Dr. Tony Evans: The umbrella is a covering for you. So when you’re operating under the covenant, you’re under the covering of God. What we have today are one or both parties in the marriage leaving the umbrella and wondering why the relationship is getting wet.
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Well, that’s Dr. Tony Evans, and he’s talking about the joys and the difficulties that many couples have in maintaining a strong, healthy marriage. And he’s our guest on today’s “Focus on the Family,” and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Let me turn to the audience and just say, are you struggling in some area of your marriage? I know from time to time Jean and I do. I’m thinking you and Dena do, as well.
John: Only as recently as this morning.
Jim: Some of it can be pace. Some of it can be just willful disobedience, where we’re not praying together as much as we should; we’re not reading the Word together. We’re not doing life the way the Lord intended it. And you know what? It’s good to be reminded from time to time what does it means to have a kingdom marriage? And I am thrilled to talk to our great friend and a wonderful guest to Focus on the Family and that’s Dr. Tony Evans.
John: And Dr. Evans has been here numerous times. Quickly, if you’re not familiar with his far-reaching ministry, he’s senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in the Dallas, Texas area. He has written books that have reached millions and millions, and he’s here today to talk about yet another in the Kingdom Series, if we can call it that. It began with Kingdom Men and then Kingdom Womanand Kingdom Kids and now Kingdom Marriage.
Jim:Kingdom Marriage and Tony, it’s great to welcome you back to “Focus on the Family.”
Tony: Well, always great to be here, and great to be at Focus and the long history and the great investment and support that you’ve been to me and my family and our ministry, so thank you.
Jim: Well, it’s a great combination. Tony, let’s talk about marriage. I mean we hear in the news and even Christian research organizations will talk about the downside, what the trouble is, where we’re at, the struggles we’re having in marriage generally in this country and particularly in Christian marriages, that our divorce rate isn’t much different from the world. Talk about the bigger theme of why marriages are struggling generally, and why Christian marriages are equally struggling.
Tony: Well, there are a lot of forces at work against marriages, against it being the institution that the Creator established it to be. But unfortunately, most marriages start in the wrong place—even Christian marriages—because they start with happiness as the goal. And God did not create that as the goal; that was supposed to be the benefit. And when the benefit replaces the goal, when that benefit is no longer being realized, and I’m not particularly happy, then I don’t want necessarily to stay there. But if we can get the goal back in its proper place (which is why we call it Kingdom Marriage) and then happiness becomes the result, well now you get the benefit because you’re adhering to the goal.
Jim: Well, state clearly: what is that goal in a Christian marriage? What are we trying to be about as Christians?
Tony: When God established the institution of marriage, He established it to reflect His image and expand His kingdom, and out of that He said, “I will bless them.” So unless we are mirroring God’s purposes and advancing His cause, we are not fulfilling the reason why He instituted the institution in the first place. So that opens up the door for the enemy, like he did with the first marriage, to come in, create division, separate us from God, and create “civilizational” chaos, conflict, and disintegration, because as goes the family—and the marriage is the foundation of the family—so goes the culture, and we’re watching that happen before our eyes.
Jim: I mean it’s shocking the rate at which marriage has disintegrated and is up against the ropes, as we often say here. Yet, that’s what we walk in the door every day trying to do. It’s why we’re doing this broadcast, is to talk about making your marriage as powerful, as strong as it can be. And I often say this, Tony. People outside of the community of faith are looking at us, seeing if we are acting differently. You know, it’s kind of like prove you believe in God by showing me your life. That can be hard to do when we’re looking for that happiness ourselves as Christians—being me-focused rather than you-focused.
Tony: The great beauty of what marriage was designed to be was that, I could invest in another for their enhancement and development and see the expansion of that reflected in the offspring, and then reflecting that in their new relationships and their offspring, so there is this proliferation of the image of God in history through the selflessness that marriage gives us the opportunity to demonstrate.
Jim: I know there [are] doctrinal differences, and you know, [at] Focus, we don’t concentrate on the theological differences here, but I was talking to a priest from the Catholic church, and he’s saying, you know, “We’ve thought about marriage for a long time, for the last 2,000 years.” And he said, you know, “One of the things that we have in the Catholic church is the belief that Lucifer, as an enemy to us and to Jesus, he despises marriage because God Himself put the divine nature in men and women. He created us in His image, as male and female, and it was a stench to Lucifer, because why would God do that to humans and not to the angels. Is that interesting?
