Don’t Just Get Married
April 6, 2008
Wow, that (worship music) was something else, wasn’t it? Last time I talked about “Just Get Married.” And it was amazing how many people around the community talked about this message and there are a lot of things going on. And I received a number of e‑mails; one I have to share with you. It’s from a guy named Ryan.
“Ed,” Ryan says, “Wow, have you been spying on me? I’m a 27‑year old Christian male who has strung along a beautiful woman for 17 months. Every single description you gave of the single male fit me perfectly. I am definitely on the path headed toward weirdo’s‑ville. I was once great looking, in shape, had a large social group and worked diligently each day to reach my goals. As a result, I have a master’s degree and a great job. Okay, so what? I mean that means nothing now because I spend every single second of my spare time on the couch watching ESPN. I have one good friend that lives 250 miles away. I have pretty much lost touch with the rest of my friends because I never feel like doing anything. I just want to do nothing. That changes, though, when I’m with my girlfriend. When I visit her on the weekends we go out with our friends, go out with each other and live active lives. I become a normal person. Well, because of your sermon I might learn to be normal again because I proposed to my girlfriend 18 hours after hearing your sermon. I had already planned to propose to her around this time but the whole ‘I’m not 100 percent sure’ thought was racing through my head. I was waiting for a burning bush. Fortunately your sermon was my burning bush. I can’t think of a more powerful and direct sign from God than your pastor preaching a sermon called ‘Just Get Married.’ Thankfully she said yes. I can’t believe she stuck around for 17 months. Anyway, take care and God bless.
A sloth no more, Ryan.”
Is that great? Thank you, Ryan. But Ryan, you should have waited about seven more days because this weekend, that’s right, today the title of my talk is “Just Don’t Get Married.” He should have waited. Just Don’t Get Married. So see, before you react too much about “Just Get Married,” you better hear the counterpart, “Just Don’t Get Married.” So say it with me…just don’t get married.
Marriage is not the easiest thing; so often it is the hardest thing, but it can become the greatest thing when you’re willing to work. Marriage, I have discovered, is all about work. Lisa and I have written a book called “The Creative Marriage,” and in one of the chapters we break down something that we call the MWE, the marital work ethic. It’s very simple, because when you walk down the aisle and when you walk from the airplane, from your honeymoon, into your apartment or home, you’re walking into work.
Now, our culture has sort of decaffeinated marriage. We have said that marriage is just this kind of hook up, just this kind of connection that you do after you have done everything else. And it is kind of a platform or reproduction, a place where you can merge your incomes and have a nice little house with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids. Our culture, when you really take a step back and think about it, is very anti-marriage.
But I understand why our culture would be anti-marriage because our culture doesn’t understand the depth and the beauty of marriage. Well, I’m here to tell you marriage takes work. It takes work.
So whether you’re hearing my voice in Miami right now, Downtown, Plano, or Fort Worth, read my lips…it takes work. And if you’re not willing to work, if you’re not willing to get into that labor of love, just don’t get married. Because you’ll mess up your life, you’ll mess up the other person’s life and if you happen to crank out a couple of kids, you’ll mess their lives up too. So just don’t get married.
I just die laughing when people say, “I’m going to get married. It will simplify everything.” What?
Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do work at it with all of your heart as you’re working for the Lord, not for men.”
Work. So when I’m working, and I should in marriage, whistle while I work. Whatever I’m doing, I’m ultimately doing it for God. So in my marriage I am working, right? The MWE, the marital work ethic, I’m working for the Lord.
T.S. Let’s unpack this thing called work because if we don’t understand work, we’ll never understand marriage. And man, I am helping you out so much if you’re a young person, if you’re in junior high school, if you’re in high school, if you’re a single adult, if you just have marriage on the radar screen. This is going to help you out so much. And it will also help out those of us who have been married, whether you have been married for 2 years or, like me, 25 years. This is going to be beneficial because we’re talking about work.
So give me a “W”, give me an “O”, give me an “R”, and give me a “K”. What does that spell? What does it take to have a great marriage? Why do many people bail out of marriage? Work. What is work? You know what work is?
Work is worship. Work is worship. As a believer, everything I do should be an act of worship. Obviously, in the covenant of marriage, I’m reflecting the love and the grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ as I work. As I work and as I toil and as I labor it’s an act of worship.
Romans 12:1 says “I should present my body as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable this is your spiritual act of worship.”
When I give my life to God; when I give my body to Lisa; when she gives me her body; when we become one flesh, that’s worship. So as a marriage, as a work, as a worship, people should look and see the orbit of the marriage around God. My marriage should reflect the nature and character of God. It’s the only covenant that mirrors God’s relationship to his people. Worship.
