Instructions to Men
About the Guest
Alistair Begg, senior pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, instructs young men on how to choose a wife.
Instructions to Men
Bob: The Scriptures teach that in a marriage relationship a husband is to take on the responsibilities of leadership. A wise husband recognizes that real leadership involves a lot of listening. Here’s Alistair Begg.
Alistair: There will seldom be a day—as a man—when we do not have occasion to depend—on multiple levels—upon the wisdom, insight, initiative, grace, courage, faithfulness, integrity, skill, giftedness of our wives. All of that said—it does not negate the fact that in the order of God's plan for marriage, the man is entrusted with the awesome responsibility of being held accountable as leader in the home.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, July 21st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
There are many men today in need of a good helper, and we better know what we’re looking for, guys. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. We have been listening this week to a message from our friend, Alistair Begg, who serves as the pastor at Parkside Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio.
He has been talking about things that you ought to be looking for in a prospective spouse. I was in conversation—this was a number of years ago—with a young woman who was single—she was drawn to a particular young man and we were talking about her relationship with the guy—and I had some concerns about some of the things I had seen in this particular guy’s character.
He had been a good friend to her. He had been loyal to her. He had stood by her—and they had common interests.
They were both committed to Christ—but I guess what it got down to—for me, Dennis, was that this young man had not shown the kind of courage that a young man ought to show—to step up and be a man in some of the situations where he could have done that and should have done that—and he just didn’t.
It was a warning flag for me. I said to the young woman, "I'm just hoping that he'll be a man. That he'll step forward and that he'll lead and love—and be a man.” And the truth is, he needs help to be a man.
Dennis: He does—and he needs to know what he needs to be a man.
Bob: He does. God knew it was good for him not to be alone, so He said, "I'm going to send you a helper, and if I’m going to send you a helper, you ought to know what to look for"; right?
Dennis: That's exactly right. What single men shouldn't do is they shouldn't develop a hybrid checklist of 144,000 things they want in a wife that no woman this side of heaven could fulfill. They need to know a very, very few things they are looking for in a wife that would qualify them to spend a lifetime together.
Bob: Do you have a list to share with the young men?
Dennis: I will have by the end of the broadcast. Alistair has a list of six things he shared with those singles at Cedarville University when he spoke at chapel. He's going to give six things again—to the young men about what they should look for in a woman—and I'll add six more to Alistair's list at the end of this broadcast.
Bob: All right, let's listen to Alistair's six, and then we'll find out—and no cheating, no listening to his and just copying.
Dennis: I'm not going to.
Bob: Here is Alistair Begg.
Alistair: Okay, fellows, here we go. What are we looking for in a wife? Number one, tall; two, thin; three— [Laughter, Applause]—sorry, I couldn't resist that. That's—that’s terrible.
Number one is the same as number one for the husband. It's obvious—a good wife must have a personal faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. It is the basis for any and all of the other qualities on the list. I can't overstate for you the importance of ensuring that you don't enter into an intimate relationship where one person is a Christian and the other is not. The Bible is clear—don’t get unequally yoked.
To be unequally yoked is to be unable to pool together. That means there are two divergent standards, two opposite goals, two radically different interpretations of life, two incompatible masters to serve, two contrary powers at work. Unbelief allied with belief in Jesus means just one thing—there can be no real intimacy in matters that really count. The two cannot pool together because they are not truly together.
Paul commands believers to marry—1 Corinthians 7:39—only in the Lord. In the course of 27 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve watched and experienced empathetically the sadness of girls who got themselves way committed into something and felt unable to extricate themselves. They thought they could evangelize him. They thought they could bring him round. I sat with them and said, “If he’s not about to bow before your Savior while he doesn’t have your hand in marriage, you think he’s going to do when you marry him.” “Oh yes I’m sure. He promised me that when we get married…” and so on it goes.
I’ve had occasion just to sit and say to the girl, “You can either cry now or you can cry later. You can cry now because you’ve lost him—or you can cry later because you’ve got him.” The same is true for a fellow if he’s going to anticipate anything other than a godly wife.
Secondly, we need to look for a wife who possesses beauty that is deeper than the skin. I don't know of anyone who sets out to find a spouse who is physically unattractive, but the importance of a gentle and a quiet spirit is almost unquantifiable. A wise fellow looks for a woman who possesses a natural radiance rather than a glow that comes from a bottle. It is less important to find a woman whose beauty comes from time spent in front of a beauty parlor than from time spent in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
Thirdly, you need to look for a wife who is an initiative-taker with an attitude of submission—an initiative-taker with an attitude of submission. This simply parallels what we said previously about a man being a sacrificial leader.