Tony: Well, you will note that Satan never bothered Adam until he got married. Satan doesn’t show up until Eve is brought on the scene, because Satan was well aware of Jesus’ dominion statement in chapter 1 of Genesis, male and female. Since he knew that was coming down the pike, he knew he had to destroy that institution, so he timed his move to destroy the institution because he was after owning civilization.
Jim: I mean that is powerful to me. What a way to look at it, and what a reason for us to be more diligent and to understand the spiritual battles that are occurring for our marriages, because if he can obliterate marriage, he’s got us, right?
Tony: Well, absolutely. The saga of a nation is the saga of its families written large. And the saga of a family is the stability or instability of that marriage relationship. And if we can get back, and we must get back if we are going to salvage our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and our society, to God’s definition, purpose for marriage, which is kingdom oriented with happiness being the result
Jim: You know, when you look at the illustration of kingdom, you have a great story in the book talking about Queen Victoria. Now a lot of people bristle, because that was an era of colonialism and all that kind of thing, but you had an observation about Queen Victoria that really caught me. Explain it.
Tony: Well, Queen Victoria became queen at about 18 years of age, and she fell in love with Prince Albert, and they teamed up as the kingdom couple of England to work together in order to promote and to produce well-being in that society. When they teamed up as a unit, not only did England advance, but through their nine children and 42 grandchildren, who then went out and impacted Germany, Prussia, they went out and impacted Canada through their marriages. So we had a kingdom couple raising kingdom kids, having kingdom impact from a society standpoint through their children and grandchildren, which is exactly the replica that God had in mind when He established His kingdom marriage first and declared that, “I want you to be fruitful and multiply.”
And by the way, “fruitful and multiply” doesn’t just mean creating lookalikes. “Fruitful and multiply” meant to replicate my image so that when those kids grew up and expanded, I would be multiplied and replicated in all the new locations that their family lineages went to. So it was powerful to read that story. In fact, when Albert died, she remained unmarried, and would regularly dress in black every day, mourning the loss of that partnership and the impact that it had. That shows what a solid kingdom marriage can do in a society. What do you think it could do for the Kingdom of God?
Jim: I mean that is a great analogy. And all the positive things that come from that—bringing shalom, as the Jewish tradition would say, bring peace to the culture. And that’s what we as Christians need to be doing, too, right?
Tony: Absolutely. And when we know that the destruction of our marriages is a spiritual issue and not merely a relational issue, then we will seek to address it spiritually and not just relationally.
Jim: Well, and that is an observation I’ve made, and I don’t know who started this, but we talk about the marriage covenant rather than the marriage contract. The state demands a contract, and so we sign a marriage license that virtually means nothing today. For me, it’s no different, unfortunately, than registering your car because of the way the state has so redefined marriage that it doesn’t mean marriage anymore. But covenant marriage, what it means to be a believer and make a commitment to your spouse, describe that contrast and what we need to be about in the faith community.
Tony: Well unfortunately, the word “covenant” has gotten lost. It is the key word in Scripture to discuss how God administers His kingdom program and marriage is a kingdom program. A covenant, very simply, is a divinely created bond. Covenants have five ingredients to them. First of all, God sets the standard for what the covenant is, which is why God says, “Let no man put asunder what I have joined together. Don’t let a judge overrule me, because this is My institution, so you don’t get to define it.
Secondly, covenants have a chain of command. First Corinthians 11:3 says Christ is over every man; a man is over a woman. And then it goes on to say parents are over children. When you break the chain, you lose the blessing, which is why Satan went to Eve and skipped Adam. He went to Eve and skipped Adam to reverse the roles so that all hell could break loose in the home.
Then there are rules by which the covenant operates. A husband is given a set of rules that he is to follow; the wife the same. When they obey the rules, they get the involvement of God. When they disobey, that leads to four, the sanctions. The blessings and cursings were tied to the obedience. And then finally, the fifth point of every covenant is inheritance, where there would be long-term implications. That’s why the Bible talks about to the third and fourth generation.