Now, I have to say the best worship going on right now has to be going on at Texas Motor Speedway. I mean, there is some worship happening there. And I have been to Miami when NASCAR invades Miami. People worship NASCAR. I’m not into NASCAR. I mean, what is NASCAR? It’s watching a bunch of white boys turn left. That’s about what it is. What is that? It’s worship. Great worship; wrong object. We worship all the time. We’re made to worship. Everybody worships.
Once we bow the knee to Jesus, we’re worshipping him. Everything we do, say, touch and feel should be an act of worship to the Lord himself. I have to worship God. And one of the ways I worship him is the way I treat my spouse.
The greatest sermon I will ever preach is not from this stage; it is the way I treat Lisa. Marriage is about worship. See, again, our culture has decaffeinated marriage. We have no idea what marriage is away from Jesus Christ. Marriage is so much deeper and broader and more powerful than our culture even knows. It is hilarious to listen to them talk about marriage.
But really, we should understand why they’re talking that way because they don’t know jack about marriage. Why don’t they know jack about marriage? Because they don’t know jack about Jesus. But once they find Jesus; once Jesus by his grace and mercy works inside of their life, they can work out what he by his grace worked in.
And in marriage, that’s the kind of work and worship that God wants me to do. Because Jesus has worked himself into my life by a decision that I made years ago, Lisa and I can work out what he has worked in. So in marriage, we’re just working it out.
Our culture is all into respect these days. Have you heard about that? The cry of our culture, “Man, don’t disrespect me.” Respect, respect, respect. We’re always talking about respect. Have you heard that? The young people, that is one of their favorite words. Respect, don’t disrespect. We’re all about getting respect. I want to get respect. But in marriage, that’ll totally mess it up when you’re about getting respect in marriage. If I’m always thinking about, “Lisa, respect me. Lisa, respect me. Lisa, respect me,” I will have a horrible marriage.
As a Christ follower, it’s not about getting respect. It’s about giving respect. You see, again, following Jesus is countercultural. It’s the salmon swimming upstream. The way up is down. The first shall be last. I grow, my marriage goes to a holy ‘notha level when I think about her needs, not mine; when I give her respect and when I’m not worried about, “Give me respect, give me respect, and give me respect.”
And again, that’s why the world will never, ever understand marriage. Because the world is about “I’m the man, I’m the woman, it’s all about me, give it to me, I have to get respect.” No. It’s about the other. For God so loved the world that he gave…..
In Genesis 2:24, there’s a three word phrase that is so difficult and so tough; yet it is so supernatural we have to talk about it. “Become one flesh.”
That’s the math of marriage. Two shall become one. One plus one equals one. One flesh, oneness. But becoming? Wow, I’m still working on that. Lisa is still working on that.
If you have your Bibles, again, I want you to turn quickly to Ephesians 5:33. Talking about respect it says, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must,” what? “Respect her husband.”
So it should be a respect contest. We should be just giving and giving and giving and giving and giving respect. Because respect, first of all, starts when we worship God. And because we’re worshipping God and focusing on Him, we are respecting others. What is work? It’s worship.
Not only is it worship, what is work? Work is all about order. It’s about order. Whenever you feel like you’re out of order; whenever you feel like you’re disjointed; whenever you feel like there’s dissonance; whenever you feel like things just aren’t clicking—and again I’m talking to those who are Christ followers—if you ever feel like that, I guarantee you, you are out of God’s order.
Again, if you don’t want to worship, if you don’t want to have order, just don’t get married. But if you do, and if you’re a Christian and you have the desire for the opposite sex, I believe it is God’s will for you to get married.
Order will happen. God is a God of order. The creation is all about order. Within order, what do you have? You have creativity. Within order, what do you have? You have work. So you have order, work and creativity; creativity, order, work.
God, in Genesis 1:1 started the creativity process. Creativity is framed in the Scriptures. Revelation 21:5, God enters and walks through eternity creating things that are new.
Every single day as I wake up in this order, in this covenant of marriage, guess what? I have a chance to create something. I can create walls or I can create community. I can create problems or I can create plans and purposes. Marriage should be the most creative relationship in the universe.
Well how about romance? Romance is work. That’s what romance is. Romance without finance is a nuisance. That was good right there. I might buy this tape myself. I will say it again. The ladies are like, “Preach it!” Romance without finance is a nuisance.
We have to work. Men, what we use to get her is what we use to keep her. Your work ain’t done once the pastor says, (States marriage pronouncement). That was the marriage pronouncement. The work doesn’t stop then. It is just beginning.
