OPERATION FORTIFY – 2 by Dr. Abidan and Nicole Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC
Introduction: How many planners do we have in this place? How many “pantsers” do we have in this place, people who “fly by the seat of their pants?” In life, you need both. If it’s all “plan plan plan,” then you lose the spontaneity of life. You stop living in the moment. You miss the unexpected that God sends your way. On the other hand, if it’s all “fly by the seat of your pants,” then you’re like a sailboat free-floating across the ocean. There is no plan or destination. It’s just a matter of time before a storm will come and capsize your boat. So also, in marriage, you need both. Main point: Every marriage needs a clear vision of where they are headed. Failure to have a clear vision causes marriages to go adrift and even capsize in the storms of life. Clear vision begins by identifying the core values that God has for your marriage.
Ruth 4 11 And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.” 13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bore a son…17 Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, “There is a son born to Naomi.” And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Context: Many of you may be familiar with the account of Ruth in the Old Testament. She was a Moabite woman married to a man from Judah whose family had moved to Moab because of a famine in Israel. Unfortunately, her husband and his brother died. Instead of going back to her family like her sister-in-law, she chose to follow Naomi, her mother-in-law, back to Judah. This was such a great act of faith and obedience that God honored her by bringing Boaz, a wealthy man from Bethlehem into her life. Keep in mind that Ruth was a Moabite. They were the descendants of the incestual relationship of Lot with his daughter. So also, the Ammonites. Also, in Deuteronomy 23, God had forbidden any Moabite to enter the assembly of the Lord because they had opposed the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt and even hired Balaam, a pagan prophet, to curse them. Did you notice the vision casting in the passage we read? Ruth 4 11 “…The LORD make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the LORD will give you from this young woman.” It is a prophetic vision but still a vision. Is it any wonder that Ruth, a Moabite, became the great-grandmother of David? If I may add, she also became an ancestor of Jesus.
Application: What is your vision for your marriage? Do you blame your upbringing, your past, and your failures? Have you sought God’s vision for your marriage and family?
Last week, in the part 1 of this series, we focused on the 4 areas of weaknesses or breaches that make a marriage vulnerable to the trials and temptations of the Enemy:
- Unclear Vision – Have you taken the time to dream what you want your marriage to look like 5-years, 15-years, 30-years from now? For Abidan and me, it is watching our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids sitting around the big dining table and we are in our 80s and 90s. Failure to have a vision for your marriage allows the Enemy to supply us with his vision for our marriage.
- Unresolved Issues – Some spouses are always trying to sweep things under the rug, and other spouses are constantly trying to lift the rug and deal with the issues. Failure to deal with unresolved issues don’t cause them to go away. It only causes them to grow bigger with time and become a breach for the Enemy to come in.
- Unmet Needs – Using Alisa and Tony DiLorenzo’s book The 6 Pillars of Intimacies, we identified the 6 unmet needs in marriages: Spiritual, Emotional, Financial, Recreational, Physical, and Sexual. Failure to deal with the unmet needs leaves a marriage vulnerable to the temptations of the Enemy.
- Unaccountable Living – We need other godly people who desire to please God to hold us accountable. Many of us are listening to no one or to people who have no business giving us advice. Failure to have godly people in our lives can be a huge weakness/breach.
Out of these 4 weaknesses, an Unclear Vision is the hardest one to understand. So, in this message, we want to focus on that. Here’s how to clarify your vision for your marriage:
- Discard the baggage from your childhood.
Ruth’s family of origin was Moabite. They were a product of incest. What a distorted start! Then, they opposed God’s people and were banned from coming into the assembly of the Lord. Ruth could have hidden behind her troubled origin, but she didn’t. Unfortunately, many people bring baggages from their childhood into their marriage –
- How were we loved or not loved (even our perception of that as children)?
- Did we feel like we belonged in the family? For example, were you the perfect child or the black sheep of the family?
- Sometimes, this baggage could come from the parent that we are most like. For example, how do we react when we see something in someone else that is a flaw in our own personality? We don’t like it.
- Our sense of worth also comes from our parents. For both girls and boys, it mainly comes from their father. So, when the father is absent, emotionally or physically, it has a profound effect on our sense of worth.
Last year, we also looked at the various types of homes people come from, 10 different types to be exact: the healthy home, the abusive home, the legalistic home, the affair home, the impoverished home, the divorced home, the rage-filled home, the abandonment home, the perfect home, and the unemotional home.
