Opening question: If a man is alone in the woods and says something, and his wife is not there to hear it, is he still wrong?
Today, we’re talking about a different kind of marriage—a missional marriage. In a Peanuts cartoon, Linus throws a stick for Snoopy to retrieve. He starts, but then decides against it and walks away, thinking, “”I want people to have more to say about me after I’m gone than ‘He was a nice guy. He chased sticks.'”
I relate to that! I want to be more than a nice guy who chases sticks! But do you ever feel like you’re chasing sticks?
How many of you would like to live a life of significance? You would like your life to count, to have meaning, to make a difference. How many of you would like your marriage to be a great marriage? What if I could tell you one thing that would do both: give you a great marriage and a life filled with meaning and significance? Would that be worth the price of admission today?
This is the fourth and final part of The Jesus Marriage. We are indebted to Francis and Lisa Chan’s challenging book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. It’s worth reading—it will rattle your cage! The big idea is that life is about God, not marriage. And when you focus your life on God, your marriage goes better. The best thing Laina and I have done for our marriage is to live for Jesus first. I love Laina better when I love Jesus first. It’s the Jesus marriage.
To live for Jesus is live on mission. All Christians are missionaries—all of us: single, married, divorced. We are all living for Jesus’ mission. Jesus sends us into a broken world with a message of life and reconciliation and hope and healing. To live for Jesus is to live on mission. If you’re married, this means that your marriage will be on mission. Your life is about more than yourself: it’s about God and His mission. And your marriage is about more than yourselves: it’s about God and His mission.
The Big Idea: When you focus your marriage on God’s mission, your marriage gets better!
Before I dive in, I’ll invite the ushers to receive today’s offering.
While you give, since we’re talking about mission, here’s a heads up about an exciting opportunity. In two weeks, on Mother’s Day, we’re going to receive a special offering that will be used to drill wells and provide clean water in Kenya, and to help kids in our community—send foster kids to summer camp and provide food for kids on the weekends through the Bite 2 Go program.
Bite 2 Go is a partnership between the schools, Second Harvest, and partners like us. Bite 2 Go food kits are sent home with students in need, discreetly placed in their backpacks before they go home for the weekend. Many of these students get many of their meals at school, and might otherwise face the weekend without food. Currently Life Center owners are sponsoring 83 food-at-risk students at Sheridan Elementary. We’d like to make sure every child in need at Sheridan is taken care of, and then tackle another school in need!
This summer, Life Center is launching Royal Family Kids Camp. This is a camp for foster kids. We want to take these kids who often get bounced around from home to home and treat them like royalty and love them like family! Hence…Royal Family Kids Camp. Life Center is paying for, staffing and producing the camp—it will cost the kids and their foster families nothing. This offering is going to fund that effort.
We’ve been working on clean water projects in Kenya now for 7 years. When we started, there was no clean water source in Adiedo, Kenya. We have drilled two new wells, rehabilitated 7 other non-working wells, and installed four rain catchment systems at schools. In October, we are drilling four more new wells, and working with local leaders to create a regional water committee that will oversee clean water development in the whole region!
Your offering on Mother’s Day will go for these three worthy projects. Here’s the amazing thing: two very generous donors here have offered to match everything you give up to $75,000! Every dollar you give doubles!
The Big Idea: When you focus your marriage on God’s mission, your marriage gets better!
- God’s mission is bigger than your marriage.
Marriage is great! It’s wonderful. It’s God’s idea, His gift to us. It is one relationship that God chose to use as a metaphor for His relationship with us: Christ is the groom and we all are His bride. God calls us into a love relationship. God also used the family as a metaphor of our relationship: He is our Father and we are His children. God uses these relationships to help us understand our relationship with Him.
ILL: When our children were born and I became a father, I understood God’s love for me in a whole new way! Those little babies were nothing but trouble, keeping me up all night, pooping and peeing on me, screaming blood murder! But I loved them like crazy. And I realized that God loved me like that…and then some! I’m lots of trouble, but He’s crazy about me!
So marriage is great; family is great. They are a picture of God’s love relationship with us.
