I would like to share with you what I believe and have observed first hand are the most dangerous things in a marriage. I have watched these things tear marriages apart. I have seen couples who started on the journey of life together and in only a few short years into married life, begin to self destruct because of these extremely dangerous things. Most simply walk into these things with their eyes wide open and yet are blind, oblivious, and unaware of the deadly danger that is staring them right in the face and growing in their life. I have seen these things up close and nothing scares me more than these. All 3 of these dangerous things grow hidden inside a person yet have deadly, outward consequences. I am not immune to these things. I have had to be on guard against these things and I have attacked them in my own life with a militant, brutal ferocity. These are the things that frighten me the most!
These 3 things will kill and destroy your marriage and often they will end up literally killing you.
Pride can be insidious. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways. For example, pride is often self-sufficient. It tells itself it can handle whatever comes its way. We can figure it out on our own! Men, we can be so self-sufficient. We can think of so many ways we do not need God, or God’s help, or God’s guidance. Pride can be so smug and self-righteous. It tells us we are so much better, so much more righteous than our mate. If only they were like me! Pride can tell us I don’t need anyone’s advice or help. I can handle this, I know what I am doing. Pride can make us so stubborn, so insistent on our own way of thinking, or our own way of doing things while making us completely blind to the hurt and damage our way is doing to ones we say we love. Pride refuses to listen to those closest to us. It makes us blind to the realities that our loved one sees in us, and unwilling to admit we are wrong, or we need to change and go in a different direction. At it’s very worst, pride makes us think we are smarter, better, and wiser than God. None of us would ever want to admit this, but the truth is, many of us live like we believe that. Like we believe we don’t need God. We neglect our Bible, we neglect obedience to God’s laid out commands and principles, we neglect prayer, we neglect to get godly counsel, and we run full steam ahead in our own self-destructive way. Like a fighter in the ring, we must keep our guard up at all times against this vicious deadly killer pride or it will knock you out, choke you out, and give you a permanent concussion.
Hardness of heart. I have been stunned through the years at how hard the human heart can become. How callous, cold, insensitive, ungrateful and dull the heart can be. This, in a nutshell, was the greatest sin of the Israelites. Time, and time, and time again God did miracles for them, saved them from invading armies, rescued them from certain death, and blessed them with abundance. And over, and over, and over again, they hardened their hearts and forgot God. The greatest story of deliverance and miraculous power in the entire Bible is the Exodus story of God’s miracles for the Israelites in delivering them from Pharaoh in ancient Egypt! What God did to the most powerful nation in the world, through the plagues God brought down to rescue his almost 2 million people from the vile clutches of Pharaoh, is mind-boggling. Then God sends his people on their way with the treasures of Egypt in their carts, and off they go. They get to the Red Sea, the people despair, God does another incredible miracle and parts the Red Sea, they walk through with billions of gallons of standing water on each side of their path while God holds back the mighty army of Egypt with blazing fire and a cloud of darkness. His people get to the other side, God removes the cloud of darkness, allows the vast and mighty army to chase them into the Red Sea path God had made only to watch as God allowed the entire army to enter, seemingly unfazed, ready to pounce on the Jews, and BAM!!!! God lets all those thousands of tons of standing water come back together and crushes and destroys every single man in that vast fearsome army of Egypt!!
You would think that this would keep their hearts soft and bind their heart to God for time immemorial and yet, in just a matter of days, their hearts grow so hard they abandon God and make a golden calf to worship and bow down to. Moses was stunned. Then, while God sustained them for the next 40 years giving them free food day, after day, after day, they grumbled, complained, and hardened their hearts towards God and it ended up killing, over time, every single adult. It is mind-blowing if you actually stop and think seriously about it!
Yet, I have watched through the years as Christian couples whose ceremony I officiated on their wedding day, as they proclaimed unfailing love for God, praising and thanking Him for bringing them together, acknowledging that it was God who gave them their spouse, knowing they have nothing if it wasn’t for God, only to watch them as the years went by, forget God, they hardened their hearts towards God and spiritual things and they ran after the material things of this world. Their hardness of heart is continuing to ruin their lives, corrupting and infecting their marriages and their love to this very day.
