4/19/24: Treasure Your Marriage

4/19/24: Treasure Your Marriage

(Audio transcription below)

I’m going to try to unfold some of the reasons why marriage is important, but my main goal today is to give you guys an action plan. I really hope everybody leaves with a training plan for the marriage you have now or the marriage you’d like to have one day or maybe even to fix something going on in your marriage right now. Think about that as we go.

Is anyone in here a Nascar fan? I went to high school in Mooresville, North Carolina which is the epicenter of racing so I was steeped in it. You may remember this wreck…

“And the Big One happens behind them.” Why did I show you guys this right now? First of all, nobody died in that clip which is in itself amazing! That was Dale Jr. in the front and he was oblivious to what was happening behind him. He was going to cross the finish line and the dude behind him got a little loose “and the big one happens behind him.” When I see this, I think about the car wreck videos they show you in drivers ed or the wrecked car they’d park in front of the high school. This could be you kids! But this also makes me think of marriage sometimes. In marriage, you’re running so hard to get ahead, raise the kids, all these sort of things that it can be easy to get a little loose. And then something slides, and slides into something else and when that happens in marriage…sometimes the big one happens behind you. Sometimes you feel oblivious to everything going along and there’s this big one happening behind you.

As I think about marriage, I realize there are people sitting out here today who have been through a broken marriage. They’re coming out the other side of it. Maybe it wasn’t your fault, maybe it was, that doesn’t matter. Some of you grew up as children of a broken marriage. Some of you right now are in a marriage that is not working and you’re thinking about divorce. And the book doesn’t even touch on divorce. I’m thinking, how can you talk about marriage without talking about when it goes wrong. I was the kid that grew up with parents that fought a lot but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t grow up in a super Christian household, we went to church a few times a year. Then on December 27 when my son was one year old, my mom shows up on my door step and says, “Your dad went fishing and I don’t think he’s coming back. I’m scared, I don’t think I’m coming back. Help me figure out a life.” I didn’t talk to my father much for two or three years after that and he was my best friend. He’s my best friend now, but our family was wrecked. My sister got married and my parents couldn’t even be in the same room. My next child was born and my sister’s kid was born and it went on and on.

This is why I want to speak on marriage. If we can keep your tire on the track and keep your wheel from sliding to prevent the big one, I want to do it. So that’s what I hope we do today – we’re going to make a plan to keep the tires on the track.

So why is marriage even such a big deal? Marriage isn’t a contract, an agreement, a deal you make or an arrangement. It is a demonstration of what the gospel is in our lives. Marriage has a purpose and it’s for us to understand how God relates to us. Because there is this bonding that happens in marriage.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.    Ephesians 5:31-32

So this thing happens as Christians and it talks about two becoming one flesh. So I thought about play doh. When you get married, you’re taking your play doh and you start to knead it with somebody else’s. You take your life and you say you’re going to join with somebody and your lives intertwine, physically, spiritually. You have kids together, buy a house together, have a mortgage together, start to have the same friends. And if you do this enough, you start to combine more and more and you start not to be able to tell where one starts and another stops. And what you can’t do, is you can’t now separate the play doh. No matter what we do, a marriage, as you grow together, you become connected in ways that turn you into one flesh. Here’s the good news guys, that’s what happens with Christ too. We are Christians and we live with him and grow with him and spend time with him and have experiences with him and there’s a point where we become somewhat indistinguishable and inseparable from Christ. We become more and more like him, which is what we want. It is incredibly good news that it works like this. That is why marriage is so important, because marriage teaches us what it’s like to also relate to Christ.

A wrong view of marriage can also give us a wrong view of Christ so we want to get this right, it’s important. We’re going to talk through this scripture, seeing the marks of a marriage. Seeing what the Bible describes as a good marriage, how it’s intended. As you hear these things, it’s also the marks of how we relate to Christ. So you’re learning two things at once.

Marriages are sacrificial: 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  Ephesians 5:25

What’s the limit to the affection that Christ has for us? There isn’t one is there? I’ll give up everything for you. For me? But I’m not good enough to warrant Christ giving up everything for. So in marriage, our spouse may not be good enough to warrant us giving up everything for, but that’s not the point. There’s no limit to what we give up. I’ve been around camp fires where guys were talking about could they pull out a gun to defend their families. But then conversation turned to, would you be willing to stand in front of a gunman to take a bullet for your wife? Most guys would say ‘Yes, I’m willing to lay down my life for my wife.’ But am I willing to lay down my hobby or what I’m looking at on my phone or my weekend away with the guys or my work? It’s almost like the smaller things are harder to lay down.

