Friday, January 27, 2017

Family Life, p. 2

Ephesians 5:22-24, 33

Family Life p.2

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

(v. 33) However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Men and women are soooo different. And that difference doesn’t simply pertain to men liking sports and women enjoying cooking shows… men being content to throw on mismatched clothes and run out the door with a cup of coffee 10 minutes after getting up, and women spending 2 hours to getting ready and STILL feeling like something isn’t exactly right.

No, there is a fundamental difference – something bigger than societal stereotypes. And no matter what feminists or transgenderists say, those differences begin in the womb and won’t end ‘til the tomb. God - made us - different.

Go to any nursery or preschool and you will see it. Little boys grabbing up cars and making “VROOM… VROOM” sounds… little girls picking up their doll and combing its hair, all-the-while carrying on a conversation as if the toy could actually communicate. Boys building skyscrapers only to blow them up… girls laboring at their play kitchens for their make-believe tea party.

There is something fundamentally different in God’s design for the sexes, and those differences grow as we go through puberty into adulthood.

Its those Differences that we often find so attractive in the early days of infatuation, but become problematic as time wears on. So problematic, in fact, that many men and women start to question their choice in a mate. Disillusionment sets in... “I thought things would be different… I thought he understood me??? I might be happier ALONE or WITH SOMEONE ELSE.”

Many marriages fail to last – and many more fail to be fulfilling – because we have not learned to ACCEPT and APPRECIATE the differences between us.

Dr. Gerald Klerman, one of the world’s foremost authorities on depression and schizophrenia, said, “Today's young women are MUCH more likely to become depressed than their mothers at this age. The reasons? Increased economic pressure to contribute to family income... changing roles in society... and an inability to meet their own expectations.”

If YOU are one of those caught in the throes of discouragement, at the risk of sounding trite, allow me to say – The answer for your loneliness, frustration, and feeling like a failure, won’t be found in the workplace or in an illicit relationship. It is right here – in this text.

Having pastored hundreds of people, having counseled hundreds of hours, seeing people at their very worst, I can honestly say that God has a plan to make your marriage more fulfilling than you EVER thought possible. But ⇒ you’ve got to do it HIS WAY!

When Paul spoke of the Lord’s relationship to the Church, he used marriage to illustrate God’s love and commitment… His willingness to sacrifice Himself - - FOR THE CHURCH. That speaks volumes… don't you think? Volumes about how great the marriage relationship CAN BE … about how HIGH a view God has, and WE ought to have, of the marriage covenant.

While those with fulfilling marriages understand the illustration, those whose marriages are crumbling or unfulfilling might find marriage a terrible analogy of the Lord's relationship with the church… at least they HOPE it isn’t anything like it! But Paul offers insight in this text that will radically transform any marriage into something beautiful and fulfilling. He offers wisdom that will enable us to find healthy balance in spite of our differences.

Last time we considered the MEN and what God would have US to be. Today we look to the women. Men need three things from their wives according to Paul:

1. Every man needs a wife who is REASONABLE. Paul explains, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Don’t do it for that knothead you married. Do it for Jesus… “as unto the Lord.”

Be reasonable... in your expectations… in your demands. It is common for people to enter relationships with preconceived ideas. Everyone does it. But because of the way little girls are wired, they spend their growing up years creating the perfect relationship fantasy… what he will LOOK like and HOW he will MAKE HER FEEL as if SHE'S all that matters… that he will be gentle and understanding - godly and yet edgy.

There's nothing wrong with that. The problem comes, when those expectations don't mature and change to something a bit more realistic with age. When you create such a fantasy in your mind of what a man should be and all that he SHOULD do for you - he won't EVER live up to that imaginary “Prince Charming.”

You will never experience contentment in your marriage, you will never be fulfilled UNTIL you are reasonable with your expectations. Stop telling yourself that you “deserve the fantasy.”