Marriage is great, but it’s not that great. Life is about God, not marriage. You can live a meaningful, significant full life without ever being married if you are living it for God. Life is about God. God is more important than your marriage. And God’s mission is bigger than your marriage.
The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about marriage and said some very interesting things.
1 Corinthians 7:29–35 (NLT)
29 But let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short. So from now on, those with wives should not focus only on their marriage. Notice this italicized phrase.
When Paul was writing this, he thought that Jesus’ return and the end of the world was near. You might think he was wrong since 1950 years have passed since he wrote this. But Paul understood that Jesus could come any time and we need to be ready—that’s still true today. We live short lives—our time here is short, and will be ended either by our death or Jesus’ return. Since our time is short, we want to make the most of it. Notice how we do that: don’t focus only on your marriage. There is something bigger than your marriage to focus on; what is it?
32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.
What should we focus on that is bigger than our marriage? Doing the Lord’s work. Serving the Lord. Our mission! Don’t focus only on your marriage; focus on your mission!
Notice two important things. First, Paul says that marriage can be a distraction from serving the Lord. Marriage divides our interests. When we’re single, we don’t have spouse to consider; we can focus totally on serving the Lord.
ILL: I was a youth pastor when I married Laina. But things changed when we married. I stopped having students do sleepovers at my house, or staying out late lots of nights at student activities. Laina wanted that time with me—as she should.
Even now, I can’t just make independent decisions to do something—I have to consider Laina, how it affects her, and we decide together. My interests are divided: I’m serving Jesus and I’m serving my wife.
That’s not bad. That’s not wrong. Paul is simply making an observation: marriage means that our attention is divided. We want to please God and we want to please our spouses. So marriage can be a distraction from serving the Lord.
Second, marriage can be a doubler! If both of you want to serve the Lord first, then marriage could make you better at serving God. Notice Paul’s goal:
1 Corinthians 7:35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.
How can you serve the Lord best? If you are single, Paul would say that you can serve the Lord without the distraction of a spouse. Go for it! Serve the Lord the best you can! And if you are married, Paul would say that you can serve the Lord together. If both of you make it your goal to serve the Lord the best you can, you will double your efforts. You can cheer each other on, encourage each other and make each other better.
ILL: Laina has not proved to be a distraction but a doubler because she wants to serve the Lord as much or more than me. She has helped me become a better person, and a better Christian in many ways. Just this week, we’ve had several conversations about this message, and about how God may want to use us in this season of our lives. We’re empty nesters—after 40 years of marriage, our house is empty for the first time. We have always had someone living with us: kids, grandkids, Laina’s dad Pastor Noel, and friends and extended family. What now? We’re excited to see what new adventures Jesus will lead us on together!
So here’s Paul’s thought: the time is short, so don’t focus only on your marriage. God’s mission is bigger than your marriage. Focus together on serving the Lord. Make your marriage missional.
What’s that mean? Here are two practical ideas.
- Make your marriage about making disciples.
Make your marriage missional—make it about Jesus’ mission. What’s the mission? To make disciples. To help people find and follow Jesus.
Matthew 28:18–20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This passage is known as the Great Commission. These are Jesus’ final words to His followers, and He gives them their marching orders. “Wherever you go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.” The command is to make disciples, to help people find and follow Jesus.
Jesus’ followers then organized their lives around this mission. Everything they did, everything they lived for was organized around making disciples, helping other people find and follow Jesus.
I believe that we’re to do the same. We are called to organize our lives around this mission. Single or married, our mission is to make as many disciples as we can. This mission is Job 1—it is our top priority. It should influence everything about us: where we live, where we work, how we spend our money and time—everything. We should be constantly asking how we can make more disciples.
This may be a new idea for you. Maybe making disciples isn’t a priority for you. Maybe it’s on your radar, but it’s something you only do occasionally. Or maybe it’s not on your radar at all.
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Think about it. Jesus gathered His followers for His final words and begins by saying that He has all authority in heaven and earth. He’s in charge! He’s the Boss! Nothing or no one can stop Him! “So go make disciples of all nations.”
ILL: I struggled to come up with a story that could make you feel the impact of this. This isn’t perfect but here goes.
