In the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts, we read of the controversy between Paul and Barnabas in regard to John Mark. John Mark was the cousin of Barnabas and he also penned the Gospel according to Mark. It appears that Paul and Barnabas were in agreement that they should go back to the churches they had started on their first missionary journey and seek to strengthen them.

As they prepared for their second missionary journey, Barnabas was resolved to take Mark with them. But Paul was equally resolved that Mark should not go. It seems that when the first missionary journey became overwhelming to Mark that he left the team when they arrived at Pamphylia and returned to Jerusalem. Paul perceived Mark as a liability. But Barnabas saw the trip as a second chance for Mark and an opportunity for Mark to be restored in his ministry.

The Bible tells us that the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and returned to strengthen the churches. Although God certainly blessed the work of Paul and Barnabas, it may not have been God’s will for them to separate.

It appears that Paul and Barnabas had become so entrenched in their respective positions that neither one would consider potential compromise. For example, have reached a compromise that would have allowed Mark to go with them under certain conditions, and if he violated the conditions he would be sent back.

Perhaps Mark and Paul never spoke together about Paul’s concerns to see if there was a meaningful compromise that they could consider. Unfortunately the Scripture does not provide any record that any compromise was sought.

I believe that many of the conflicts that arise in our relationships could be resolved if we looked for compromise.

…many of the conflicts that arise in our relationships could be resolved if we looked for compromise.

For example, consider the couple that struggles about television viewing. Perhaps the wife is urging that the couple remove the television completely from the home. Hubby, on the other hand, is a bona fide T.V. junky. His favorites are news and sports, but he often comes home and spends hours in front of the set watching anything in an effort to unwind. He says the T.V. is harmless and helps him to relax when he gets home. She is concerned about some of the sitcoms and giving the wrong message to the kids. Besides, she says it would be better for the family if they spent more time talking with each other or playing games than watching T.V.

Here, a working compromise might involve limiting the type of programs [e.g. sports, news or educational] and the amount of time per night or week [e.g. one to two hours per night or ten hours per week]. In addition, the need for family time away from the television needs to be addressed. Perhaps an hour or two per night or a family game night.

Another area might involve the family finances. Imagine the husband wants to use the finances for a Hawaiian vacation. On the other hand the wife wants to save for a down payment for a house. They talk about the relative value of each of their ideas and try to show each other the advantage of each. Nevertheless, they are still unable to come to an agreement about which direction to turn. The wife tells her husband that he is the leader of their home and she will let him make the decision. The husband tells his wife that he wants to love her like Jesus loves her and put her desires first. He also says that he is just not sure which direction God is leading and he wonders if there is a compromise which might be God’s will for them.

Unfortunately, sometimes looking for a compromise solution is difficult because it requires us to look for answers ‘outside of the box’.

…sometimes looking for a compromise solution is difficult because it requires us to look for answers ‘outside of the box’. 

Here, a possible solution might be to recognize that God’s direction for the family makes the purchase of a home a priority. They agree to save to buy the home, but agree to delay buying new furnishings until after they have save for their Hawaiian vacation.

Another possible compromise might relate to recognizing God’s priority for the family to escape for a needed vacation and get some rest and relaxation. They agree to go on their Hawaiian vacation but scale back the vacation budget so they can start to save for a down payment on a home.

Yet another area of conflict might relate to visiting relatives. It is not too difficult to imagine a situation where visiting the relatives, [or a particular relative] is like fingernails on a chalkboard to a husband, a wife, or both. The Bible tells us to separate from parents in order make a spouse a priority. But we are also told to honor our parents. These competing commands provide a challenge to find a proper balance in the best of circumstances. But when there is tension between relatives the conflict makes finding a compromise a challenge.

Perhaps he feels visiting his family once a week would be just perfect. Besides he says ‘they live just a mile from us’. She feels that visiting his family is like going to the dentist and should be done once a year absent an emergency. She is also beginning to think that with his family only a mile away maybe its time to consider moving to another state. She suggests that maybe he should just visit his parents without her. But he is concerned that he doesn’t want to offend his family. She says that she would be willing to visit but only two to three times per year. He feels that they should visit at least once a month. After praying they agree to a compromise that they believe is God’s will for them. They decide that he will visit the family once a month and she will join him every other month. Neither one “got their way” but they believe they found a solution that is a workable compromise.

Covenant

In Malachi 2:14 husbands are reminded not to neglect their mates because they are to be companions to their wives by covenant. A covenant is a sacred oath or vow to perform an agreement. When a couple is joined in marriage they exchange vows. Couples are asked whether they will take their mate to be their spouse? They are asked whether they will love them, honor them and cherish them? They pledge to maintain these values in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, till death parts them or till the Lord comes for them. They make a solemn pledge to their spouse and to the Lord often in the presence of many family and friends as witnesses.

Yet we see that the divorce rate is approximately fifty percent of marriages. Even more alarming is the trend that the rate of divorce among believers is nearly the same as the rate of divorce for unbelievers. I believe that a significant factor is the neglect of the covenant relationship.

In a lawsuit, for breaking a contract it is a legitimate defense to argue that the other side broke the contract first. It appears that we are taking this attitude into our marriage relationships. But our covenant with our spouse, and with God, does not depend on our spouse performing their end of the deal.

As we will discuss more fully later, the Bible provides for divorce in the limited exception of sexual immorality. Otherwise we have entered into a sacred covenant! Jesus exhorted us that as believers we should avoid trying to assure someone of the sincerity of our oath by swearing to perform the vow by referring to another. Rather than say ‘I swear on my mother’s grave’ or I ‘swear to God’ we should merely let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’ [see, Matt.5:33-37]. In other words, be the type of person who makes an agreement and sticks to the agreement whenever possible.

