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.
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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, um, 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, uh, you know what? It’s good to be reminded from time to time what does it mean 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. Uh, quickly, if you’re not familiar with his, uh, far-reaching ministry, he’s senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in the Dallas, Texas area. Uh, he’s written, uh, books that reach millions and millions, and, uh, he’s here today to talk about yet another in the kingdom series, if we can call it that.
John: It began with Kingdom Man, and then Kingdom Woman, and Kingdom-
Dr. Evans: Kids.
John: … kids. And now Kingdom Marriage.
Jim: Kingdom Marriage. And, uh, Tony, it’s great to welcome you back to Focus on the Family.
Dr. Evans: Well, always good to be, and great to be with Focus. Uh, the long history and the great investment and support that you’ve been to me And, uh, 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.
Dr. Evans: Well, there are a lot of forces that work against marriages, against, uh, 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, uh, 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, uh, happiness becomes the result, well, now you get the benefit, because you are 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?
Dr. Evans: 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, uh, 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 are watching that happen before our eyes.
Jim: I mean, it’s shocking the rate at which marriage has disintegrated and, uh, 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, uh, 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’re acting differently. You know, it’s kind of like prove you believe in God by showing me your life. Um, that can be hard to do when we’re looking for that happiness ourselves as Christians, being me focused rather than you focused.
Dr. Evans: 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’s doctrinal differences, and Focus, we don’t concentrate on the theological differences here. But I was talking to a priest from the Catholic church, and he was 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, uh, is the belief that Lucifer as an enemy to us and to Jesus. Um, he despises marriage because God himself put the divine nature in man and woman. 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?
Dr. Evans: Well, you, we’ll note that Satan never bothered Adam till he got married. Uh, Satan doesn’t show up until Eve is brought on the scene. Because Satan was well aware of Jesus’ dominion statement in chapter one 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?
Dr. Evans: 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’re going to salvage our children, grandchildren, 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, uh, you have a great story in the book talking about Queen Victoria that really caught me. Explain it.
Dr. Evans: 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, uh, 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, uh, England advance, but through their nine children and 42 grandchildren, who then, uh, went out and impacted Germany, uh, Prussia. They went out and impacted, uh, Canada through their marriages. So we had a kingdom couple raising kingdom kids, having kingdom impact from a societal standpoint through their children and grandchildren, which is exactly the replica that God had in mind when he established the, 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 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 can do for the kingdom of God? And when we know that the destruction of our marriages is a spiritual issue and not really a relational issue, then we will seek to address it spiritually and not just relationally.
Jim: Well, and that is, um, 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, uh, 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 your spouse, describe that contrast and what we need to be about in the faith community.
Dr. Evans: 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. I 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 has to follow. The wife the same. When they obey the rules, they get the involvement of God. When they disobey, that leads to [00:10:29] 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’ll 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: Ah. Those are great word pictures to think about. Uh, when you look at that piece, um, you also talk in the book Kingdom Marriage about unity and the need for unity in the bond of marriage. And I would think, um, 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, um, where that unity doesn’t feel solid, where you’re not in sync. You’re, uh, maybe nipping at each other’s heels because something’s amiss. Talk about unity, what destroys unity, and how to keep unity.
Dr. Evans: Well, let’s define unity. Unity is oneness of purpose, not sameness of persons. When I do a marriage, a lot of times, the, 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, then they’ll 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 are the same, one of you would be unnecessary.
Jim: Talk about, uh, what that looks like practically to blow out your spouse’s candle. What does that look like?
Dr. Evans: To blow out your spouse’s candle is trying to make them into your image to fulfill 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 God says is wrong.
Dr. Evans: But their differences of personalities, of likes, of interests. They like the house cold. You like the house warm. Uh, she likes chick flicks. You like war flicks. Tha-, that’s, 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’s only one goal line. Everybody’s going to the same goal with their uniqueness’s. This is really a reflection of the image of God. One God composed of three co-equal persons. The Father’s not the son. The Spirit’s not the Father. But they work in unity toward a common purpose.
Dr. Evans: 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 that key, would you say the key threat to unity is trying to make your spouse more like you?
Dr. Evans: Or more like somebody you wish they were like.
Jim: Rather than accepting-
Dr. Evans: 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, uh, typically the wife is calling and saying, “My husband doesn’t do this, doesn’t do that. Um, isn’t good at spiritual training of the children.” Um, can be very fault finding, and maybe for good reason. So when that wife is justified calling these things out, what is a better way to handle it to maintain that unity?
Dr. Evans: Well, first of all, she should let him read Kingdom Man.
Jim: And we have copies of that here at Focus on the Family.
Dr. Evans: Because what we try to do is outline the biblical role. Because what most men, Christian men don’t understand is that they’re asking for submission that they’re 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 [00:15:01], 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. 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’re calling your pastor’s name, what are you calling his name? The wrong person is head of your household. So accountability and encouraging that accountability is also critical.
John: You’re listening to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, and our guest today is Dr. Tony Evans, speaking wisdom about the lessons he’s learned in his own marriage. Sadly, his wife Lois passed away soon after this program was recorded, after 49 years of marriage. But the legacy of their faithfulness to each other lives on. Tony’s wonderful book on the topic of marriage is called Kingdom Marriage, and you can get your copy today when you call (800), the letter A, and the word Family. (800) 232-6459. Or visit focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
John: Earlier Jim mentioned the need for counseling, and if that’s you, uh, please know that we have caring Christian counselors here on staff, and we’d love for you to consider us kind of a first point of reference. Call to schedule an appointment today if you need some assistance in your relationship.
John: Let’s go ahead and rejoin that conversation now with Dr. Tony Evans on Focus on the Family.
John: All right, Tony. I’m going to put you in the hot seat.
Dr. Evans: 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-
Dr. Evans: Okay.
Jim: … 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 really dialed it in?
Dr. Evans: 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 in 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 unto 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.
Dr. Evans: So we fail when that question goes unasked and unanswered. We succeed when that question is asked and answered.
Jim: And as you’re describing this process, Tony, I was, I was thinking we’ve been very fortunate. We’ve 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?
Dr. Evans: 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’re forever learning things that, uh, to discover. And, and different scenarios come up that can provoke old things that you thought were addressed a long time ago.
Jim: I thought we covered that. Yeah.
Dr. Evans: Yeah. So it is … 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. Uh, Paul wanted to get rid of the thorn in II Corinthians 12, because it was needling him to death. And a lot of times, we feel that way about our mates. They’re needling us to death, and we want 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’re 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 going to dig in here, because I think those emotions that, 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’re experiencing and how they can get back to a place where they’re honoring the Lord. So describe, uh, that marriage where the communication is not happening, the unity is not happening, husband’s withdrawn emotionally, because he’s tired of, uh, being needled. And maybe she’s pulling back because she’s tired of giving of herself in certain ways and never getting the love that she’s expecting. Um, 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. Because there’s a lot of lonely Christian marriages, and we hear from you every day. And we want to be here for you. So speak to me in that way. Just role play with me.
Dr. Evans: 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 two. Love and first love is 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, uh, set the place on fire again. Number one, he says, “Remember from where you have fallen.” Uh, 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.
Dr. Evans: That, that, that, that’s a house on fire. Sometimes too much fire, right?
Dr. Evans: 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 it. 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 would 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 never now lit a match. And when you light a match and attach it to the right substance, it’ll blow up pretty quick.
Dr. Evans: It’ll 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, um, 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, the hot end of that so it wouldn’t be cold.
Dr. Evans: Yeah.
Jim: I wasn’t that dumb. But, uh, 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, uh, you know, I’ve got to say. I don’t think outside the box like that anymore. You know.
Dr. Evans: You know, it’s true with me.
Jim: But that’s example of what you’re … Yeah.
Dr. Evans: It’s true with me, too. Lois responds to surprises. Uh, she likes, uh, not that which she can anticipate.
Dr. Evans: 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. That’s what happens with us with God. When he comes from left field and he 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 the man is suddenly or a 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’ll be a surprise right there, that you’re not criticizing me, but you’re actually building me up. You’re 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-
Dr. Evans: Yeah.
Jim: … if not a lot to make their mate feel better. Why are we so negligent about doing it?
Dr. Evans: Because we take the other person for granted, like we take God for granted, even though his mercies are new every day.
Dr. Evans: So not to take the institution or the person for granted … I’m getting convicted just talking about it … uh, is I think the key to keep it from becoming dull and secondary.
Jim: Yeah. And that takes a lot of discipline. Uh, Tony, this is your book, and, uh, we’re doing this together, uh, 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?
Dr. Evans: To be with you, I’ll do anything.
Jim: I’m holding you to that.
Dr. Evans: Okay.
John: I hope this conversation has moved and inspired you to take steps to grow in your relationship with your spouse and pursue them in a loving, biblical way. And please, as you can, donate today to the ministry of Focus on the Family. We’re listener supported, and, uh, your contribution, either a monthly pledge or a one-time gift, will make a difference to us here. Donate and we’ll send a copy of Dr. Evans’ terrific book, Kingdom Marriage, which could change the trajectory of your relationship with your spouse. Donate and request your copy of that book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 1 (800), the letter A, and the word Family. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.