OPERATION FORTIFY – 1 by Dr. Abidan and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: In ancient times, how well a settlement was fortified gave evidence to how important that settlement was. Nicole and I have been to Mycenae, Greece, with its massive cyclopean walls, and to Megiddo and Dan where they had offset-inset walls. The purpose of all these fortifications was to make sure that the enemy would not find any breach or gap to infiltrate and invade. For the next two weeks, Nicole and I are leading a two-part series on marriage called OPERATION FORTIFY. I’m going to invite her to join me on stage, as we’ve done before, so we can talk about how to fortify our marriages. Main point: Every marriage must be fortified. The Enemy is always looking for breaches and weaknesses to find a way to sneak in and destroy us. Without proper fortifications, it’s a matter of time; but, with God’s help, our marriages can withstand any trial or temptation that may come our way.
Mark 10 7 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Context: In every wedding ceremony that I perform, that last statement is part of my final presentation of the couple – “By the authority vested in me as a minister of the gospel, in the presence of God and these assembled witnesses, it is my privilege to pronounce you husband and wife. (At this point everyone stops listening, especially the couple!) You’ve given sacred vows to each other before a holy and righteous God. These vows are never to be broken. ‘What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’” What does that word “asunder” mean? It comes from the old English “sundran,” which means “break apart” or “into separate pieces.” The Greek word is actually “Choridzo,” meaning “to separate.” The Pharisees wanted to know if divorce was permissible under Moses’ law. Jesus did not use their word for divorce (apolusai). Instead, he contrasted “choridzo” with “suzeugnumi,” which means to “yoke together” or “join together” in marriage. It has the idea of balance. The Pharisees were more interested in trapping Jesus, but Jesus was more concerned with holding a marriage together.
It is tough to hold a marriage together. There are 4 areas of weaknesses that we have noticed that make a marriage vulnerable to the trials and temptations of the Enemy:
I. UNCLEAR VISION (Abidan)
Many of us give far more attention to planning the weekend than we do to planning our marriages. In other words, have you taken the time to dream what you want your marriage to look like 5-years, 15-years, 30-years from now? Granted that none of us know what the future will look like or what unexpected things lie ahead, we still need to dream prayerfully and humbly about what it will be like to grow together in marriage with our spouse. I know that this may be hard for some of you who have lost your spouse, or your first marriage did not work out. The purpose here is not to cause more pain but to speak the truth. If this is your second or third or whatever marriage, treat it as if it’s your first. The Bible has much to say about the joy of growing old together with your spouse.Listen to Ecclesiastes 9:9 “Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.” Solomon reminds us that life can seem pointless at times, but God has given us marriage to give us some meaning and purpose in life. We are going to age and change with time, but we are to cherish our spouse (husband and wife) in each new season of life. Marriage serves as an anchor. What happens to those who go astray in marriage? Proverbs 5 18 “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress? 21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He ponders all his paths. 22 His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. 23 He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”When you don’t have a clear vision for your marriage and live by whatever feels good in the moment, tragedy will be your end.
Is this all just about the vision of self-fulfillment of a faithful marriage? Does God care about us growing old together with the one we have married? Malachi 2 13 And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. 16 “For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” Again, if you’ve gone through divorce in your life, the purpose of this message is not to cause more pain than you’ve already been through. Make the marriage you are in a “covenant marriage.” Seek God’s forgiveness and healing, and by his help, clarify the vision you have of your future together with your spouse.
Nicole – Our Goal in Marriage is to finish well as husband and wife. Without a clear vision, it is easy to get distracted by the lures of the Enemy.
II. UNRESOLVED ISSUES (Nicole)
Many of us might think that we don’t have unresolved issues in our marriage. Just look at your spouse to see if you are right! You might be the spouse that is sweeping things under the rug, or you might be the spouse that is constantly lifting up the rug to try and deal with your issues only to see your spouse making a quick exit! It doesn’t matter which side you are on – yes, we have issues, or no, we don’t have any issues; the key is to be honest with yourself and your spouse. Here are 3 steps to do that:
1) Take responsibility for the fact that we do have issues. They may be small, but they are still issues in our marriage. If you are the spouse that is constantly running from your marriage issues, this may be tough to admit. There may be a myriad of reasons why you or your spouse sweeps problems under the rug.
a) Insecurity – when we are insecure it’s hard to admit there are problems because finger might be pointing at us. When we are insecure, it’s hard to admit when we are wrong and take ownership of our mistakes.
b) Peacekeeper – this personality trait usually has its beginnings in the family of origin, this is our parents. How did or didn’t our parents resolve conflict? If they didn’t handle conflict well, we might believe in peace at any price or not knowing how to handle conflict at all.
c) Fear – this can be the fear of rejection, fear of failure, or fear of being dependent on your spouse. Fear itself can be paralyzing.
