When American Christians are asked to list the top three needs or concerns in their lives they continually include these as their priorities:
1. The desire to have a happy marriage.
2. The hope to raise a healthy family.
3. The need to be financially secure.
In other words:
· What can I do to have a happy marriage?
· What can I do to raise a healthy family?
· What can I do to obtain and maintain financial security?
Most often the greatest problems we face in life are things that we can do something about. Knowing what to do is one thing, doing it is another.
Today we begin our life lessons from the Bible by turning to Ephesians 5
The usual question I get from those seeking counsel on how to have a happy marriage is not normally centered around: “What can I do to change and be a better wife or better husband?” But rather the usual question concerning marriage problems is aimed at, “What can I do to change my husband or wife so that we can have a better marriage?”
When I do pre-marital counseling I often stress the fact that “Marriage Magnifies .” What do I mean? Whatever good traits and whatever bad traits a person has going into marriage will at some point become exaggerated in the marriage. Marriage will magnify both the things we like about our spouses and those things we don’t like.
If you are entering into a serious relationship imagining that marriage to you will make that person change so that you can tolerate a few of their behaviors which you currently find unacceptable … think again! Marriage does change people but not always in the way we imagined. While we cannot guarantee marriage will change a person for the best, nonetheless there are certainly some steps we can take to give our spouses the greatest room and the greatest reasons to change and therefore give our marriage the greatest opportunity to succeed.
So, allow me to answer the most often asked question: How can I change my spouse?
· Pray for your spouse
Not just think about, complain about, wish for or argue with …
· Treat your spouse like the person you hope they will become
People do better when more is expected of them, not less
Raising your level of respect will help you to see them better
People respond to positive encouragement like nothing else
· Work on yourself in the areas you know will please your spouse
It is important that someone lead the change … so lead it!
A huge ship is turned by a little rudder that just won’t turn back
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her
Wait a minute: Did I tell you that Jesus is getting ready to get married? Well He is … and this is the kind of marriage Jesus will have.
26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,
28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.
30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.
31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."
32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
Question number two: How can I build a healthy family? This question most often deals with raising children. You know, we are not actually raising children but rather we are raising adults … we only have the opportunity to greatly impact them in their most impressionable childhood years. I’ve heard it said that if you don’t raise your children you will be raising your grandchildren! As a grandparent of 9, I can see arguments on both sides of that issue … I miss those child raising years. Back to the question: How can I build a healthy family? To answer this I offer two familiar concepts, both of which should be done on purpose with dedicated time set aside for each. What are these two concepts?
Again, just like Jesus did, so should we live as examples to those following us and take the necessary time to teach them lessons of life on purpose.
Let me ask:
· How do you want your child to behave when they are 18?
· Do you want them to live a responsible and respectable life?
· How do you hope your children will speak of you and treat you?
· Do you think it wise for your children to keep their commitments?
· Would you like for your children to be kind and considerate to others?
· How would you like for your children to manage their finances?
· Do you hope your children will have a happy home?
These qualities of life which we hope our children enjoy do not have to be the result of the roll of the dice or just a 50/50 chance for happiness … we can give them a head start and although they will one day be solely responsible for their own choices we can set them up to be so far ahead and have a much better opportunity to succeed by:
· Modeling the right behavior in front of them
· Equipping them with the tools to succeed in life
You know what makes life work and what makes life worse … teach your children while they are children and rest assured they will at least know what to do or where to go for help if they ever encounter a need.
Now a word about finances … What can I do to obtain and maintain financial security?
This question is perhaps the easiest to answer of them all … the Bible is so full of wisdom concerning finances. Jesus often said we obtain wealth and maintain wealth by our giving.
Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use to give, it will be measured back to you."
The only way we can hope to enjoy any measure of financial security is to honor God with our substance and with the firstfruits of all our increase. Wealth is more than having money in the bank although money in the bank has its benefits. (Ecclesiastes 10:19)
The biggest problem with a dollar is that it only spends one time and saying yes to one purchase may mean saying no to another later. Many times we cannot buy what we want because we bought what we wanted. We can’t always determine how much money we make but we can generally choose how we spend that money. The quickest way to getting a raise is to eliminate a debt. God wants us to be good stewards of His blessings and honor Him with our resources.
In 1976 Brenda and I decided that we would live our lives as tithers. Not only as tithers but also as givers above and beyond our tithes by giving offerings to further support things to which we felt closely connected. Since our commitment, both in abundance and in times of lack, when I had a job and when I was unable to work, when our pockets were full and when they were empty – we have never failed to follow that commitment.
I can testify that over the test of time, I and all whom I have known who have faithfully followed this same course, have seen the hand of God’s blessing on our finances. We have come to believe that 90% blessed by the Lord goes so much farther than 100% at the mercy of the devourer.
The secret to obtaining and maintaining financial security is not in how much you make but rather in how blessed what you make is before the Lord. For this reason I encourage every born again Believer to be a generous giver and faithfully bring their tithes and offerings to the House of the Lord to honor Him and to support the work He has commissioned His Church to accomplish.
Whether in marriage, family or financial matters, Jesus is our example and His Word is our guide. To find out more about how to have a successful marriage, how to raise a healthy family or how to go about obtaining and maintaining financial security, read your Bible on a daily basis and allow the Holy Spirit to talk directly to you. Then … simply obey the Word and trust God for the results.