#11 Marriage – God’s seat of the pants training ground.

“If God would only test my faith…”

Will you finish the sentence out loud or underneath your breath? Those words have a scary feel don’t they? Get ready for the hammer, chisel and shop vac., part of me is about to end up on the garage floor.

But not necessarily, refinement comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s difficult to imagine the type of testing encountered by Abraham raising the dagger to Isaac, or Joseph’s generation of undeserved imprisonment. We much prefer our tonic in small doses, a kind of “diet discipline” or “refinement lite”. And what about that family we all know apparently living a flawless and untested life? What gives? Perhaps some of the lessons have to unfold gently to keep us from being devoured. But as I recall diet anything has a pretty bad aftertaste – Something you can’t see might still be ugly.

Ultimately, faith only grows in the space once occupied by the carnal mind. So whether God splits us like a log or prunes us by a thousand tiny cuts, less of us make room for more of Him. To be a pilgrim of progress is to be found lacking, to suffer the fire of refinement, and to grow through it toward our potential. It’s an inescapable and exclusive process for those who want real faith.

But there is comfort in learning what to expect from the lives depicted in scripture. We can draw hope from their failures and encouragement from their growth. It’s a well of living water and every believer has a place there to draw from it. Although, lately its pond water that keeps showing up in my bucket.

Familiarity breeds contempt (and stagnates living water)

I remember hearing that phrase years ago and repeating it without ever understanding the powerful truth behind it. Even now, fully comprehending it I fall asleep under its spell – we all do. The concept is easy to grasp but avoiding it requires careful calculation. I’m not suggesting the characters in scripture have become stagnant but rather my view of them has. They’ve grown too familiar like the members of my family, drenched in my affection but somehow barnacled and tinted by the murkiness of my contempt. If familiarity breeds that, then I need to be picked up by the seat of my pants and thrown into the pond. Maybe then I will appreciate how clean that well water really is.

Unfamiliarity also breeds contempt

The other side of the equation is an equally dangerous mill of perceptions –especially among young believers. The well water is considered unfit for drinking because it’s irrelevant – stagnant by antiquity. Bible characters are seen as mythological and not relatable. Context is micro extracted in the name of plausibility and youthful exuberance tosses the truth straight into the pond. Can you imagine Aaron and Hur desperately holding up Moses arms in the heat of battle? But instead of victory, their chief aim is to get a text message sent because the Amalekites are in a dead zone. Or Daniel tweeting a play by play from the lion’s den? Sure life is different for the modern believer but at the core our vanity is the same. And these great figures if allowed will address our every foible and aptitude for screwing-up, without fail – no adjustments necessary.

Ask boldly

Whether we overlook the familiar or disregard the implausible, the remedy is to jump head first into faith by asking for it and not looking back. If we take courage and ask God to test our faith we will be stepping directly onto a mine field. It seems a little nutty, but I’ve learned that the explosives typically injure things we don’t need: pride, un-forgiveness, impatience, etc.; making it well worth every painful blow. I call these explosions “faith grenades” and they will altogether short circuit an auto pilot faith and restore the engine of a “get out and push it myself” style of faith. So don’t drink pond water – dive head first in the well by asking God to test your faith!

A personal example may help (Familiarity breeds contempt… for my spouse?)

If familiarity breeds contempt and the enemy is taking aim, then marriage is a target so big we could move in and still forklift the pallets of unlearned lesson behind us. I have been asking God to test me and make me a better husband, help me understand more of His view of marriage so I can grow into it.

Sunday we sat our daughters at the kitchen table for a talk. They had been fighting with each other for weeks, maybe months, continuously. At ages 12 and 13, with opposite personalities, the rule is conflict and the exception is quiet conflict. Peace isn’t on the radar at all but occasionally occurs if a bribe is offered. We said all of the obvious things, they need a change of heart, they’re too old for it, etc. Then the bomb was dropped by my wife, “You never see us fighting like that. How would you feel if we spoke to each other that way?” It wasn’t the first time but it may have actually been the first time they took notice. They both gave the expected answer with remorsefully poked-out lower lips and downcast faces. Wow! Maybe they really get it now – I thought. What a great thing to say!

Unfortunately, the kids were not the only ones who took notice. Our marriage immediately became the side of a barn for the enemy and his anti-marriage core of sharpshooters.
I’ll spare the details, but here is what I learned. After 24 hours, a few prayers and time to listen, God spoke to me in a big way. “Marriage is preparation for intimacy with Me”. He directed my thoughts to 1 Tim and really caused me to focus on the idea of marriage as a training ground for eternity.