Look at the covenant as an umbrella. When it’s raining, you have an umbrella. The job of the umbrella is not to stop it from raining, because the umbrella won’t do that; it will just stop it from raining on you. The umbrella is a covering for you. So when you’re operating under the covenant, you’re under the covering of God. What we have today are one or both parties in the marriage leaving the umbrella and wondering why the relationship is getting wet.
Jim: Those are great word pictures to think about. When you look at that piece, you also talk in the book, Kingdom Marriage, about unity and the need for unity in the bond of marriage. And I would think you listening right now, if you’re struggling in your marriage, this is probably one of the core issues. And we all face a moment, I think, where that unity doesn’t feel solid, where you’re not in sync. You’re maybe nipping at each other’s heels because something’s amiss. Talk about unity, what destroys unity, and how to keep unity.
Tony: Well, let’s define unity. Unity is oneness of purpose, not sameness of persons. When I do a marriage, a lot of times the couples have the unity candle, and so the man will take his candle, the woman will take her candle. They will light the big unity candle in the middle and then blow out their candles. I explain to them that’s not correct. You light the unity candle, but you keep your candle lit, because you don’t lose your uniqueness in order to have unity. So many couples are spending time trying to blow out the other person’s candle that it causes discord in the relationship, when that uniqueness is intentional. If both of you were the same, one of you would be unnecessary.
Jim: Talk about what that looks like practically to blow out your spouse’s candle. What does that look like?
Tony: To blow out your spouse’s candle is trying to make them into your image to fulfil your desire and preferences, even though that is not how God made them. So you wind up contradicting God by changing your mate, unless it’s something that God says is wrong. But their differences of personalities, of likes, of differences, they like the house cold, you like the house warm; she likes chick flicks, you like war flicks, that’s okay, because none of that is sinful. So people are free to be themselves.
In a football game, the lineman is not the wide receiver; the wide receiver is not the quarterback; but there is only one goal line. Everybody is going to the same goal with their uniquenesses. This is really a reflection of the image of God. One God composed of three coequal persons. The Father is not the Son, the Spirit is not the Father, but they work in unity toward a common purpose. So if you establish the purpose and keep the freedom of the uniqueness, you accomplish the purpose and you have unity, even though you maintain strategic differences.
Jim: So would you say the key threat to unity is trying to make your spouse more like you?
Tony: Or more like somebody you wish they were like–
Jim: Rather than accepting.
Tony: –even if it’s you, rather than accepting their uniqueness, apart from sin.
Jim: Yeah, you know sometimes, Tony, here at Focus on the Family we’ll hear from married couples, one of the married spouses, and they’ll talk about typically—and I don’t want to be stereotypical here–but typically the wife is calling saying, “My husband doesn’t do this, doesn’t do that, isn’t good at spiritual training of the children.” [She] can be very fault-finding, and maybe for good reason. So when the wife is justified calling these things out, what is a better way to handle it to maintain that unity?
Tony: Well first of all, she should let him read Kingdom Man. (Laughter)
Jim: And we have copies of that here at Focus on the Family.
Tony: Because what we try and do is outline the biblical role. Because what most men, Christian men, don’t understand is that they are asking for submission that they are unwilling to give themselves. God calls men to be submitted to Him, and therefore to say to Him, “I want to submit to You with all of my heart. It would help me to submit better to You if You would fulfill this role so that I can submit at the highest possible level.” You just caught His ear, because that’s what He wants. Give Him what he wants, but do it in such a way that you get what you need and when those two can connect [it’s good].
The second thing is, is there a person who he respects enough who is willing to hold him responsible? That’s where the local church comes in as the body of Christ. We’re supposed to be holding men accountable because the men are supposed to be pastors in their home. If you are calling your pastor’s name more than you’re calling his name, the wrong person is heading your household. So accountability and encouraging that accountability is also critical.
John: Dr. Tony Evans encouraging us today on “Focus on the Family” and Tony, you just mentioned Kingdom Man. We do have that, of course and then we’re specifically talking about Kingdom Marriage today and our listeners can go to www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800-A-FAMILY to get those books.