Keep in mind Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
2) Resolving conflicts takes time. We didn’t get to where we are in our marriages overnight. Consider tackling one issue a month. If it takes longer, don’t lose heart, especially when the spouse that has run away for so long is willing to work. Remember what they are having to overcome to get to this point!
3) Don’t allow distractions. Be present in the working out of the issues in our marriages. Maybe discuss the ground rules before beginning the work, such as: no phones for a certain period of time; no tv or computers. Even friends, children and extended family can be distractions!
Abidan – Always remember Ephesians 4 26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.
III. UNMET NEEDS (Nicole)
We took these 6 intimacies from Tony & Alisa DiLorenzo’s book The 6 Pillars of Intimacies. The 6 pillars represent the 6 unmet needs in our marriages:
1) Spiritual intimacy – This includes personal devotions, couple devotions and going to church together. Having our personal devotions is essential to having spiritual intimacy in our marriages. Couple devotions are great as well, but it is harder to do these daily. Consider weekly or monthly devotions together. When this is missing, it is hard to feel fulfilled in marriage. Why? Because it is not your spouse’s job to fulfill you in every way or make you happy. God is the only One who can completely fulfill us and make us happy.
2) Emotional Intimacy – This is spending time with your spouse. Emotional intimacy is going on dates and having conversations. This intimacy has to do with our feelings. When we are fulfilled in this area, we feel close to our spouses on every level. This promotes a feeling of security for both spouses. When this intimacy is missing, there is a feeling of isolation on the part of both spouses.
3) Financial Intimacy – This is being on the same page about money as your spouse. This can be a very difficult one because money can sometimes be a very touchy subject between spouses. Many times it comes down to the issue of authority – my spouse telling me how I should or shouldn’t spend money. If this intimacy is missing in our marriages, it seeps into the other areas of our marriage. It’s stressful on a marriage to be in burdensome debt. It’s hard to be emotionally or physically close when we are stressed over finances.
4) Recreational Intimacy – This is doing things with your spouse. This can be dates, tasks around the house, or introducing your spouse to your hobby or an interest you have. Your spouse is supposed to be your best friend, and we spend time with our best friends (at least we did in high school and college). If this is missing, many times our spouse can feel like we don’t spend time with them anymore, hence the lack of emotional intimacy. Has your spouse said this to you at any time during your marriage?
5) Physical Intimacy – This is different than sexual intimacy. This is hugs, kisses and actual physical touch that does not lead to sex. We are made to need human touch. What kind of physical touch does our spouse like? You? We have to communicate! At first, this can be awkward, but as we do it, it will become easier. If this is missing, especially for wives, we may always think our husbands only touch us when they want sex.
6) Sexual Intimacy – This intimacy is essential to a good marriage. When there is trouble in any of the other intimacies in marriage, this one is the first to go. Sex is the litmus test of how well you are doing in the other five intimacies. It is essential that we as Christian married couples talk about sex. When the church quit, the world took over and has made what God created, something dirty. God created sex for marriage, and it is good! You may have to throw out all that you learned about sex from your parents, siblings, friends, and the media and begin with the Bible. Read song of Solomon. Lastly, men, your wives will desire you sexually when the other intimacies are met. Wives, in order for your husband to feel emotionally close to you they need sex.
1 Corinthians 7 3 “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
IV. UNACCOUNTABLE LIVING (Abidan)
We need other godly people who desire to please God to help hold us accountable. Who are the people you hang around with? It’s alright to have lost friends if you are trying to win them to Christ. If not, you are headed down the road of compromise. Psalm 1:1 “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.” People criticize church people as hypocrites. I am sure there are plenty of those in church, but some of the best people I know are also in church. Many are here in this service. You hold me accountable. Hebrews 10 24 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Who are you turning to for advice in your life?
Invitation: Can you see the potential for breach in your marriage? Is your vision clear? Are the issues being resolved? Are the needs being met? Is there godly accountability in your life? If you are single, pray that God will send the right person who will care about fortifying your relationship together. Do you know couples who are struggling because the Enemy has come in, or he is waiting at their gates? Pray for them. Are you saved?