I’m not sure what it is with fishing and my family, but I got super into fishing when I moved down here to the point where I was planning my life around good fishing weather and was missing kid things and date nights. My dad and I bought a boat together so we could go further out. At some point I missed something that was important and I came home and thought, “Are these fish worth my marriage?” I got some cool pictures, but is it worth the marriage? I decided it wasn’t so we sold the fishing boat. I still fish, but it can’t have the first place. It sounds stupid to say “I gave up fishing for my marriage”, but fishing has torn up some marriages before. Sports have torn up some marriages before. Our wives need to see us willing to sacrifice for them and sometimes it’s the little things because they’re harder than the big things to sacrifice.

Marriages are purposeful: 

Ephesians 5:26-27 goes on to say, “that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Isn’t that a cool picture of sanctification? Without blemish. Somehow that’s the goal. So this relationship with God has a purpose, to make us more like him, to make us indistinguishable from him. Our marriages have the same purpose too. Our marriages are there to make both of us grow more like Christ. They are a tool for sanctification. So as husbands, there’s responsibility there. The Bible does position us in a different role in marriage as a shepherd. We have some responsibility in shepherding our wives. And helping her to grow. She has some responsibility to us too, but really, the weight is on the men. What does that look like? To shepherd your wife and help her grow? It might be the gospel, just clearly explaining that over and over. It might be having some family worship times. That word, family worship, puts so much weight on men. Our model is what happens at Sunday morning worship but it might be just reading through Matthew together or watching some stuff on Right Now Media. With my wife, it was giving her space for Quiet Time in the morning. We have five kids and they’re all a handful, none of them have been easy I would say. Somehow I try to take on a task to give my wife an extra 15 minutes and right now, it’s brushing my daughters’ hair every morning. I don’t know what your issue is like that, but there is a certain weight of responsibility for husbands to help God to sanctify our wives.

Marriages are nurturing:

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church because we are members of his body.  Ephesians 5:28-30

I couldn’t help but think about Mike’s talk last time. Have y’all thought about that cheeseburger that Mike talked about last month? The cheeseburger that wouldn’t go away, that wouldn’t rot? That has haunted me. The average American spends $110 a month on beauty, fitness and wellness. It’s a 1.5 billion dollar industry. We don’t want to discipline ourselves to eat well, but we’ll spend a lot of time trying to make the fat thing look pretty. So we tend to love our own selves pretty well. We’ll do things to take care of ourselves. Why is that? We know that if we lose our health but have everything else, we haven’t gained anything. If you’re so decrepit, you can’t spend your money, what good is it? That’s what we’re supposed to think about with our wives. How do we tend her and protect her and care for her like we care for our own flesh? How do we make it beautiful, make it better, protect it? Think about a gardener. Do any of you guys try to grow tomato plants? My grandfather was the Chatham County tomato plant champion. I can’t seem to grow them but every year I try. And this year I cheated. I went to Home Depot and bought a mature tomato plant. I set them outside and texted my Dad a picture and said “Hey Dad, look at my tomato plants!” You can judge me, but I didn’t tell my Dad I bought them at Home Depot!

I come home and I water that tomato plant every day and I look to make sure it hasn’t got rot. You check it out right? You know the condition of your tomato plant. The Bible talks about knowing the condition of your flock or your herd or your livestock. So part of this is just being aware of the condition of your marriage, the condition of your wife. Where is she in this so that you can nurture her along in her salvation. The nice thing is God does this too. It says, if he cares for the birds and the trees, if he knows them, how much more does he know us? So the nice thing is, God is doing the same thing for me as I’m doing it for my wife. He’s aware of my position, he’s aware of my struggles, he’s aware of what I’m thinking about. He’s aware of what I’m having difficulty with right now. Nothing is surprising or new to him as we go through this. So he’s there with us as we do the same thing for our wives.

Marriage is steadfast: 

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  Ephesians 5:31

So this commitment is steadfast in marriage. God is steadfast with us. He’s steady and fast. He holds fast and he’s steady – he’s always there. No matter what I do, God is not going to let me go. There’s nothing I could do wrong that would separate me from Christ. Marriages today don’t feel steadfast. We see a lot of examples. I think one reason this is, is men tend to let a lot of other things into our marriages. We look at something on our phones and let a little something in and it just starts to work into our lives. And then, maybe there is a girl. I’ve had a friend who did the whole, “secretary behind the desk thing.” I’m just going to leave it there. Maybe it’s that our work becomes the main deal. I’m going to be the best realtor. I’m going to be the best business guy. I’m going to be the best athlete. Whatever your thing is. And we let this in. And the thing is, you can’t separate that back out right? It’s in there now. You can remove chunks but what happens is that it will start to break the thing down. This marriage is a seal and it breaks the seal on the relationship.

I want us to see steadfastness also in what we let into our marriage because I love when the Bible says God is a jealous God. Think about that. God is bonded to us with one flesh and he’s so jealous of our relationship he’s not going to let anything else in. I will fight for you if somebody gets in the middle of it. I’m going to get angry, I’m going to get frustrated and sometimes we don’t like that anger and frustration but we know it’s for our good because God is trying to run the other stuff out. He’s trying to pick the blue play doh out of our lives. That’s going to be painful because it’s going to hurt as he goes through our lives and picks the stuff out. We might need to do that with our marriages. We might need to go through and pull out some of the stuff we’ve let in as we become steadfast.

