by Pastor Tim Burt
Renee and I have been married for 40 years. Our marriage started off rocky because we were young, immature, and selfish. Today we have what I would consider the marriage of my dreams. Now even though I say that, it’s not perfect. Like anyone, we infrequently have our moments. But for the most part, we have the kind of marriage that we both hoped we would have when we first got married. We deeply love each other. We have great admiration for each other. We serve each other. And we work to serve the Lord together. What has helped us move from one end of the spectrum to the other, is keeping God in the center of our lives and prioritizing our relationship with Him and each other.
Jesus meant it when He spoke the words, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) Taking this exhortation from the Lord seriously is the very thing that has helped our marriage become what it is.
Over the years and because of all of the pulls on our lives from raising four children, accepting responsibility in our jobs, and the demands that seem to come from just doing life, our life became very structured and disciplined. We knew it was critical to our survival and the path to a healthy marriage.
The words structure and discipline can sound like such rigid and legalistic words, but really they aren’t. It simply means that we had to learn to prioritize what we knew was important and would help us succeed, over less important choices that would otherwise work to distract us and nibble away at what we deemed significant to our life.
We knew the limitations of our own knowledge and ability and our personal weaknesses better than anyone. Without God, they would have led us to fail. But we also knew that the Holy Spirit and the grace of God indwelled us—that is His ability, wisdom, and strength were and are always available to help us go far beyond what we could do in ourselves. We knew we couldn’t succeed in life without God’s help. We believed Jesus when He said, “… apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV) Because we knew that, we worked together to keep the Lord and His word first place in our life and in prayer. Instead of carrying all the burdens of life that create fear and anxiety, and cause couples to be at each other’s throats, we embraced God’s instruction to leave our cares—the things that are really God’s assignment—not ours, at His feet. Psalms 55:22 (NIV) says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” And 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
And so, structure and discipline became critical to us! We were always needing God’s help in multiple areas of our life and we purposed to stay close to Him. When I say, structure and discipline, people often think we are talking about eating and workout habits. We had those and they were important and still are. But when I talk of structure and discipline I am talking more about ways we kept ourselves close to the Lord so that we could receive His wisdom and help. And so we prayed together almost daily. We went to and became involved in serving at church every week with little exception. We gave our tithes and offerings weekly, We found ways to be in fellowship with other Christians in various life-groups. We did not do these things to gain God’s favor. He gives that as a gift. By making these things priorities, they left little time for worldly pulls that didn’t really matter. We didn’t feel deprived. To the contrary, our marriage and our lives just got richer and richer in so many ways. Within these priorities, we made sure we turned God’s part over to Him as He exhorts us to in Philippians 4:6 (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
God has taught us that through each other and through a community of believers that love Him, He’d always find ways to speak into our life and keep us on track as we grew in Him. And it was where most of the miracles in our life manifested—within this community of believers and friends God had filled our life with! It has resulted in each of us personally being transformed and matured by the help of the Holy Spirit, and experiencing a wonderful healthy and purpose-filled marriage of reaching out to others with the love of God. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
The other part of our structure and discipline was the priority of sitting down and communicating about life and what’s going on around us. We’d make time to go on big and little dates. Sometimes just over coffee and a bagel, and other times over a nice dinner. We go for walks where we talk and pray along the way. We find ways to have fun together. We prioritize these things knowing that not do so was to cause our communication and our marriage to erode.
Marriage is wonderful but it is also work. Marriage works when two people set down their pride and selfishness again and again. Marriage works when two people remember that they love each other and need God’s help to sustain it. Marriage works when couples prioritize seeking God’s help and let His word guide them through disputes and decisions. A God-built marriage is a beautiful thing. It blesses the couple and produces wonderful things for His Kingdom. And so, structure and priority—seek Him first. Put Him first. And prioritize your love for each other! It’s a beautiful thing.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands (a man and his wife and Jesus) is not quickly broken”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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