How do you handle coming from such homes? We must choose to forgive our parents. I know that this is easier said than done, but I think it’s easier when we become parents and realize how hard of a job it is. When we understand that our parents were doing the best they knew how with what they had, it is easier to forgive them. It will not be a once and done thing either. We may have to forgive them many times. Forgiveness will take much prayer and obedience to God.
- Overcome the negative experiences of your life.
Ruth’s first husband had died. This must’ve been quite traumatic for her, especially in that culture. She could have gone back home with Orpah. She could have allowed Orpah to speak her fears and doubts into her life. She could’ve listened to all the people who may have tried to talk her down from leaving her beloved Moab and going into Judah. Instead, Ruth listened to the wise words of Naomi all the way.
So also, there are negative experiences in life, mistakes of self and others. It doesn’t end there, there are also the projection of negative people and their views on marriage and relationships. Media and culture also have a lot of garbage to give us on marriage. With God’s help and his truth, we must counter all such attitudes and beliefs.
How do you handle such negative experiences and voices in your life?
- Choose to live by higher values.
Ruth took a risk by choosing to go out and glean in the fields of a Judahite. She was willing to be courageous in the face of fear. Boaz chose to show compassion. After all, his own mother was Rahab, the mistress who owned the brothel on the walls of Jericho. Remember, she saved the lives of the spies, and they promised not to harm her or her family. Afterwards, according to tradition, she married one of the spies. If this is true, Boaz grew up with an Amorite mother. This may have given him a heart of compassion and understanding towards Ruth. Also, Boaz was a little older than Ruth. He could have been impatient and married someone. She could have chosen a younger man. Instead, he was patient, and she was wise. Their relationship was based on some solid higher values. Solid core values are the key to clarifying your vision for marriage.
Abidan and I get asked many times how we met. I know the question going through many of your minds is “How could two people from opposite sides of the world, who were raised in different cultures, make it 27 years and counting?” By the grace of God, first of all. There’s also one very important component in making a marriage work: the way you were raised. What I mean is your family’s values and convictions. What Abidan and I discovered is that our parents had very similar beliefs and convictions. When your families are very similar in those areas, marriage works. We grew up with very similar values and that has made a difference in how we have envisioned our marriage
A good exercise for you and your spouse is to figure out 5 values that you want your marriage to be known for. We covered this last year in our series “Operation Safeguard.” Write these values down and post them somewhere in your home where they will be visible to all family members. These values will be a great legacy to pass on to your children. Think back to your childhood. What kind of legacy did your parents pass down to you? Do you want to pass that same legacy on to your children? Or a different one? I remember one thing that my dad did that left an impression on me. My dad had my name and each one of my siblings’ names inserted into the scripture verse 3 John 4. He posted these in each our rooms where we would see them. Mine said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that Nicole walks in the truth.” A few years ago, I found a photo frame with this verse imprinted on it. I have pictures of our children in it, and I hung it in the hallway between their rooms, so they will see it often.
We have created posters that you can purchase in the Resource Center and write your values from the list of 45 values.
When we begin to look at our marriages as God intended them to be, a picture of Jesus Christ and the church, an example of God’s unconditional love for a lost world; we will see how important our example of a godly marriage is. I don’t know about you, but I really have never thought that my marriage would be a witness of a loving Savior to a lost world. I want to close with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy institution through which God wishes to preserve the humanity until the end of time. In your love you see only each other in the world; in marriage you are a link in the chain of generations that God, for the sake of his glory, allows to rise and fade away, and calls into His kingdom.”
We’re not going for some corporate method of crafting a vision for a company or business. We are simply learning to discard and clean up the smudges that block and distort the vision God has for your marriage. We are learning how to clarify your vision by identifying and highlighting core values for your marriage.
In closing, you will have to take the time to pray and seek God’s wisdom to craft out a vision for your marriage. It may not be perfect. You may have to clarify it time and again. There may be times that it may seem that you are going completely contrary to the vision. Don’t be afraid. Stay the course. Make the adjustments. Continue loving. Seek the Word. Pray. Listen to godly counsel. In time, the wind will calm down, storm will cease, the fog will clear, and you will see the destination ahead.
Here’s the big question: Are you saved? Are you seeking Christ to help clarify your vision for your marriage and family?