The Power Core
All your life as a couple will be influenced by the vitality and centrality of your spiritual life. Because of that, your relationship with God should be more than a compartment of your marriage, like one room in your house. Your relationship with God should be the core of your lives and the core of your marriage.
It’s like the nucleus of an atom. The nucleus keeps the particles that surround it in their proper orbits. Without it, there is no atom. Likewise, our connection with God holds the facets of our lives together in proper balance. Then every part of our marriage will show the transforming power and influence of our relationship with God through Christ Jesus.
But we must choose, for having our relationship with God at the center of our life and our marriage doesn’t happen automatically.
Three Possible Cores
Imagine three men wearing t-shirts. The first man is wearing a bright red t-shirt with one word in large letters on the front. It says, ME. The second man is wearing a beige t-shirt with the word, THEM. The third man is wearing a white t-shirt with the word, GOD.
For the first man the central question of life is “What will please me?” When we live only to answer that question, when it is the prime motivator of our life, we become self-centered. You can see what damage that orientation could have in a marriage. Self-centered people know little about love. They will sacrifice true unity to get what they want. They are takers, not givers. With this orientation marriage becomes a battle of wits, with each partner trying to out-maneuver the other.
For the second man, the central question of life becomes “What will please them?” Pleasing others can be a noble impulse for our actions, but as the prime motivator of our life it is really no better than the first question. Motivated by this question we become people who would sacrifice our convictions and our relationships just to ensure acceptance by “them,” whoever “them” might be. It is dangerous for you, and for your marriage.
Now let’s look at the third man. For him the central question of life is, “What will please God?” When that becomes our central question, and we live to answer it, our lives develop focus and peace. God created each of us to live lives that answer that question through our attitudes, actions, and relationships. That is our destiny. And we only experience true fulfillment when we know our true destiny.
Leo Tolstoy, the renowned Russian author, had come to such a place of desperation in his life that the thought of suicide plagued him. Tolstoy was prosperous, learned, a member of a privileged class, yet he could find no real reason for his existence. To the question, “What is the meaning of life?” he had no satisfying answer. He lived in that unsettled condition until he was in his fifties. Then, after years of searching, he found meaning and a reason for his life in Christ.
Can We Really Know What Pleases God?
You might think, “How can we know what would please God? He’s way up there, and we are just tiny humans.” Good news! God has provided all that we need to live a life that pleases him.
He sent Jesus to die for us, raised him from death, and made him King of everything, forever. When we believe in Jesus we become new persons. If we allow it, the power of that newness works its way into every segment of our lives, transforming our attitudes, actions, and relationships . . . our whole outlook.
We have other resources, too. God puts His Spirit in us to enable us to live a life that pleases Him, blesses others, and brings us a level of fulfillment that we can have in no other way. He has given us the Bible, a handbook for living a life that pleases God. And He connects us with other believers so that we build each other up and help each other along.
With the right question at the core of our lives, and with the wonderful resources that God has given us, we can live lives that please God no matter what circumstances we are in. Our marriages will be healthier and we will be happier. Even more, others will experience the benefits, for when we pursue God’s Kingdom the effect reaches our children, our friends and neighbors, our colleagues, and our churches.
Will you, right now, make pleasing God the central motivation of your life? And will you, as a couple, make the same decision? You may both be believers in Jesus, but perhaps you have locked him in a room of your relationship. You don’t allow him to influence all of your marriage. Give him the place of influence only he deserves. Make Jesus your nucleus. You will see the dramatic difference in your lives and your marriage.
The apostle Paul had much to say about pleasing God. I have arranged some of his statements together, for the purpose of impact, in the following paragraph:
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. Our aim is to please him always, whether we are here in this body or away from this body. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and you will continually do good, kind things for others. All the while, you will learn to know God better and better. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.
Caring for the Core
The spiritual core of our lives and marriages needs care and development. How do we do that? How do we strengthen our desire to please God? The answer is through practicing spiritual disciplines. Now, please! Don’t let that word scare you. I am not suggesting legalism. As Dallas Willard says, disciplines are simply the things we do to make it possible to achieve a goal.
Every valuable accomplishment results from disciplines. If you ever won an important race, you won because you trained. If you got good exam results, you got them because you studied. If you play an instrument well enough that others want to hear you, it’s because you practiced. Farmers practice disciplines to get a good yield from their seed. And every battle is won because the soldiers trained for victory.
Our goal is to have a strong relationship with God, through Christ, at the core of our lives and our marriage. Spiritual disciplines help keep the desire to please God strong in us. People who practice them find that thinking, acting, and speaking in a way that pleases God becomes their custom.
Foundational Spiritual Exercises
Personal Prayer and Supportive Prayer
- Have some personal time with God every day.
- Pray together if you can, but if you cannot, at least pray for one another.
- Use Scriptures to pray for each other, asking God’s blessing on your husband or wife in every area of his or her life.
- Pray for health as well as healing, constant freedom from past hurts, ongoing development of spiritual gifts and God-given abilities, and growth in wisdom.
- Pray with thanksgiving and pray believing God will make a difference.
- When you make decisions, especially big ones, agree to pray about it for a set time. God will help you know what is best.
Practice God’s Presence
Remember that Jesus said, “I am with you always.” You are, everyday of your life, surrounded by God’s presence. Sometimes you are more aware of His presence, but he is always near. Turn your thoughts to him frequently throughout the day.
Study and Meditate in the Word of God
God’s Word will renew our minds and help us understand God’s will. It will nourish us like good food nourishes our bodies. It will cleanse our minds, help us to live for what is really important, and equip us for involvement in God’s work. As Paul said, “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.” (Colossians 3:16, New Living Translation)
Be a Part of a Loving, Biblically Sound Local Church
As a couple you will need time with other couples who are living for God’s glory. A loving, biblically sound local church provides just the right environment for you to grow as a couple.
It also gives you a place to discover the special ways God wants to use you. Every man and woman bring their own gifts and talents to the marriage relationship. In marriage God blends our gifts and talents, but we maintain our individuality.
With the right core and with a mutual determination to care for that core, you and your spouse will become all God wants you to be. You will bless many others, and your life will shine with Christ’s light. That’s a promise!