The Noble Purpose of Your Marriage
About the Guest
Dennis and Barbara Rainey share their insight into 20 things they learned in 44 years of marriage. Gain insight on why forgiveness is vital and why marriage and family are all about the glory of God.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
Dennis and Barbara Rainey share insight into 20 things they learned about marriage in their 44 years together.
The Noble Purpose of Your Marriage
Bob: Dennis and Barbara Rainey have learned a lot about marriage in the 44 years they have been husband and wife. One of the things they’ve learned is how important it is to have a teachable heart and not a closed heart.
Barbara: A teachable heart is one that’s open to faith / it is growing. A closed heart is one that has chosen unbelief. If you want your marriage to thrive—and grow and become all that God intends for it to be—you must maintain and cultivate a teachable heart.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today a number of the things that Dennis and Barbara Rainey have learned about marriage in the last 44 years. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.
Dennis: Is the table rocking; or is it just me, Bob? It just feels like—
Bob: It’s you. [Laughter]
Dennis: —it’s back and forth. The ship is moving.
Bob: Part of this is because what we’re going to be listening to today is a message that you and Barbara shared with an audience that joined us this year on the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruise.
We just need to say, right up front here, that the cruise for next year is already sold out. Now, I should mention—in past years, we’ve had a waiting list. I think it’s worked out to where 30/40/50 people who have been on the waiting list have actually wound up making it on the cruise because of cancellations that have come over time. So, if listeners are listening and they think, “That cruise sounds like something we’d like to do in 2018, but I know they’re sold out,” they ought to get on the waiting list and see if their name gets called up.
Dennis: And if it doesn’t get called up, I want to tell you we have—what, Bob?—35/40 Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways this fall—starting in September all the way into early December—that you can grab a weekend with your spouse and get away for what truly is, I think, one of the greatest and most important investments a newly-married couple can make, one who’s been married 10/15/20 years or more—30/40 years. It’s a great weekend, and these are all over the country. You can go online to FamilyLifeToday.com and check out the Weekend to Remember at a location near you.
Bob: Yes; and the point is—whether it’s the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise / the Weekend to Remember getaway—you need to be doing things that are going to build into your marriage.
The message we’re going to hear today is a message that you and Barbara shared with the audience onboard the cruise. Back when you first got married, you went to an older couple and you said, “What’s your best advice on marriage?” and they told you to pray together as a couple every day.
Dennis: And it changed the course of our marriage.
This message is designed to be something similar to that—kind of a smorgasbord message where—
Bob: Yes; you don’t have just one piece of advice, you wound up with—
Dennis: I have [almost two dozen]. You can pick and choose, like a smorgasbord, and decide what you want to apply in your marriage; but it’s some of the most important lessons Barbara and I have learned from more than 44 years of marriage.
Bob: I think our listeners are going to benefit from just being reminded of the important things that we need to keep in mind as husbands and wives.
Dennis: I want you to view this message and kind of pull up a cup of coffee and listen as we talk about a journey that Barbara and I have had for 44 years. We pass this on to you so that by the time you finish this message each of you would find one of these principles to apply in your marriage as you move from this oasis of sorts / a floating oasis to go back to real life and find God giving you some tests.
Number 1: “Marriage and family are about the glory of God, not me.” You know, it’s interesting—the Bible begins with a marriage in Genesis / it ends with a celebration of a marriage of Christ, who is the husband, and the church, who is the bride, in Revelation. Throughout its pages, it tells the story of God wanting to pass down a godly legacy to future generations.
What I want you to catch in this last message—if you haven’t caught it, and it’s been said by all of our speakers—but if you haven’t caught it, it’s that your marriage is important to God’s reputation on this planet. Now, He’s not in heaven, wringing His hands, wondering if you’ll get on the playing field and get in the real game or not; but in reality, your marriage is about something far more important than your happiness.
It has nobility that is wrapped in the reflection of God’s image to a planet that doesn’t know Him. Your marriage—in your neighborhood, in your kids’ school, in your church, in your community—is a part of God showing up.
Genesis 1, verses 26 through 28 just talks about some of the purposes of God. I’ll mention them as we go through here. Verse 26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in our image, after Our likeness.’” It says there God wants us to reflect His image—show Him off—His love, His mercy, His grace. Your marriage demonstrates that in its imperfection; but it goes on and says, “And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heaven and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
God made us, not merely to reflect His image, but to rule—to rule together / have dominion together.
