In this series, we are reviewing a variety of things in our lives which we cannot afford to give up on in order to “make time.” Today (and in the next installment), we move on to a struggle that many of us in ministry have faced or do face – making sure that we do not sacrifice family in order to accomplish what we want to in ministry. Last week, I published an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening Devotional in which he wrote:
“This is our first duty, we are to begin at the family hearth: he is a bad preacher who does not commence his ministry at home. The heathen are to be sought by all means, and the highways and hedges are to be searched, but home has a prior claim, and woe unto those who reverse the order of the Lord’s arrangements.”
In today’s installment of the Non-Negotiables, we will examine the importance of tending to your spouse and marriage. In the next installment, we will talk about your children.
Marriage is important to God – so important mind you that the Bible says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16 NASB). It was the very first institution created by God for his creation. Despite living in the presence of God, He proclaims of Adam:
It is not good that the man should be alone… [Genesis 2:18]
Adam needed a “helper” and so God created Eve and explains:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Throughout the Bible, God works through married couples and expresses his high view of the institution.
Despite that, many of us in ministry are all to willing to sacrifice our marriage for the purposes of pursuits of the ministry. Even more so though, many of us who are parents sacrifice time spent on our marriage for our kids. In this article, I would like to address both. One word of explanation, I am a man, a husband, and a father. While I believe this principal is just as important for women as it for men, you will likely see a slant towards husbands.
As married people, we are called by God to be his light to our spouse. The marriage relationship, after all, is presented as a picture of Jesus and the church, and we know what Jesus gave for his bride. In fact, the relationship is so important, that the Bible explains problems in that relationship WILL impact your relationship with God. Consider:
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. [1 Peter 3:7]
So, what does this look like in real life? It means that our spouse must be a priority in our lives. We must serve them as Christ served the church, we must prioritize their wants and desires, we must be an anchor in times of trouble and a companion in the journey through life. When both spouses are seeking after the will of God, this is a lot easier. Even if that is not the case though, we have a duty to our spouse. The Bible is clear. Paul acknowledged it when he wrote:
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. 33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. [1 Corinthians 7:32-25]
Paul does not say that there is anything wrong with marriage, but he does say acknowledge that the married person will have obligations to their spouse. We can not ignore these spousal duties in the name of ministry to God. The God who tells us to leave the alter and reconcile with our brother if there is anything between us certainly does not wish to neglect our spouse in the name of serving him.
So, what does this look like in terms of those of us who do ministry, because God calls us to be a good spouse and to spread the word of his kingdom. It means that you make time for your spouse. Write it on your calendar if you need, but guard that time. Spend time daily talking, and make sure you talk about things that interest your spouse as well. Go on a date night once a week. Get away for a weekend a couple of times of year. Make all of this part of your routine and guard it vigorously!
Finally, a word of warning to parents. We will talk more next time about the importance of not sacrificing your relationship with your kids, but there is another danger that comes with being parents. Oftentimes, parents will begin to prioritize their children over their spouses. This is not consistent with God’s plan. God absolutely gave us children to love and raise in the training and admonition of the Lord, and we have God given responsibilities to them. However, marriage was created first and is therefore afforded an even greater priority in God’s plan. When we make children more important than our spouses, we turn them into little living breathing idols. In the end, the best thing you can ever do for your kids is to love your spouse well.
One last note…as there is a possibility that my wife may read this post – she does that sometime. I do not write this article as one who has mastered this. If I tried to count the number of times I have failed in this regard, just numbering them would take quite some time. Fortunately though, my wife has stuck with me through thick and thin, and next week will mark 11 years married. Even after all this time, I am still working on making sure that my marriage and my spouse are non-negotiables. I love you honey!