I want you to consider a powerful, common factor that dramatically affects every person's life. No one escapes the impact of this common factor. Everyone is affected by it. The power and influence of this factor are astounding to the point of disbelief.

This specific factor causes more joy in the lives of the people of this congregation than any other single factor. It also causes more sorrow in the lives of the people in this congregation than any other single factor.

It creates more happiness than any other specific factor, and it generates more heartache than any other specific factor.

It brings more peace than any other specific factor, and it causes more anger than any other specific factor.

It nurtures spiritual development as nothing else does, and it opposes spiritual development as nothing else does.

By now you doubt me--seriously doubt me. You are thinking, "David, that is preposterous. It is ridiculous to think one factor can produce joy and sorrow, happiness and heartache, and peace and anger, while it both nurtures and opposes spiritual development in the same group of people."

"Just name any single factor that could possibly do all those things in this congregation."           M a r r i a g e.

Every person is powerfully impacted by marriage--either by their own marriage, by their parents' marriage, by both marriages, or by the fact that their lives have never been touched by a marriage. Marriage causes joy or sorrow, causes happiness or heartache, brings peace or generates anger, and either nurtures or opposes spiritual development.

Add to those truths these insights. Every good marriage can be better than it is. Every bad marriage can be worse than it is. Every good marriage has the potential of becoming a nightmare. Every bad marriage has the potential of becoming a powerful blessing.

  1. Have you noticed that all the marriages that are discussed in the Bible are bad marriages?
    1. Only the Old Testament gives us details about specific marriages.
    2. The New Testament doesn't give details about specific marriages.
    3. In past generations, it was common to refer to the marriage of Isaac and Rebekkah in marriage ceremonies: "May you love your wife as you enter your marriage like Isaac loved Rebekkah."
      1. That statement was often included in wedding ceremonies for three reasons.
      2. Reason # 1: It is the first marriage that we read about from its formation.
      3. Reason # 2: It is the first marriage we are told about in detail when the husband had one wife and only one wife (there were previous marriages that had one wife and one husband, but detail about those marriages are not given).
      4. Reason # 3: It is the first time scripture states that the man loved the woman he married.
    4. But, when we investigate that marriage, neither you nor I would call it successful; that marriage produced a very sick family.
      1. Isaac entered adult life and entered marriage with problems that began with his mother, Sarah.
        1. At a specific moment in his childhood, Isaac's mother insisted that his father force his half brother, Ishmael, and Ishmael's mother, Hagar, out of the family; she also insisted that Abraham disinherit Ishmael (Genesis 21:8-10).
        2. What she demanded simply was not done in that day--what she demanded was disgraceful, unacceptable family behavior.
        3. Ishmael was born because of Sarah's personal insistence--she urged Abraham to have a son by her servant, Hagar.
        4. This was acceptable in that time.
        5. If you had a childless couple who needed an heir, this was one of the approved ways to have an heir.
        6. She urged Abraham to do this so that Hagar's son would be considered their heir.
        7. If Sarah had not urged Abraham to have a child by Hagar, Ishmael would never have been born.
        8. Because Sarah demanded that Abraham disinherit Ishmael, Abraham lost a son that he loved, a son who was just as much his son as was Isaac.
      2. Isaac also entered adult life and marriage with problems that began with his father (Genesis 22).
        1. We greatly admire Abraham's faith in his willingness to offer Isaac in sacrifice to God on an altar.
        2. But we don't think much about Isaac's traumatic experience when he was bound and placed on the altar.
        3. I wonder if Isaac had nightmares about that day when he looked up into his father's face as Abraham stood over him with the sacrificial knife.
      3. I certainly do not minimize Abraham's faith nor the enormous importance of his willingness to sacrifice his son--later, God Himself did what He asked Abraham to do.
        1. God promised Abraham a son.
        2. Twenty-five years later God kept that promise.
        3. After Isaac was born, Abraham trusted God and that promise as never before.
        4. He trusted God to keep that promise even if God asked him to kill Isaac.
        5. That is a priceless insight into the true nature of faith, and it is an insight that I admire and cherish.
      4. But just as evil produces consequences, so does faith produce consequences.
        1. I genuinely wonder how that experience affected Isaac. I often wonder how some of my faith decisions have affected my children. Do you?
        2. Isaac knew that the intervention of an angel stopped the sacrifice, but he also knew that the father who loved him would have killed him had the angel not intervened.
        3. That is a heavy, heavy awareness for a boy to carry.
        4. And this question intrigues me most: how did this event affect Sarah after Abraham and Isaac returned home? Wonder how the family was affected when she learned that Abraham had taken Isaac with the intention of sacrificing him?
        5. To say the least, Isaac was affected by the tensions that existed in his home.
    5. Isaac loved Rebekkah when he married her, but, if you examined their marriage later, you would not have guessed that this marriage began with love.
      1. Once Isaac was afraid that some men would kill him in order to marry Rebekkah.
        1. So Isaac told the men that Rebekkah was his sister (Genesis 26:7).
        2. Isaac learned that ploy by hearing true stories about what his father had done (Genesis 12:11-13).
        3. But Sarah was Abraham's half sister.
        4. And Abraham discussed the half-truth with Sarah before he said she was his sister.
        5. Rebekkah was not a part of Isaac's immediate family, and there is no indication that he discussed with her before he did it.
        6. It is possible that Rebekkah learned of Isaac's lie after the fact when the men came to get her to become a wife to the king.
        7. When the king found out that Isaac had lied about Rebekkah, he was extremely angry with Isaac.
      2. Still later in their marriage, Rebekkah had twins, Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:21-28).
        1. An intense rivalry developed between the twins who became very different men.
        2. That rivalry was intensified by the fact that Isaac loved Esau, and Rebekkah loved Jacob.
        3. The rivalry became so intense and deceitful that Rebekkah convinced Jacob to deceive his blind father in order to steal the family blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau.
        4. She not only urged Jacob to do it, but she devised the plan of how to do it, and she helped Jacob accomplish the deception.
      3. This was a deeply troubled marriage and a very sick family.
      4. To me the most incredible thing about this marriage is found in the fact that God worked in it and through it to make major progress toward bringing Christ into the world.

