FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Knowing God’s Will for Marriage, Part 1

with Dennis Rainey | April 15, 2010
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What does it mean to take a vow of marriage? Today on the broadcast, renowned speaker Dennis Rainey, author of the book Starting Your Marriage Right, tells what it means to enter into a marriage covenant, citing examples from Genesis 15.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What does it mean to take a vow of marriage? Today on the broadcast, renowned speaker Dennis Rainey, author of the book Starting Your Marriage Right, tells what it means to enter into a marriage covenant, citing examples from Genesis 15.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

What does it mean to take a vow of marriage?

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Knowing God’s Will for Marriage, Part 1

With Dennis Rainey
April 15, 2010
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Dennis:  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  He didn’t say he would make them smooth, or flat.  You’re going to have some difficulties in making this decision, and difficulties in life.  But God has promised He will make your path straight as you trust in Him and seek Him in making this decision.


Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday April 15th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey and I'm Bob Lepine.  The decision about who to marry is obviously a pretty significant decision.  We’re going to give you some coaching today on how to make sure it’s a wise decision.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  I’ll tell you what; we have gone to the classic vault today.


Dennis:  The message, however is every bit as relevant.


Bob:  Timeless.


Dennis:  It is.  I’ll tell you how timeless it was.  I was recently in the island country of Fiji, 338 islands, about 900 thousand people.  I was asked to speak a number of times.


Bob:  You were there for a speaking assignment, right?  This wasn’t just rest and relaxation.


Dennis:  No, I got a couple of days of rest and relaxation, but they worked me to death.  But, we did a Weekend to Remember®, we spoke at high schools.  And, I also spoke at the University of South Pacific.  It’s every bit as pretty as the name sounds like.  It’s right on the coast and I was asked to speak in a “free speech platform” to a group of single people. 

I spoke about the three most important decisions you’ll make in your life: your master, your mate, and your mission; and how all three of those decisions are determinative in your life.  They’re going to make a difference in who you become, what you become, and the impact you have with your life.

I opened it up at the end after I’d spoken, for questions.  The first question, “How can I know I’m marrying the right person?” 

Bob:  And you thought to yourself, “Well, I’m glad you asked that question, because I’ve spoken about this for years and years and years.”


Dennis:  I first thought this, I thought, we’re thousands of miles away from America, but these are college students, these are single people from all over the South Pacific, and frankly around the world, but the needs of young people are about the same.  They want to know how can you know you’re marrying the right person.  How do you know he’s the right one, she’s the one?  You’re right, Bob, I have spoken on this numerous times to a number of groups around the world.  There are some biblical principles that are classic that never change.


Bob:  Well, years ago, when we first were doing our Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences, the only people who came were engaged couples, and all the engaged couples had that question.  “How can I know that this is the right person?” 

So you put together a session designed to answer just that issue.  To help a young person walk through a process by which you can get it settled in your own heart and mind that this is the person God would have me marry.  And, you laid out some very helpful, biblical principles.  So, this week we want our listeners to hear that classic message.  We’re going to hear part one of it right here.  Here’s Dennis Rainey tackling the subject of: “How can I know if this is the right one?”

Dennis:  [From FamilyLife Marriage Conference.]  I believe the decision you are about to embark upon is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in this lifetime.  So I want to, first of all, commend you for taking the time to invest in your relationship.  There are really two groups of people here.  For those who need to decide and they feel the pressure building and they sense it’s time to make a decision, this seminar will give you some structure in how to make that decision.

Secondly, though, it’s for a group of people who have already decided, and you’re here.  You’ve got the ring on, you’ve said yes, he said yes, and you’re all excited about it.  But I want to help you get some structure and some reasons why you’re right for each other that, when you look back later on and there’s trouble in your marriage and difficulty, you’ll be able to say, “Yes, I made the right choice.”

God’s will.  The decision of determining God’s will must be based on a correct understanding of four things.  Let’s look at these together.  First of all, letter A, a right evaluation of God and his word…a right evaluation of God and his word.  What do we mean by this?

