Today was one of those Sundays where you arrive at church, look at the sermon title and wish you hadn’t come. It was “Couples’ Sunday” and the sermon was entitled “Spirit-Filled Couples”, just the sort of topic that singles love to hear – not! I mean, granted it’s probably a need for some people, but you kind of wish you had been warned. But, having already come in and sat down I was stuck, so I resolved to make the best of it. After all it wouldn’t be the first time a sermon was a washout. At least the songs looked good.
But was I pleasantly surprised! In fact, of all the sermons I have ever heard on this topic, this was probably the best.
Pastor Kenny Gan was the visiting speaker. He is Singaporean but lives in London. He looked about middle aged, had longish hair and glasses and works with OM. He started out explaining that he has a burden for broken families, both in the church and outside. He said most people try to have good families by the world’s standards. For the Chinese at least, the men work to succeed at their jobs to provide a house, good food, clothes, and things for their families. Women learn to cook, sew, and take care of the house and the kids. But there are many pressures in life and often couples end up splitting up.
The problem is that we focus on God’s secondary will – we try to be good in our career or good spouses and good parents. But actually God’s primary will is that we be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. So I shouldn’t strive to be a Christ-like husband or doctor or whatever. We can be a positive influence where ever we are but Jesus needs to be first. Ephesians 5:1 says we are to be imitators of God. Our primary goal is to imitate God. Ephesians 4:17 says that we are to no longer walk as the Gentiles and Romans 12:2 says that we are not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed.
We should use our time wisely. People try to improve themselves in their careers and in their education. But we have lots of excuses for not improving our Christian life. We should not allow things to rob us of time spent with the Lord. In his travels around the world he says that less than 5% of the congregations, including pastors and seminary students spend ½ hour a day with the Lord.
It will be difficult to live a Christ-like life on our own. We get tired and disappointed. We try to be a good parent and spouse and we get exhausted. The flesh takes over. We get impatient, irritated, angry, and we fight. The easiest thing is to turn on the television. Drown it out. More and more kids are having fellowship with their computers.
We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. There is no such thing as love at first sight. You learn to love after you are married. We all have weaknesses and struggles. You learn all about your spouse’s weaknesses after you are married, not before.
People often divorce because of “irreconcilable differences”. But love bears all things and is patient and kind. If we are Spirit-controlled we don’t have the need to insist on our own way. The Holy Spirit convicts us that impatience is not from the Lord.
Pastor Kenny has a principle: any time he blows his top, he recognizes that it is not from the Lord. And he must apologize to those who witness it. We must be subject to each other because the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of humility. The husband is the head of the house, but that does not mean authoritarianism. There is only one Master, the Lord. We are not really submitting ourselves to each other but to the Lord.
If your spouse has become your enemy, well, praise the Lord! Why? Because Jesus said to love your enemies! He didn’t say to kill them or divorce them. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them to drink – and don’t put poison in it! In Proverbs 16:7 it says that when a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord He makes even his enemies live in peace with him.
Maybe we spend too much time complaining of our wives’ weaknesses instead of encouraging them in their strengths. We need to learn to be thankful for the good things.
Today’s generation is perhaps more outspoken. He told of a friend who came to him one time. The man and his wife had been separated for three weeks and the man had a litany of complaints about his wife. After listening for awhile Pastor Kenny said to him, “What does the Bible say husbands are to do?” The man answered, “Uh, well, it says husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)” The pastor asked if he had done his part. The man was quiet. The pastor said, “If you haven’t done your part then I don’t want to hear about your wife until you have done your part.” That couple soon reconciled and for the last 10 years have been leading home Bible studies. God will enable you to do your part.
Husbands and wives are not just meant to be loving physically and to produce physical children but they are to produce spiritual children. Therefore we should not excuse ourselves if we have been walking in the flesh. He gave an example of a kid in a passing car squirting him in the face with a squirt gun. He blew his top and yelled at the kid. But then he realized that it was not the Holy Spirit that was blowing His top. He immediately apologized to his wife and daughter who were with him. We should not excuse ourselves. We need to learn to be humble before our kids, especially if we don’t want our kids to imitate our tantrums.
We want to be Spirit-filled couples because we want to be an inspiration for our kids. We should walk in the Spirit for the glory of God and for the blessing of the church.
Why was this the best? Because it focused on the real problem: walking in the flesh instead of walking in the Spirit. And in fact it wasn’t really about married couples – it was about all of us in all of our relationships.