So, verse 27 says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. And God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’” That’s the third purpose of your marriage—to reproduce a godly legacy. You can do that by having children and you can do that by influencing and impacting people spiritually. Number 1: “Marriage and family”—your marriage and family—“are about the glory of God, not me.”
Barbara: Number 2: “Your marriage is taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not a romantic balcony.” As you know, Satan attacked Adam and Eve in the very beginning in the garden. He came to Eve—he told her a lie; she believed the lie; and we’ve been living with that ever since.
I want to read you a verse out of the Book of John. Jesus told us this, and I think it’s important for us to remember that Jesus said this about Satan, our enemy. Jesus said, “He was a murderer from the very beginning.” That was his intention—he wanted to kill their marriage / he wanted to kill their relationship. “Satan does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Dennis: And realize that your marriage is taking place in a spiritual battlefield. You two need to get down and hunker down in the foxhole together and not be standing up in the midst of battle, lobbing grenades at each other; instead, lock arms and lock step together in a spiritual battle that God has for you to have dominion over.
Barbara: Number 3: “Your spouse is not your enemy.” Ephesians, Chapter 6, verse 12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood”—it’s not against each other / it’s not against other people—“but it is against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Because we’re so visual, this is what we see; right? But out there, the Bible tells us, there’s an unseen enemy. We can’t see him with our eyes, but he’s just as real as we are—and he’s attacking us. We need to remember, in order for our marriages to be strong: “This is not my enemy. My enemy is out there. I can’t see him; but Jesus tells me he’s the father of lies, and the Bible tells me that he’s in heavenly places.”
Dennis: We teach this in the Weekend to Remember. There are some couples who have to actually write on a three-by-five—put this on their refrigerator: “My spouse is not my enemy,”—
—never your enemy. You’re in a battle against unseen forces of evil.
Number 4—and you’ve heard me say this, some of you, who have been here multiple times—I think I mention this at every one of these cruises, because I think this is so absolutely essential. This next principle came from a mentor in the first four months of our marriage—Number 4: “The couple that prays together stays together.”
Barbara and I had been married four months. I went to a friend, whose name was Carl Wilson—he was a fiery Presbyterian preacher. I went to him—24 years old, wet behind the ears in marriage, just starting out / didn’t know what I was doing—I said, “So, Carl, what is the single best piece of advice you can give me, as a young man, starting out my marriage?” He said: “Oh, that’s easy! Pray every day with your wife.” I said: “That’s all you got?! [Laughter] That’s the best advice you can give me?”
Well, I just want you to know—I do not think you would see us still married to one another if two very strong-willed people had not decided to bow their wills every day in a spiritual discipline of prayer together. I can tell you—this has challenged our commitment and our covenant to each other on so many different occasions. But early on, we started this—we go to bed / we pray together. Then, a couple months later into our marriage, Barbara was facing that wall and I was facing that one. It wasn’t just what was most comfortable, physically / it was what was most comfortable, relationally and spiritually, because there was something between us.
In those moments, God would tap me on the shoulder and say: “Hey, Rainey. Aren’t you going to pray with her tonight?” and I’d go: “Uh-uh. I don’t like her tonight, God.” He says, “I know!” He said: “You said you’re going to pray with her. Now pray with her.”
I said, “But God, You know—in this situation, she is 90 percent wrong.” [Laughter] He said, “Yes; I know that, but it’s your 10 percent that caused her to be 90 percent wrong.” [Laughter] I said, “Don’t mess with the facts, God.” So, I would roll over in those moments. I would look Barbara in the eyes there and I’d say, “Will you forgive me for being 10 percent wrong?” No; I did not do that! [Laughter] I did that one time, and that night lasted three months. [Laughter] It doesn’t work like that, guys. You just have to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness.
I want to tell you—there really is something—listen to me. If you could leave here and do one thing in your marriage that will change the course of your marriage—your family, your legacy, your life—would be leave here and make a commitment with each other to begin to pray with and pray for one another.
Barbara: Agreed. Number 5: “It is healthy to confess my sins to my spouse.”
And the verse there is James 5, which talks about confessing your sins to one another that you may be healed.