Oh, the destructive power of laziness. Lazy in our minds, lazy in our relationship, lazy in life habits, and the godly care of our mind, body, and spirit. Lazy in our pursuit of God. Lazy in giving the vigorous care to our marital relationship that is required. Lazy in sowing good thoughts, godly thoughts in our minds, and how we think about our spouse. Lazy with our bodies, to the point that most the people you know are committing slow, methodical suicide because they are too lazy to move, to walk, to do a few push-ups, to exercise in the simplest and most sustainable ways. We are too lazy to pursue time with our spouse, or with our children. We are too lazy to get ourselves up in the morning, and with a whole heart seek the living God, crying out for his help. We are too lazy to lift the spiritual food of God’s word to our mouths and feed ourselves!! Many are too lazy to even make their food and simply spend the extra money to buy things that are already prepared by someone else! Too lazy to make our own coffee at home in the morning! We are the most self-indulgent, spoiled, lazy culture in the history of the world!!
Can I tell you a secret? Can I tell you my secret, given to me from the Word of God?! Spiritual growth takes great effort and hard work! It is not a gift. A growing, thriving marriage takes a lot of daily hard work and effort! It is not a gift! Fathering your children well takes a lot of hard, consistent work. It is not a gift! Keeping healthy and fit takes simple, consistent work, a deliberate effort done over and over again for the rest of your life. It is not a gift! The Bible says to train yourself for the purpose of godliness. The Bible says to make every effort to add to your faith! Don’t misunderstand me. Of course, it is God’s grace, God’s Spirit, and God’s power that enables us to make progress in our lives. Everything we have is a gift from God. However, we must do the work to maintain it, sustain it, grow it, and progress it! Only when you strive will you thrive. Do the hard things!
In closing, let me share with you the simple, attainable, sustainable things you can do to make sure these dangerous things do not ruin your life or your marriage. Please, I urge you, take them seriously as they are a matter of life and death.
1. Deliberately, intentionally grow your humility. Pray over everything. Pray about everything. Prayer is not only an act of faith but is an act of humility that’s very action says, “O God, I need you. O God, I cannot do this on my own. O God, I need your help. O God, I need your guidance. O God, I need your wisdom. O God, I cry out for your blessing. O God, I need you to carry this burden.” Make a habit and routine of prayer in your life, starting today. Consistent Prayer is a nuclear attack on pride.
2. Listen to your spouse. Ask for their advice, ask for the advice of other godly people. Some years back, in a year that was one of the hardest of my life, my oldest daughter one day on the phone said, ” Dad, your attitude has gotten cynical. You have gotten so negative.” Ouch! That pissed me off, to be honest! Who did she think she was? Where was her compassion for what I had just endured for years?! All these thoughts flooded my mind in milliseconds. I said none of them, but I sure thought them. HER WORDS WERE TRUE! I realized I had lost my thankfulness, my optimistic faith and it affected my attitude. I determined to heed her words, and that day began to make some important changes. Thank you, daughter!
2018 was the most insanely difficult year of my life. So many vile attacks, so many things I wanted to write and say. Do you know what I did? Whatever I felt the Lord leading me to write, I showed it to my kid’s first, my wife first, a few other very godly men, getting their input before I ever made anything public.
3. Make a habit, make a daily routine, of reading God’s word, underlining verses that stand out, and make every possible effort to do exactly what God tells you and shows you in His word. If you don’t, pride will infect your entire life. You will become deceived. In fact, you are already demonstrating you think you are self-sufficient and smarter than God.
4. Never, ever, ever, ever let yourself forget God and all He has done for you, and all He is doing for you now. Make a routine and habit in your life of great thankfulness. Take the time every morning to articulate out loud, in prayer to God, “Thank you, Lord, for giving me my eyes to see, my ears to hear, my mind to think, my heart that pumps the blood in my veins, my hands to work and hold those I love. Thank you, God, for giving me this body I live in all for free! Thank you, God, for my precious spouse, who you created just for me. Thank you, God, for these wonderful precious children that are gifts right from your hand who bring me such joy. O God, I do not deserve to be their father. Thank you, God, for saving my wretched rebellious life. Thank you for saving me from my wicked self, and helping me grow in love, or I would have ruined my marriage.” IN OTHER WORDS, GO CRAZY WITH THANKFULNESS AND VERBALIZE ALL THE VARIETY OF THINGS, BY WORKING AND DISCIPLINING YOUR LAZY MIND, TO REMEMBER AND REFLECT ON THE THOUSANDS OF THINGS YOU HAVE TO BE THANKFUL FOR.
