Just Stay Married
April 13, 2008
One plus one equals one. That’s the math of marriage. Today I’m going to talk about something a little bit unusual. Yes, I’m talking about marriage, but I’m going to talk about marriage in sort of a different way. I’m going to revolve everything around a three‑word statement. It’s a challenge to every marriage in the house. It’s a challenge to those of us in marriage who have thought about bailing, who have thought about throwing in the towel. It’s a challenge to those here who might be a little bit bored in this relationship. It’s also a challenge to the people here who one day will get married.
And here is the three-word phrase I’m going to talk about. It’s very simple. It’s easy to say; it’s difficult to apply. Are you ready for it? Just stay married. Say it with me like you mean it; I’m talking about from your gut using the best of your vocal chords can possibly be to say this statement: Just stay married. Say it again: Just stay married.
That’s right. Why should I stay married? That’s a good statement. That’s a good thought. Why should I stay married? Because after all, there are so many attractive options out there these days. After all, our culture is very anti-marriage. Why should I stay married? And some of you who are married are thinking, “You mean I have to live with this person for the rest of my life? You mean I have to travel with this person for the rest of my life? You mean I have to hear their ridiculous stories for the rest of my life? You mean I have to sleep with them for the rest of my life? This rest of my life stuff, I don’t really dig it Ed. I’m not sure I can make it. What if a new and improved model comes along? It is so easy to get a divorce. I can just call the lawyers up, they can pick up the pieces and I’ll hook up with someone else and that’s just the way it is.”
Well the Bible says “Just stay married.” So often we bail out right before this incredible breakthrough. Many times in life we’ll throw in the towel when we should stay in the game and receive the benefits of marriage.
In Genesis 2:24 we have been looking at this text, it says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother, he shall cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.”
Again, that’s the math of marriage, one plus one equal’s one. One, oneness. The number one is an integer; it’s a whole number. When we’re together in marriage we have this wholeness because God is into wholeness and holiness. When we bolt on a marriage, what do we do? We’re becoming a fraction of what we should have been. We’re becoming a fraction of what God wants us to be. And there are too many people who are living lives of fractions as opposed to wholeness.
So I would challenge you to just stay married because of your wholeness. And in your wholeness, in your integrity, you’re going to discover the holiness that God has in store for you. Because the road to holiness has a lot of holes, a lot of potholes along the way. Because every single person who has ever been married has thought, “Man I want to get out of this deal. Man, it’s too tough. Man, it takes too much work to just stay married.”
But today I want to argue God’s case. I want to tell you why God wants all of us to just stay married.
Now some of you here have been divorced and I’m not at all saying that divorce is the unpardonable sin. I’m not saying that whatsoever. This is a place of grace. God forgives sin. When you get married again, which many of you will, I would challenge you to resolve to just stay married.
I am saying, though, to those here who are married, just stay married. Because I’ve had opportunity to talk to a lot of people who have left marriages and they have left these marriages for a new and improved model. And after several years or so with the new and improved model; after the shine wears off they are unhappier in this new relationship than they were in the original relationship.
And now all the relational experts and psychiatrists and psychologists and sociologists are coming out with brand new studies that back up just what I said. It’s like wow, its revolutionary! If people would just hang in the marriage, if they would just stay married they would be happier. They would have this joy; they would have this contentment and this peace inside of their lives.
So again, why should I just stay married? That’s a good question and here’s the answer: Number one, Jesus. That’s the first reason why I should just stay married. Say Jesus with me, Jesus. I like that. That’s a future preacher. That’s awesome. Jesus.
The marriage should reflect the gospel of Jesus Christ, the death, burial and resurrection. If I’m going to be the kind of husband that I should be before God; if Lisa is going to be the kind of wife that she should be before God, there has to be a death in our marriage. We have to die to ourselves, die to all of our junk and we have to bury that and allow the resurrection power, which is always on tap. We have to let that flow into our lives so we can become the kind of difference makers together that God desires.