  2. How has marriage impacted your life?
    1. How has:
      1. Your father and mother's marriage influenced you as a person?
        1. Whether good or bad, your experiences as a child in your home combined with your observations of your father and mother were the primary influence in forming your marriage concepts and your marriage expectations.
        2. It is very unwise to enter a marriage unaware of the ways that you are influenced by your parent's marriage.
      2. Your marriage influenced your life?
        1. No one can encourage you more powerfully or hurt you more deeply than the person you marry.
        2. The person you marry can introduce you to joys and happiness that you did not know existed, and can introduce you to pain and agony that you never experienced before.
        3. It is extremely unwise to enter a marriage believing that your husband or wife will not significantly influence your life.

  3. Yet, it is a fact that every marriage will become what the husband and wife either (a) let it become or (b) cause it to become.
    1. Any wife can destroy a marriage, but no wife can build a marriage by herself.
    2. Any husband can destroy a marriage, but no husband can build a marriage by himself.
    3. There are many ways to destroy a marriage. You can destroy it by:
      1. Neglecting it.
      2. Abusing it.
      3. Exploiting it.
      4. Attacking it.
    4. No matter what the state of a marriage is, if the husband and wife accept mutual responsibility in dealing with their problems, face their problems with repentance, and learn together how to create and build relationship, they can reverse a destructive marriage.
    5. Good marriages don't just happen; they are built.
      1. Stable marriages don't just happen; they are built.
      2. Responsible marriages don't just happen; they are built.
      3. Happy marriages don't just happen; they are built.

Building good, stable, responsible, happy marriages requires earnest effort and genuine work. But that effort and work are one of the richest, most fulfilling experiences in life. It blesses your home, your children, and your life as nothing else can.

Soon you will have an unusual opportunity to enrich your marriage and have a lot of fun doing it. It will be a great opportunity to prepare for marriage, or to make a happy marriage happier, or to redirect a struggling marriage. I urge you to attend the Brecheen and Faulkner Marriage Enrichment Seminar December 5 and 6. What is happening in your marriage? What do you want to happen?

Someone says, "My home is good. Why should I want to improve it?"

Because Jesus is the Son of God.
"You just don't know how tough things are in my house. Why should I deal with the pain necessary to improve things?"
Because Jesus is the Son of God.
"It is hard to deal with problems. To turn life around is an every day challenge. Why should I do that?"
Because God sent His Son because of what your life can become.

Every choice, every decision begins with the understanding that Jesus is the Son of God. Everything this world is about centers in Jesus as the Son of God.

The only bridge from here to eternity is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

I challenge you to deal with family, marriage, parenting, and everything that must be dealt with in this world, because Jesus is the Son of God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 23 November 1997

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