First of all, we want a correct knowledge of God that will release us to trust him as we make our decision.  You cannot trust that which you do not know.  And the process of knowing a God who is in charge of His creation is critical if you’re about to receive this person as God’s gift for you.  Look at Psalm 32:8.  God is speaking.  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.  I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

It has been said that God is the general and we are the privates.  We’re the ones lower in rank.  And it is the general’s responsibility to give the orders to the private.  What’s the private’s responsibility?  To listen carefully to the orders of the general and to carry them out.  And your responsibility in this hour is to filter this through your heart and to be open to what is said here and to learn about what is to be applied in your marriage relationship.

Point two:  God’s word gives us prerequisites for determining God’s will.  Look at this scripture here.  “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  God’s word is like a flashlight. There’s a path that’s about 150 yards from our back door.  It’s called the Ouachita Mountain Trail. If you get on the left of that path and you go back about three miles, you’ll run into a mountain that’s about a thousand feet tall.  It’s called Pinnacle Mountain.  If you go to the right on that trail, after 200 miles of up-and-down traversing through the woods, you’ll end up in Oklahoma.  It’s a beautiful trail. 

More than once I’ve been on that trail with our kids after fishing on the lake and coming back on that trail with a flashlight.  And the flashlight shows us where to step and where not to step and what’s ahead, because there are copperheads.  There have been rattlesnakes found on that path, on that trail.  And that flashlight shows us where we ought to step.

There will be certain cautions in this hour coming from God’s word.  There will be certain directives coming in this hour, all to help you and me gain a perspective as we go down this path.  Letter A, we are to be children of God.  This is one of the commands of scripture.  “And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘This is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.’”  You are to become a child of God through personal faith in Christ.

A second thing that we are to do, as we are commanded from scripture, is we are to marry Christians.  Look at 2 Corinthians 6:14-15.  “Do not be bound together with unbelievers, for what partnership has righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or Satan?  Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” 

Answer:  Only the things of the world.  And if, by chance, there is someone out here who is playing church and knows they’re not a Christian, don’t enter into that relationship knowing that you’re putting on the guise of Christianity or “spirituality,” quote, so that you can get this woman or this man into this union called marriage, because, my friend, you are headed for serious conflict.

Point C:  We are to pray and seek God.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  He didn’t say He would make them smooth or flat.  And you’re going to have some difficulties in making this decision and difficulties in life, but God has promised He’ll make your path straight as you trust in Him and seek Him in making this decision.

So the first prerequisite for determining God’s will is a right understanding of God and his word.  The second one, point B, is a right evaluation of self…a right evaluation of self.  Number one, we must understand that a total commitment to the lordship of Christ is a prerequisite for determining God’s will.

Now, I want you all to listen real carefully here.  There can be no confidence, in decisions that are on the horizontal—that is, interpersonal relationships between another person—if the vertical relationship with God is not clean and pure, holy and rightly related to God.  And if you think you’re just going to flip a switch, clean up your life real quick and then make the decision to get married and then continue on with what you used to do, you’re getting ready to make a very grave error.  I have counseled more than one couple who, all of a sudden, when they moved into this marital relationship, became deeply religious…only after marriage to find their faith gone, history.

Look at this verse here.  “I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Now, I want you to underline the next phrase…”that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable and perfect.”

How do you prove the will of God?  By giving your life totally to Jesus Christ.  The prerequisite before you can ever have the confidence you have God’s will in your grasp is that you have sold out the ownership of your life and that’s been settled once and for all.  I’ll share a little bit later on in the conference, but in our safety deposit box is the title deed to our life that Barbara and I signed early in our marriage.  We’d already made the decision before we got married, but we formalized it in a contract.  And if you all haven’t done that before you make this decision to get married, please do so.

Point two:  We must understand that some lack confidence in themselves and have a history of indecisiveness.  Some people lack confidence when it comes time to make a decision.  This is part of understanding yourself.  Look at this, letter A.  You may have a history of indecision. 

You may walk into a grocery store and have a hard time deciding between the Le Sueur peas and Del Monte, a hard time choosing your major in college or what college to go to or what kind of car to purchase or where to live.  Decisions are just tough for you.  It may not even be related to a spiritual issue.  It may just be that you as a person have difficulty in having confidence in yourself, of risking and stepping out to make a decision.