When people look at marriage they want to see Jesus. And we have an opportunity, we have a platform, this is a platform here in our worship center, we have a platform in our marriages. Because people are looking around the neighborhood, around the health club, the golf course, the office or whatever, the church, people are looking at marriage and they want to see Jesus. They should see the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. They should see reconciliation; they should see unconditional love; they should see unselfishness and the world is dying to see it. We have that kind of opportunity. So I should just stay married because of Jesus.
The moment I become a believer, what happens? I am adopted, the Bible says, into the family of God. I’m adopted. Back in biblical times you could not disown an adopted kid. You could kick out a biological kid, but not an adopted one. No wonder the Bible says when I become a believer I’m adopted. Once I get in, I can’t get out.
Illus: It’s like when the twins were young. I remember walking across the street holding their hands and I would grab their hand and as the father I am stronger than they. And they would try to let go of my hand, but once I grabbed their hand I wasn’t letting go. No matter how much they tried to let go, I wasn’t letting go. I had a vice grip on their hand.
Once we genuinely bow the knee to Jesus, once we invite him into our lives, our heavenly Father grabs our hand. We’re in his family, we’re adopted into his unit and he’s not going to let us go. He’s not going to divorce us. We can’t divorce him. He’s not going to turn his back on us and we can’t do that. We can’t get out of his family. Once you’re in, you’re in if you genuinely say it to the best of who you are. Theologians call it the security of the believer. So as a believer I’m secure. There’s nothing I can do to cause God to love me anymore or any less. I am secure because I have received Jesus Christ.
Well in marriage, I should have that kind of security. In marriage, the security that Lisa and I have should be reflective of the eternal security that we have in Christ.
And when you have that kind of security; when you both have resolved to just stay married, come hell or high water, we’re going to just stay married. When you say that, you’re talking about confidence; you’re talking about being sure of yourself; you’re talking about knowing that you have an agenda above and beyond this world. There is nothing like it.
In marriage, when I look at Lisa I see reflected off of Lisa Ed at his best and Ed at his worst. And she sees the same. That’s the way marriage is. And the longer you’re together; the longer you walk in sync with one another, the more you see your best and the more you see your worst.
Numerous people that I have known who have bailed out of marriages, normally they’ll say this, “We have just grown apart. You know, I have just fallen out of love. We just don’t have anything in common anymore.”
How many squillions of times have we heard that or seen that illustrated? It is unbelievable. Here is what people are really saying when they say that. They’re really describing the mirror of marriage.
I think all of you looked in a mirror this morning, I can tell. Everybody looks phenomenal. I mean, give yourselves a round of applause. You look great. People all the time when they visit Fellowship Church they say, “Man Ed, you pastor the most beautiful church I have ever seen.” I think “D Magazine” several years ago said that Fellowship Church was one of the best places to meet beautiful people in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and I guarantee it’s true in Miami, too. It’s incredible. And one of the reasons that everybody looks so good is because you looked into a mirror.
There are all types of mirrors. There is the full-length mirror, there is the round mirror, and there is the mirror that magnifies your face? Its like, “Wow! I didn’t know I had those wrinkles. There’s a blemish or two there and I need Botox here.” You know what I’m saying to you.
Illus: Once I went to the dermatologist and they had this special kind of device, it is kind of a mirror-type thing and it would show the sun damage on your face. You couldn’t see it with the naked eye, but when you looked through this special thing it was like “Oh, man my face is all jacked up!” I have sun damage because I fish so much. And back in the day in the 80’s I would put the baby oil on and tan. That’s terrible. Don’t do that, children. Man that will totally mess your skin up.
But it is interesting how mirrors really reveal who you are. Well, marriage reveals it even in a deeper way. And we look at the mirror of our spouse and we get upset at our spouse, we become negative towards our spouse and we point the finger at our spouse, in reality we’re pointing it at our reflection. We’re pointing it at our self. And we’re so convicted and we’re so freaked out about it we say, “Well we’ve just grown apart. We’ve fallen out of love. We don’t have anything in common anymore.”
