Build It Right!

Part 3: The glue of commitment

 

Opening:

Dearly beloved…

Rachel, you look lovely!  Kenny, you clean up real nice! 

At a wedding, a bride and groom make promises—commitments—to each other, promises that are to be kept “for better or worse”—no matter what.  These promises are the glue that hold us together through the difficult times.  We’re going to talk about the role of commitment in creating a life-long marriage, about how important these promises are, and how helpful it is to repeat them regularly. 

Rachel and Kenny Pecka (who are already married) have volunteered to renew their vows, and we are going to invite all of you who are married to join them and renew yours as well. It’s the glue of commitment. 

Let’s pray. 

 

Offering:

          In just a moment, we’re going to worship the Lord together.  It’s become more common at Christian weddings to spend some time worshipping God.  Why?  As Christians, Jesus is first in our lives; we build a Christian marriage on that shared value.  The more I love Jesus, the better I’ll love you.  So we invite you to worship with us.

          First, the ushers are going to come for today’s offering.  I know, you’re thinking, “This is a wedding; you don’t take an offering at a wedding!”  Maybe we should start a new trend!  Actually, the bride and groom have asked that in lieu of gifts for them, that you would give your tithe and offering to Life Center! 

 

Worship and prayer time

 

Introduction:

Rachel and Kenny, you’re standing here because you want a great marriage.  So here’s the first thing I want you to know: Great marriages are the result of a lot of hard work by two committed partners. 

Marriage is hard!  Anytime you take two sinners, two people who are innately selfish, and put them under the same roof for a lifetime, that’s a wicked soup!  That’s trouble.  Marriage is hard, and we do people a disservice by letting them think that a good marriage is easy or just comes naturally.  Great marriages are the result of a lot of hard work by two committed partners. 

Every marriage has hard times.  Can I see the hands of all the married couples?  Now let’s see the hands of married couples who have had hard times. 


Looks like the same group!  Every marriage has hard times.  What carries you through the hard times?  Commitment.  We made a commitment to stay together and love each other and make this thing work.  So we don’t give up.  We don’t quit.  We persevere and work through the hard times.  We work hard.

Great marriages are the result of a lot of hard work by two committed partners.  And great marriages require skill and will.  There are skills that you have to learn, and for most of us, we’ll take a lifetime to learn them.  What kind of skills? Understanding the opposite sex, communication, conflict resolution, compromise, anger management, raising children, managing money, making love.  Many couples, lacking the skills, break up early on.  Did you know that nearly one half of all divorces happen in the first two years of marriage?  We marry without knowing how hard it will be and without many of the skills, and then we break up before we have a chance to develop the skills.  What carries us through while we’re learning the skills?  Will.  Commitment.  We made a choice: I choose us.  We made a promise: for better or worse till death do us part.  And that’s the glue that holds us together.

I choose us.  I choose us over me; from now on it is we not me.  I choose us even when it’s hard, even when it means my dreams don’t come true, or I don’t get my way.  I choose us.  That’s commitment.  And it’s that commitment that holds us together and carries us through the hard times.

ILL: When Laina and I got married, we made promises to each other, for better or worse till death do us part.  We decided that divorce would not be an option for us.  We knew there would be hard times, but we believed that God wanted us together and wanted our marriage to last.  So we promised to stay together and work it out.  “God wants us to be together and He will help us work this out.”  We believe that; and it works.

Commitment.  I choose us.

ILL: I love to tell engaged couples the story of Fernando Cortez, sent from Spain to conquer the mighty Aztecs.  He arrived in the Gulf of Mexico with 11 ships and 700 men.  When the men realized how impossible their task was, they began to talk of mutiny.  Cortez moved all the men and supplies on to the beach, and then sent a single man back out in a rowboat, and he torched all 11 ships.  Those 700 men stood on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico and watched their only hope of escape sink to the bottom of the bay.  Now there was only one choice left: not escape, but advance.  And they did.

I tell engaged couples that when they marry, they each arrive in their own ship of singleness, and at the wedding, they burn the ships.  There’s no going back that way.  They have to go forward…together.  If you leave a ship in the bay, you’ll probably use it.  When the going gets tough—and it will—that ship looks pretty inviting.  But if you’ve burned the ships, if you’ve made the commitment, there’s no turning back.