And Jim mentioned earlier the need for counseling. We do have counselors here on staff, so please consider us your first point of reference if you need some assistance in your marital relationship.
Jim: All right, Tony, I’m going to put you in the hot seat–
Tony: Uh-oh, uh-oh.
Jim: — because so often, you know especially those of us in leadership, we can say the right things, we know the word, but I want to dig in with you and Lois, your wife, and just ask you, how has this worked out in your own marriage? Are there times when you and Lois are kind of struggling in this area, or have you kind of dialed it in?
Tony: Well, first of all, when I am inconsistent in my role, then I have set the stage for her to be inconsistent in hers. So when I do not ask the question, have I created an environment in which she is responding to me this way, then I am better able to address it. When I simply push it off on her and don’t take responsibility … because the definition of a kingdom man is a man who accepts responsibility under God. Adam, where are you? Not Adam and Eve, where are y’all? You are responsible.
When I fail to ask that question, then I am exacerbating the situation. When she fails to ask that question, am I responding to Tony Evans, like God is asking me to respond, I’m exacerbating it. So we fail when that question goes unasked and unanswered. We succeed when that question is asked and answered.
John: And as you’re describing this process, Tony, I was thinking we’ve been very fortunate. We have been married for over 30 years, and I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen the differences between us—thinking about your unity candle illustration—I don’t think those differences have been more pronounced than ever before. I mean, Is that the case for you and Lois?
Tony: Absolutely, because you are forever “learning” a person, which is why it takes a lifetime to be married, because it takes a lifetime to fix it, you know, because you are forever learning things to discover. And different scenarios come up that can provoke old things that you thought were addressed a long time ago.
John: I thought we covered that.
Tony: Yeah, so that’s why Paul calls marriage a “sanctification environment,” because the goal of marriage, spiritually, is to transform us more into the image of Christ. That’s why we talk in the book Kingdom Marriage about the thorn. Paul wanted to get rid of the thorn in 2 Corinthians 12, ’cause it was needling him to death. And a lot of times, we feel that way about our mates. They are needling us to death, and we either want to change mates or change circumstances. We want to change something, and God said, “No, I don’t want you to change it. I want you to see Me working in it to transform you, because you are going to see more of Me in the needling until you get to where I want you to be. So look at even the thorns as an opportunity for growth.
Jim: Tony, I’m gonna dig in here, because I think those emotions that a person feels in the marriage, especially the marriage that has grown cool and distant, we need to talk about what that feels like and what they are experiencing and how they can get back to a place where they’re honoring the Lord. So describe that marriage where the communication is not happening, the unity is not happening. Husband’s withdrawn emotionally, ’cause he’s tired of being needled. And maybe she’s pullin’ back because she’s tired of giving of herself in certain ways and never getting the love that she’s expecting.
Just describe that environment a bit, and then talk about how you can begin to sanctify your marriage, as you said, where you can begin to get it back on course with God. ‘Cause there’s a lot of lonely Christian marriages, and we hear from you every day and we want to be here for you, but these are the type of programs that will give you the insight on how to get back on the right track. So speak to me in that way. Just role-play with me.
Tony: Well, God has a phrase to address this, because He experiences it with us. He calls it “returning to your first love,” and it’s in Revelation chapter 2. Love and first love, there’s a little difference between them. To love is to compassionately and righteously seek the well-being of another. To first love is to passionately and righteously seek the well-being of another. It’s the difference between compassion, love, and first passion.
So what God says is when you’ve fallen out of love with me, your Christian life has gotten cool, like maybe your marriage has gotten cool. He gives three things to do to set the place on fire again. No. 1, He says, “Remember from where you have fallen.” Go back to your dating days in your mind. Think of how it was, because that’s how it can be, because you have seen it be that way.
Jim: And that’s a house on fire?
Tony: That’s right; that’s a house on fire. Sometimes too much fire, right? Okay, He says, “I want you to think back. This is positive recall, because you often forget that.” Then He says the second thing. “I want you to repent.” Now in the Bible, you only repent of one thing: sin. So to leave your first love is not only negative and bad, it’s also sinful, because He wants you to repent of it. So you have to say, for whatever your role has been in contributing to the coolness, “I have sinned against God; I have sinned against my mate; and I want to be restored.”
