Priority in Marriage – Living Simply, Yet Focused

Priority in Marriage

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:12

Picture an equilateral triangle with three sides of equal length. At the very top is Christ; at one of the base angles is “husband” and at the other is “wife.” A remarkable thing happens when the husband and wife begin moving toward Christ at the top of the triangle: The distance between them gets shorter and shorter. As soon as both spouses reach Christ at the top of the triangle the distance between them has disappeared.

Geometry helps illustrate something the Bible communicates in words: The entire Christian life, marriage included, is centered on following Christ. As important as marriage is, it is simply one dimension of the Christian experience. Whether single or married, Christian’s have one ultimate priority—the same priority Paul described for his own life: counting all things as loss except for pursuing a deeper knowledge of Christ (Philippians 3:7-14). So in marriage, being the best spouse is not the priority. Being “the best” follower of Jesus is.

When it comes to marriage, asking “What would Christ have me do?” is always first.

A Single Thought: You can get second things only by putting first things first. C. S. Lewis

Living Simply, Yet Focused

Look at the birds of the air….Consider the lilies of the field… —Matthew 6:26, 28

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”— they simply are! Think of the sea, the air, the sun, the stars, and the moon— all of these simply are as well— yet what a ministry and service they render on our behalf! So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.” In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). We cannot discover the source of our natural life through common sense and reasoning, and Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows our circumstances, and if we will stay focused on Him, instead of our circumstances, we will grow spiritually— just as “the lilies of the field.”

The people who influence us the most are not those who detain us with their continual talk, but those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us.

If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him.

We all have the trick of saying—If only I were not where I am!—If only I had not got the kind of people I have to live with! If our faith or our religion does not help us in the conditions we are in, we have either a further struggle to go through, or we had better abandon that faith and religion. The Shadow of an Agony, 1178 L


Are You Waiting For God

Psalm 27:14

Our culture is an “instant” society. Because of inventions like the computer and the microwave, we’re used to quick results. A fast pace isn’t necessarily bad, but we should guard against becoming so set on immediate fulfillment that we can’t wait for God’s timing.

This problem existed long before the computer age. In Genesis 15:4-5, God revealed to Abraham that though he and his wife Sarah were too old to have children, a great nation would come from him. Abraham believed God but eventually decided to handle matters on his own. He took Sarah’s servant Hagar as his wife so that she could bear the promised son. (See Gen. 16.)

Abraham probably rationalized his decision, figuring that God wanted him to have a son—and since it seemed impossible any other way, surely this must be what the Lord wanted him to do! But it wasn’t. Abraham had to deal with the consequences of his actions, including jealousy and resentment between Sarah and Hagar. These problems in turn created further difficulties, both in the short term and throughout history.

God was faithful, though—14 years later, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Yet the consequences of Abraham’s decision to step out of God’s plan remain with us. The two boys became the fathers of nations that are still in conflict.

Like Abraham, we might believe God’s promises but prefer immediate results. Or we may just want things to be done our way. Instead, ask the Father to lead you. Then wait for Him. His way may not be what you think you want, but it is always best.

The Message of the Old Testament

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:22)

Ever since sin entered into God’s created world, His message to all people of all ages has been the same. At the time of the curse, God prophesied that there soon would be a coming Redeemer—the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent, although the Redeemer Himself would be made to suffer in order to do away with the effects of sin (Genesis 3:15). “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).

God repeatedly warned the people of His hatred of sin and wickedness (see, for example, Psalm 5:4-6; Proverbs 6:16-19), but He recognized that humankind was totally incapable of measuring up to His standard of perfection. That great statement of righteous requirements, the Ten Commandments, demonstrated the utter impossibility of complete compliance (Exodus 20; Psalm 14; etc.). Conversely, God repeatedly extended His invitation to be rescued from sin and its effects and its necessary judgment by confidence in His plan for mankind. In our text, we see that “all the ends of the earth” have the opportunity to be “saved.” “Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come” (Isaiah 45:24).

This plan of God focuses on the promised Redeemer who would come to buy back humanity from its enslavement to sin. “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: . . . and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). JDM

The Eternity of God

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. —Isaiah 57:15

If I thought that the word “eternal” as referring to God meant only “lasting until the end of the age,” I’d just fold my Bible up and go home and wait for the end. If I had a God that only lasted so long, that didn’t have eternity in His heart, I couldn’t possibly find it worthwhile to preach….

The Old Testament Hebrew has exhausted itself—wrung its language as you wring a towel, to get the last drop of meaning out of it—to say that God is forever and ever endlessly, unto perpetuity, world without end. The New Testament Greek has done the same. There aren’t any other words in the Greek language that can be used to mean “unto perpetuity, having no end, going on and on and on and on endlessly and forever.”…

Eternal, everlasting, forever, unto perpetuity, world without end—all of those words mean just what they say. When God talks about Himself, that’s what He means—the High and Lofty One who exists eternally, forever, unto perpetuity, world without end.

Lord, I bow today before the high and lofty One who far surpasses my comprehension. Holy is the Lord! Amen.

Are You Responding to the Spirit?

Quench not the Spirit. Holdfast to that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20)

Are we raising a whole generation of young men and women without any sensitivity to the voice of God’s Holy Spirit?

I am on record, and I will be as long as I live, that I would rather lose a leg and hobble along throughout the rest of my life than to lose my sensitivity to God and to His voice and to spiritual things!

Oh, how I want to keep that sensitivity within me—within my soul!

I am thinking about a great throng of men and women raised in Christian homes.

They have been brought up in Sunday school. They probably cut their first baby tooth on the edge of a hymn book when the mother was not watching.

Still, to this day, they are not right with God. Some have made a kind of profession but have never been able to delight themselves in the Lord.

The reason? They have lost sensitivity to the message and the voice of God. If the Holy Spirit cannot move something within their beings every day they are not going to be effective Christians—if they are Christians at all!

Except as they are used by Christ

Just so far as the Lord shall give us grace to suffer for Christ, to suffer with Christ, just so far does he honor us. Afflictions cannot sanctify us, except as they are used by Christ, as his mallet and his chisel. Our joys and our efforts cannot make us ready for heaven, apart from the hand of Jesus who fashioneth our hearts aright, and prepareth us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise; we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song. This vale of tears is but the pathway to the better country; this world of woe is but the stepping-stone to a world of bliss.