Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 40 - A Weekend for Reflection Upon a Life of Relationship

The fast pace of life, with all its responsibilities of business, family, etc., is not conducive to building a husband/wife relationship of a bonding nature. Therefore, in order for a husband and wife to provide a foundation of life that is both productive as well as fulfilling, it is imperative that they spend a working weekend together, away from all the responsibilities of life that would detract from their objective of building a pattern for their future relationship.

They need to retreat to a motel away from where they live, and evaluate their lives, both individually, together, and in their family relationships. They need to have on their agenda a working out of their worldview, priorities of life, what their principles for life are by which they live, their relationship and responsibilities to their children, and to each other as to common interests and commitment. They need to think through each of these areas, how they are intertwined in every aspect of their lives, and how as Christians all of these relate to Biblical principles that are given to be a guide in answering these inquiries. If a couple will dedicate themselves to this task, and will faithfully confront these areas, then apply the conclusions to which they come to their everyday living, the results will be manifold in fulfillment to every person in the family.

Since the Bible is the standard guide of God's revelation to mankind as to how to live, there are certain basic principles that act as a general foundational guide upon which Christians can erect the superstructure of their lives. The primary principle is found in Romans 12:1,2, "I implore you brothers, by the fact that God has with held His judgment from you, and instead has given to you of His grace, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, dedicated unto Him and acceptable unto God, for this is only reasonable. And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your WILL, so that you are able to prove what is that GOOD, and ACCEPTABLE, and PERFECT will of God for you." Conformation to the world is basically living a self centered life, with all of its problems and lack of ultimate fulfillment. Being transformed by an act of one's will to the control of the Holy Spirit and through guidance of God's word in the Bible, is to assure one of fulfillment in life which every person desires, and for which God created us (John 10:10). If a couple commit themselves to that basic philosophy and principle, then God is the guarantor that they will enjoy the fullness of their marriage and family.

Everyone has a worldview. The boy riding his bicycle has one, though if you asked him what it was he probably wouldn't know what you were asking him, nor could he articulate it if you explained. Nevertheless, he not only has one, but is actively pursuing it in his life. What is this worldview you ask, and in what way do all people live by it? A worldview is people's idea or philosophy of life as they evaluate it, how it motivates them through life and the decision making process, and the guide and parameter that gives direction to them. This is all encompassing for it not only differs with each individual, but is the pattern that molds their entire life. A worldview is ultimately important for every person, and is necessary for one to think through, since it is the guide through life.

When a couple get married they bring to that union two different worldviews. Their friendship, common interests, philosophy of life, etc., is the framework upon which they relate and desire to marry. The commonality of their individual worldviews or the divergence, is that which produces harmony or dissonance between them, as they go through life together. Therefore, it is imperative that before they marry they think through their worldviews, and if they have been married for sometime that they take time out to reflect, refine, and co-ordinate their worldview, if they haven't already done so. This is the reason for a weekend of reflection. In Amos 3:3 it says, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Obviously the answer is, no. God did not make us to think alike, and no husband and wife will ever agree upon everything, since our backgrounds differ. It is not do we think alike, but do we have a unified worldview, so that we are able to resolve situations from a common foundation, even though we all have differences of opinion.

A worldview encompasses goals, principles, behaviors, attitudes, desires, objectives, accomplishments, ethics, morals, and all that goes into life itself. It is necessary, if one is to have a fulfilled life and not just "float" through life, to evaluate all these areas, and come to conclusions as to how to operate out of these well defined and thought through elements. In marriage, where two are bonded together for life, it is easily seen that in order to have harmony and progression, that a couple must have similarity in their worldview. Otherwise, it won't be long after marriage that the divergence of two worldviews will produce major differences of application to decisions, with the result that soon each will be going their own way. This certainly is not productive to a building relationship and fulfillment.

One aspect of life that bonds a couple together is to have similar interests. This does not mean that everything they do or desire must be held in common, but a majority of interests should be of such similarity that they would enhance bonding. It is in the interest of this objective that a couple would do well to list on paper, individually, what each enjoys doing as to work, play, cultural desires, etc., then compare notes. It is interesting to see that when that is done, they each realize there are areas of interest that have not been communicated with each other before. It opens up doors that otherwise may have never been opened. Once that is accomplished, and they have set bounds for themselves as to involment together in these areas, then each one is free to pursue avenues of interest by themselves, without the other one becoming jealous of that one spending time in their own pursuit of fulfillment. When the majority of time spent and interests are done together, the interests pursued by one without the other will be more delightful without undue stress.

