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You can't afford to have a bad marriage. I'm firmly convinced of that. A bad marriage will rob you of much more than happiness. It will steal your health, your wealth, and your witness. What's more, it will destroy your usefulness in the very kingdom of God itself.

That's quite a strong statement, you're thinking. Can you back it up? Absolutely. Take a look with me right now at 1 Peter 3:7,
Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them [your wives] according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto a weaker vessel, being heirs together of the grace of life.
To understand that scripture, we first have to ask ourselves, what does it mean to dwell with someone "according to knowledge?" To me that simply means according to the Word. We, as husbands, gain knowledge about how to deal successfully with our wives through the Word of God.

Second, we must understand what is implied by the term "weaker vessel." It is simply a phrase describing the woman's physical strength. God has not equipped her physically to be the Great White Hunter or protector. Nothing more is meant.

Heirs Together - Not Separate
With that said, I want you to pay special attention to the next phrase, "…being heirs together of the grace of life." According to the Word of God, husbands and wives inherit grace from God in this life together - not as individuals.

Do you want God's grace operating in your life? Well, if you're married, you'll inherit it together with your spouse or not at all! Let me repeat that. God intends for you to walk in grace, God's unmerited favor, together because you will not be able to walk in it any other way.

Doesn't that make you want to get serious about putting your marriage in order? I promise you, God is serious about it. If you'll read Ephesians 5:22-33, you can see why. The marriage relationship is meant to exemplify and mirror the communion between Jesus and the Church! That fact, in itself, is extremely significant.

But verses 31-32 of that passage reveal something even more startling. They say,
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
What is the Word saying here? "For this cause…." What cause? The cause stated in verse 27 - that Jesus might present to Himself a glorious Church without spot, wrinkle, or blemish.

From Glory To Glory
God is using marriage as an instrument to prepare a glorious bride for Himself. That means you, as a married member of the Church universal, should also be in the process of being purified and glorified within the mysterious realm of marriage. In other words, if your marriage isn't working, you're not going to grow from one degree of glory to another in Christ.

Husbands and wives, until you learn how to submit to one another, you'll never be able to truly submit to Christ. Until you learn to love each other as Christ loves the Church, you'll never have a right love-relationship with Jesus. Until you learn how to give yourself to each other like Jesus gives Himself to the Church, you'll not be able to partake of His giving of Himself to you.

The place to start is by examining your thinking to see if you need to make any of the following three "Attitude Adjustments." No matter what kind of marriage you have right now - solid as a rock, hanging on by a thread, or something in between - it can be better.

You can go higher to another degree of glory. So get ready to start making the following adjustments.

Forget About Divorce
The first attitude adjustment is simple. Decide once and forever that divorce is not an option. If you continue to consider divorce as even a remote possibility, you might as well stop reading and go watch television, because it isn't going to do you any good.

There is simply no scriptural basis for two believers to be divorced. None. For you, divorce does not exist. You must begin to think this way.

"But what if I've already been divorced?" you ask. "Have I blown it forever?"

No. Divorce is a sin no different than any other. If you've put it under the blood of Jesus, it is gone. It will not hold you back with the Lord.

Having said that, remember this. There is no scriptural provision for two believers to get a divorce. Don't say to yourself, "I know divorce is sin, but this situation is so terrible, I'll get a divorce now and ask God to forgive me later." The Bible has very stern warnings against using God's precious grace to sin.

"But, what if I married the wrong person?" many people ask. You'd be amazed how many people the devil torments with that question.

I remember a young lady came into my office one day and insisted she had gotten out of God's will, married the wrong person, and now she was doomed to suffer until she got rid of him and found the right one. Or so she thought.

If you're thinking that way, I have good news for you. God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Christ and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Maybe you did miss God's best when you chose your spouse. Maybe you were in rebellion at the time. Perhaps you were pregnant and felt you had to get married.

Regardless of the circumstances, God still wants to make that marriage a glorious, fulfilling reflection of Jesus' relationship with the Church. He's committed to working that situation out for your good. All that you need to do is be determined to make it work.

Don't Try to Change Anyone but Yourself
The second attitude adjustment you may need to make is this: You must be concerned with changing no one but yourself. Right now, take the tip of your index finger, point it at your nose, and say the following words, "I am concerned about changing no one but me."