What are we saying? “Man, I have seen my junk, I’ve seen my wrinkles, I have seen my blemishes, I have seen the sun damage, I have seen the melanomas in my relationship reflected off of my spouse and I don’t dig it. So I know what I’ll do. I’ll call the attorneys, they will pick up the pieces and I’ll hook up with a new and improved model.”
Do you know what we’re doing so often when we bail out on a marriage? We’re just putting off the inevitable. We’ve seen how U‑G‑L‑Y you ain’t got no alibi ugly our sin is and we think it’s the other person. But in reality it’s us. So we kind of put off seeing it again because we get a divorce. We split everything down the middle. Then we see someone else, a new and improved model, someone maybe richer, someone maybe better looking, someone maybe bigger or badder or more popular. We hook up with them and we think now everything is awesome. Everything is perfect. No more problems. But after the shine wears off, we look even worse in the mirror. More melanomas, more wrinkles, more sun damage, more junk, more crap because it has been multiplied.
Had we just stayed married; had we just worked on it; had we just had processed it; had we just had gone through what God wants us to go through in this breakthrough, our marriage would have gone to a holy ‘notha level.
But so often, I will say it again, we quit right before the greatness that God has for us. We quit when we should commit. And most people live their entire lives without ever realizing the benefits of commitment. We’re not committed to God, we’re not committed to a school, we’re not committed to a job, we’re not committed to a marriage, and we’re not committed to a church. You’ll never discover the beautiful benefits of commitment until you commit. So in marriage, the only relationship that is analogous to Christ’s relationship to his people, just stay married.
Think about some character stuff that will be developed in marriage. For example, discipline. Where do you really develop discipline? Working out? Pumping the iron?
Running four or five times a week? Doing aerobics? Power walking? That is great; that is one type of discipline. Real discipline, you want to talk about the real discipline on the rugged planes of marital reality, it is developed in marriage.
What is discipline? Discipline is doing what you ought to do so you can then do what you want to do. Some of you who are married are saying, “You’re right, yes, discipline. Man marriage will build discipline. You have to be disciplined if you are being the kind of spouse that God wants.”
Endurance, what’s endurance? “I don’t know, maybe it’s a benefit of cardiovascular exercise and you have to…”
You know what endurance is, real endurance? Endurance is crashing through quitting points. That’s what endurance is. You have those quitting points and we have all had them in marriage, let’s just be honest here. We have all had them. Where is endurance built? Where do we get the benefits of endurance? Not on a track, not at the health club. We get the benefits of endurance in marriage. Just stay married. We crash through those quitting points, because when we crash through those quitting points God will allow us to breakthrough to a holy ‘notha level.
Vision, where is vision developed? “Well, you go to Barnes and Noble and buy a leadership book. Vision, let me see, I think Warren Buffet wrote something about vision one time, and Bill Gates has vision.”
No, I mean that’s good, I’m all for that. But I’m talking about real vision. What is real vision? Real vision is seeing the unseen. You want to develop vision, you resolve to just stay married and you’re going to have to see what God sees. See where you are now and see where God wants to take you as you move as one.
Creativity, where do you develop creativity? “I guess I’ll take an art class or I have always liked playing the guitar. Back in the day I really liked Led Zeppelin.”
No, come on man. Creativity. We’re made in the image of God. God is a creative genius and we’re all creative geniuses. So just look at your neighbor and say, “Neighbor, you’re a creative genius.”
You want to be creative? It should happen within the context of marriage because romance is creativity. That’s what romance is. And in creativity we’re being predictably unpredictable. Surprise your spouse, confuse your spouse, mess your spouse up, do something different. Because when we’re creative things happen, things develop, things grow.
In marriage we’re going to character school. It is a 24/7-character school and it only occurs when you just stay married. If you’re moving from relationship to relationship, you’re not going to develop it. You’ll never discover who God wants you to be. So again, why should you just stay married? Because of Jesus. And I know that’s a party line, you’re expecting that but I’m telling you, that’s it. Because of Jesus.
The second reason why you should stay married, others. Other people. What? Yes, others.