Any wise fellow is looking for a woman with ideas, abilities, hopes, plans, gifts, dreams—the whole panorama of abilities that she brings to marriage. Because in entering into marriage—in more areas than we are prepared to admit—we as the husbands—will be dependent upon their knowledge, upon their insight, upon their courage, upon their faith, upon their expertise.
So, when I hear a noise in the night downstairs, I have a very brave wife, for which I am thankful. [Laughter]
There will seldom be a day—as a man, when we do not have occasion to depend—on multiple levels—upon the wisdom, insight, initiative, grace, courage, faithfulness, integrity, skill, giftedness of our wives. All of that said—it does not negate the fact that in the order of God's plan for marriage, the man is entrusted with the awesome responsibility of being held accountable as leader in the home.
And, therefore, certain expectations for the individual role of each other needs to be understood and worked out.
Fourthly, a wife—the kind for which we look—should build her husband's confidence. Trustworthiness stems from character. A woman's intrinsic qualities are revealed by her actions. A girl knows the difference between dressing in a way that is attractive and dressing in a way that is deliberately seductive—girls know the difference—so do we men.
If you find in dating a girl—that it is clear from the way she carries herself—that she enjoys the possibility of creating titillation in the minds of other men who are around, in the context, whether it be of the swimming pool or whether it be of the coffee shop, wherever it may be—let that be to you a gigantic warning sign.
It may be an opportunity for learning and growth—it may, however, be the occasion when you slip out the back, Jack, and you get a new plan, Stan. That's actually from Paul Simon, there must be "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover," which of course, I'm not suggesting to you, but it just came to mind—and I'm sorry. [Laughter]
Two more and we're finished. We're looking for a wife who displays kindness that touches others—looking for a kindness that touches others. Women don't have the exclusive ownership of the characteristic of kindness, but often they do a much better job in expressing compassion than most men. It would appear—I don't think this devalues, indeed, I think it exults women to say—that God has fashioned them to be capable of special tenderness.
Men are frequently intent on "Keep moving. Let's get going." Women are far more willing to stop in the cause of compassion. In fact—probably, if you think about it—women that have marked our lives have often marked our thinking on account of their tenderness.
Finally, a wife—like a husband—should have a sense of humor that braves adversity. The ability to laugh will get couples through more than a few rough spots. I think about Susan when she came to Scotland with me after we were married. First of all, I had no money. She had a little money that she'd saved. I took all her money, and we used it to get back to Scotland. We sailed on a—we cruised to London from the port of New York.
Don't get any illusions about how beautiful it was—it was horrendous.
We were on a Russian sailing ship called The Mikhail Lermontov.
In 1986—in Zurich—I was reading the Herald Tribune with a doctor as we headed for Kenya together. As we sat on the plane, I saw a tiny paragraph. It said, "Russian Motor Vessel Sinks Off the Coast of New Zealand." I put my hand over it. I said, “The Mikhail Lermontov,” and then I looked down and that's exactly what it was. [Laughter]
Do you think my wife's got a sense of humor? She better have. And if you're looking for a girl that can put up with your strange peculiarities, you better look for one who can laugh, as well, because I've seen you— [Laughter] —and you're pretty funny. And when I go over to the dorms tonight and tomorrow night, I'll be dealing with the young men and other more personal questions.
I'm not going to engage in them now, but I want to finish with a quote—because there are people here tonight and you're saying, "I don't have boyfriend," "I don't have a girlfriend," "Frankly, I'm not planning on getting one any time in the near future, and I'm wondering whether it may be that singleness is my lot in life.”
Well, let me quote to you from one of my favorite singles, John Stott. "What about us—" he says, "—as singles? We, too, must accept the Bible's teaching—however hard it may seem—as being God's purpose both for us and for society. We shall not become a bundle of frustrations and inhibitions if we embrace God's standard, but only if we rebel against it. Christ's yoke is easy, provided we submit to it.
It is possible for human sexual energy to be redirected both into affectionate relationships with friends of both sexes and into the loving service of others. Alongside a natural loneliness, accompanied sometimes by acute pain, we can find joyful self-fulfillment in the self-giving service of God and other people."
The chances are you will meet your mate in the next three or four years. Do not assume that a friendship has to be more than a friendship when it begins. Do you know how many people got married—and they weren't even friends? Covenant before God that you will not add to the statistics—but God helping you—you will please Him whether in singleness or in marriage.
Bob: Well, that is Alistair Begg challenging and charging students at Cedarville University. I trust that they covenanted—as he charged them to do—not to add to those statistics; that those young men and those young women will live righteously and uprightly before God. I trust those guys will pay attention to that list—keep it thumb-tacked to their bulletin board over their desk and be looking for the right thing when they look for a wife.
Dennis: That's right—and I liked the list.