Point B…this may be true especially for some of you who are older singles…you may fear a commitment.  You’ve seen too many human lives in the wreckage and human debris of divorce all around, your friends you went to high school and college with, and now they’re divorced.  You see the statistics.  They’re in the newspaper, the magazines, and the media.  And you fear the commitment and the risk that represents.  You need to understand that as you make this choice.  A second prerequisite for determining God’s will is a right evaluation of self.

A third one is a right evaluation of sin…a right evaluation of sin.  Number one, we must understand that rebellion or apathy cannot be tolerated if we are to rightly determine God’s will. 

Secondly, we must understand that a decision is not to be based upon excessive physical involvement…not based on excessive physical involvement.

I want to have just a heart-to-heart talk with you here, because I know what is going on in our singles groups in our churches around the land.  I know what happens in singles bars.  We have a morality that is continuing to dip lower and lower that is being adopted in the Christian church today, where it’s astounding that there are so few values of morality being held by Christian singles today.

This afternoon you’re going to hear a message on sex, and you will find out that it is one of the hottest topics of struggle in this room as some 3,000 people will fill this auditorium to find out how to make this sexual relationship dynamic and work and pleasurable. 

You all are sitting out there looking at me and you’re going, “Huh?”  I mean, it’s like falling off a cliff right now.  That’s because before marriage the electricity, the components, the natural tendency of it all is just to fall into each other’s arms.  Sex is the easiest way to know someone before marriage.  Afterward, I believe it’s one of the most difficult.  In fact, it becomes a barometer of the relationship, and in many cases becomes a point of resentment.

When Barbara and I were dating, we made some commitments to one another.  It was only after we were walking across a shopping center not far from here, and we had been dating about 50 days out of 52.  We’d had a fantastic relationship, friendship…been on picnics together. 

I’ll never forget.  It was a June afternoon.  The sun was going down here, and it was a beautiful, beautiful sunset.  I reached over and took her hand as we were walking along in this shopping center.  She looked back at me and shot me a glance and she said, “Why’d you do that?” 

Well, it kind of took me back, because I’ve never had a woman ever ask me why I held her hand.  I fumbled around, and I don’t think I gave her a very good answer, so I just kind of dropped her hand right there in the parking lot, because I didn’t have a good answer.  It was the beginning of, I believe, something that could have gone on to become very, very selfish and it could have polluted and diluted our relationship from what it became…a pure, pure relationship.

We went ahead and got engaged and got married. And I want to tell you all something.  This is very, very strange to hear in this culture.  But our relationship, I can assure you, was not based upon our sexual involvement.  Now, how meaningful is that to me today?  Well, I’ll just give you a couple of ideas of how meaningful. 

First of all, I know that although my heart was beating for that woman and hers was beating for me, our ears remained clear to hear God’s voice, and the drums and the pounding of the emotion that is fueled by our sexuality, although that attraction was there…and I want to tell you, it’s still there…that remained clear so I could hear God’s voice.

A second thing that has occurred in our marriage relationship is, as I travel or as Barbara travels the trust that we have in our marriage and our relationship is absolutely powerful.  Although we both know that either one of us could stumble and fall, my friend, I want to tell you, because we paid the price of keeping our hands off and our distance from one another, it has built a trust in our relationship and gave us the confidence, as we encounter trouble now, even in the sexual area of the relationship, that we can look back to a decision that wasn’t based upon our hormones and because we were good in bed together.

Now, I want to tell you something.  I love you all.  But as Christian singles today, many of you are letting your standards exemplify that of the world.  God in heaven is not up in heaven trying to penalize you to put off some kind of pleasure that you’re missing out on.  My friend, if you wait until the fences of marriage are built around the relationship, then, when the pleasure comes, it’ll be meaningful, good.  It’ll be blessed by God, and not out of disobedience. 

So if you’re involved, could I encourage you to back off?  Could I encourage you to make some covenants and some commitments to one another and avoid those situations that tend to throw you into immoral situations?  Don’t let sex foul your feelings up.  And a lot of couples are letting that happen today. 

Third point:  A right evaluation of sin.  It’s deadly.  Avoid it.

Fourth, point D:  A right evaluation of the process of determining God’s will.  And I’ve just got one central thought here.  A lot of people, a lot of Christians today, want God’s peace before they make the decision.  They want the peace of God about this is the right person without stepping out and making the commitment.  But I believe the biblical equation for gaining peace is one word:  Faith.  It is stepping out and making a commitment. 

