We all want to walk in God’s best and His highest for our lives—especially when it comes to marriage. Listen to hear how Derek outlined three clear steps that take us toward that goal.
All through my talks on this theme I’ve been emphasizing that God has only one standard for marriage and that was established at creation in the first marriage where God Himself gave the bride away, the marriage of Adam and Eve.
If you will trust God and obey Him, He is willing to play the same role in your marriage as He did in that of Adam and Eve. But if this is your desire, then there are certain conditions that you’ll have to meet.
Yesterday I established the first basic condition: you must walk in the light of God’s Word, the Bible, and live your life in obedience to it. I quoted Psalm 119 verse 105:
“Your Word, O Lord, is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
If we walk in obedience to the Word of God, we will never walk in total darkness. We may not see far ahead, but we’ll see each step that we need to take. But if we neglect to walk in the Word of God, then we have no real right to expect special guidance in certain circumstances from God. God’s Word gives us general guidance. If we walk in that general guidance, then in particular situations we can expect particular guidance, special guidance; as for instance, whom we are to marry.
Once you decide to walk in the light of God’s Word, it rules out marriage with any person who does not share your faith in Christ. If you are a committed Christian, you are not free to contemplate marriage to anyone who is not also a committed Christian. The Bible explicitly warns you against this.
Today I’m going to share with you three further steps you need to take if you desire to experience marriage on the highest level of God’s will.
The first step is this: believe in God’s purpose for you, and the emphasis is on the word “believe.” Exercise faith. Let me read Romans 1:17, which is one of the great, basic statements of the principle of the gospel.
“For in the gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed. A righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
You see, that’s the basic principle of righteous living, it’s by faith. And living includes everything you do. It includes eating, drinking, talking, working at your job, relating to your family—everything is included in that one word “living.” And the only basis for right living that will find God’s plan and bring God’s favor on your life is living by faith. So you’ve got to have faith that God has a purpose for you. You’ve got to live your life consistently every day in the light of that faith.
In connection with this, let me give you one other Scripture that’s a great favorite of mine. It’s one that I’ve proved in my own experience over and over again. Psalm 37 verse 5:
“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and He will do it.”
There are three phases there. The first two are our responsibility; the third is God’s responsibility. If we fulfill our responsibility, we can trust God to fulfill His. Our responsibility is first: commit our way to the Lord. That’s a single act. You put your way in God’s hand. Just like going to the bank and depositing money, once you’ve deposited the money and obtained a receipt, you don’t keep worrying about whether the money’s all right, you know it’s there in the bank. That leads to the second step which is trusting. Committing is an act; trusting is an attitude. Once you’ve made the act of committing, then you maintain the attitude of trusting. So first commit the act, then trust, maintain the attitude, and then God comes in on the scene. The Scripture says, “He will do it.” That’s the translation I read, but interestingly, in Hebrew, it’s a completely present tense: He is doing it. The moment you commit and as long as you trust, He is doing it. So that’s living your life on a basis of faith. Believing that God has a purpose for you, believing that your life is in God’s hands, and just completely trusting Him.
Now, the second step is very closely related and yet it’s somewhat distinct. It’s commit your body totally to God. Sometimes we’ve got the impression God is so spiritual that He isn’t interested in our body. That’s completely wrong. God created our body, He formed it for a purpose and He wants complete control over our body. God is clever enough to know that if He’s got your body, He’s got you. Because He’s got the vessel and its contents. This is what it says in Romans 12 verses 1–2:
“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
The body, of course, plays a very central role in marriage. And it’s so important to be able to offer to your chosen mate a body that’s been made holy by being sacrificed to the Lord first. Believe me, that’s going to make a great difference to the kind of relationship that you’ll have, even sexually, once you enter into marriage. So God says, “Commit your body. I want a holy body. Not necessarily because you’ve never sinned, but because, although you may have sinned, you’ve turned from your sin and you’ve just given your body over to Me.” Elsewhere in the New Testament, it says “The altar sanctifies that which is placed upon it.” So when you place your body on God’s altar of service without reservation, it’s made holy by that being placed there; and then Paul continues in the next verse of Romans:
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is; His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
You see, until you’ve made a full surrender of your body to God, your mind will not be able fully to apprehend God’s will. But when you do what God requires with your body, God begins to do something in your mind. He renews your mind. He changes the way you think, He gives you a new kind of sensitivity to His Holy Spirit and to His purposes and as your mind is renewed, you become able to find out what God’s will for your life is and you find it’s good, pleasing, and perfect. The further you take the will of God, the better it becomes. When you first discover it, it’s good; after awhile you discover it’s pleasing; and ultimately you discover it’s perfect. But you can only make that discovery when you have committed your body on God’s altar without reservation. When you’ve presented your body to God, a living sacrifice, then God will renew your mind and with your renewed mind, you’ll be able to find out God’s will for your life, including God’s will for your marriage.
Just one more word of counsel, be prepared for death and resurrection. Perhaps you find that a little difficult to understand. Let me read you the words of Jesus in John chapter 12 verse 24:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
There’s a universal principle in the natural, in the spiritual. We are applying it, of course, in the spiritual realm in the Christian life. Your life has got to be released from your own control. You’ve got to let it go; you’ve got to let it drop. You often have to witness the death of your most cherished hopes and prospects. You may have made a commitment to God, you may expect God to answer in some wonderful way and the next thing that happens is everything goes wrong and you feel, in a sense, isolated. Maybe you had a certain ambition, even a certain person in view for marriage and after you make this commitment, everything falls apart and you say, “It all went wrong.” No, it didn’t. It’s all going right. God is teaching you this lesson: That if you want His highest will, there has to be a death followed by a resurrection.
I’ve experienced this in my life in certain critical phases of my life. And once I called out to God and I said, “God, why does everything you really bless have to die first and then be resurrected?” And I felt God gave me this answer, “Because, when I resurrect something, I resurrect it the way I want it. When you let it go, you let it die and you give me the liberty to bring it back to life the way I want it.”
So, what will happen in your life? Maybe the plan you had, the thought you had, the emotions you had were not from God. You let them die and God substitutes something that you would never have conceived of; something on a much higher plane. Or maybe the thoughts and emotions and the plans you had were from God. You let them die and everything falls apart, God is testing your consecration. Will you trust Him in the darkness? And then, when He’s proved that you fully trust Him, He restores whatever it was that you felt you’d lost, but He restores it blessed, multiplied many times over.