Part of the problems that individuals face in life which causes continuing irritation is that of priorities. In order to enjoy an orderly fulfilled life it is important to have right priorities. For a couple to have mixed priorities is to have a constantly confused and disordered marriage. This produces mixed signals that each gives to the other. The result is anger and frustration, since they are at cross purposes, and then each one fails to have their priorities executed in the way they figure they should be. For the Christian the Biblical order of priorities should be, God first, the family second, and work third. Usually the man has business first, the family second, and God gets the left overs, if any. Many pastors have the proper order, but unfortunately tend to fuse the first and third, i.e. God and their ministry are one and the same, so that the family gets left out, which is why many pastors families have anger against their husband/father's ministry.

Because of the press of life today to get ahead, it causes many families to place work for material gain ahead of everything, thus putting undo stress on the family, and certainly on our devotion to God. This is why a couple need time together to sort out their priorities, put them in proper Biblical order, have a common understanding, and determine to carry them out regardless of what the world's pressures that are brought to bear on them. With a united front, and with God's blessing, they can't miss in life. In I Samuel 2:30 God says, "--- them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me will be lightly esteemed." Right priorities faithfully placed and implemented in the family life will not only bring blessing and bonding to a couple, but an important added blessing of modeling excellent learned behaviors before their children, who will then find it easier to have right priorities in their adult life, and with the one whom they eventually will marry.

Most couples when they marry do not know the basic principles of marriage. They are so filled with emotional love that there is a tendency to gloss over the realities of life, that any married couple understands. They believe their love will carry them through. This lasts for a while, until the selfish realities of life emerge, and consequently the divisions that are born out of that self-centeredness. Since most married couples have trodden this path, it is imperative for a couple taking the working through weekend to know and understand the basic principles of marriage. There are many good Christian books to assist in the knowledge of these principles, and I would recommend Dr. Ed Wheat's book, "Love Life" as a premier book on the subject.

If a couple really desires to enhance their relationship and enjoy fullness of marriage, it is imperative to know the principles and then to be committed to putting them into operation. Properly understood and carried out, these principles along with the other elements outlined above will all work together to produce a loving, bonding, fulfilled relationship that will endure, "until death do us part".

If the couple have children who are old enough to have observed their parents behavior, and thereby incorporated their parents learned behaviors into their own lives, it is important for the couple to explain to their children what they have done over their weekend of marital work, so that the children know and understand any significant changes in the lives of their parents. This is important, for children tend to be impacted by parents life styles, and in adulthood reflect in their own behaviors what they picked up from parents in their childhood. They then transfer over to their spouse those behaviors from childhood and the family of origin. Children are resilient enough to be able to handle and accommodate in their lives, any significant changes for the better that they see in their parents behaviors. There is an old saying, which is true, that example is greater than precept, and parents inter action between each other has an impact on children such as to model their behavior significantly.

In John 10:10 Christ said, "I am come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly." God created all of His children to enjoy an abundant life. In order to have that we must follow Biblical principles, and then God will see to it that our lives are fulfilled. Marriage, which has been ordained of God, is one of the greatest elements that God has created for our fulfillment. Properly administered it will do just that, but improperly lived, marriage can be a living hell. One's spouse is either one's greatest asset or one's greatest liability. And, it is incumbent on each spouse to see to it that the other one's needs are met, thereby assuring that each one will have their own needs met. If a married individual took his/her marriage and their work, whatever it is, out of their life, there wouldn't be much of life left, if any. I don't care how poor a person's work is, if they have a good marriage they are able to handle their job. But, I don't care how good a job a person has, or how much money they make, if they have a poor marriage, it adversely affects their job. Therefore, it seems reasonable that one put time and effort into their marriage relationship, in order to enjoy that for which God created us, i.e. companionship for fulfillment, as well as for procreation of the race.

A good marriage that lasts for a lifetime takes constant work and monitoring. Only by understanding a Biblical worldview, enjoying common interests, having God honoring priorities, knowing, understanding, and putting into operation the principles of marriage, and modeling good relationships before one's children, can any couple have a blessed life of fulfilled companionship that ministers to each one's needs.

As a fitting conclusion to the principles and concepts that have been developed in the chapters of this book, consider the delights of the verses of this great hymn of the faith, "Like A River Glorious"

Like a river glorious is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its bright increase.
Perfect yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect yet it groweth deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Every joy or trial, falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial, by the Sun of love.
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly, find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest,
Finding as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

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