That’s a conversation between a husband and a wife. “We have a cool relationship. I know it, you know, we know it. But let’s discuss what we remember when we first met. Let’s just talk about that a little bit and let’s both express our sorrow and our sin before God that we will let that fire die out.”
Then He gives the third thing. He says, “Repeat and do your first works over again.” You’ve remembered it. You’ve repented of wandering from it. Now do it all over again.” So, you actually have to go back in time to advance in time. But when the memory is there sparking it, when the repentance is there, recovering from it, and when the renewing and redoing is there, you have now lit a match. And when you light a match and attach it to the right substance, it will blow up pretty quick. It will become a fire pretty quick.”
Jim: And that’s, you know, a practical example for me in that is when Jean and I, when we were dating, I lived down in San Diego at the time and she was up in Orange County, so it was about a 90-minute drive. And I remember on a few occasions she worked at a veterinary, 24-hour veterinary clinic, so she would work the evening shift, and I always thought, man, I wonder if she’s getting dinner?
And there would be times when I would get her dinner, drive it 90 miles. I’d buy it on the hot end of that so it wasn’t cold. I wasn’t that dumb. But I’d drive those 90 miles, pick her something up nice and hot, and then take it to the clinic for her to eat. And you know I’ve got to say I don’t think outside the box like that anymore, you know, but that’s an example.
Tony: You know, that’s true with me. It’s true with me, too.
Tony: Lois responds to surprises. She likes, but not that which she can anticipate, but what were you thinking about that I mattered in that I didn’t expect? And you can see the light come on when the unexpected [occurs]. That’s what happens with us from God; when He comes from left field and does something we didn’t expect and didn’t anticipate, and we go, “Whoa!” We go, “Wow!” That’s what the Bible calls suddenly, out of nowhere God moves.
Well, when a man is suddenly, or woman, is suddenly to speak into the surprise element, which means you were thinking about me in a non-normal way, then what that does is, see, that’s lighting a match; that’s getting a flint going. And when we do those kind of things, that says that other person matters.
The other thing is a big biblical word, “edification,” build up. Because a lot of couples spend a lot of time arguing. But suppose every day you found a phrase that was an investment phrase? I am investing in you. I’m going to say something or do something that builds you up. Because a lot of people have been “tore up from the floor up” by the marriage conflict. But why don’t you create a new habit, because that will be a surprise right there that you’re not criticizing me, but you’re actually building me up. You are affirming me; you’re validating me; you’re accepting me; you’re complimenting me. You’re calling at an unexpected time. You’re writing a note, when that’s not your normal thing, and you are building me up. That’s what God says we ought to do for one another.
Jim: Now with the pleasure that comes with that, why do we, as couples, negate or ignore doing that? I mean it is a good thing and it actually brings the giver a little pleasure, too, if not a lot, to make their mate feel better. Why are we so negligent about doing it?
Tony: Because we take the other person for granted, like we take God for granted, even though His mercies are new every day.
Tony: So not to take the institution or the person for granted—and I’m getting convicted just talking about it—is, I think, the key to keep it from becoming dull and secondary.
Jim: And that takes a lot of discipline. This is your book, and we’re doing this together with Focus on the Family, Kingdom Marriage, and I’ve got a couple of other key areas I want to dig into like humility and the need for humility in marriage, the me-ism and that thing that traps us. I want to go a little deeper in that regard. Can you stick with us and we’ll talk about that next time?
Tony: To be with you, I will do anything.
Jim: (Laughing) I’m holding you to that!
John: Well, always good insights from Dr. Tony Evans and you can request a copy of Kingdom Marriage, which really addresses God’s plan for a man and woman in marriage and a CD or a download of our two-part conversation with him. Our phone number is 800-A-FAMILY and online we’re at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And when you support the work of Focus on the Family with a generous financial gift of any amount today to help us strengthen marriages, we’ll send you Tony’s book as our thank-you gift and that’s for your personal use or perhaps to pass on to someone. It’d make a great wedding present. Again our number to make that donation and request resources, 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back for more from Dr. Tony Evans tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.