So work is worship. Work is order. Within order you have creativity. You have the opportunity to be predictably unpredictable. But I understand with order sometimes there is monotony. There is some monotony in marriage. You move from romance, the honeymoon, to boom! Reality. And reality bites, right? What do you do when it becomes monotonous, when it becomes sort of boring and those things that your spouse does just kind of get on your nerves, those idiosyncrasies? Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you have those?
Man, Lisa has one. She is not here in this service, but she has one. My wife, when she drinks water or ice tea, here is what she sounds like. (Loud swallowing sound). She is a loud swallower. I mean, it echoes! And after about ten straight swallows I’m like, “Stop it!” I have heard the loud swallowing for 25 years. It gets on my nerves. And you know what, one of our twins is a loud swallower, too. She caught it from Lisa. It drives me crazy.
And those things are fine. We laugh at those things. We understand familiarity. But if we’re not careful, familiarity can breed some serious stuff. It can breed contempt. So that is what I discovered in marriage, because marriage is a place of grace. Remember this? This kind of rhymes. If you have the urge to merge, get in covenant with another Christ follower, get married, and you’ll discover that marriage is a place of grace.
What is grace? It is unmerited favor. So I should constantly look for things in Lisa’s life where I can praise her and where I can say, “Lisa, I am so thankful that you are that way. That is an amazing thing that you do.” Because every day when I wake up and create a spirit of thankfulness, guess what? The grace and the thankfulness totally blow away the familiarity of contempt.
That is what is so crazy about following Christ. We know Jesus, we bow to Him, we’re following him, and he knows everything. It is called the omniscience of God. There is no such thing has a private text, e‑mail, there is no such thing has a closed bedroom door, office door. There is no such thing has a clandestine conversation. God knows it all, warts and all, inconsistencies and all, weird stuff and all, funkiness and all; yet, he still is crazy about you and me. Is that amazing? Our God is amazing. That’s how much he loves us.
In marriage we know everything about each other. We know everything about each other. Guys are thinking, “Are you talking about my spouse?” Get it, a little joke, omniscient. That wasn’t really a joke, that was serious, wasn’t it?
But in marriage we do indeed reflect the omniscience of God because we do know everything about our spouse; yet, within the covenant we are called to work, we’re called to worship, to reflect God by our attitudes and aptitudes and abilities and love and romance and sexual fulfillment. We’re called to worship within that and all those things I listed are about worship. We’re called to be in order. We have to realize that the mantle of leadership has been given to the man.
“Is he saying the man is superior and the woman is inferior?”
No. Equal in form; unique in function. We have been given the mantle of responsibility. We’re the umbrella fella. We hold the umbrella. She is beneath it. That’s the order of God, the authority of God.
But there’s another part of work that I have been waiting to share with you, but I guess now I’ll share it. It is probably the most difficult thing marriage. I will just put it out there: Reconciliation. Whoa! Well the Bible tells me that as a believer, again I’m talking to Christ followers now; if you’re not a believer listen because I think you’ll become a believer if you hang out here a while. But listen to this.
2 Corinthians 5:18. “All this is from God,” we can’t do it, we can’t manufacture it, “Who reconciled Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
I mean, that is the reason that I have a great marriage today. It’s not because of me; it’s not because of Lisa; it’s because of the ministry of reconciliation. It is because Lisa and I are never, ever, ever, ever willing to leave the ministry of reconciliation.
You show me someone who has gone through a divorce and I will show you a party who has left the ministry of reconciliation. What is reconciliation? It is the gospel. What is reconciliation? A place of grace. Reconciliation is something we don’t deserve.
God reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ. It was unmerited, it was totally supernatural and it was something from God. We either receive that or we don’t. Right before Jesus died he said, “The work is finished.”
And I will say it again, as we allow Jesus to work in his grace and mercy we can work it out in marriage. One of the things you have to work out is reconciliation. You have a fallen and fallible sinner on one side; you’ve got another fallen and fallible sinner on the other side. You have issues, you have conflicts and you have junk. You’re going to have fights and arguments and conflicts and disagreements. We better have something supernatural that’s on tap and it’s called the ministry of reconciliation.
Last week I beat up on the guys. I did. Well, today I’m going to beat up on the women a little bit because, ladies, let’s talk about the ministry of reconciliation.
First of all, let me talk to the guys right quick. Guys, we are great at reconciling. Let’s just give ourselves a hand. Guys, come on, we are gifted at reconciliation. God has given us this ability. Because the word “husband” is really from two words, “house” and “band.” I am to keep the house banded together. I am the umbrella fella. I am to take the initiative to do the work of reconciliation. When Lisa is 99.9 percent wrong and I’m 0.1 percent wrong, I’m to go to her and initiate the reconciliation. I don’t say, “Lisa, you were 99.9 percent wrong and I’m only 0.1 percent wrong.” I don’t say that. I say, “Lisa, you know what, I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” I’m to take the initiative to do that.