Number one, your spouse. Think about your spouse. I mean just stay married for your spouse. What are you saying to your spouse about the gospel? About forgiveness? About unconditional love? Jesus loves us when we’re hard to be loved. Jesus loves us even though we’re fallen and fallible. Jesus loves us and his love is intentional and it’s pursuing and it surrounds us and ambushes us.
That’s why it says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
Wow. That’s what it tells me. That’s what it tells every man here. That’s what it tells every man who is thinking about marriage. That’s what it tells every man who is even thinking about marriage and you have no prospects on the radar. It’s telling you, when you commit, it’s for life. It’s for security. It’s for others. It’s for your spouse. You’re reflecting Jesus. You’re mirroring Jesus to your spouse. What kind of mirror are you? Stay married for others.
Stay married for your kids. That’s pretty important, your kids. I think, parents, the temptation these days is to get so performance driven with our kids. Do you know what I’m saying? Perform on the soccer field, perform in the dance recital, perform in the classroom, perform in the swimming pool, perform, perform. And we just get so OD’d on our kids performing that we have forgotten to perform in the most important relationship, marriage.
Your marriage is more important than your relationship with your kids. Your marriage should take priority over your relationship with your children. Because so goes the marriage, so go your kids. So goes the marriage, so goes the parenting. So goes the marriage, so goes the foundation and the self esteem and the confidence of your kids. So goes the marriage, so goes the trajectory of your kids when they leave their father and mother and cleave to their spouse. It’s about the marriage.
That’s why as believers we should just stay married. Say it with me again, we should just stay married. Stay married. Stay married.
“Well, Ed, you don’t know what I’m going through.”
“But she’s boring.”
“He’s about to wear me out, he’s so non-creative.”
Stay married. Because several decades from now, 50 years from now, a hundred years from now all of us want to leave a legacy. And you will look back either from this life or heaven and you’ll think, “I was upset over that minor situation? I mean I have forgotten what even I was upset about!”
Have you ever done that before? Have you ever tried to remember some of the arguments that you’ve had with your spouse? Just the other day Lisa and I were thinking of some arguments, these big arguments we’ve had, and most of them we couldn’t even remember why we were arguing. So we have to look past that stuff and we have to just stay married.
This is the Bible. At Fellowship Church, we are a Bible teaching church. We believe the Bible from Genesis to the maps, we believe it. So just for a second I want to go secular. Just use your imagination, okay, and I’m going to give this Bible to my friend Robert. Robert, just take this Bible just for a second. This is a secular seminar. I’m just a secular speaker. The Bible is gone. Just ‑‑ we’re just pretending. Let me sit down here and explain to you the secular benefits of just staying married.
Now let me give you a little side bar here. What’s so hilarious about these secular benefits, these are from the psychologists and sociologists and anthropologists and scientists who think they’re so smart with all of this research, you know the glassy eyed gurus and armchair experts, the people who write all the books on relationships at Barnes and Noble. These people think they’re so smart. I’m going to tell you what they say. But in reality the Bible has talked about this for thousands of years and these cats have never even read the Bible so they think they’re smart. Our government spends squillions and squillions of dollars on all these surveys and research and I’m thinking, “Why are we wasting this money? The Bible said it a long time ago!” But just stay with me just for illustrative purposes.
Let me tell you what the secular world says about why we should just stay married. Okay? Thank you. Number one, and all the research backs this up. Talk to any medical doctor or any scientist and this is hot off the relational press. Number one, if we stay married we will live longer. Who in here wants to live longer? I do. You know, we have this desire to live. We’ll live longer if we just stay married. Again, the Bible is off the stage. Robert has the Bible. I’m just talking to you from the secular point of view, kind of like Dr. Phil, Oprah. You’ve heard of them. We’ll live longer. Our blood pressure, research says, will be lower. Medical fact.
