers mean more to her than obligatory roses on Valentine’s Day. Also, beware of all the holidays and celebratory days that are instituted by the World.  Your spouse will fail in satisfying these carnal obligations and expectations. Your spouse needs to love you as Jesus has told us, not by the standards that the World tells you.

…If you want to have a godly marriage, then you must become godly, Christ-like.  I did not say, “Your wife must become godly.”  Nor did I say, “Your husband must become godly.”  You must humble yourself.  You must repent.  The best thing that you can do to improve your relationship with absolutely anybody else, is for you to become Christ-like.  In your marriage, when you and your spouse draw closer to Jesus, then you will get closer to one another.

…After the Lord, make your spouse first in your life, not the children, not your parents, not the job, and not your friends. Even church-life cannot be allowed to be too consuming.  But, Jesus does have to be the number one focus of your life.

…I have advised many women who had unsaved husbands. The Lord has had me counsel them to desire to be the fulfillment of biblical godly wives. Our treatment of our spouse is not to be based upon whether or not they deserve it.  Remember that Jesus’ agape love is not based upon earning.  When those women first met their husbands, even when it was before they were Christians, they wanted to catch-his-eye, to make themselves desirable.  When a woman, or man, transforms into that truly biblical wife or husband, in the natural and the spiritual, it will get their attention.  They will want to meet this Jesus who has made you desirable, even if they have been treating you like trash.  This works for husbands or wives, and even better when your spouse is already a Christian.

…Present your natural self in a nice manner for your spouse. You did it to catch your wife or husband. You need to remain desirable.

…Marriage entwines a man, the husband, and a woman, the wife. One of the most quoted verses used to elaborate on the nature of a wife is Genesis 2:18, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man (human being, person) should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”

This verse has often been used to attest that a wife’s role is to support the husband. That is correct only in part, and only if properly understood.  If Eve had come first, God would have said that it would not have been good for her to be alone. There are no scriptures that declare that a wife is to have no aspirations outside of being at her husband’s beck-and-call.  Crudely put, a wife is not nothing more than a domestic for the chores, provider of offspring, and a nanny for the rug-rats (i.e. slang for children), so that the husband is free to do what he desires.

Aside from Genesis 2:18 and 20, the Hebrew word for helper (ezer) is used in three other verses. Psalms 33:20 says, “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” (ESV).  Psalms 70:5 continues, “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” (ESV)  And in Psalms 115:9, “O Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and their shield.” (ESV) These verses do not present the helper as a lesser person, or as subservient or subjugated to anyone.

The Hebrew word ezer means, one who aids.  It comes from a root word meaning to surround, to defend, to provide military aid.  If you have ever seen a godly wife or husband come to their spouse’s defense, you have seen ezer in action.  In a military sense, that is more than having someone’s back, it is putting yourself between them and danger.

…Throughout the New Testament, there are many characteristics descriptive of godly Christians.  They are applicable to both wives and husbands.  For example, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Ephesians 5: 25 (ESV).  Because it said “husbands”, and did not address the wives, does not mean that a wife is not to love her husband and is not to give herself up for him.  Remember the helper who protectively surrounds her husband, Genesis 2:18.

Ephesians 5:22-24, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

These are God’s laws.  They will not work for people of the World, nor for husbands and wives, who are Christians in label only, nor for immature Christians, and not for carnal Christians, and not for disobedient Christians.

From verse 22, “Wives, submit…”  Taken out of context and separated from the Spirit, this portion of scripture has been used to subjugate women to husbands and men, and told that they are lesser than males in the eyes of God.  In 2 Corinthians 3:6 it says of God, “Who also has made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

“For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28).  Christian women can be just as holy, have just as much access to Christ, and be just as mature Christians as any male, any husband.

Human beings in relationship to one another are given a rank, or position in hierarchy, by God.  A general in the army is of a higher rank than a private, but the general is not of more importance to Christ. This gives us structure.  It is sinful mankind not God that has equated someone’s rank with a person’s value, intelligence, or importance. 