You must understand that only God can meet your needs - only HE can satisfy those deep, spiritual and emotional longings. But as long as you keep feeding the fantasy of a man being everything you need, you will not know joy or fulfillment.

Be reasonable with your expectations.

I’ve had to modify my expectations in MANY areas of my life. I didn't understand why I was always disappointed. Whether it was a relationship or a job… a church or a child. Because I was applying unreasonable standards to the thing, I was NEVER satisfied.

I’m not trying to be negative - but no man can do for you what only God can do. My joy, my fulfillment, my identity comes from Jesus, not some man or woman.

When you finally understand that - when you begin to pour your energies into your relationship with God, it will have the uncanny effect of improving other relationships. It will make you happy and content. It will help you be patient and forgiving. It will help you persevere through life’s difficult moments. Focus on your relationship with God. Be reasonable.

2. After Reasonable, this passage tells wives to be Respectful. Paul tells women to “respect” their husbands in v. 33. Interestingly, the Greek Word used here is a word that can be translated “FEAR.”

Paul is telling women to have a higher view of their husbands than what we typically see in the world. Turn on just about any sitcom, and it’s always the same - the men are buffoons and the women are Saints for putting up with them. The world is totally disrespectful and rejects any notion of a man being the leader of the family.

But it shouldn’t be that way for Christian families. And ONE OF THE WAYS a wife demonstrates that she respects her husband is through biblical submission - a voluntary yielding of herself to her husband.

That makes us say “Hmmmm.” The modernist is offended by that - naturally resenting any instruction that conjures images of degrading and devaluing women. But to read THIS instruction and jump to THAT assumption is to misunderstand the heart of God. The only reason people think that way is because the devil has convinced them that God is wrong… that His ideas are antiquated and WON’T WORK anymore. That we shouldn’t trust God to have OUR best interest at heart. Most of us don’t understand what “submission” means, and so we unfairly assume God wants women to be “doormats.”

As people of faith, we must believe God knows what is best for us… that AS Creator, He knows how life is BEST lived. Until we obey the Lord, we will not have the fulfilling marriage we long to have – period.

So WHAT does it mean to ‘submit?’ Let me give you a couple of ideas:

First, Submitting to your husband as the head of the home means that you stop trying to FIX him. Unhealthy habits start EARLY in relationships. The picking. The put-downs. You’ve GOT to get to a place where you allow the Holy Spirit to work on your husband - you’ve got to STOP trying to do God’s job.

Second, submitting to your husband as the head means YOU have to STOP trying to BE ‘the head.’ That’s HIS job. This is fundamental. This is the reason so many marriages end in divorce… and why so many women are frustrated. They’ve been warring with God for control of the man and warring with man for control of the home.

Ever since the fall, women have battled for the headship of the family… but God created women with the need for a head. That position wasn’t made for you. And though you might feel like you do a pretty good job of it, God made you in such a way that you cannot be your BEST while assuming the role God made for someone else.

THIS is what Dr. Klerman’s research found – but stopped short of coming out and saying. Women today struggle with depression and inadequacy and lack fulfillment, because they are trying to be something OTHER than what God made them to be. And until you surrender the leadership of the family to your husband, you will have this struggle, this conflict and dissatisfaction.

I’ve heard women say, “If my husband would only be the kind of man he SHOULD be, THEN I would have no problem submitting to him.” And YES, you have a legitimate point! You really do! BUT - we’ve must get to the place where we commit ourselves to doing what is right regardless what the other person does. That's called “being a grown-up.”

In the beginning, God said, “It is NOT GOOD for man to be alone… I will make a HELP-MEET for Him.” (Gen. 2:18) Wives are at their best when they COMPLETE their husbands, not COMPETE with their husbands. When a woman moves FROM controlling her man to completing him, he will feel RESPECTED.

No man wants a nagging wife. Even Solomon said, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” In another passage he compared a nagging wife to a constant dripping of water.