…be the type of person who makes an agreement and sticks to the agreement whenever possible.

Sometimes when an agreement is made, the parties are excused because it is impossible to perform. For example, I agree to lease a house for a year and the house is destroyed in a fire before the lease begins. The landlord is excused from leasing the house because it is impossible to lease a house that no longer exists. On the other hand, imagine that I lose my job in the middle of the lease. I want to be excused from paying. Yet, I am still responsible for the payments.

The courts recognize that there is a difference between an agreement that is difficult to perform and an agreement that is impossible to perform. Too often in marriage relationships we are seeking to break the covenant because it has become difficult to perform. Be encouraged… we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us [Phil. 4:13].

Christ

In Phil. 1:6 Paul encourages us, “That He who has begun a good work in us will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” This Scripture has always encouraged me that God is working in my life. And God will continue to do so until Jesus returns or I go to be with Him! It makes me want to go out with yellow warning tape ‘under construction’.

Construction sites are always exciting to watch. There is the anticipation and wonder about what will be built, and what it will look like when it is finished. Construction sites can also be dangerous places…hard hats and caution advised.

Similarly watching God’s work in building a man or woman of God is exciting. Will this be the next Billy Graham, Elizabeth Elliott, Mother Theresa, or Chuck Smith? God is working in that person’s life. Sometimes the construction progress can be more obvious than at other times… nevertheless the work continues.

As God work’s in my life, and in your life, we can look and see there were times that the progress seemed to be happening on a fast track and other times when the work seemed to have stalled. Often times when we seemed to have slowed the construction by our “labor strikes” it may have seemed that the construction was permanently halted. But God was building.

As we consider the life of Joseph [Gen.37 et seq.] we see that God had a purpose in allowing Joseph to be sold into slavery as well as his imprisonment on false charges. We see that God raised up Joseph to become the second in command in Egypt, the greatest empire of the day. God used Joseph to provide famine relief for Egypt, its neighbors and Joseph’s family.

Surely we recognize God’s hand in the construction of Joseph as a man of God. Joseph was being prepared during the difficult years for what God wanted to do in Joseph’s life and through Joseph to minister to others.

On the other hand we may not recognize as clearly the work that God was doing in the life of Joseph’s brothers. God had just as surely begun a work in the other sons of Jacob… and He would finish it!

It takes more than twenty years for the encounter between Joseph and His brothers. When the youngest brother Benjamin, the favorite of Jacob, is at risk of being enslaved the brothers rally at his side. No longer were they motivated by anger and jealousy to sell out their little brother.

Instead they stand with Benjamin. Judah, the family spokesman offers his life in the place of Benjamin. Judah’s impassioned plea on behalf of his brother revealed the change of the brothers’ hearts.

Similarly, we see God’s work in the events related to the life of Moses. At forty Moses sought to deliver his people, the Hebrews, from the oppression of Egypt. Nevertheless, the effort was premature and was not received by the Hebrews.

During the next forty years Moses was obtaining his BSD degree [back side of the desert]. While in the desert of Midian for forty years we assume that Moses lived during the first few seasons/years in eager anticipation of God’s call to deliver the Hebrews.

Months and seasons and year after year passed and still no call. For much of that forty-year period, it probably seemed that God was no longer working in Moses life. But in fact God was preparing Moses as a shepherd not a prince. And at the end of forty years the call came that the time had come to deliver God’s people.

We tend to forget that God was also working in the hearts of the Hebrews. They were under construction as well. God was using the heavy hand of Egyptian tyranny to stir the Hebrews to finally cry out to their God for deliverance. Most likely the work that God was doing in the life of His people was not readily evident during those forty years. But as Paul urged, we can be confident that God was working.

Similarly, we can trust that not only is God working in us but, He is working in our spouse! Nevertheless, it is difficult for us to relinquish trying to control our spouse’s development and growth. We tend to want to see the changes we desire to be accomplished on our time schedule, rather than trusting God’s plan and His schedule.

We tend to want to see the changes we desire to be accomplished on our time schedule, rather than trusting God’s plan and His schedule.

We would only be willing to consider doing that if we were confident that Jesus was going to finish the work! And, we can be confident that Jesus will finish His work!

Another reason to release our spouse to the work of Jesus is that He has a plan and does better work than we can. I must confess that I am not exactly “Mr. Handyman.” I go to change light bulbs and I’m reading the package for directions, “Insert the bulb and turn clockwise.” When I tried to build an armoire for my boys’ bedroom it was a virtual disaster.

First, there were more screws than I’ve seen in a hardware store. Then, I thought it was cute when my three-year old hid the screws until he forgot where he hid them [inspiring an impromptu treasure hunt]. When I started to examine my nearly completed construction project with the pride and joy that only a truly “unhandy man” can demonstrate at his work, I found to my dismay that the project bore a strange resemblance to the Tower at Pisa.

This unfortunate turn of events prompted a phone call to my brother in law… a truly handy guy. Remedial measures were implemented and my kids’ clothes are now safe and secure in a well-built armoire.

Through this experience I’m reminded that the “Carpenter” is a much better builder than I am. In the long run it is much wiser for me to trust Him and His plans than for me to impose my design.

In the long run it is much wiser for me to trust Him and His plans than for me to impose my design.

My job is not to build my spouse, but to trust that God is doing His job in working in my life and hers.

In Summary, be prepared to sail the ‘Seven C’s’ of marriage: change, communication, consideration, conflict, compromise, covenant and, Christ to a fruitful marriage. Remember we should expect and desire change. We need to learn to communicate more effectively.

We want to be considerate of our spouse’s feelings. We can expect conflict in our relationships and, we can seek compromise. Most importantly we can trust that Christ is working in our lives. Knowing and doing these things we have assurance of a fruitful marriage.

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