You have just mastered the second attitude adjustment. It strikes at the heart of a major source of marriage difficulty - finger pointing. "He always does this." "She always does that." Invariably, when I counsel people whose marriages are in trouble, each partner tells me it's the other's fault.

No matter how exasperating your spouse may be, you can't change him. There's only one person in the world you can change and you just finished pointing at that person. It's you. Get that through your head. You can't change your partner. As long as you keep trying, you're going to generate strife, hard feelings, and pain.

Leave the Good Things Behind
Finally, there is a third attitude adjustment you must learn to make. You must forget the past. Failure in this area is probably responsible for more marriage problems than any other single factor I've come across.

One reason clinging to the past is so damaging can be found in Philippians 3:13,
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Paul states here that forgetting the past is a prerequisite for reaching the great things in the future. This scripture applies to every area of a believer's life, including marriage. A marriage that is working the way God intends is the greatest prize you'll ever gain in this natural life.

If you keep focusing on the things behind, you'll be weighed down with the past and be prevented from pressing into the future promise of God.

What do you need to forget? Only two kinds of things: the good things and the bad things. It shocks most people when I say that. They're startled to hear they should forget the good things in their past. But strange as it sounds, it's true.

Here's why. If you dwell on how good things were in the past, you're creating in yourself dissatisfaction and resentment about the way things are now. You also open yourself up to a spirit of grief and despair. It happens all the time. Women talk about how affectionate and considerate their husbands used to be. How attentive he was. But now, he's just an inconsiderate louse.

Dwelling on the good things in the past will distort your perception of the present and undermine your hope for the future. Don't do it. The only parts of your past the Bible tells you to remember are the victories you've experienced in Christ Jesus. Nothing else. Meditating on how God has delivered us from trouble in the past increases our confidence and faith for future challenges. So, next time you want to reminisce, think about that.

Leave the Bad Behind, Too
For some people, forgetting the good is no problem. It's forgetting the bad things that is really tough. But, tough or not, it must be done. If it's not, those bad memories will invariably produce the fruit of unforgiveness - toward yourself, your spouse, or toward God.

In order to forgive, you must forget. According to Isaiah 43:25, even God must forget in order to forgive. "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." How can you forget those painful memories and leave them behind once and for all? You must do two things.

The key to the first is in Philippians, chapter 4:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.
(v. 8)
You can be sure the devil will remind you of every rotten, insensitive thing your spouse has ever done. When he does, you must redirect your thinking to something good. Start looking with your eye of faith at what he or she is going to be like when they're more like Jesus.

The second thing you must do to forget the bad in your past is to stop basing your actions on it. The book of James says if you want the Word of God to work for you, you have to do more than hear it, you have to act on it. That works in the negative, too. If you want to stop dwelling on the past, you must start acting like it never happened.

For example, I heard a lady give her testimony a few years ago about how God restored her marriage. Early in their marriage, her husband had been unfaithful and she had found out about it. Later, after he had gotten saved, he repented of it, but she couldn't seem to forget about it. Although they never talked about the affair, her unforgiveness manifested itself in the marriage bed. She just couldn't seem to give herself to him freely and completely. Her constant memories of his infidelity caused her to be cold toward him and it was affecting their entire relationship.

One day, God dealt with her in a prayer meeting. She decided she was going to quit acting on the basis of that 15-year-old hurt. She went home, dolled herself up, and started giving herself to her husband without reservation. It broke the power of that incident in her past. She was free - free to forget and forgive.

There they are - three attitude adjustments that will put you in a position to receive all the things you need to make your marriage prosper. Start putting them into practice today. They will put you on the road to discovering firsthand what it really means to be "heirs together of the grace of life."

Source: Heirs Together by Mac Hammond
Excerpt permission granted by Mac Hammond Ministries

Author Biography

Mac Hammond
Web site: Mac Hammond
 
Mac Hammond is senior pastor of Living Word Christian Center, a large and growing church in Brooklyn Park (a suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota. He is the host of the Winner’s Way broadcast and author of several internationally distributed books. Mac is broadly acclaimed for his ability to apply the principles of the Bible to practical situations and the challenges of daily living.
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