When I was in junior high, I picked beans in the summer to earn money for school clothes. The bean bus picked us up at the bus stop at 5 AM, and dropped us off about 12 hours later. We got paid 2.5 cents per pound or 3 cents per pound if we lasted the whole season. On a good day, I’d pick 300 pounds and get paid $9.
The bean yard was run by the bean boss. All authority in heaven and on earth belonged to the bean boss. He was The Boss! And he gave us one command: pick beans! If he saw you goofing off, he told you, “Pick beans!” If you were goofing off, and you saw the bean boss coming, you picked beans. If you didn’t pick beans, you were fired. You were there for one reason: to pick beans. This was our mission: pick beans—and to pick as many beans as possible! For those few harvest weeks, we organized our lives to pick as many beans as possible. My biggest day was over 600 pounds!
Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He is The Boss. And He’s given us our mission: pick beans! Make disciples. And He expects us to be all in, to organize our lives around the mission.
It will look different for each one of us. In a moment, you’ll see a video about three couples that organized their marriages around the mission—each in very different ways. We are all called and gifted to do different things, but whatever you do, wherever you go, you’re on mission to make disciples.
Here’s the question that I hope each of you will discuss this week. How does God want to use me to make disciples? How does God want to use us, our marriage, to make disciples? Laina and I have been discussing this—how can we make our marriage more missional? How might God want to use us in this season of our lives? I hope you’ll join the conversation and make your life and your marriage about making disciples.
- Make your marriage about seeking God’s kingdom.
Jesus said that we are to seek the Kingdom of God first, even before our own physical and financial wellbeing. In Matthew 6, Jesus told His followers not to worry about daily necessities: food, drink, clothing and shelter. He told them that their Heavenly Father knows what they need, and He’s on it. “Your Father will care for you.” Don’t worry about your daily necessities…
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Seek first God’s kingdom. Jesus didn’t say, “But seek first your marriage.” Or “Seek first your family.” Or “Seek first your own physical and financial wellbeing.” These are all important, but not that important! Life is about God, and the most important thing you seek is God and His kingdom.
The Kingdom of God is His rule or reign. Let God be your King, and do what He wants. Jesus taught us to pray, “May Your Kingdom come, may Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s Kingdom is wherever His will is done, wherever He is King.
So we are to seek first His Kingdom, seek His will being done in our lives and in our world. This should be true of us individually, and it should be true of our marriages. Our marriages should be about seeking first God’s kingdom. “God, what do you want me to do?” Find God’s will, and do it!
When we see things happening that we know are not God’s will, we should pray, “God what do you want me to do?” and then act accordingly. This is seeking first God’s kingdom. To use some examples I already mentioned:
- There are people in Kenya dying from dirty water. “God, what do you want me to do?”
- There are kids going hungry each weekend in our community. “God, what do you want me to do?”
- There are foster kids who desperately need to be loved by us and by God. “God, what do you want me to do?”
When you see needs, when you see things that you know aren’t God’s will, ask Him, “God what do you want me to do.” Then do it! That is seeking first God’s Kingdom.
Here’s an amazing thing. Jesus promised that if we put God’s kingdom first, if we live for Him and His Kingdom and His purposes, He will take care of us. He will meet our needs. Living for God’s mission provides financial security!
I want to finish with a terrific video of three missional marriages. They’re all different. But they all have this in common: they want their marriage to be about God’s mission, about making disciples, about seeking God’s kingdom.
Video of three missional marriages.
You may not adopt a dozen kids; you may not move into a huge apartment complex and invite them all to your wedding; you may not rescue girls from the slave trade in Africa. Or you might. But do something! Get beyond yourself—God’s mission is bigger than your marriage. And here’s the cool thing:
Conclusion: This is the path to a great marriage. Do something!
Make your life, your marriage about God’s mission. It’s bigger than your marriage, and it makes your marriage better. Any person wrapped up in himself is not healthy. The same is true of a marriage. When you are self-absorbed, when it’s all about you, all about your marriage, then your marriage will never be as good as it could be if you just got over yourselves. Start living for Jesus, for His mission and watch what happens to your marriage!