Some of you don’t who don’t have peace yet about your relationship and you’re trying to get peace and then you’ll get married.  The only way you’re going to get that peace is by listening to this material, listening throughout the weekend, and then coming to a conclusion and step out either to marry or to break it off.  On the basis of that commitment and that step of faith, either peace results or a lack of peace results.  And if it’s peace to get married, you move on.  If it’s peace to break the relationship off, then break it off.  But you do the right thing.

Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening to a message from a number of years ago.  A message presented at the FamilyLife Weekend To Remember® marriage conference. 


Dennis:  We found this on an ark.

Bob:  This is almost twenty years ago you presented this message.  But just as I was listening to it I was thinking about how I wrestled with that very issue.  When I was getting married to Mary Ann, there was a song that was out on the radio that went, “It’s sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along.” 

Dennis:  That’s so hard for singles today because they hate to throw the towel in and admit the quest is over.

Bob:  How do you make your purchase—pardon me sounding crass here—but how do you make your purchase if you haven’t examined all the brands right?

Dennis:  Yes.

Bob:  I think your counsel here about ultimately you say “God you’ve ordered these events, these circumstances, I’m going to step out in faith.” and then… I think you’re right.  God grants peace or he troubles your soul about the decision you’re making.

Dennis:  I don’t want to use a crass illustration here because I’m not a riverboat gambler, but you’ve got to place your bets.  You just can’t keep on dating for six, eight, ten years.  We’ve got some people who find comfort in both being firmly planted in midair, right on the fence.  They’ve got a couch on the fence, they’re all comfortable and some of you ladies who are listening to me, right now, you need to call for the question.  You need to call for the young man to get off the fence and either pop the question, or allow you to move on with life.

Bob:  Now, wait.  Before you do that, let me just suggest that you probably ought to hear part two of this message….

Dennis: That might be a good idea.

Bob: …before you decide to press the question or pop the question.  Because there’s more you ought to be thinking about as you pray through and think through whether this is what God would have you do. 

Then once you’re ready to make that step, let me encourage you to get a couple of copies of the Preparing for Marriage workbooks that we’ve put together here at FamilyLife.  There have been hundreds of thousands of these sold and used over the last decade.  This is perfect for a couple to sit down and work through together.  But it’s also a great resource for an older couple, a mentor couple to interact with an engaged couple and take them through the process.

In fact we met some real champions over the years.  Husbands and wives who have taken this on as a ministry in their church or just with the young couples they know.  When they hear somebody’s gotten engaged, they invite them over for dinner and they say, “Would you be interested in going through some pre-marital preparation going through a workbook with us that will help you get ready for marriage?”  These couples are not just interested, they are eager, they’re anxious for that kind of input in their lives.

You can find out more about the newly updated Preparing for Marriage workbook.  This has been completely refreshed and updated.  It’s now available.  You can go online at for more information.  Again the website is 

Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word TODAY.  Ask for information about the Preparing for Marriage workbook when you call us.  Or order online if you’d like at

Let me also encourage those of you who either are newlyweds, or maybe you’ve been married for quite some time.  If you want to strengthen your marriage and do something that will help you grow closer to one another, and closer in your understanding of what God’s purpose for marriage is, consider starting a HomeBuilders® group.  We have also just gone through and completely refreshed some of our HomeBuilders® study guides. 

They’re brand new, and this month, if you’re able to help make a donation of any amount to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we’d like to send you a couple of these new HomeBuilders® guides so that you can use them together as a couple, or invite some other couples to get together with you and go through the HomeBuilders® material.  Again, we’ve had hundreds of thousands of couples who have done that and found it very helpful for their marriage.  Again, the HomeBuilders® study guides are yours as a gift when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount.

Just donate online at, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and donate over the phone.  If you’re donating online, there’s a key code box that you’ll see on the online donation form, just type the word “BUILD” into that box and we’ll send you a couple of these HomeBuilders® study guides. 

Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, make your donation over the phone and ask for the HomeBuilders® guides.  Again let me just say how much we appreciate your financial support of this ministry and how much it means to us.

And, we hope you’ll be back with us tomorrow we’re going to hear part two of Dennis’s message about knowing God’s will for who to marry. I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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