1 Tim 4:7-10

“Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”

I had been praying for some time that God would refine me as a husband – sincerely! But my mind remained focused on the familiar, common responsibilities – the leadership role, the servant role and the provider role. Sunday evening was ugly but Monday God redirected those thoughts and reframed my view of marriage as a training ground. And after reading the scripture He gave me, it all made sense and it seemed appropriate to share.

One of the greatest and most common battles of faith we have is marriage – not likely news to anyone. But marriage is not just meant for us to enjoy each other’s company and raise children, it is also meant to teach us how to become intimate with God. It is practice for our relationship with Him. If we overlook that in the name of seeking worldly happiness, then we miss the blessing God provides within those terribly dark and difficult moments.

Look at it this way, everything God uses or gives is meant to bring us closer to Him by making us more like Jesus. How is a tough marriage any different than a physical challenge or financial struggle? It humbles you and either wakes up your faith or buries it in the mud. And mud is a poor camouflage for our worldly rationalizations. It fails miserably to stick when washed in living water. The enemy throws the first mud ball and we blame each other. Then he sits back and laughs in victory while we keep throwing it. Let’s throw the mud back where it came from because that is the only place it will stick. Marriage is a training ground, not a happiness resort. I’ve been indulging in the worldly- believer’s definition of marriage with its biblically sweet and earthly sour cleverness. But it’s not Chinese food, more like poo in a birthday cake. Please pardon me for that one!

It IS about having a partner and faithful companion. It is about the joys of physical and emotional pleasure and intimacy. It is about children and raising an army for God. But above all it is not about me being happy, but about God testing, training and refining me for what’s next! If you doubt this please refer to Matthew 6:33 and lay your marriage down over it. What you end up with is God’s promise of meeting ALL your needs if you place Him first, above yourself, your spouse, your children, your brethren, your gifting, your calling – on and on and on! Marriage is a training ground for our future with God. If we give up because it hurts, then we miss the benefit of His blessed intention and the promise of Matt. 6:33. I’m astonished by God’s revelation in this area of my life. He is the groom and we are the bride, forever x forever. We certainly need training for that – agreed?

Listen, we know that there are exceptions so don’t tar and feather me yet. I‘m not speaking to anyone’s past. God made me aware that marriage is meant to train us and prepare us for an eternal life of intimacy with Him. In a world where the majority of Christian marriages end in divorce, all I’m relaying is that we all need to fight for it out of love for Him. He rewards the faithful and marriage is the main stage of a 3 act show. We are friends, heirs &children, and we are His spouse. In my own marriage, I have to go back to square one and put Him first, not us, not the kids – just Him. Okay break out the tar, I’m ready.

For those who are hurting in this area remember that even Jesus learned obedience by suffering. Does that mean He was disobedient before He suffered? No, it means that anything of “mankind” is imperfect. Jesus was sinless, that doesn’t mean he never twisted his ankle or missed an answer on a test. Learning obedience is not a purging of sinful behavior, but the willingness to follow the truth as it is revealed – and often we don’t realize what we’re looking at until it’s too late. When we misstep, it hurts and we learn from it –it doesn’t have to be about sin. Repentance is another issue. My point is that there are great struggles in the name of growing our faith as well as many micro trials that pass almost painlessly before our eyes. But our call to action is the same. Marriage is a gift God uses to train and refine us for our future with Him. Let’s begin this instant and thank Him for it and seek Him the way we once sought our spouse. God wants our minds on eternity first and only on the world so much as it affects eternity. Are we willing to start and end there? If you have become too familiar with God and your spouse – get ready to be picked up by the seat of the pants. Don’t get mad about it just grow from it.

On a personal note:

We have been richly blessed the last few weeks with enough work to last a while – Praise God! I haven’t written in a while because my financial pain has lost some of its sting and I have not heard from God much in that regard. I have also been working almost every day for the past two weeks. As for my marriage, well, it’s just not easy for any of us – is it? But my wife is my best friend and most forgiving adversary. I blame the enemy for strife and myself for not seeking God first – earlier. Waking up our faith is tough business. Goliath is already in your garage but David is not coming – God has appointed you instead! David ran toward Goliath, now it’s your turn (mine too).

Isaiah 48:10 Meditation Verse

Thanks for your continued prayers. Please alert me if you need prayer or encouragement.

