LEADERSHIP & MINISTRY DEVELOPMENT SEMINAR
FOR PASTORS, MINISTERS, AND CHURCH LEADERS
JULY 10 – 12, 2007
Theme: THE FAMILY LIFE OF GOD’S MINISTER
Int. Evangelist, Marriage and Family Counselor, Bible Teacher, Author, Prayer Minister
Professor of Biology, Hampton, Virginia, USA
Founder and President, Fruitful Ministries International Inc. (FM Int.)
(Evangelistic & Teaching Ministry)
The family unit was designed by God as his primary earthly tool for manifesting Himself, portraying His glory to mankind, receiving and carrying out His commands on earth, and as the center of worship for God’s Kingdom on earth.
Marriage is the only earthly institution that God compares with the relationship between Christ and His Church (His Body) --- Eph. 5: 24-27; Rev. 19:7-9.
God set up three major institutions at the beginning of time:
1) Institution of Marriage --- Genesis 1:27-31 & 2:18-25.
2) Institution of the Church --- Mathew 16:18; Col. 1:18; Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28.
3) Institution of Government --- Romans 13:1-7.
Of all three institutions, marriage is the highest on earth, followed by the church (its pastors, ministers, different servants, and all the saints). Any form of good government, society, or nation, must therefore flow from good marriages and productive families, accompanied by good, spiritual, fruitful churches and their leaders.
Marriage is the foundation for the family, and families are the foundation for all societies and nations. We have to note that God instituted marriage before the church was founded. Your marriage and family life should therefore be your highest priority, and should receive the maximum attention more than your education, work, position of authority or responsibility, ministry, and other activities or ambitions.
Any Minister, servant, or child of God who focuses on his or her ministerial activities and achievements without making marriage and family life the most important concern, has woefully misplaced his or her priorities. Such a minister, church leader, or servant of God will be unbalanced, in addition to violating God’s principles for ministry.
“ A bishop (elder, pastor, overseer) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3: 2-5).
A real spiritual, devoted, wise, balanced, and focused minister, will understand God’s purpose for marriage and family life, the importance of these institutions for society and especially the Church of Jesus Christ. If Pastors, Evangelists, Teachers, other Ministers, and Church Leaders do not focus on teaching their congregations and followers the importance of full commitment to their marriages and their family lives, then they would be preaching a diluted Gospel, and doing incalculable damage to the Church and the Kingdom of God.
The following are some of the major factors that underscore (emphasize) the importance of Marriage and Family Life:
1) The Family Is The Foundation Of The Church And Every Nation
God created one man and one woman to marry and form the institution of family at the beginning of time, in order for families to manage and enjoy what God created on earth. The family unit is the foundation of every other institution, community, and nation. Show me a weak church or nation, and I will show you the weak families in that church or nation. Conversely, a strong church or nation implies strong families within that church or nation. If we focus on building healthy and strong families, our ministerial, community, and national plans will succeed and yield better results, and our citizens will also be more responsible and united.
2) God’s Blessings Are Family Blessings
Genesis 12: 1-3
God originally planned that families should be the channels for all of His blessings for mankind. Every blessing of God that comes into your life is, in reality, a blessing for your family. Your success or failure is therefore not for you alone; it is for your home and family first, and for everyone else around you as well. The first thing God did to the first married couple (Adam and Eve) was to bless them (Genesis 1: 28). After the sin and fall of man, God made fresh plans to use His covenant with Abraham and his family as the point of contact to bless all other families of the earth.
3) The Family Is The Best Name Used By God For All Believers In Heaven And On Earth
Ephesians 3: 14-21; Galatians 6: 10.
Apart from the term “Body of Christ” which is commonly used as a term for all believers in Christ (The Church), the term “Family” is the best that God uses for all Believers in Heaven and on the Earth (Ephesians 3: 15). Another term used is “Household of Faith” (e.g. Galatians 6: 10), which also pertains to family life. God refers to all those in Heaven and on earth that belong to Him as His family, connected by His tremendous power and love. The term “family” is the best that God could use for all universal Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ (Christians), plus those in Heaven. Indeed, all Christians share a common Holy Spirit (Spirit of Jesus or Spirit of God), and share common biblical principles that create a common bond for the Church (Body of Christ). Nothing else can best describe this strong bond of fellowship apart from the concept of family. Our family connections and obligations should therefore constitute the strongest connections we have in the world.
