THE MARRIAGE ABCS
Copyright © Ufuomaee
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Victory in marriage is guaranteed when we are connected to the Vine, as branches, and we abide in Christ, who enables us to do all things (Phil 4:13)! Problems arise in marriage when we try to do it in our own strength, with our own wisdom, depending on our limited and fickle love. Marriage, though of the world, requires divine empowerment to succeed. If you want to succeed, you have to submit to the divine!
Yes, you are probably thinking of many Christian marriages that have failed for one reason or the other. You will probably find that one of the reasons for this failure is that one or both partners were unChristian, even though they were Believers. They did not abide in the Vine. They did not submit in love to one another. They did not love each other like Jesus loved them, and FORGIVE and restore the other with grace when they fell. They forsake each other, and their covenant.
We can’t control what our spouse will do in a marriage (if they will forsake the Faith or not), or how they will react to our human failure (if and when we do fail to live up to our calling in Christ). We can only choose to do our part and obey, submit, love, forgive and persevere… Marriage calls for faithfulness, and it starts with you! You must choose to be humble, long-suffering and gracious, when you are wronged and offended, just as Christ was and is to you.
Though it is hard to do so alone, two people giving up and being selfish and unChristian in a marriage is definite failure without revival! But if at least one abides in Christ, and is dependent on Him, we call upon Him to arise on our behalf and fight with us for our marriage… And such faith always moves God to act on our behalf. This is what is required of each one of us in marriage, to be Christ to our spouse…and to love them as Christ loved and loves us. And even the worst sort of marriage can be turned around!
Last year, I wrote a fictional story, Broken, as God led me to, about a marriage that should probably never have been, and should not have survived, but did…by the power of God. In this story, my character Promise was sexually abused as a child, and became promiscuous as a teenager and continued in this vice in adulthood. Her husband, Ope, knowingly marries her, despite her faults and her lack of belief in God, because he was being obedient to God’s unique call for his life.
But in the marriage, she is unrepentantly unfaithful, and finally does an unthinkable thing to break him, so that he would let her go. And he does let her go, though he continued to pray for her and remained faithful, hoping that God will do a work in her that he cannot do. And God does, in His own way. He intervenes and restores their marriage.
It is an unbelievable story, quite like the story of a God who so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son to redeem it…(John 3:16). Many were content to know that my story was fiction, and said to me that it could never happen. No man could take what Promise did to Ope. No African man, for that matter, would put up with half of what Ope endured with Promise. “It is unrealistic” they said… And even I was thinking, though I knew the message and power that God was communicating through the story, “this seems impossible, Lord, and I really can’t tell anyone to endure such in their marriage!” It was enough to know God loves us that way, and believe that no human ever could…
Until I met Victoria (fake name). I believe our meeting was fated, and I still thank God for that encounter. Victoria was invited to speak at a small Fellowship that I had also been invited to visit and speak at (about my charity). She came with her husband of about three dozen years. The husband spoke first, and he talked about how God will use your spouse to love you. He said some of the things that God has been teaching me about marriage, which I have shared in my stories and this series, and I was so encouraged. It was really an “Oh, my God!” moment for me.
Then his wife spoke. And she revealed that her marriage had been HELL! She had actually initially decided to leave him after the first year, and left for her sister’s place in her nightgown, because she was sure she couldn’t survive her husband. What was he? An unrepentent philanderer, who brought many women into their home! She returned to him with a push from her mother to honour her vows, and a resolve to let go and let God deal with her husband.
It took them 15 years! She endured this horrible husband for 15 years, and she died daily to self. She loved him despite himself. She bore him children and she prayed and hoped in God, and was comforted only by God. Eventually, God brought the man to his knees, when he was afflicted in his health. God broke and humbled him – she said “God showed him who was God!” – and he repented of his evil ways… And he loved and cherished his wife who didn’t give up on him. They now go about speaking about their marriage, and the woman boasts that she now has the best husband in the world!
Some may say this is unbelievable and inadvisable to use as a case study. But what this story did to me was to help me see that when we apply God’s word with faith, and put Him to the test, He will honour it! If we will not fight for our marriages, if we will not be long-suffering with our spouses, do we truly expect to experience His power in our lives? The saying is indeed true, “no pain, no gain.”