Blessings!

wakeupmyfaith@att.net
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About Kevin Adams

Kevin Adams is a fresh voice among today’s best Christian writers. What he’s not, however, is a pastor, theologian or pulpit preacher; he doesn’t have a church, a fan club, or a flock. He’s just a regular guy with a powerful story, and a God given gift for sharing it that will challenge the faith of even the most seasoned, veteran believers. His transparency and intentional, elevated writing style has earned him a trusted reputation across the online Christian community. His work escorts readers through his own challenging experiences of loss, betrayal and impossible odds, to just beyond the comfort level of most Christians–the place where absolute faith is required. Kevin takes a genuine approach to modern Christianity that would rather tear away empty pockets than fill them with empty promises. Yet, his story is filled with indisputable proof of our Heavenly Father’s better-than-we-can-imagine desire for each of us, and the delight He takes in our learning to rest in His arms like happy children. Kevin is the author of The Extravagant Fool: A Faith Journey That Begins Where Common Sense Ends, due for release May 6th 2014, and founding partner in a new discipleship ministry being developed around the book. He is also the founder of the Wake up My Faith blog, which has garnered a social media following of over 80,000, reflecting varied backgrounds and locales. Kevin’s life verse is Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you”. (NKJV) And his philosophy on life can be summed up in a single thought: “Only when God becomes all that we want do we truly see that He is all we need.” –Kevin Adams 2012 Kevin is husband to Holly, his beautiful partner in faith, father to three wonderful children, and a compelling new author for Zondervan.
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23 Responses to #11 Marriage – God’s seat of the pants training ground.

  1. Angie Battle says:

    Oh my! Once again, I find myself in awe of the wisdom of God.

    This blog entry was well worth the wait, my friend.

    I pray that God inundate you and your bride with an abundance of rich and beautiful blessings.

    -angie

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Thanks Angie – those prayers are being answered. Thanks for taking time to comment and just be a friend- there is a peace about you 🙂 We pare praying for you guys as well- for your journey.

  2. Another great post, Kevin! I love how God spoke to you—it’s a great reminder to me too. I’m married to a wonderful guy, 23 years now. He’s also an atheist and the spiritual warfare in our marriage can be quite intense. But this journey has brought me closer to God, to his Son, in ways I don’t think I would have otherwise. Despite my husband’s unbelief, God has used it to strengthen mine. And born a ministry.

    The amazing truth in all this, and speaking as a woman, is that God really and truly can supply all our needs. For so long I operated under the guise I had to do it all on my own, do for everyone. Then I’d wind up resentful that my needs weren’t met. That was because I was looking to human beings to fill those needs (my husband, my family, etc.). Now I can look back, with the reminder of your wonderful post, and see that somewhere along the line I quit worrying about my needs and just did what God wanted me to do. Love my husband unconditionally (which most days isn’t hard because he’s a sweetie!). My revelation is that my needs are being met. By the right One.

    God is so faithful. Gott ist immer treu. I speak it in German too because that’s the way it speaks to me best, when I learned it during a rough time living in Europe. I love how God romances us. 🙂

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Dineen, i’m ashamed of myself for not saying thank you before now – i was wonderfully surprised to see the link to your site reagarding my post. You have been so kind and helpful to me in this new endeavor – God is using you to help many. Thank you for being willing and taking time to visit and share your thoughts as well. I know that you have walked an incredible faith journey and its a joy to hear your expressions of that refinement. You and your husband are on my permanent prayer list – please keep us up on your walk together. Blessings my wonderful sister in Christ.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      PS: love the German!

      • Kevin, thank you so much for those prayers. Always a pleasure visiting your blog! I know God is tearing down the walls of unbelief in my sweet hubby. One day…

  3. Marie says:

    love your site. Thank you for the invite.

    “We can draw hope from their failures and encouragement from their growth. ” love this quote about those that went before us.

    Its not easy being a Christian anything these days. Faith of a grain of a mustard is so small but seems so large. But – as the end days draw closer, such as in the days of Noah, its to be expected.

    keep fighting for what is important. Keep reminding us to wake up our faith.

    I hope you’ll keep sharing. Always send me new links on twitter…as I’m old and forgetful 😉 others will be blessed by me sharing this too.

    Thanks for sharing your pains, good things and faith with us. you encourage me.

    @spreadingJOY

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Marie – where do i start? You are such a light- in fact i’m not really sure that your real name isn’t “JOY”! Thanks for taking the time recently help me understand twitter and how to use it for the Kingdom. I belive God sent you to help many of us make the social networking transition for HIM. I’m slowly beging to take your advice as my faith grows – thanskf for instrcution filled with encouragement!

  4. Pat W. Kirk says:

    Hi Kevin: It’s wonderful that you are so God focused. Reading your description, it looks like you didn’t have to ask. Your faith is being tested daily. I ask God to get me through the testing. I have noticed that in the crises I feel a special closeness to God. It’s easy to focus on the good times rather than God in the rest periods between the tests.

