What I have learned over decades of ministry, marriage, and fatherhood is that healthy families are the backbone of the church. I take my role as husband and father very seriously, and not only that, I love spending time with my family. They bring me great joy, whether we are praying for each other (even over the phone!), laughing together, or eating a good meal around the same table. But if I am to be a godly father to my children Gabe, Grace, Joy, and Mary, I must be a godly husband to my wife, Sue.
If healthy families are the backbone of the church, a healthy marriage is the backbone of a healthy family. If you want to see positive transformation in your personal life, you’ve got to start with focusing on having a loving and mutually edifying marriage. When families are built up by the God-ordained relationship between man and wife, the Church will likewise be built up, becoming a more effective agent of God’s glory to the nation and to the world!
Marriage Is a Powerful Example
Everyone — Christian or not — wants their marriage to be strong and healthy. But unfortunately, we don’t see many examples of such in society today. Divorce is rampant, and many families are broken and dysfunctional. A healthy family, beginning with a healthy marriage, can be a powerful model of love, commitment, and service to others, bringing them hope of wholeness and restoration into their own situations.
The Body of Christ is called to be the salt and light to society by modeling what it looks like to know and follow the ways of God rather than the ways of the world. We’ve got to learn how to be loving, godly spouses, not only for our own sake, but because our friends, family, and neighbors are yearning for examples of healthy marriages.
The good news is that there are clear keys to succeeding and thriving in our marriages. And I believe the first and most powerful key to success is covenant commitment.
Covenant Is Key
Despite what many in the world may think, a good and lasting marriage is not the overflow of an emotional experience. Marriage is the ongoing practice of the covenant you have entered into with your husband or wife.
“Covenant” is not always a popular word in the world because it suggests a binding commitment, a legally established, lifetime promise to another person. And that’s exactly what it is: Covenant is the binding commitment you entered into with your husband or wife on your wedding day, initiated with saying “I do” at the altar. When you enter into a covenant commitment with one another, you make a lifelong choice to serve and honor that person.
These are the two most significant covenants you will commit to in your lifetime: the one you make with Jesus, and the one you make with your spouse. So, we can see, covenant is to be taken seriously.
When you enter into a covenant with your husband or wife in marriage, you are saying that you will make a conscious decision to commit to that person in word and deed for life. Washing the dishes or giving compliments may not always come easily, and may not always spring out of romance. You must choose to do the following:
Refuse to let thoughts of divorce or unfaithfulness enter your mind. Take every thought captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Serve your spouse in daily, practical ways, like washing the dishes, doing extra chores, cooking a meal, or giving him or her free time.
Build up your spouse by speaking words of encouragement to him or her.
I’ll speak specifically to the men right now, because Scripture lays the foundation for marriage this way: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Sue, for over 40 years. Marriage to her truly gets better each and every day… but it hasn’t always been easy. I used to speak harshly to her, even using Scripture to justify my corrections and criticisms, which made it even worse. Of course, Sue didn’t feel loved at all, and our relationship and communication suffered as a result.
In 1995, I went to the Toronto Blessing and had a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit. Up until that time, I thought that by providing for Sue, I was loving her. But the Holy Spirit showed me otherwise. And by the way, the Spirit of God wants to show us spiritual revelation and revelation that will change and correct us in the natural. It takes His Spirit to love even those closest to us, because the love of God is shed abroad by the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Romans 5:5).
How can I say that I love others well, which is the first commandment of Jesus, if I don’t love those closest to me? Integrity begins with what you do at home. So, I changed my behavior and Sue noticed—after three months. And our marriage was transformed.
It started with a revelation, but I continued — and still continue — to make that choice every day. And we fall more and more in love all the time.
Go Deeper in Your Marriage
God wants you to be blessed and fulfilled in your marriage. It’s the relationship in your life that reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. But marriage takes a conscious decision to love, serve, and forgive through life’s circumstances.
Here are a few resources to help you learn how to succeed and thrive in your marriage: