I love Lisa Chan. There is no human being I love more. We fell madly in love with each other and were married in 1994. Twenty years and five kids later, the love keeps growing. Day after day, she has stood faithfully by my side — loving me, encouraging me and challenging me. She is my best friend. Life together has been amazing. And the best is yet to come.
I have imagined what it will be like when Lisa comes face to face with God. The Bible guarantees this will actually happen. One day, my wife will stand before the Creator and Judge of all things. I can't imagine any of us being ready for the shock of that day, yet Scripture begs us to spend our lives preparing for it.
So I am working to make sure that my family is set up for the future. When most people make that statement, they are talking about financial security for their last few years on earth. When I say it, I'm referring to the millions of years that come after that.
Because I am crazy about Lisa, I want her to have a great life. But more than that, I want her to have a great eternity. I want her to be confident that the time she spent on earth prepared her for heaven. Most importantly, I want her to hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:23).
Think of all the awards, promotions, accolades and accomplishments you would love to receive in your lifetime. And then answer this: Could anything be better than hearing those words from Jesus in the first moments of eternity?
Sharing the mission
A strange thing happened when Lisa and I started living with an eternal lens: It caused us to enjoy the here and now! People will tell you to focus on your marriage, on each other, but we discovered that focusing on God's mission made our marriage amazing, and this caused us to experience Jesus deeply.
Eternal-mindedness keeps us from silly arguments. There's no time to fight. We can't afford to waste our lives. We can't afford to waste our marriage by merely pursuing our own happiness.
Truth be told, Lisa and I have very little in common. I love sports; she doesn't. She loves the mall; I hate it with a passion. I love weird Asian food; she thinks it's creepy. She likes serious conversations; I enjoy sarcasm. She loves Jesus. I love Jesus. And that's enough.
Our mutual love for Jesus — and His mission — binds us. We both love helping people repent of their sin, turn to Jesus and be filled with the Spirit. I love watching her share her faith, disciple younger women, care for the poor and minister to children. She loves it when I speak for God fearlessly, even when others hate it.
We love being on the mission together. In fact, it is the times when we neglect the mission and just focus on our own desires that conflict arises. Staying on the mission is what draws us closer together.
The apostle Paul's desire for the Philippians is also our desire for our marriage: We want to be of "one mind," to be "striving side by side for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). We work as a team and win as a team. Honestly, we don't spend much time working on our unity. The unity has come as a result of the mission. It has been a byproduct of serving the Lord.
If you have ever been on a short-term mission trip, you have probably experienced what I am talking about. Very often, you go with complete strangers. As you look around, you see that you have very little in common with the others on your trip. But by the time you leave, there is a bond between you. Your effort wasn't directed at building that bond. You were focused on the mission, but the mission brought you together.
Unity is the natural result of two people following one Spirit in a life devoted to the mission.
Sowing and reaping
Having a marriage focused on the mission will require commitment and sacrifice. But it's not all work and no play. God's promises include benefits that affect our time here on earth, as well as in heaven.
Galatians 6:7-8 confirms that sowing and reaping are connected. If that is the case, we can be confident that as we sow to the Spirit in our marriages, we will reap spiritual blessings in our marriages. Have you ever stopped to consider that? It says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I don't know many people who would look at that list and not want all of it. These are things that you will experience as you live a Spirit-filled life.
So how do we "sow to the Spirit" in our marriages? If we want to reap the spiritual benefits, we need to sow the right stuff.
Practically speaking, we have to start with the seed of prayer. Do you realize that very few people are going to be praying faithfully for your marriage and your spouse? I don't want to sound dramatic, but prayer changes everything! Without exception, every godly person I know is a man or woman of prayer, the Word and action.
Keeping God first
While the Bible helps us understand what marriage is and how it works, it is not a book about marriage. It is a book about God. God takes center stage in every story of Scripture. He is the Creator of life, the Judge and the Savior. So while the Bible does talk about marriage, let's be careful not to use the Bible just to find helpful tips on marriage. There is a much, much bigger picture.
When things are right with God, your marriage can actually become what it was designed to be. Peace comes when both parties come to an agreement. So agree on God — agree on His holiness and the supremacy He deserves in your lives.
Francis Chan is the best-selling author of Crazy Love.