Dennis: It's really a good list, and I want to add six of---
Bob: You've have a few of your own?
Dennis: I do, but I'm going to reinforce some of Alistair's here. And to do this list, I'm going to give you three that I gave you yesterday, and three different ones for young men to look for in young ladies.
The three I gave to the young ladies yesterday and I give to the young men today are— number one, a man needs to look for a woman who fears God—whose hope is in the Lord God. Her life is going to be a reflection of where her hope is and if her hope is in any other place, he is going to spend the rest of his life trying to help his wife catch a butterfly—it isn't going to happen.
Secondly, I'd encourage young men to look for ladies who honor their parents—and that's so important because there is so much baggage today being brought into marriage based upon dysfunctional relationships with Mom and Dad. I think both the husband and the wife are impacted by this, but I think—it's been my experience—that women tend to be impacted more negatively by a dysfunctional relationship with their parents than do young men. I think it's because God made them to be more of a nurturer—more of a relationship type of person as they relate to their husbands.
Third, I want to encourage a young man to find a young lady who knows how to ask for forgiveness, admit she's wrong, and who is willing to roll up her sleeves and learn how to grant forgiveness and give grace when you—as a young man, fail her—because you're going to need to do that.
Now, the three I didn't mention yesterday that I would mention to the young man to look for in young ladies are the following. Number one—find a woman who wants to be a wife and a mother. Now, that may sound kind of dumb, but there are some ladies who want to be married today who really don't want to be a wife and a mother. They want to be married and continue on with "their career" as their number-one pursuit.
And I think if you're going to get married—as a young lady—I think your number-one ministry becomes your husband.
Your number-one focus should be your family, and that means if you have children, your priorities—your values—have already been determined because you've already said, "You know what? I want to be a helper to my husband and a nurturer to our children."
Bob: Now, I've just got to break in here, because I know we've got some listeners who are hearing you say that, and they're saying, "Well, Dennis, shouldn't a man's number-one priority be his wife and his number-two priority be his children? But he can still have a career. Why can't I have my husband and my children as my number-one and number-two and still have a career?"
Dennis: Well, I think there's a long answer and a short answer. We don't have time for the long answer, but the short answer is go to Ephesians 5 and Titus 2. Basically, the call there to young men is to be the servant leaders of their wives, but they are responsible to provide for their families.
To the young women, they are to be helpers—they are to be nurturers. The command of Scripture there in Titus, chapter 2, "workers at home.”
And the idea there is if you're going to take the covenant commitment of a relationship upon your shoulders—where do you want to be successful—as a woman? Well, I think you need to be successful—first and foremost—at home.
Does that mean that a man should not measure his life in terms of being successful first at home as well? No, I wouldn't say that either but I think a man, because of his role of providing—and that means providing financially for his family—I think he needs to carry that load.
If they have children, I think—especially during the first six years of life—if that young lady doesn't want to stay home and care for your children then, as a young man, you need to count the cost of what that means. Because that means you're going to have to take your children to a day care center or somewhere else for somebody else to be a temporary mom or a dad to that child.
Bob: Alright; what else is on the list?
Dennis: The last two, number five and number six—a young man should look for a young lady whose character is displayed in her modest dress. A young man's character is displayed in his choices around life—around the use of money and relationships, but a woman's character, I think—is displayed around how she handles her femininity and her sexuality—that today, is called "modest dress." I know that's kind of a weird word in our culture—but I would challenge young men to keep their eye out for young women whose character is displayed in modest dress.
And finally, the last one. I'd want my sons to marry young women—as they have—who know how to follow a man. Now, that doesn't mean they have to do that perfectly, but it means that they understand that they're a vice president.
They're not the president—they are joint heirs of the grace of God. I look at the biblical pattern in the Scriptures—I believe God calls the man in the cases of a tie.
When one person votes one way, the other person votes another—I believe it's the responsibility of a young man to listen very, very carefully and wisely to the counsel of his wife. But if they can't agree, it's upon him—under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as being led in the power of the Holy Spirit—to make that decision. And then for the wife to be able to follow—and that is not an easy thing in this culture.
Bob: Well, we have got your list of six things on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com and of course—we've got Alistair's message available there as well. You can download the file or you can stream it from our website. In fact, I can tell you this is a message that I circulated to my sons when they were still single.
One of my sons told me—I think he listened to this five or six times as he was in college and it helped him in the process of knowing what to be looking for. This is a message you may want to share with your high school or college age children or if you have grandchildren who are that age, share the link with them. Again, the audio file is available online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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With that, we have to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for joining us. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend. Then, I hope you can join us back on Monday—Dennis Rainey’s going to talk about the things that are necessary for a marriage relationship to sustain itself and to thrive over a lifetime. We’ll hear from Dennis Monday. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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