Early in our marriage, Dennis and I were living in Boulder, Colorado. He/ we were working with high school students. Because we didn’t have a very active, busy high school ministry at the time he got to know some businessmen in town—the guys who did our insurance and some different businessmen from church. He decided that he would start a Bible study with some of these local businessmen in our community. He began this study with this group of men. He invited them over to our house for breakfast, and they would show up.
I remember, after about three or four weeks of it, there was one individual man in the group that I just began to feel really uncomfortable around. He seemed a little too friendly / a little too—wanting to be too familiar with me. I—I mean, we’d been married six months, maybe—it hadn’t been very long.
But I just remember feeling very uncomfortable. I wondered, “What do I do about this?” I began to think and to pray; and I said: “I wonder if I should tell Dennis how I’m feeling. Maybe he’s going to think I’m inviting something from this man.” This man was married and had four kids. I thought: “Gosh! I don’t know.” I was afraid; I was worried; I was anxious.
As I thought about it, I thought, “I just have to—I have to say something to him.” And I had no interest in this man whatsoever, but I just sensed that he was being a little too friendly with me. I got my courage up, and I got really brave, and I told him what I was thinking and how I was feeling. We had a really good conversation. He was grateful that I told him. He informed the men that we weren’t meeting at our house anymore. They began to meet at a restaurant, and that was the end of the situation.
What both of us learned from that—that was so crucial as a foundation stone in our marriage—was the importance of being transparent with one another.
Now, what I was feeling was not a sin—so it doesn’t actually qualify for that James verse. The point is that I was struggling with something—I was feeling uncomfortable, and I couldn’t handle that on my own—I needed my partner with me to help me sort through what I was feeling and to know what to do about it, because we were one / we were married. I wasn’t supposed to handle that on my own—I was supposed to handle that with him.
That became a pattern that we have followed in all these years of our marriage since. We are very transparent with one another—we do talk about temptations; we do talk about sins that we’re struggling with; we do talk about our fears; we do talk about things that we’re having a hard time believing God for. Because God brought us together to be stronger together than we were individually, He wants us to operate together. He doesn’t want me trying to solve things on my own and Dennis solve things on his own, because then we’re going to be two independent people again.
The point of this one is—it’s very healthy to confess my sins to my spouse, but it’s also helpful to be transparent—and talk about temptations, talk about your fears, talk about your anxieties, talk about what you’re struggling believing God for—because then you can encourage one another, and you can build up one another’s faith.
Dennis: And it’s important, too, to be safe. As a man, I’ve confessed to Barbara that I’m struggling with lust. Now, I’ve heard some men say, “I could never share that with my wife, because she would be threatened by that.” I would say: “Try it. Test it. See if she’s capable of dispensing and being an expression of God’s grace back to you to understand.”
I’ve shared with Barbara when I was betrayed by a fellow friend in the ministry and how that deeply wounded me, as a man. She bore that burden with me. This is a very, very important—
Barbara: Yes; and I want to know, as a wife. I would imagine most women in here do, too; because I want to know what’s happening in your life. I want to be able to pray; I want to be able to support; I want to be able to do what I need to do to help, and I can’t do that if I don’t know. So; this has been super important principle in our marriage / in our 44 years of marriage that has kept us together—it’s kept us united / it’s kept us from becoming isolated from one another.
Dennis: Number 6—put a start by this one. I think this is absolutely one of the most important principles we’ll share with you—it’s Ephesians 4, verse 32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.” The gospel is about forgiveness—God’s forgiveness of us—and we should mirror this to one another in our marriage, seven times seventy.
Forgiveness means we give up the right to punish another person. That’s why Number 6 is: “It is categorically impossible to experience marriage, as God designed it, without being liberal and lavish in your forgiveness of one another.” When you forgive / when we forgive each other, we both know that we have to give up the right to punish the other person. We will hurt one another. When you don’t ask for forgiveness and you hurt your spouse, you set up the opportunity to become isolated from one another and, ultimately, to allow bitterness to take root.
I want to ask you a question: “When was the last time you asked your spouse to forgive you?” I think this—this needs to be taught within the Christian community with fresh teaching about God’s forgiveness of us that we might mirror that forgiveness in our marriage for the sake of our marriage, but also—listen to me—for the sake of our children.
They’re going to marry an imperfect person. They have to know how two selfish, imperfect people live together in the most intimate of all relationships. It’s your marriage—as imperfect as it may be / as ours is—that gives children the very finest teaching and modeling of what forgiveness looks like.