    You’re a good writer.

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Amen Pat – Amen. I can remember how weak i feel after having the flu – maybe just after the fever breaks and my health is on the mend. That weakness is the physical manifestation similar to the spiritual weakness of humilty. Pain gets us there but He is never closer to us than in those moments. Thanks for taking the time to share your wisdom. Blessings my new friend – please come back as you are able 🙂

  5. Tradina says:

    First I’d like to say – WOW! All though I found this post to be a bit long; i must say you hit the nail on the head. Marriage is definitely a training ground for our intimacy with God. This is a concept I think many Christians fail to realize. It’s such a profound statement yet so hard to accept.

    Being a divorced woman of God I began to become a little concerned when reading until I came across your comment – “…we know that there are exception.” I chose to end my marriage due to abuse and infidelity and i believe that no one should allow themselves to be treated in such a manner.

    This is a good post and I pray that you reach many people, helping them to strengthen their walk with God. Thanks Kevin for the invite. I was not disappointed.
    tradinawaller.com

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Hello again my new friend – just wanted to say thanks for being straightforward and open about the post and your own experience. I hope you come back often because your comments are filled with integrity and salt. Blessings to you my sister! I’m quite sure than many will need to hear from you.

  6. “Marriage is preparation for intimacy with Me”

    After 28 years of marriage…I know that to be true…and I’m glad it is! Great article bro’

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Jay…although it has been a few weeks – i just wanted to throw out a sincere thank you for that supporting comment. You are the one we all need to be asking about it. Sounds like God has really blessed you both with a strong, Kingdom-dedicated marriage! Praise God for that! Hope to hear from you again soon. I need all the wisdom i can get – thanks again brother and bless you guys!

  7. Nan Jones says:

    Amen, Kevin! The Lord has addressed me with the concept of familiarity also – I speak of it often in Morning Glory. We miss so much grit and truth and Light when we embrace the pages of familiarity. Our faith risks becoming mundane and lifeless. I loved your analogy of “faith grenades”. What a perfect description!!

    David and I have been married for 27 years. When we said our vows we believed – and still do – that we were entering into covenant, not only with each other, but with the Lord. In fact, I have worn my mother’s wedding band alongside mine for 27 years as a reminder of that covenant. When times get tough – and they do for everyone – we are reminded that we are sealed in the covenant of marriage in and through the Holy Spirit. We are reminded that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but with principalities of darkness. Then the decision of the will comes into play – choosing to forgive, choosing to remember that by the grace of God go I, choosing to see life through my spouse’s eyes. One of David’s jokes is this: Oral Roberts wife, Evelyn, often said, “I never wanted to divorce him, but I sure wanted to kill him a few times.” I bet Holly can relate to that!

    I think the most important take-away is that by putting your heart out in the open, fully transparent, you have disarmed the enemy. You have shed the Light of the Lord on his deception and selfish entitlements. His darkness has no power once the Light has shone upon it.

    And never forget to laugh!
    Nan Jones

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Hey Nan – i just cant helped feeling hugged everytime i see your name! You are so kind to continue to visit and share from your wisdom – it always lifts and encourages. You have my complete respect and wide open ears. I hope God continues to get people in front of your for HIS sake! Hugs from us back to you!

      • Nan Jones says:

        Kevin, Saying that you feel hugged when you see my name is one of the nicest things I have ever been told. Bet you didn’t know that kids call me the “hug monster” because I hug everyone! LOL!!

        Thank you for the work you are doing for the kingdom. And Holly, you keep up the good work too. Behind every great man is a great woman who holds him up with encouragement…just sayin’

  8. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also.
    Keep working ,great job!

  9. Jen says:

    Very encouraging!

    I’m in a new marriage and often wonder why the difficulties feel so … well, difficult. Our marriage prepares us for our eternal relationship with God; this is something to hold on to. The comments on this post are helpful. Thanks all 🙂

    Amen!

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Hi Jen – congrats to you and your husband. God is really in eveything if we’ll all just look for it – but boy oh boy am i glad He is deep in marriage! Its the best way and the only way – stay encouraged! Thanks for taking time to visit and share. I recently read your post about your phone riniging in church -hilarious! I will get over and comment shortly – bless you!

  10. zena says:

    i appreciated this tonight.

    thank you,
    zena

    • Kevin Adams says:

      Hi Zena – so nice to have a new friend in you. I really appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment. Plese come back as you are able – just posted part 2 today. Bless you!

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