Also, when we just stay married, you’ll love this, we’ll have more money. Let’s just clap at all of our campuses. Come on. It’s okay. We want to have more money. I have never met anyone who said “You know what? I just don’t want any more money.” If you ever meet anyone who says that they’re lying. “No man, I just don’t want any more money. No it’s not about the money.” If we just stay married it’s the number one predictor of financial security. Just stay married. It’s not being diversified or asking, “Should I be in real estate? Should I be in the market and bonds and gold?” No, it’s not that. Just, say it with me, stay married.
Here is something else the secular world is telling us. If we just stay married we’ll have more friends. I’m a friendly guy, aren’t you? If I just stay married I’ll have more friends. You know people like people. People like to have friends. You know? So I stay married and I will have more friends.
Also, research, and I can go on and on, tells me, secular research, that I will have a greater contentment if I just stay married. I’ll be healthier, I’ll be happier, I’ll be wealthier if I just stay married.
But see; remember earlier I talked about one plus one equals one? Do you remember I talked about that’s wholeness, that’s a whole number, an integer? Number one. We’ll see, when we bail out on a marriage what are we doing? We’re halving all of our money, we’re just halving all of our friends, and we’re just halving our happiness and our contentment. We’re just halving everything and we’re living on fractions. It’s not worth it, is it? I mean do you want to live a life of a fraction or a life of wholeness? You see the option is up to you and me. We either resolve to just stay married or not.
Let’s thank Robert for holding the Bible. Now we’re back in church, okay? Thank you Robert, thank you very much. That was very interesting. Wow that was so, so interesting.
The last reason and final reason why we should just stay married, this is going to be quick here, quick and painless, Jesus, right, others number three, you. Just stay married because of you. You be you.
And if you want to be the best you, just stay married. Just stay married. Just for you. It gives you that, again, that confidence, that self esteem, seeing yourself the way God sees you. You know you have someone who’s got your back. You know you’re living with the covenant and the context of how God has hard wired all of us. It is just something that you do for you. You can say yes, I will have more money and yeah I will live longer and yeah I will have more friends and contentment. All that is fine and dandy, but it’s right for you. Because God has an amazing agenda for you that he wants you to discover.
Marriage, yes we’re going to be happy. Yes, you can say it’s for our happiness. But the number one thing marriage is for it’s for our holiness. I’m so thrilled to see Fellowship Church in action. I’m so thrilled to see so many of you who are hanging in there, who are committed, who are reaping the benefits of marriage. So if you want the blessings of marriage, if you want the holiness of marriage (because the word holy simply means set apart for blessings) just stay married. I mean, I want to be set apart for blessings. That’s what I want. So I realize my marriage is more for my holiness than my happiness, I’m going to be blessed. I’m set apart to live this life on a holy ‘notha level with Lisa as two become one. It’s a phenomenal platform for the gospel.
Illus: As I told you last week one of the greatest compliments Lisa and I have ever received happened several months ago. A Jewish man who found out I am in the ministry began to talk to us. We saw him for several days and finally he stopped and he said, “I want to tell you guys something. Whatever you’re preaching, I know it’s real because your marriage is real. You guys love each other.”
When we walked out of that store where we had talked to him, Lisa and I were thinking, “Is that incredible?! We’re not perfect. We’re almost, but we’re not perfect. What a compliment!”
I believe one-day that we’ll have an opportunity to lead him into a relationship with Christ. But I didn’t preach a sermon. I didn’t say, “Do you have a Bible? Turn to the book of Genesis and let me show you….” I didn’t do that. He just observed. That’s the kind of power that we wield in marriage. That’s the kind of power that we leverage, the power of commitment, the power of holiness.
You know what? There’s going to be a lot of holes on the road to holiness, a lot of potholes and I have hit them and so have you and they’ll keep coming. But that is where God builds the stuff. So you know what I’m saying? Just get married. Just stay married. And if you’re not ready, just don’t get married. Okay? But in today’s world we have to take these concepts and principals from God’s Word and apply them and do the stuff that he wants us to do. So if you’re married, if you’re thinking about marriage, just stay married. Let’s say it again: Just stay married. Say it from the gut: Just stay married. And when you do, you’ll be glad that you did.