5. Get yourself another cool looking journal, I love leather. Keep a record of your God stories, just write down simple paragraphs that remind you of the cool God stories in your life, and date them. Keep a blessing list, I have a variety of them where I spell out and enumerate the blessings of God during that year in my life.
6. Never, ever, ever let yourself forget what and where you would be without Jesus Christ in your life!! O my friends, I reflect on this every single day of my life. It is a habit, often as I pray. I verbalize out loud to God where I know my life would be, and the things I would be addicted to, and the ways I would have self-destructed my own life, and my relationships, were it not for my Savior Jesus Christ and the new nature He freely gave me. It scares me to death to think about where I would be without Jesus Christ. My marriage would be over. My kids would hate my guts for the vile, harsh, angry, overbearing, proud, critical, selfish, hard to please man they called their Dad.
7. Build a habit of physical discipline in your life. Build a routine. Did you know this fact? Studies have shown that those who are physically disciplined through exercise have a much easier time developing other life disciplines as well? I am here to tell you this is so possible for you. My strategy is called fit for life. I am going to share it with you. So many get discouraged trying to exercise. They lose motivation, they can’t keep their focus. Why? Because they don’t have the right perspective. My whole goal, when I started this 31 years ago, was to be fit for the rest of my life, into old age – where I am now!
My goal was not to run a 10k, or a marathon, or to run an ironman race. Most people can’t, they get discouraged trying, it takes way too much time for a family man or woman, and you can’t keep it up for the next 31 years!!!! My goal was to be healthy and fit, functionally fit, and useful for the rest of my life. My goal was to maintain good health and weight for the rest of my life. My goal was to be an example to my kids. So I started by doing 50 push-ups every day. I just popped down by my desk and did 10 at a time. Then I added some crunches which are now a minute of planks each day. Then I added riding a cheap exercise bike for 15 minutes each evening while watching the news. Then I added a prayer walk for 20 minutes a day, which replaced the exercise bike. I walked and prayed out loud at the same time. Years later that prayer walk became an hour a day which is a 3-mile walk. I have now prayer-walked over 30,000 miles, which is all around the planet, plus all across Russia!
Almost 20 years ago my wife got me a special gift. I had been going to a fitness club several times a week, but I got sick and disgusted by the inappropriate way women were dressing to work out. I got sick of them shoving their stuff in my face. I had to find a better way and a better place. My wife knew this. She had never done this before, but without asking me, she ordered me the Total Gym 1000! It arrived at our house to my surprise. I started using it 20 years ago and I still use it to this day at the same level I started, the highest one it has. It takes approx. 15 minutes, 3 times a week.
I do 58 push-ups every day. I have now done over 700,000 strength exercises on the total gym, over 600,000 push-ups, and I stretch on my office floor each morning for 10 minutes. This is the power of simple attainable, sustainable routine, and habits.
YOU CAN DO THIS OR SOMETHING LIKE IT. IT IS NEVER TO LATE TO START.
8. Many years ago I was having trouble disciplining my thought life regarding God’s grace and forgiveness. My mind would just go to my failures automatically and it was so discouraging. I bought a Walkman, which today would be an iPod, or MP3, or your Smartphone. I got 7 messages on the grace, love, and forgiveness of God. I made a plan and started a routine of listening to 1 of those messages every single day for a year. I averaged about 14 hours per week. It changed my whole life. It also gave me a very disciplined mind.
9. Pursue your mate. I made it a habit to date Kathy, to make time to listen, to care, and encourage her, and to pray with her every day. I use to travel often to speak at conferences, or overseas to do God’s work out of the country. I made it a habit to call my wife, often several times a day. Kathy would often tease me and say, “Mark I just talked to you a couple of hours ago!” These were the days before personal cell phones or computers. It cost me a lot per minute to call. I stayed in touch with her. Even if it didn’t seem like we had much to talk about, it was very clear, “you are important to me, you matter to me, and I love you and I am thinking about you.”
10. NEVER, EVER let your heart grow hard and callous towards your mate because of resentments. NEVER. Kill those resentful thoughts, replace them with thankful, good thoughts about your mate, or your heart will become as cold and hard as stone towards them, and it will ruin your marriage and toxify your whole life. Resentment will turn your love to hate!
I urge you, please listen to these messages which will provide much wisdom, insight, motivation, and encouragement to you in these areas.