4) God’s Executes His Plans On Earth Through Family Lines Of Inheritance
Mathew 1: 1-17
When I first accepted Jesus and became a Christian 38 years ago (1969), I usually skipped the reading of Mathew 1: 1-17 and began from Mathew chapter one verse 18, whenever I opened that part of the Bible, because it appeared very boring and meaningless to me. After a while I came to understand that without that portion, the Bible would not even exist, because the whole of the scriptures centered on all those families mentioned. The genealogy, beginning from Abraham, finally gave birth to the earthly family of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God emphasizes the importance of family by taking time to enumerate families, and even attaches the names of fathers to the names of His servants (e.g. Isaiah the son of Amoz – Isaiah 1:1, or Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah – Nehemiah 1:1). It is even true among us, that we usually derive our own lessons and inspiration by recounting the names, bravery, and achievements of our parents, grandparents, the ancestors of our families.
5) God’s Covenant And Revelations Are For Our Descendants And Families
Genesis 17: 1-12; Deuteronomy 29: 29; & Isaiah 54: 3, 13
God seeks to make a Blood covenant through the Blood of Jesus with anyone who is His child in Christ. The covenant of God is a divine, spiritual, unbreakable agreement that is designed to affect and all the generations of the person. God reveals or shows things to you (including showing or confirming to you whom to marry, what career to pursue, what ministry to engage in etc.) in order for you to obey and worship Him, especially you and your children and other family members. God considers the family unit so important that He does not do anything on earth without some reference to family, children, or generations. One of God’s primary purposes is to pour enough of His grace and blessings into families for them to become a blessing to others, and transfer the physical, spiritual, and social legacy to children in the family who will in turn pass the good things on to their children. This is why God gives children in marriages --- to build very strong families that are spiritually sound under the control of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Families that humbly manage His resources and blessings wisely, train their children to do the same, and promote the expansion of God’s Kingdom, are the best families.
6) Jesus Came To The Earth To Save Mankind Through A Family
Mathew 1: 18-25
God’s ultimate salvation plan was through a family --- Joseph and Mary, the earthly parents of Jesus. It is important to note that when God decided to finally come down from Heaven to save mankind, He chose a prospective husband and his wife in a family setting, to be born, dwell, prepare Himself, and minister to us before finally laying down His life to die for us on the Cross. Is it wise then, for many of us to ignore our spouses and other family members when making plans or engaging in activities, which ultimately affect them as well? How many marriages and families are having problems today and are even dysfunctional, because a husband, father, wife, mother, son, daughter, or some other family member would not become humble and communicate properly, or involve other important family members in a project or day-to-day activities for better results? It is true that we should avoid unnecessary in-law and other family interferences in marriages and other family affairs; but that is not a legitimate excuse for self-centered lifestyles that cut off other family members or even a spouse, in order to be greedy and enjoy good things alone in an un-loving and selfish way.
7) God Placed Family In The Middle Of The 10 Commandments
Exodus 20: 12-17
God considers the family unit so important that He put family in the middle of the 10 Commandments (Commandment number 5). Honoring your father and your mother was the first Commandment of God with a promise attached --- for longer life on earth. It is the first of the Commandments that formed the basis of the other Commandments that detail our duties to man. The common saying: “Charity begins at home”, is therefore true, isn’t it? Your main character is molded in the home where you lived and was brought up. How people see you outside is exactly how you are at home and among your family members. Unfortunately for us, parenting started in the sinful state of man, and is a tough assignment. But that is no excuse for doing a poor job by not training children under your supervision to learn how to respect authority, use resources wisely, become honest and diligent, build moral character, and take responsibility for their actions. When parents and adults open their hearts to the Spirit of Jesus as their Lord, and teach children to do the same, the training becomes easier as the entire family meditates daily on God’s word, and enjoy fellowship with God in constant prayer.
8) God’s Work Is Designed To Be Done Effectively By Families
Nehemiah chapter 3
When Nehemiah was re-building the walls of Jerusalem, the project was accelerated and done effectively because individual family units, or family leaders and their followers within the community, teamed up enthusiastically and labored diligently alongside other families and groups. Each family was assigned a specific portion of the wall to construct, and everyone did a great job. The strongest labor unit within each nation or society is the family unit. In the olden days, most of the farming was done by groups of families, and families run many of the businesses, which later became family inheritance. No matter your calling and your gifting or resources, you are never alone in ministry without your family. The name you even carry around is a family name, and everything that happens to you affects everyone in your family.
It is unfortunate how many married Pastors, Evangelists, Other Ministers and Church Leaders are running ahead with their ministry and other services without any proper plan that involves their spouses and other family members in an appropriate way. Other ministers go to the other extreme by instituting meaningless ordination of their wives and children who sometimes have no calling at all in specific roles that they force them to occupy, simply because of the selfish motive of being in full control of the ministry as their personal property that no outsider should have a significant share in. We do not discount the fact that God could lead you in His will, to commission your spouse, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, sister, or in-law to occupy a higher office in your ministry or church, or be in charge of affairs after you have retired or died. But, this should be sanctioned by God, who is the real owner of every church and ministry, and must be in line with the gifts and calling of your child or family member in whose hands you are entrusting God’s holy things. It should not be engineered by your own personal desires and wishes, or motivated by an attempt to copy what you saw another minister doing, or trying to twist some portion of scriptural text as a pretext to execute your personal ambitions.
