This past weekend, Lori and I had the privilege of spending some time with Pastor Herbert and Tiffany Cooper of People’s Church, an incredible life-giving church located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. I spoke to their congregation about what an ideal marriage looks like, and I used a passage of scripture that I believe can serve as a real wake up call for many of us as leaders who are married today.
In Genesis 18:1-9, we find the story of when Abraham, while sitting just outside of his tent, encountered three men whom we later discover were angels sent from God on their way to check on the city of Sodom and the horrible reports of sinful acts that were occurring there.
Abraham was so excited about these men that he immediately went to get water, bread and one of his finest calves to roast for them, all with the hopes that they would rest at his tent for a while and eat before continuing on their journey. The men agreed to stay and just as they began to sit down to eat, asked Abraham a very important question:
“They they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” – Genesis 18:9
At first glance, it would seem that these men (or angels) of God were inquiring about Sarah’s physical location. But I believe their question was much deeper than that. As you read on in the verses that follow, these were not men who lacked perception or discernment. These were three men who had the mind of God and who were all on assignment from God, so their question to Abraham on that day in my opinion, had a very important agenda behind it.
They were not really asking Abraham about the location of his wife, but rather of her condition.
After 24 years of marriage and ministry together, Lori and I are more determined than ever before to always be aware of the condition of our relationship. Is our love still as passionate as it was when we first got married? Are we quicker to hold onto the problems of the day than we are to hold each other’s hands? When it comes to the condition of our marriage today, where are we?
When asked where his wife Sarah was, Abram responded with what I can imagine sounded like a grunt. “Here, in the tent” Abram replied. In what was arguably one of most important seasons in Abraham’s life, he was in one place, while his wife was unfortunately in another.
I realize many of you reading this today may be still on cloud nine after last week’s Valentine’s Day activities, but for those of you who are married, may I ask you this one important question:
Where is your spouse?
Nothing on earth communicates the Gospel of Jesus Christ like the condition of our marriages, because it is marriage that best demonstrates the full embodiment of God’s covenant. When husbands and wives are no longer doing life together but choosing rather to just go through the motions as separate individuals, our churches, our children, and communities as a whole suffer greatly. If we as believers really care about making a lasting impact for the cause of Christ, the following four (4) questions must always be kept front and center when it comes to our marriages:
1. What is the source of our love?
Marriage must be fueled by a passion for God, more than just a physical attraction for one another. Our physical needs for acceptance, identity, protection and purpose cannot come from our spouse. When our spouse becomes the source of our love instead of God, we set them up for failure every day.
2. How are we serving each other?
Abraham’s description of Sarah being ‘in the tent’ was one that resembled the condition of a slave, not as an equal partner. Our marriages can never be about dominating our spouses, but rather serving them. We cannot afford to ‘bless’ strangers but continue to ‘bark’ at our spouses.
3. Who are the friends to our marriage?
Bad marriages, as well as great marriages, always run in groups. Our marriages have to be circled around by great friends who will keep us accountable with how we treat our spouses. The bruises of our friends will provide more wisdom for us to lean on than the kisses of any enemy.
4. How we we handle difficult situations?
Our marriages will never be fully resistant to challenges. Even the best kept gardens are prone to having weeds from time to time. But when those negative circumstances come in our marriages, God must be who we turn to first. He is well able to restore anything that we believe is broken in our marriages, so long as we take it to Him together.
Just as Proverbs 27:23 tells us to always ‘be diligent to know the state of your flocks,’ you and I must be all the more determined to know the conditions of our marriages. Nothing is more important.