We are bombarded with articles and opinions out there written on, "marital pitfalls" or "the top 10 reasons people get divorced." While many of these opinions have valid points, none of them point to the fact that, "every marriage has a 100% chance of success, if you do it God's way." Most of us have no problem seeking first the kingdom of the internet when we need to get some information we don't know. Type it in the search engine, hit search, and there it is, all we think we need to know and use. When tension, arguments, or frustration break out in your relationship, or when you feel unloved and mistreated by your spouse, where do you turn? Do you immediately turn to God? Or do your emotions, feelings, and pride rise up and take over? Many Christians have heard the verse Matthew 6:33:
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Sadly, while many know this passage, few do it, and they find themselves struggling and straining in frustration and heaviness, just to cope with the married life. Friends, Christ never called us to cope in life, He called us to thrive, not only survive! God urges us in this passage to seek first who and what? -- the King and His Kingdom, His Lordship and rulership over:
your thought life
and your reactions
When we SEEK FIRST His Kingdom, it allows the Holy Spirit to put all things in our relationship "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40).
"What God does not initiate, He does not appreciate." -Dr. Charles Browning
Most of the back and forth stuff in marriage is initiated by whom? --SELF (the flesh) and God tells us straight and plain, "Have no confidence in the flesh" and "make no provision for the flesh" because the "the flesh produces nothing good" (Philip. 3:3, Rom. 13:12-14, John 6:63). When we handle arguments without seeking FIRST God and His Kingdom, we give into self's way, and in turn we seek first the kingdom of “me, myself, and I.” This is a dangerous path to take as Romans 8:8 warns us:
Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.
Think about that for a minute...when you are controlled by your emotions and feelings, you actions displease God. Further, Romans 8:7 says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot." The flesh is clueless when it comes to making marriage work. Negative results of the flesh are as follows:
coping and leaning on self's own understanding
arguing and shutting down
retaliating and withholding love
getting moody and sarcastic
name calling and belittling
"All of these traits are the nasty, ugly fruits of coping in the flesh, relying on self instead of seeking FIRST the King to take over in His Kingdom" -Dr. Charles Browning. If you want God to initiate His power, you must surrender yours. So, when faced with tension or a heated argument, you must dethrone the trinity of "the flesh" (me, myself, and I). Then, invite the Holy Spirit in and watch what happens. If we continue to handle the same stinking problem the same stinking way, we’ll continue getting the same stinking results. When we remain in the Father, we bear much fruit. Scripture says it perfectly in John 15:5:
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
The problem many times is, we want to remain in ourselves, allowing our burning desires and uncontrollable feelings to take over. In turn, our branches wither and our fruit bearing potential fails. Jesus says apart from Him, we can do NOTHING! Many times when conflict arises in marriage, we want my kingdom come, my will be done, but when you dethrone the trinity of "the flesh" you say, not I but Christ; not my will but His be done (Luke 22:42). When "self" is dethroned, it no longer becomes our own agenda and about who is or isn’t right, but about Christ and His will for you and your marriage.
If we want to grow, self has got to go.
If we were to ask you, where is the Holy Spirit? If you are a believer, you would probably respond back by saying, "In me...in us." Well, the beauty is, He promises to "never leave you or forsake you." God pleads with us in Revelation 3:20 to:
Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and [meet ALL your needs and help you in intimate fellowship with you].
God promises to deliver you, if you call on Him in the day of trouble (Psalm 50:15).
The Holy Spirit is pure wisdom, infinite love, and mighty power — dwelling in each of you that believe in Him. So, where is His kingdom you ask? Luke 17:21 tells us, “the kingdom of God is within you.” He is waiting and longing to be invited into your mess so He can turn it into His masterpiece! But the key is: to seek Him first in that “day of trouble” and then watch the Holy Spirit take over and “make all things beautiful in His time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).”
We cannot enjoy the benefits of the Kingdom without first surrendering to the King. -Pastor Glenn Packiam
Why leave the the Inventor and Creator of marriage outside knocking as you cope and make the mess even messier? As He says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” Psalm 127:1. Why not let the One who is all loving and all powerful run the show? Shouldn't the Creator who knit you together in your mothers womb and brought you both together for such a time as this know exactly how to handle each and every frustration and indifference that comes your way? When you put Matthew 6:33 into action, right in the middle of the mess, He promises to give you the grace, strength, and wisdom needed to overcome and deliver you in the day of trouble!
The Great Exchange
Our thoughts for His, Our ways for His, Our will for His, Our agenda for His, Our timing for His, Surrendering our pride all for His glory!
Here is an incredible sample prayer crafted by Dr. Charles Browning to pray while you put Matt. 6:33 into practice:
"Lord, you know the thoughts and feelings I'm having right now are not good, and I can't help it. But I know You are in me at the same time, right next to my mess and moods and feelings. Thank you for forgiving me for these attitudes, and for coming into my situation right now. I open the door and invite you into this, show me how to let go, releasing my "self" thoughts and exchanging them for Your thoughts, Holy Spirit. Replace my thinking with your thoughts. Love my spouse through me right now as I yield to Your presence within me. Thank you for making all of this, including our attitudes, pleasing to You--I seek Your Kingdom and Lordship FIRST, as You help me overcome and have victory, and I give You all the glory! In Jesus mighty name. Amen."
We call this the invitation to VICTORY, or invite to think right! -Dr. Charles Browning
There you have it! The #1 key ingredient for a thriving marriage. It's never too late to start right, so you can finish strong!
All for His glory,
-JR and Becca Gonzales