          But the commitment isn’t just to stay in the marriage; it’s to make the marriage great.  Commitment doesn’t mean that you stay in the marriage passively.  Some people may not leave the marriage, but they don’t do anything to make it better.  They stick it out, but they don’t improve it.  Commitment means that you stay together and you work hard to make the relationship work.

ILL: Every now and then, I meet a pastor who has stayed at his church for years, and he’s on cruise control.  He’s just doing laps, waiting for retirement.  He’s not advancing the cause, he’s just treading water.  Would you say, “He’s really committed to that church?”  No.  If he was committed, he would be working hard to help that church reach its full redemptive potential, to be all God wanted it to be.  That’s his calling: not to just hang on but to get better, to move forward! 

It’s the same in marriage.  To be committed to your marriage is to be actively working to make it better, to be all God wants it to be.  To be committed to your partner is to be actively working to help him/her become all God wants them to be.  That’s commitment.  It’s active, not passive.

            Look at the statement at the top of your outline.  “Marriage is a covenant between two people based on promises we make before God and keep with His help.”  Marriage is a covenant.  A covenant is “a formal, binding and solemn agreement.” 

God has made a covenant with us.  In fact, we call the first part of our Bible, the Old Testament (or covenant) and the second part, the New Testament (or covenant).  In the Old Testament, God made a covenant with the nation of Israel.  In many places, God likens that covenant with Israel to a marriage.  He is the groom, Israel is His bride.  “You will be my people, and I will be Your God.” 

          In the New Testament, Jesus makes a new covenant.  All of us who believe in Jesus and follow Him have entered into this covenant with God.  The New Testament also compares this covenant with us to a marriage. 

Ephesians 5:22–33 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

The apostle Paul compares marriage to Christ’s relationship with the church (all of us).  Christ is the groom, and we are His bride.  Husbands are to love their wives like Christ loved the church, and wives are to respect their husbands as the church does Christ. 

          God has made a covenant with us; He has entered into a relationship that is built on promises, on His commitment to us.  God made promises to us, and asked promises of us in return.  The covenant was based on these promises. 

          In the same way, the marriage covenant is made on a set of promises that we make to each other before God.  What do we call these?  The vows.  The vows, the marital promises are the steel framework of the marriage.  And yet, most people today make these promises without knowing what they’re saying.  And they make them only once, and in a highly charged atmosphere.  How many of you can even remember what you promised?  Not many! 

          A promise is a powerful thing.  When you promise something out loud and repeatedly, you are much more likely to do it. 

ILL: If I promise to help you paint your house this summer, I may do it, or I may forget by summer.  But if I promise every day to help you paint your house this summer, it’s pretty likely that I will.

So I’m proposing that we repeat our vows.  Not just today.  Every day!  Dr. Neil Clark Warren says,

Instead of our vows being taken once in a lifetime under stressful conditions, I suggest that it needs to be said two to three times a week for the first 10 years of marriage—and at least once a week for the rest of the marriage.  Why? In order to maintain a steady focus on the promises that form the steel framework of the marriage.

I’ve included at the bottom of your outline a copy of some vows that we’ll repeat use in a few minutes, and I hope you’ll repeat to each other often.  Our commitment in marriage is framed in our vows, so I want to go over these promises with you, step by step, and then suggest that you repeat them to each other every day this week.

 

1. I do: The promises we make.

There are many forms of marriage vows, but most of them include a few basic promises.  I’ve told you before that Laina and I wrote our own vows, but our vows included these basic promises.  I’ve got to tell you that when couples write their own vows, I always reserve the right to edit them.  Why?  Because sometimes people write goofy things that aren’t promises at all.

ILL: At one wedding, the groom rhapsodized, “It is therefore our glorious and divine purpose to fly mountains, to sow petalscent…to glorify love, to love with love.”  

          The bride answered, “We hereby commit ourselves to a serenity more flamboyant and more foolish than a petalfall of magnolia.” 

          Undeterred, the groom came back with, “This is the purest double helix of our us-ness.”

          “For better or worse” is a lot more honest!

So I don’t know exactly what your marriage vows were, but these are the basic promises or commitments that we make and build a marriage on.

 

          I will love you.

          This is the first and most important promise, for all the other promises are summed up in this one.  If you love your spouse, you’ll keep all the other promises.

          But how can we promise someone that we will love them?  Isn’t love out of our control?  Isn’t love something that we fall into, and then fall out of?  No.  That’s infatuation.  Love isn’t primarily an emotion, but an action.  You can’t promise a feeling, but you can promise certain behaviors.  You can’t always choose your emotions, but you can choose your actions.  Here’s a definition of love:        Love is doing what is best for another no matter what it costs you.