Don’t be that woman. The BEST marriages are those where EACH serves the other. But hear me now - EVEN IF a man initially refuses to be what his wife wishes he would be, SHE must be committed to HER ROLE. Let God handle this situation. You will see God work when you stop trying to do HIS WORK.

3. Then after being REASONABLE and RESPECTFUL, men need wives who are RESILIENT. The ability to spring back into shape after being pressed - that’s what that means. Don't let your circumstances… your challenges - the pressure turn you into someone you don't want to be.

Be Content. Be positive and patient. Why??? Because good marriages take WORK!

In the book Wobegon Boy, Garrison Keillor tells the fanciful tale of John Tollefson. John leaves his childhood home in Minnesota and moves to New York, where he makes a life and finds love.

Although the story is fiction, it contains several gems of insight. One such gem is seen when John calls home and tells his parents about something his girlfriend had said: "There is no such thing as a successful marriage,” she said. “There are marriages that give up - and marriages that keep on trying. That's the only difference.”

That’s good stuff! Marriage takes a lot of work. When you were a girl and you pretended you had found your ‘knight in shining armor,’ the two of you rode off into the sunset to live “happily ever after.” No one told you the truth about your childhood fantasy. Good marriages take hard work. They require:

1 - Dying to self. Every day you are faced with a decision – are you going to surrender your thoughts and desires to the Lord, OR are you going to build your life YOUR way? Are you going to humble yourself and ask God to love your spouse THROUGH you? OR are you going to continue to feed the fantasy that you would be happier with someone else?? The only way you are going to move from tolerating your relationships to having joy in them is by putting Christ first ⇒ in everything.

2 - You need a consistent prayer and devotional life. Stop trying to improve your mate… improve YOURSELF! The path to spiritual growth requires diligence. You have to daily seek the face of God. While you are praying, ask God to help you serve your family with joy. God loves you. HE will deal with your husband. And even if it seems there are no results, keep doing what is right. God will bless you for it!

3 - STOP criticizing your husband. All of us feel the need to vent. Sometimes we think our head will explode if we don’t. But I want to encourage you – if you are going to vent to anyone, let it be the Lord.

Words are powerful. They have a way of influencing our emotions. When you give in to anger, it will grow. Every little irritation will be magnified. Everything will seem bad and you will feel like there is nothing good and no way it will ever improve.

That’s ‘stinkin’ thinkin.’ And the more you talk to your friends, the more of it you will do.

Filter your words. When you are spending time with friends, don’t let the conversation devolve into a weekly gripe session about your husbands. Your words aren’t entirely true, and by giving vent to them, your heart will believe that your complaints are legitimate.

If you would spend more time in the Word of God than you do on Facebook finding out what Susan ate for breakfast, you might have a happier home.

If you spent more time building your husband up than ripping into him with negative put-downs, he might feel more convicted about being the man God would have him to be.

Successful marriages take work!

If I had to add one thing NOT IN YOUR NOTES, I would tell you to learn how to FORGIVE… early and often. Sometimes it’s the only way you will get through the bad times.

Maybe we should try THIS:

A couple married for 15 years began having more disagreements than usual . They wanted to make their marriage work and agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month they planned to drop a note in a "Fault" box. Anything that the other did that got under their skin, they would put on paper and drop in the box.

The wife was diligent in her efforts to write down every irritation:

"leaving the top off the toothpaste"

"wet towels on the bathroom floor"

"dirty socks not in hamper"

on and on until the end of the month.

At the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The husband reflected on ALLLLLL he had done wrong. Then the wife opened her box and began reading. There were SEVERAL slips of paper but they all said the same thing. The message on each slip was, "I love you!"

Listen - no one here is perfect. All of us can do a better job being supportive of our mates. But maybe God has used this message to speak to YOUR heart specifically? Maybe you recognize that God would have you make some changes? Why not come pray about it??

If doing what you’ve always done isn’t working, why not, in these closing moments, come to this altar and ask God to help YOU be what HE wants you to be… to help you love… to help you control your thoughts and words???