Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Aaron and Jamie Ivey’s new marriage Bible study, Complement. Order your copy or see a free sample today at lifeway.com/complement.
Before a plane takes off, the flight attendant gives instructions for what to do in case of an emergency. If the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, put on your oxygen mask first, before trying to help someone else. Why? We cannot help others if we don’t have oxygen. The end goal is still to help others, but it requires attending to your own mask first.
The same principle applies in marriage. We are called to bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, encourage one another in the faith, and exhort one another in truth. The reality is that we cannot help our spouse persevere if we are barely persevering ourselves. One of the best ways for us to persevere in the faith is to establish rhythms of spiritual health.
“But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:13-14).
We are called to encourage one another. We are to encourage one another to be ambassadors of Christ, bringing the message of reconciliation to the world around us (2 Cor. 5:20). We are to encourage one another to be disciples of Christ, making disciples who make disciples who make disciples (Matt. 28:17-20). We are to exhort one another to see sin, fight sin, repent of sin, and trust our sin to the work of Jesus. We are to help one another persevere for as long as it is called today.
The greatest exhortation you can give your spouse is to prioritize his/her relationship with Jesus.
So how often should you exhort your spouse? Simply put: Every. Single. Day. Prioritizing your spouse’s spiritual health creates an atmosphere for constant exhortation. But the reality is most of us are running so hard we tend to rely on reactionary care rather than proactive care. Here are a few ways to put proactive care into practice for your own soul and the soul of your spouse: Prayer, Study, Sabbath, and Supporting Each Other’s Calling.
Constant (1 Thess. 5:17) and consistent (Dan. 6:10) conversation with the Lord is a must for every believer. You should not only pray for your spouse but also with your spouse.
Take a moment to pray for yourself and your spouse. And then, the next time you are with your spouse, engage in meaningful prayer for each other together. Moving forward, be intentional about your personal prayer time and your prayer time with your spouse. What do you need to do to prioritize the practice of prayer in your life and marriage?
The Bible gives us many reasons to study it—to fight sin (Ps. 119:9-11), to grow in faith (Rom. 10:17), to battle the enemy (Eph. 6:17), and to be spiritually equipped (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Many of us might know, believe, and even value studying the Scriptures, yet it’s usually one of the first things that goes when we are busy or distracted.
God used the imagery of a strong, well-watered, fruit-bearing tree to describe people who are rooted and established in the Word of God. Imagine the redwoods of California—giant trees big enough to drive a car through, with root systems that spread out to one hundred feet and branches that reach to the skies.1
Spend time with your spouse praying and asking God to increase your appetite for His Word. Also, talk about how you can encourage one another to study God’s Word.
The command to rest is a simple one. Rest. That’s it. Put down your work and remind your heart that God is the One who is actually in control. Like most of God’s commands, it is simple to understand but incredibly difficult to do. We find our significance in our work. We enjoy our work. We gain security through our work. It’s hard to lay all of these things down even for a moment. Committing to a day of rest is a way to train our hearts to recognize and remember that God knows best what we need.
Because this is a command of God, one of the ways we can exhort our spouses is by encouraging and helping them establish a weekly rhythm of rest. This is where it can get a little tricky. Creating space for your spouse to rest in God will require a level of sacrifice and preparation. It might mean doing more than your share of housework, taking the kids for a bit, or giving up some time together.
Make a plan together on how you can both enjoy a Sabbath each week. Then write down Scripture that will help combat the lies that say you don’t need to Sabbath. Spend some time praying this truth over one another.
SUPPORTING EACH OTHER’S CALLING
Oneness in marriage means that husband and wife function as one entity under a common banner of vision and mission. That doesn’t mean they don’t each have specific ways God is calling them to live out the vision and mission. Our jobs are not our mission, but neither do they distract from what we have been called to do and committed our lives to do—preach the gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere we go.
Let’s go back to the garden. God created Adam, then Eve, and they worked together. Each using the different jobs, gifts, talents, strengths, weaknesses, abilities, creativity, and insight that God gave them to cause the world around them to flourish.
Notice this happened before sin entered the world. God created a marriage in which man and woman need one another to make things flourish. Men in marriage cannot do it alone. Women in marriage cannot do it alone.
But then sin did enter the world, and consequences followed. (Review the consequences in Gen. 3:16-19.)
What was first a project that husband and wife worked on together in harmony and compatibility had now been disrupted. Man and woman were meant to complement one another in their work, but sin caused the work relationship to be a breeding ground for distrust, power-grabbing, and insecurity.
While singleness can show the world that Christ is sufficient, marriage can show the world what it looks like for men and women to work together in a way that produces wholeness.
What is one way you can encourage and support your spouse in doing his/her work faithfully before God?
1. “Growth & Development,” California State Parks, accessed September 20, 2020, https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1151#:~:text=Eventually%20the%20roots%20of%0 the,square%20acres%20of%20forest%20land.
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