          When we promise to love each other, this is what we’re promising.  Not that we’ll always feel lovey—no one always feels lovey—but that we’ll do what’s best for the other person.  Love is active benevolence, active goodwill.  “I will do what is best for you.” 

          Where did we get this definition of love?  From the Bible, from God’s love for us.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

God so loved that He gave.  He didn’t just feel something for us, He did something for us.  He did what was best for us, no matter what it cost Him.  And it cost Him a lot: His Son.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

How does God show His love?  By doing something for us, for our good.  By giving His Son.

1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

How do we know what love is?  We look at Jesus, who gave His life for us.  This is love.

1 John 4:9-10 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Again, how did God show His love?  By giving His son.  What is love?  Jesus died for us. 

          Love is doing what is best for another no matter what it costs you.  This is the promise we make: “I will love you.  I will do what is best for you, no matter what it costs me.”  I promise.

 

          I will cherish you.

          What does cherish mean?  The French and Latin roots meant “dear”.  “To hold dear, to feel or show affection for.  To keep or cultivate with care and affection; to nurture.”

          Do any of you ever call your spouse “dear”?  Have you ever described a friend as a “dear friend”?  What does that mean?  A cherished friend.  A treasured friend.  A valued friend.  To hold someone dear means that he/she has a special place in your heart.  When you promise your spouse, “I will cherish you,” you are promising them a special place in your affections.  You are promising to hold them dear. 

          To cherish is to nurture, to keep or cultivate with care.  When you cherish someone, you care for them and protect them. 

ILL: All of you have cherished keepsakes, reminders of your childhood, or your family, or your children.  If a fire broke out at your house, what would try to save?  For Laina and me, it’s these keepsakes: pictures and videos of our kids when they were little, a box of mementos from our own childhoods.  We’ve talked about creating a special storage place for these that would not only protect them, but allow us to save them if a fire started.

You take care of what you cherish.  How are you caring for and protecting and nurturing your spouse?

          Does your spouse feel cherished by you?  I will cherish you.  I promise.

 

          I will honor you.

          To honor someone is to show them great respect, to acknowledge their worth and value.  Sadly, we often treat the most important people in our lives with the least respect.  We treat strangers respectfully and are often boorish and rude at home.  Think of how you treat someone of stature.

ILL: When the President enters a room, what do people do?  Stand.  How do they address him?  Mr. President.  No one calls him Barack or Barry.

When we are in the presence of someone of stature, we honor them.  We treat them with respect.  There is no one who deserves more honor and respect than the person who chose to spend their life with you, your spouse.  What are some ways we show honor and respect?

  • It used to be that when a lady entered a room, gentlemen stood.  And the Bible says in Leviticus 19:32, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere the Lord your God.”  Other acts of chivalry include opening a door, offering an arm, allowing the other to go first.
  • We honor someone when we listen to them attentively and respectfully.  We show that we value them and that their opinions and ideas matter to us.
  • We honor someone when we speak highly of them to others, when we praise them in public.
  • We honor someone when we put their interests and concerns ahead of our own, when we put them first above ourselves.
  • We honor someone by always speaking with a respectful tone.
  • We honor someone with courtesy.

I will honor you.  I promise. 

 

          I will be faithful to you.

          Faithfulness is not only physical, sexual, but it’s also mental and emotional. 

  • You don’t allow your thoughts to wander.  Don’t entertain any fantasies of another woman or another man. 
  • You don’t allow your affections to wander.  And if you feel them wandering, you distance yourself from that other person, and refocus your attention on your spouse. 

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Guard your heart, your affections, your thoughts—everything else flows from this.  I will be faithful to you.

This is another promise that needs to be repeated regularly.  I often tell Laina that she is my one and only, that I am hers exclusively, that I am a one-woman man, that I have eyes for her alone, that I am faithful to her heart and mind and body.  Saying that promise again not only reassures and pleases her, but it helps me. 

Marriage is an exclusive relationship.  This is one of those fundamental promises.  I will be faithful to you.  I promise.

 

          No matter what: For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health.

          Sometimes it’s easy to keep your promise and sometimes it’s hard.  Psalm 15:4 describes the righteous person as one who “keeps his promise even when it hurts.”  Sometimes it hurts to love the other person.  It hurts to keep your promises when the other person isn’t keeping his or hers.  And sometimes life throws you a curve, and things don’t turn out the way you expected.  It’s easy then to think, “I didn’t sign up for this.  I want out.”

