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— By Rod Halliburton

Marriage. Just say the word and a number of thoughts come to mind:

‘Will I ever get married? If so, whom will I marry?’ ‘Will I have children? If I do have children, how many?’ ‘Where will I live?’ ‘Will I have a good marriage? Better yet, will I have a great marriage?’

Wait a minute. Let’s consider that question again: ‘Will I have, not just a good marriage, but a GREAT marriage?’

Friends, great marriages do not come about by accident. Oh no, friends, great marriages are the result of much planning and effort.

Someone has said the success of a marriage is not determined by how much love you put into it as much as it is determined by how much work you put into it.

But have you ever stopped to think about what sets great marriages apart from all others? Have you ever wondered what makes great marriages great?

When we consider the letters in the word ‘great,’ several things come to mind:

• First, the “G” reminds us that God must be in our marriages. It is no coincidence that this is first on the list, for no marriage can be truly great without God. I cannot emphasize this enough! Couples who strive to build homes with God as their center enjoy enormous advantages over those couples that do not make God the center of their home. Couples who strive to build homes with God as their center enjoy a common sense of morality, a common sense of values, a common standard of right and wrong, a common source of strength in time of need, and a common purpose in life. A couple that builds a home with God as its center is able to pray for one another and for their marriage. Friends, it is an undeniable fact that the closer a husband and wife get to God, the closer they get to one another.

Consider the words of Solomon, recorded in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Did you notice the emphasis that is placed on the advantages that two have over one? And yet, we cannot help but notice the significance of the phrase “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” This “third cord” Solomon tells us of is undoubtedly a reference to God. When a couple includes God in their marriage, their marriage is not easily broken. Friends, a great marriage is a marriage where husband and wife are both Christians, striving to help each other grow spiritually and obtain an eternal home in heaven.

• Second, the “R” reminds us that we must remember our vows. A vow is a solemn promise you made to your spouse. Husbands, did you promise to love, honor, cherish, and protect your spouse, forsaking all others? Wives, did you promise to love, honor, cherish, and obey your spouse, forsaking all others?

When you made your vows, you not only made them before your spouse, but you made them before all others who were present. But far more important, you made them before God. That’s right! You made a promise to God! Man and woman are joined together as husband and wife, not merely by man, but by God.

Did your vows include the often spoken phrase, “Till death do us part?” Marriage is a lifelong commitment. The story-books may picture a couple getting married, only to live happily ever after, seemingly free of problems. But we know that real life is not always like what we read about in the story-books. Admittedly, there will be difficult times with any marriage. There will be times of hurt feelings, disappointments, and problems that, at least at the time, seem to be insurmountable. But times like these should cause a husband and wife to remember the promise they made to one another.

Friends, when a husband and wife are committed to one another, they will never face any problem that cannot be resolved with God’s help.

When Jesus was asked about divorce for any cause, he responded: “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, ‘For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder’. They say unto him, ‘Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?’ He saith unto them, ‘Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: But from the beginning it was not so.’ And I say unto you, ‘Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: And whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.’ What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4-9).

Friends, God expects us to keep our vows! God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16).

• Third, the “E” reminds us that a husband and wife are to enjoy life together. A husband and wife should take time simply to enjoy being with one another. It goes without saying that we all have daily obligations to meet and responsibilities to fulfill. I understand we all have busy schedules and appointments to keep. We all share in many of the stresses of daily life. Sure, life is filled with its peaks and its valleys, its ups and downs. But we should not allow the ‘downs’ to prevent us from enjoying life. Couples should make it a priority to spend time together, to do things together, to have fun together, and to laugh together. A husband and wife ought to develop an interest in recreational activities they can both enjoy together. Someone has said, “The couple that plays together stays together.”

Listen to the words of Solomon, recorded in Ecclesiastes 9:9: “Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun.”

Also notice Proverbs 5:18: “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.”

Your spouse should be, not only your spouse, but also your best friend!

• Fourth, the “A” reminds us that husbands and wives are to appreciate one another. When you stop to count your blessings, don’t forget to include your spouse. Don’t neglect to tell your spouse that you appreciate him (or her). To appreciate your spouse means to grasp or understand your spouse’s worth, or value. Few things can be more harmful to a marriage than for one (or both) of the spouses to feel unappreciated. A failure to appreciate your spouse will eventually manifest itself in selfishness and disrespect.

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22). Also notice Proverbs 19:14: “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord.”

The fact that a wife is given to man by God can also be seen in Genesis 3:9-12: “And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

Friends, precious gifts are not to be abused nor flaunted. They are to be treated graciously out of respect for the giver. For a husband or wife to neglect his or her spouse is to work against God’s plan.

• Fifth, the “T” reminds us that a husband or wife is to treat his or her spouse as the most important person in the world. After all, who on earth is more important to you than your spouse? Listen to the words of the apostle Paul: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:24-28).

In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter wrote: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Also notice Paul’s words to Titus: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. (Titus 2:3-4).

Did you notice something about Paul’s words? Love is not just an emotion, not just something we feel. Love is an action. Love is a type of behavior. Yes, a husband should treat his wife as the most important person in the world, because to him, she is the most important person in the world!

How can a husband treat his wife as the most important person in the world? By refusing to ignore her. By valuing her opinion. By taking time to be with her. By refusing to make sarcastic remarks about, or to, her. By refusing to be rude to her, whether publicly or privately. By being aware of her needs. By defending her when others are criticizing her. Of course, these things would also apply when considering a wife’s treatment of her husband.

To sum it all up, in terms of your relationships with others, none should be more important to you than your relationship with your spouse.

Yes, your marriage does not have to be just good. Your marriage can be great! Your marriage can be great if God is in your marriage. If you remember your vows. If you enjoy life together. If you appreciate one another. And if you treat your spouse as the most important person in the world.

(Rod Halliburton preaches for the Antioch church of Christ, Shongaloo, Louisiana. He can be contacted at rodhalliburton@gmail.com or through his blog at www.savedbythegospel.com.)

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