the work of a lifetime

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[This summer Katie and I had the privilege of doing premarital counseling with Brian and Rachel, who will be married this weekend and plan to be missionaries in Brazil. Tonight the men in our church had a night of blessing for Brian, who is not from our church. About 30 guys got together to encourage him and pray with him. I’m doing the wedding Saturday and tonight I did the pastoral charge. Here is what I said.]

We’ve come to bless you tonight, as you are about to marry one of our daughters in the faith. You already know the high esteem with which we hold your bride, known by us all as a virtuous, conscientious and faithful woman of God.

We have prayed for her, and in fact we have prayed for her to find you. And we love you because she loves you.

It is good for a man to find such a treasure—a woman esteemed and honored by those who know her as a radiant and responsible servant to her family, her church and now to you. The care of such a treasure comes with many expectations and much joy.

For example, we expect you to dwell with her according to knowledge, as taught in 1 Peter 3. It says this:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 ESV)

There is so much here. This verse requires you to spend time with her, study her, honor her, protect her, consult her, and pray with her. This is the work of a lifetime.

But tonight I want to focus on two things you have to learn in order to do this well. And the first thing you have to learn is to say yes to your wife.

“Yes, I will take the time to be with you.” “Yes, I’m listening. I understand.” “Yes, you’re right. I’ve been neglecting you. I’ve been neglecting the kids. I’ve been neglecting God.” “Thank you for reminding me of my responsibilities and priorities.”

This is a humbling thing. Men don’t like to be told what to do. A suggestion or question can be perceived as a challenge or an admonition. Frequently it is. But the important thing in this text is that we are co-heirs of grace. We are joined in a journey toward godliness, and this by the grace of God.

So we seek to understand the women God gives us and to learn from them the things we don’t know about our selves and our weaknesses. No one will ever know you better than Rachel. And fortunately for you, she already is working on the meek and gentle spirit through which Peter says a man can be won “without a word.”

But there will be words. Some of them will reveal your insecurities and challenge your self-esteem. Listen to these words and have the good sense to see them as one of the ways God designed her to help you become the man He is calling you to be.

So learn to say yes. You’re right. I’m sorry. Pray for me. Thank you.

This is part of God’s design.

But you also have to learn to say no to your wife. And in a world full of metro males, this is the more difficult and perhaps more thankless task.

The text in 1 Peter describes the wife as the weaker vessel, and it is not simply a reference to physical strength. The Ephesians 5 text puts it in more positive terms. There we see that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.

And it says we are to love our wives in the same way. However, their sanctification, as well as our own, requires boundaries and limits. And these you must learn to set.

“No, we can’t afford that right now.” “No, that will distract us from God’s call.” “No, that is not consistent with our goals.” “No, we shouldn’t do that this weekend—you should rest.”

Notice I’m not saying Rachel is incapable of making such judgments. I’m just saying that in the end you are responsible for them. This is what the Ephesians text is talking about when it says the man is the head of the wife.

Such headship responsibilities are never about making our own life easier. In fact, they seldom do. Jesus is the head of the church, his bride. But there is nothing easy about the way He sought her, saved her and sanctifies her.

The limits you set will not make your life easier. They will make your family more sensitive to God’s instruction and leading. They are about protecting your family both physically and spiritually. All this requires you to be able to say “No, that’s not the right choice.”

To say no in an understanding way requires listening before we say it and humility when we say it. And there are at least two reasons why it is so hard to say no. The first is that we love our wives and want them to be happy. We want to give them more than they want, even more than they expect. This is natural and good. It is how our Heavenly Father loves us.

Unfortunately the other reason it is hard to say no is that we want to avoid conflict. This often leads to no good end. Avoiding conflict doesn’t lead to greater understanding, as our text requires. We don’t honor or protect our wives if we are unable to make the tough calls or explain the biblical principles behind them. We must lead in to the hard conversations.

There are two extremes to be avoided. Don’t be the abusive and aggressive husband who says no for the sake of saying no. And don’t be a disengaged, passive husband who can’t say no at all.

To avoid these extremes you and I have to learn to say no to our wives as seldom as necessary but as clearly as possible. And usually to say no to ourselves first, and this for the glory of God.

This should go well if we are sacrificial in our care. It will work better if we study the Scripture and seek the heart of God. It is easier if we submit to the authority God has placed in our own lives. But it is not easy to say no.

You still have to do it.

So tonight I charge you to say yes to Rachel as often as you can and to say no as often as you should. Find mentors to help you when you aren’t sure which is called for. As you grow in faith your discernment will increase.

And I commend you too to the joy that is set before you. A life of faithfulness to each other and to God is more rewarding than any of us imagined and more blessing than any of us deserved.

Thanks be to God.

[Write your own caption for the art above. Best caption writer can chose a topic for a future post.]

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