[This lesson was introduced by a video presentation of a marriage situation entitled One Flesh presented by Paul and Nicole Johnson. Running time: 6 minutes and 45 seconds.]

I believe that God is the origin of all things. I believe that all things began in the ideal state of existence. I believe that our physical and spiritual beings have their origin in God. I believe that we were made in the image of God. I believe that the original design and intent of God was for men and women to experience ideal companionship in an ideal relationship which was to exist in marriage.

Do you believe that? If you say, "Yes," what do you mean by your "yes?" Do you mean that you believe that as a fact? Or do you mean that you trust that God's way works in marriage since God is the origin of man, woman, and marriage?

  1. Marriage as intended by God has many objectives.
    1. God's highest object in marriage is companionship. It was intended to produce:
      1. The greatest form of friendship that could be experienced in human existence.
      2. The most compassionate relationship that could be experienced on earth.
      3. The most caring interaction that two people could ever know.
      4. The most supportive relationship two people could experience.
      5. The most genuine understanding two people would ever find.
      6. The greatest level of trust two people would ever know.
      7. The most genuine commitment that could be experienced.
      8. The most dependable relationship that could exist between two people.
      9. The greatest source of love that could be experienced in human relationships.
      10. The source of the greatest appreciation that a person would ever know.
    2. If marriage existed as God intended, it would be impossible for another person to provide these qualities on the level and to the extent that a husband or wife could provide them for each other.
      1. Why?
      2. No one could possibly know and appreciate you as did your husband or wife.
      3. No one could understand you as did your husband or wife.
      4. No one could value you as did your husband or wife.

  2. "Well, that surely does not describe marriage today--not even among Christians!"
    1. For many people, marriage is the source of enormous misery.
      1. That is not a new reality; that is a ancient reality.
      2. Sometimes when we deplore the instability of marriage today we create the impression that marriage was more successful in past generations and much, much happier.
        1. A few decades ago the divorce rate was much lower in this society.
        2. That is a fact, but the basis of the fact is not that marriages were more successful.
          1. I am confident that older couples here could tell us a lot about misery existing in marriages in the first half of this century.
          2. Abuse, neglect, adultery, and incest are not new.
          3. Individual rights were virtually nonexistent, and no matter how severe circumstances were, there were few options and few places to turn for help.
      3. A significant factor in the rise of the feminist movement in our society was the exploitation of the woman in too many marriages in past generations.
    2. The truth: ideal companionship is rare in marriage.
      1. Marriages in which the husband and wife share the highest quality of:
        1. Friendship
        2. Compassion
        3. Caring
        4. Support
        5. Understanding
        6. Trust
        7. Sensitivity
        8. Reliability
        9. Love
        10. Appreciation
        11. Are the exception.
      2. Why is marriage such a common source of mental, emotional, and physical misery?
        1. Troubled marriages exist for a long list of reasons.
        2. May I suggest four very common reasons.
          1. Reason one: too many of the people marrying do not know how to be a husband or a wife.
            1. They grew up in a divorced home, a seriously dysfunctional home, a seriously troubled home, or a home in which there was little togetherness or interaction.
            2. They were deprived of the opportunity to see a loving, successful marriage relationship as it functioned.
            3. Their concepts of what a husband is to be or what a wife is to be is seriously, dangerously flawed long before they marry.
          2. Reason two: They distrust God's principles that produce marital companionship.
            1. There are far more homes in which God has no presence at all than there are homes in which God plays an important role.
            2. In the homes where God has a presence, often when these homes are distressed, husbands and wives do not believe that God's principles work.
          3. Reason three: Too many women and men experience failed expectations in marriage.
            1. "He or she is not what I expected."
            2. "Being married is not what I expected."
            3. "I do not feel what I expected to feel in my marriage."
          4. Reason four: the purposes of marriage are perverted.
            1. The wife believes that the real reason that her husband married her was to take care of domestic responsibilities.
            2. The husband believes that the real reason that his wife married him was to find security.
            3. "You did not marry me because you valued me; you married me because of what I could do for you."

  3. What are God's principles that produce superior companionship in marriage?
    1. Before we consider the principles, we need two basic understandings.
      1. No marriage can produce the companionship God intended through the efforts of one person; it must be a joint effort.
      2. There must be a mutual desire to improve the relationship.
    2. The principles:
      1. You love and respect the person to whom you are married as you love and respect yourself (Ephesians 5:33).
      2. You treat your husband or wife as you prefer to be treated (Matthew 7:12).
        1. You forgive as you want to be forgiven.
        2. You show mercy as you want to receive mercy.
        3. You encourage as you wish to be encouraged.
        4. You seek to be as unselfish as you want him or her to be.
      3. You constantly pray for guidance, wisdom, and understanding to develop as the husband or wife you can become.
    3. Do you have confidence in God's principles?
      1. Successful marriage is very much a faith issue.
        1. Is that surprising?
        2. If God is the origin of the relationship, how can it fail to be a faith issue?
      2. Do you believe that if you are God's person that God will work in your relationship?
        1. When I say, "Do you believe that?" I specifically mean do you trust that?
        2. Do you trust it enough to act on your trust?

If you want your marriage to constantly grow toward the ideal relationship, there is an attitude that you must not have, and an attitude that you must have. The attitude that you must not have is this: "When you are, I will be." The attitude that you must have is this: "I will be so that you may become."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 20 June 1999
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