We’ve had an argument sometimes—and Barbara and I have been arguing in front of the kids, and they’re just—life has stopped. They’re just locked on us like little radar units—reminds me of the African proverb that says: “When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers.” I’ve stopped and I’ve said: “Okay, kids; your mom and I have a disagreement; alright? We love each other; we’re committed; we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to reschedule this argument for a later time. Don’t fret / don’t worry.”
Forgiveness of one another is very, very important. Ruth Bell Graham said, “Marriage is the union of two forgivers.”
Barbara: Number 7: “The greatest threat in any marriage is losing a teachable heart.” A teachable heart means your heart is receptive, spiritually / it’s open, spiritually. It also means that you have a humble heart—a heart that’s willing to grow, a heart that’s willing to learn, a heart that’s open to truth and to change. I have a question for you: “As you think about these principles, and this one in particular, are you willing to grow and to change in your marriage? Are you willing to change as an individual? Are you open to what God might want to do in your heart to change you?”
Dennis: A disciple is a learner—you have to be teachable to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Barbara: And as long as we have breath, God has stuff He wants to work on in our hearts. We are never going to stop growing and changing—that’s a commitment that we have made to one another in our marriage.
On Tuesday, when I spoke to the women / Tuesday morning, one of the things I talked to the women about was the idea of not quitting in your marriage. I shared that you can stay married and quit. When you stay married and quit, it means you slammed the door shut on being teachable and on growing and being receptive, spiritually.
In Mark 6:5-6 it says that Jesus “marveled at the people’s unbelief.” I want to ask you now: “Is Jesus marveling at your faith, or is He marveling at your unbelief?” A teachable heart is one that’s open to faith / it is growing. A closed heart is one that has chosen unbelief. If you want your marriage to thrive—and grow and become all that God intends for it to be—you must maintain and cultivate a teachable heart.
Dennis: Number 8: “Every couple needs a mentor couple who is one lap ahead of them in the seasons of life.” This is so important. We are not commanded in Scripture to do life alone. You need someone in your life that you have given access to who can speak truth to you—who can correct, instruct, encourage / cheer on. The question is: “Who’s your mentor?” And maybe a more important question is: “Who are you mentoring?”
One of the problems, if you live long enough, is your mentors begin to die. We had some great men and women / some couples who have mentored Barbara and me. It’s left a hole in our lives, because they have spoken truth into our lives; but that doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t have mentors to be able to speak truth into you.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to the first half of a message that Dennis and Barbara Rainey shared with an audience onboard the Love Like You Mean It marriage cruise, back in February.
This really is a distillation of what has guided your marriage / your family over the 40-plus years that the two of you have been married.
Dennis: I was thinking, as I was listening back there—it’s really an application of all the Scripture and all the mentoring, like I mentioned, that we’ve been given applied to our lives—and in one word it’s called wisdom. It’s godly skill in everyday living. It’s taking the raw components of life, weaving them together according to God’s design. There’s no place on the planet, Bob, like a marriage and family where we need to know God’s design and His blueprints.
Bob: Yes. And you know that the folks who are regular listeners to our program understand that. That’s why they’re regular listeners here, because they’re part of the dialogue we’re having every day on these kinds of critical issues related to marriage and family.
We just need to stop here and say, “Thank you,” to the group that is foundational to all that we’re doing, here, at FamilyLife—that would be our Legacy Partners. Legacy Partners are folks who have let us know that they’re going to be contributing monthly to this program. Together, as a group, they provide the financial backbone to cover the cost of producing and syndicating this program and enabling us to reach more people, day in and day out, than we’ve ever reached before with FamilyLife Today. “Thank you,” to those of you who are Legacy Partners.
Let me just say to those of you who are regular listeners: “We’d love to have you join the team. Have you ever thought about making FamilyLife an organization that you support each month?” If you feel like what we’re doing here is significant, we’d invite you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com and learn more about becoming a Legacy Partner, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and just let us know that you’d like to become a monthly contributor to this ministry. Again, our website—FamilyLifeToday.com—or you can call 1-800-358-6329—
—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Just say, “I’m interested in becoming a Legacy Partner.”
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear the rest of the list / the rest of the things that are on Dennis and Barbara’s list of the top 20—I guess it went up to 22—things that you shared with folks recently about how to have a strong marriage and family. We’ll finish the list tomorrow. I hope you can be with us 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 will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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