As He said to me not long ago – My power is in humility. Never forget that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble…(Jam 4:6). This story is a reminder that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD (Jer 32:17, 27), and that if we are persistent in prayer and continue to abide in Jesus, God will answer us and deliver us (Luke 18:1-8).
So, if you are going through a challenge in your marriage, and you fear that you cannot survive it, take courage! Trust in God. Victory is guaranteed in the Vine. Abide in Jesus, learn from Him…follow Him to that Cross where He died, and die too…to self, and rise up and live for Christ in your marriage.
I will leave you with these Five Steps to Victory in Marriage.
- Choose Virtue and Reject Vanity. Okay, you really don’t want to enter a marriage where you will spend the whole time fasting or on your knees praying for your spouse! You want to enjoy a sweet and peaceful marriage. Then begin by choosing wisely. Walk in virtue and follow virtue. Do not be deceived, distracted nor blinded by appearances (John 7:24, 1 Sam 16:7). Choose someone who is SURRENDERED to Christ, a virtuous man or woman not given to vanity, and they will love you like Christ. But if you want to be worthy of them, you ought also to be so surrendered to Christ, because someone like that is not foolish… They too are looking for a mate who is wise and humble 🙂
- Have and Keep the Vision. It is true that people perish for a lack of vision (Prov 29:18, Hos 4:6). Plans fail for people who lose sight of their purpose. In order to have a chance at success, you need to know what success looks like, and consider if you are willing to pay the price (Luke 14:28-33). Is what you envision worth the hassle and sacrifice of self in marriage? Is success about having a house with three kids and a husband or wife? Or is success about being in a loving relationship where you are valued, and are able to live up to your godly potential? Do you have the same vision for what success looks like? Is Christ at the centre of that vision?
- Value Your Relationship. Cherish your spouse, as yourself (Gal 5:14, Matt 7:12). You are now one, and your fate is tied, as Fortune Friends. Your victory in marriage is dependent on the value you place in this relationship. You’ve got to appreciate each other, and what you individually bring to the relationship. You ought to hold each other with the highest honour (second only to God). Do not treat yourselves with contempt, and be gracious and quick to forgive wrong, so that your relationship, which you value, is preserved though tried by fire!
- Be Vigilant. “It is impossible but that offences will come…” (Luke 17:1). Offences will definitely come, and the enemy will try to scatter what the Lord has joined. But you don’t need to help him by being complacent, or even being a tool of destruction in your own marriage. Be watchful and resist the enemy (Matt 26:41, Jam 4:7)! Be vigilant about the condition of your mind, heart, body and spirit (Prov 4:23). Take heed of yourself, lest you fall (1 Cor 10:12-13). Do not give place to the enemy by remaining angry, refusing to forgive or even prolonged separation (Eph 4:26-27, 2 Cor 2:10-11, 1 Cor 7:5 ). He is indeed a roaring lion, seeking whom he will devour (1 Pet 5:8). Act with wisdom, and you will save yourself many troubles, and put the enemy to shame.
- Remember Your Vows. When we signed up for marriage, we affirmed that we would give unconditional love to our spouse; “for better or worse, richer or poorer, til death separates us“. We made a life long commitment and entered a covenant with another, which was sealed by God. This commitment will be tested, and there will be many times that we will want to renege on it. But it helps to remember this solemn promise we made when we were much happier and why. The promise was made because we KNEW hard times would come to test our resolve, so if we go back on the promise during such times, then we make the promise a lie. These are the times that the vow was made for. It was a confession that when challenges come, we will stick it out. And as we remember this confession, it will strengthen our resolve, and help us see that the situation we are facing can be overcome, and not to give up nor break covenant, but be reliable people of integrity.
Jesus actually said we ought not to make vows, promises nor pledges, by swearing oaths. Swearing oaths undermine our integrity, and give the impression that our word is not enough, that we are not honest people. So Jesus said “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt 5:37, NKJV). We should be people of our word, who need only to live honourably…and faithfully.
When we make commitments, we should keep them. As with all things, we must be reliant on God’s grace to enable us to be obedient, even in this regard. As long as we abide in Christ, we can be people of integrity, whose ‘yes’ means ‘yes’, and ‘no’ means ‘no’. And if we are faithful, God will show Himself faithful in our lives, and no matter the storms we face, we can declare that “…we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37).
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