ILL: Author and business leader Fred Smith writes: One of my treasured memories comes from a doughnut shop in Grand Saline, Texas. There was a young farm couple sitting at the table next to mine. He was wearing overalls and she a gingham dress. After finishing their doughnuts, he got up to pay the bill, and I noticed she didn’t get up to follow him. But then he came back and stood in front of her.

She put her arms around his neck, and he lifted her up, revealing that she was wearing a full-body brace. He lifted her out of her chair and backed out the front door to the pickup truck, with her hanging from his neck. As he gently put her into the truck, everyone in the shop watched. No one said anything until a waitress remarked, almost reverently, “He took his vows seriously.”

He made a promise, and he’s keeping it.  For better or worse.  In sickness and health.

          We quit too easily.  Marriage is hard!  Sometimes you have hard days.  Sometimes you have hard weeks.  Sometimes you have hard years.  What are you going to do?  Many people quit.  But you made a promise: for better or worse.  I will love you…no matter what.  I promise.

 

          Forever: as long as we both shall live.

          This defines the duration of the promises.  I promise to love you, cherish you, honor you and be faithful to you, for better or worse…for as long as we both shall live.  Till death do us part.  I choose us…forever.

          Did you know you can rent wedding rings now?  Sadly, many people enter matrimony with their ship still floating in the bay.  It’s not forever; it’s maybe forever, if things work out, if I’m happy…maybe.  “Maybe promises” are worthless, and won’t sustain a marriage through the difficult times.

ILL: Daniel Webster, a 19th century lawyer and statesman, was courting his wife-to-be, Grace Fletcher. As he held skeins of silk thread for her, he suggested, “Grace, we’ve been engaged in untying knots; let us see if we can tie a knot which will not untie for a lifetime.” They stopped right then and tied a random silk knot that would be almost impossible to untie. Grace accepted Webster’s proposal.

After they died, their children found a little box marked “Precious Documents.” Among the contents were letters of courtship and a tiny silk knot—one that had never been untied.

That’s the commitment you make.  As long as we both shall live.  I promise.

 

Vows

So let’s take our vows.  Kenny and Rachel, would you take hands.  And all of you who are married, would you take hands right now, and look each other in the eye, and repeat after me.  Let’s renew these promises to our spouse.

I choose us.  I promise to love you.  I promise to cherish you.  I promise to honor you.  I promise to be faithful to you.  I will keep these promises in good times and bad, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both live.  So, help me God.

So, help me God.  That’s what that last phrase means.  Help me God!  These are big promises and we need God’s help, and we’re asking Him for it.  So, help me God!  Help me!  Want a marriage that lasts forever?  Want to build it right?  Make the promises.  Speak your commitment.  Do it regularly.  And ask for God’s help.  Let’s do that now.

          Pray.

 

Rings

          At a wedding, the bride and groom exchange rings as symbols and reminders of the promises they have made.  Every day, when you look at your ring, let it remind you of these promises.  I am loved; and I have promised to love.  I am honored, and I have promised to honor.  And let these rings remind you of God’s help.  Three times in the New Testament, the apostle Paul describes the Holy Spirit as God’s deposit or down-payment that guarantees what is yet to come.  Think of a promise ring, or an engagement ring, or a wedding ring—all are given as a guarantee of something to come—a marriage, a life together.  The Holy Spirit—God’s presence with us—is His wedding ring, His promise of more to come, of eternity together. 

 

2. I will be your God: the promises God makes. 

          I told you earlier that God made a covenant with us, and that marriage is a reflection of God’s relationship with us.  God has made promises to you: to love you, to forgive you, to save you, to help you, to never leave you. 

God looked at you and said, “I choose us.”  Jesus came to find us and whenit meant dying for you on a cross, Jesus said, “I choose us.” 

God is far more committed to you than you’ll ever be to Him.  His love for you is far greater than yours will ever be for Him.  His faithfulness to us is perfect even though we fail Him often.  He keeps His promises to you even though you often fail to keep yours. 

This is the thought I want you to leave with: God is totally committed to you.  God says, “I choose you.”  And He promises to keep you to the end.

Jude 24–25 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

 

          Would you take hands again and repeat after me:

This ring symbolizes God’s promise to us, and God’s help for us.  And with this ring, I promise you my love, now and forever.  So, help me God.