A family unit consists of children (usually), a wife/mother, and a husband/father.  The children are subordinate to mom and dad, and mom is subordinate to her husband and God, and the husband is subordinate to God.  What I mean by subordinate, is under the authority of.  You must remember that this only works correctly when we, the participants, are maturing Christ-like believers, led by the Holy Spirit.

As a husband and wife both seek to hear and obey the Spirit, there is no contention.  If my wife believed something different than myself as the Lord’s directing, and we could not work out the differences, then she would follow my lead.  If we were incorrect, then the blame before God would be mine, not hers.  I have been blessed to have a wife who is as hungry for God’s Word and as thirsty for His Spirit as I am.  At the time we married, I had greater knowledge of the scriptures and maturity in the Spirit, though she has quickly caught up with me. 

 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21, ESV).  Someone who has a higher authority must humble themselves and not demand their own way.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;” (Ephesians 5:25).  In all the years that we have been married, I have never had to pull-rank on my wife.  It has also been the same when I have pastored and directed ministries.  I have always emphasized that all of us are to learn to know the voice of God clearly. Rank and order is there if we cannot together see the same path clearly.  When a war is not being won, they replace the generals, not the privates.

…Frequently say nice things to and about your spouse, no matter where you are.  Speak positively of your husband or wife.  Do not allow your children to speak disrespectfully to your spouse.  Honor your spouse and defend them in all respects, both privately and publicly.

…Women and men are different, no matter what the World is teaching.  Thus, you and your spouse are different and I do not mean that just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.  Learn to enjoy that, or were you hoping your spouse would be just another you?  My mother, when asked about her marriage to my father had said, “Well, it sure isn’t boring!”

…When there is an issue in your marriage, and you believe that your spouse is the problem, do not take Adam’s approach to God in your prayers, "The woman whom you gave to be with me…”  He will not hear you.  Your prayer should be more like, “You know what is happening, Lord. You know my opinion is that my wife (husband) is in error. We need your understanding.  I need to be humble, if I have been wrong.  And, I need to be humble, if I have been correct. Lord, speak to each of us.”  My wife and I both know the voice of God clearly.  We each hear the same thing when the Spirit speaks.

...Wives and husbands must all work, relax, and play, but you need to do as much of each of these together as you can.

…In your marriage, are you like a feline or like a canine?  Are you independent or are you an animal that thrives in a pack?  When your spouse comes home, do you meet them at the door like a dog that is glad to be back with the pack, or are you like the cat that looks at you with no response as if to say, “Oh, it’s just you.”  (And yes, I know that there are some cat exceptions to the rule.  My son has one, but it just wants more food.)

…Find things that you can enjoy together. We collected antique glass for years, but now give it away as gifts.  We both enjoy reading, science-fiction and historical television, music, and action movies.  We are pretty much home-bodies now, but do enjoy driving down roads we have never been on before, especially if they are just dirt.

We are both writers and teachers, and greatly enjoy discussing doctrine, church history, and the Scriptures together. She is more gifted in praying than I, and I meditate.  We are both sold-out to our Lord Jesus Christ.  We both pray for the Holy Spirit to give us a continuing hunger and thirst for Him.

…Work hard at communicating and fight to protect your marriage.

…Be patient with one another and flexible. Your relationship will have some changes over time. You spouse needs to be your best friend. Enjoy one another mentally and physically. Love, respect, honor, and have faith in each other. You will need lots of humor, learn to relax, and a bad memory can help.

…Throw in a lot of kisses, thank you-s, and I love you-s.

…The long lasting Biblical marriage, that Jesus is pleased with, cannot be found with the people of the World, nor for husbands and wives who are Christians in label only, nor for those who remain immature, carnal, or disobedient Christians.

…My wife’s and my marriage is greatly blessed by God. We have both become spiritually mature Christians. Jesus is our LORD and because of that He is our Savior. We continually hunger and thirst for Christ. We pray to never come to the point where we say, “No”, to the Lord.  Our goal is to represent Christ, not only to the World and the Body of Christ, but also to one another.

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