Guys, we are great at saying, “Honey I’m sorry, will you forgive me?” Aren’t we good at that? We can say that quickly. Why are we so good at that? Some of the married men are thinking, “I know why I’m so good at it. Because if I do that, I know I can have sex.”
No, it’s about God. It’s about God. We think about the cross. We think about reconciliation. We think about what God did for us and through us. So we should quickly reconcile with our spouse. Women struggle with reconciliation. Guys, go ahead and clap. I can’t clap because I will pay for it tonight. Go ahead and clap.
Last week I said women are smarter than we are. You know that. If you don’t know that, guys, just hang around for a while. Just talk to a woman and you will discover in about ten minutes she has thought about four or five places and spaces above and beyond our realm. So women are smarter than we are. We have to accept that. However, God has leveled the playing field when it comes to intelligence. You see, he has given women emotion and so often the emotions can cloud the logic. So it sort of evens the playing field, guys. It is okay to laugh.
Women, though, have a hard time saying, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
What do women say? “I’m just not there yet, honey. I just don’t feel it yet. Just let me have my space. I want to see some change before you come and say I’m sorry, will you forgive me.” Is that right? Ladies, come on now. Take a look at Jesus. What if he would have held grudges? What if he would have said, “I’m just going to wait.” What if he would have said, “I just don’t feel like it.”
I’m telling you, reconciliation, that’s where it is at. Every marriage has the same struggles. All the marital issues, I don’t care if you’re Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; they have the same struggles we do. All marital conflict revolves and is resolved around PMS—power, money and sex. You thought I was going to say something else. All the fights are about power, money and sex. You know that.
Successful marriages are the ones who negotiate through that. And the reason we can negotiate through that and go to a holy ‘notha level is because we have received the ministry of reconciliation and we’re living it out.
How do you spell work? Worship. How do you spell work? Order. How do you spell work? Reconciliation. How do you spell work? Knowledge.
We need information about what marriage is so we can have application regarding what marriage does. We need the 4‑1‑1 on marriage. That’s why I want to teach this stuff to you. And if you’re thinking about marriage and thinking it’s a layup or or just kind of walking down the prim rose path, hey today hopefully you woke up and smelled the coffee. Because God’s message to you might be just don’t get married. Don’t get married if you’re not willing to work.
So we need knowledge about what marriage is so we can have application regarding what marriage does. And next time I’m going to talk about this: “Just Stay Married.” That’s next week.
Illus: You know, when I thought about this message, the work ethic of marriage, I thought about a young couple who has been actively serving at Fellowship Church for 12 years. In fact, the wife in this Christian marriage has been a part of our leadership team, the core of Fellowship Church for a long, long time. And in many ways this lady embodies Fellowship. And as I have looked at this marriage up close and personal over the years I have seen the almost insurmountable odds that they have faced in this marriage. Huge dysfunction in their family, this young lady battling through substance abuse, dealing with infertility and so many other things. And from the outside looking in our culture would say, “They will never make it. He is this former football star; she is the beauty queen. They’re not going to make it. Look at their family of origin. They can’t break the cycle of dysfunction, not when you have substance and infertility and all the stresses and strains and she’s involved in the ministry. Their marriage is not going to make it.”
But I want to tell you something; this marriage reflects the gospel of Jesus; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This marriage reflects the work that Jesus has done inside their lives by his grace and mercy. And I have watched them work it out. It’s been awesome. The marriage I’m talking about is the marriage of Andy and Vanessa Whitwell.
Thursday Vanessa collapsed; she was rushed to the hospital with a blood clot in her brain. And right now she is hanging between life and death. And the last word I got just about 30 minutes ago from the doctors is there is nothing that they can do.
As I have been up there over the last several days, as many of our staff and team have been up there, those of us who served with Vanessa and have known them and their marriage and their struggles so well, it has been such a witness and such a testimony to all of us about marriage being a place of grace. Because when you get into a situation like that where someone has just been taken from us in the blink of an eye, you’re not thinking about cars or clothes or cash or houses. Because when you talk to Andy as he’s there praying and crying for his best friend, for his bride, he keeps returning to one word: Jesus.
And he told me many times yesterday when he got the word that it looks like she’s going to pass very, very soon, he said, “Ed, you know what? I knew that God gave me Vanessa just for a season. And I knew, even when we got married, that she was God’s.”
And just to know them and to see the work that they have put into practice, to see the love and the unselfishness, to see the creativity, to see how they have dealt with the familiarity of contempt is just literally mind blowing.
So when I think about their marriage I think about work because friends if you’re not willing to work just don’t get married.