We’re going to now turn to making an actionable plan. We’ve seen all these marks of a husband’s love and when we break up into groups we’re going to talk about these things some more. I want to go over some options on how we can protect the marriages we have, plan to create really strong marriages one day or maybe recover and deal with some brokenness in our marriages. And as we do this, I’m going to quote Dr. Jeremy Holdsworth, “Hope is not a strategy.” I went in to see him and he said, “Hey Spence, did you know you weigh more than you did last time you were in here?” And I said, “Yes, I’m sorta aware.” He asked me what my plan was and I said something to the effect of, “Well, I hope to start going to the gym more.” He looked at me and said, “Spence, hope is not a strategy.” So I think I would echo the same thing. Just hoping your marriage gets better, or hoping you have a great marriage one day, or hoping y’all will quit fighting one day…”hope is not a strategy.”

Here are some options: 

  1. Find ways to give your wife a voice in the marriage. Find ways for her heart and her soul and her wants to come out. I think a lot of times we don’t do this because we don’t want to deal with what comes out. Guys like stuff in little boxes that we can shove on the shelf. Most guys’ happy place is a bunch of Rubbermaid containers with duct tape and the name of what’s in them. I think we often do that with our emotions and thoughts. Put them in a little box and put some duct tape on them. But what I’m asking you to do is open the box a bit, pull the thing out and talk about it. Some questions like: How can I serve you better? You’ve got to be ready for the answer to that. Where are my blind spots? What am I doing wrong? What am I sensitive about? What trips me out that shouldn’t? I’d say when you ask these questions, you’ve got to be ready not to defend your position, which also is hard for guys. Most guys want to win on some level. That’s how we’re wired. So you’ve got to come in, not trying to defend your position but being ready to listen to what she’s got to say. My personal strategy for that is just don’t reply back until the next day. If you take a shower, have your coffee and still think your wife doesn’t understand all the facts, maybe give it 2 or 3 days. What do I do that makes you feel unloved? How can I show love to you better? And this may sound silly, but write it down. I did that one time in a restaurant. I wrote these things down on a napkin. It was a little thing, but my wife said later that it showed her I intended to remember. I intended to do something about it.
  2. Exclude all others. If you’re looking at stuff on your phone, you’re letting others in. Sometimes just having your phone around during conversations is enough to let them in. It’s a third person. During the NCAA Tournament, we were in a pool with my family and I’m starting to care and the whole time my phone is like a third person because I’m looking at whose winning and the scores. You might need to unfollow some people. Maybe it’s a hobby or a distraction that you need to let go.
  3. Continue to pursue her. Date her. Our number one piece of marriage advice when we talk to young people is to go on date night. Just do it every week and don’t ever stop. And now that’s turned into date lunches and date breakfasts and it’s turned into put the girls to bed and go to Island Beverage and sit there and talk to each other for an hour. It’s not a movie, it’s something where you can sit and talk to each other. For us, we’ve got to get out of the house. Whatever that looks like for you. If it means you have to babysit your best friends children for an evening so they’ll take care of yours for an evening. That’s what we did when we were younger. There’s a book called Five Love Languages that was more helpful to us than anything. Understanding my wife’s love language. Mine is acts of service and hers is time. I wanted to do stuff and she wanted me just to quit doing stuff and sit down with her. We had some issues early in our marriage. Luckily we didn’t do the divorce thing, but we were close at times. Learn her love language and learn how to speak it. I had to learn how to just be with her instead of doing something while I was being with her.
  4. “For no reason actions.” Buying flowers on Valentine’s Day doesn’t count because everybody is doing that. Do the thing on the random day of the week, just to show her you’re thinking about her. And figure out what she likes to do and go and do it. I don’t really like to walk the loop because I think it’s pointless, but I’ll go and walk the loop with my wife because she loves it. Sometimes you’ve got to do the things you don’t really like to do, but she’ll do the same for you to, so it’s okay.
  5. Continue to do love. Love is a choice. It might have a feeling with it, but not all the time and that’s okay. Even when you don’t feel like it, continue to do it. And typically if you choose to love her the feeling will often follow. Commit yourself to her good. Just say, no matter what, I’m going to do what’s right for my wife. Ask her what you can pray for.

We can probably sit around here and come up with 30 more ideas like this. This is what came out of my head, some from the book, some from other sources. What I want to do is to take this theoretical and make it practical so lets break up into groups and discuss.


  1. What’s your plan to protect your marriage in the next week? In the next 90 days?
  2. How are you putting your wife’s needs ahead of your own?
  3. Where do you need to improve?
  4. Where are you letting others into your marriage?

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