9) God’s Promises And Blessings For The Church, Are For Families
Acts 2: 37-39
When the New Testament Church was formally born (inaugurated by the Holy Spirit) on the Day of Pentecost, the Lord spoke through the Apostle Peter and firmly stated that the promise of His salvation and redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was for us, and for all of our children down the generation lines as well.
10) God’s Salvation Is Designed For Families
Acts 10: 2; Acts 16:31, 34; Acts 18: 8
God designed His salvation to be a divine plan that saves and delivers an individual plus his family members. It is never the will of God for you to be saved, while He refuses or neglects to save your parents, children, spouse, or other family members. God wishes to save our family members, but we must cooperate with Him and play our expected part which God cannot execute for us. It is our duty to persevere in prevailing prayer for our family members in order for them to be saved and delivered one day. We must ensure that we study and know God’s word, and live holy, orderly, consistent lives that convince them that the Christian life we live in the Lord and by His power, is worth embracing wholeheartedly. Our unsaved loved ones and outsiders must see that our lives preach the true gospel that declares loudly through our actions that Christ has abundant life and many other precious gifts to offer those who accept and live for the Lord.
This why Paul told the Jailor: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16: 31). God’s salvation is for your household --- your entire family, including everyone who lives in your home. In counseling, I have always encouraged people with unsaved loved ones to use this verse in the Bible as one of God’s promises that we can stand upon to pray for the salvation of our loved ones.
11) The Family Is A Small Church
1 Timothy 5: 1, 2
Every church is made up of families that form little churches within the big church. A strong church implies strong families within that church, or vice versa.
“Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Timothy 1: 1, 2).
In this passage, God instructs us how to treat each other as church members. The words ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’, and ‘sister’, are all derived from family life. It means that we are to be trained to know these family categories and their meanings at home, and bring to church and use the father, mother, brother, and sister concept to organize our churches and be able to fellowship together very well. Therefore, if parents, guardians, and elders, do not take time to teach children and young people how to respect designated authorities in their homes and families, they grow up to be irresponsible adults who do not know how to respect and treat people properly. They consequently bring this spirit and habit to church. One role or purpose of the church then, is to teach people the value of family life and its vital components. We therefore come to church to learn how to become better fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. Then we go home to practice the scriptural principles we received, and return the next Sunday to thank and praise God for the fruit we produced during the week, especially in our marriages, homes, and family interactions.
12) Obedience, Training, Love, And All Values, Are Centered In The Home And Family
Ephesians 6:1-9; Colossians 3: 18-25
Family values are the foundational values for successful life, rooted in God’s word. It is the home and its associated family life that we learn how to love and share all things, pray, study God’s word, forgive, practice diligence, take responsibility for our actions, and learn all the necessities for a successful life. The raising and training of children to become mature, healthy, responsible, and fruitful adults, take place in homes and families. The home and its family life setting is where obedience and fear of God are taught for the first time, and that is where fathers give the first impression about God the father to children. Children and adults alike learn to be responsible and disciplined in our homes and families. If we do not recognize these factors and expect any persons or agency outside of our homes and family circles to accomplish training and impartation of values for us, then we have grossly misfired, and will reap the tragic results of failure in human lives, including even active church members and church leaders who pay no special attention to their home and family affairs.
13) Talents, Gifts, And Skills Are Developed And Blossomed In Homes And Families
Psalm 128; Proverbs 31: 10-31
During the processes of home activities, marriage relationships, and family interactions, all of our talents, gifts, and abilities are properly developed, tried, used, perfected, and further prepared for greater application to bless others. Adults impart their wisdom, talents, trades, and skills to growing children as well as adults who take time to master their individual skills, and young people take after their parents, elders, and mentors.
The true qualities and value of a woman are ultimately brought out and exhibited in a marriage, home, and family setting. It is the duty of a husband to live in obedience to God’s word, love his wife, encourage the woman to grow to full maturity, and develop all of her talents and skills to support the husband and family (Psalm 128: 1-4).
14) God Designed His Word For Successful Family Life
Isaiah 59: 21; Deuteronomy 29: 29; Acts 20: 20; Psalm 128;
God planned that His word should produce its ultimate and eternal results for successful marriage and family life. If marriage is the only human institution compared with the relationship between Christ and the Church, then any word for mankind is intended to finally produce its lasting effects on marriage and family life. Every word from God for an individual or group should finally become a word for the family that the person or persons belong to. When we obey God’s instructions and receive God’s grace and God’s blessings, we deposit the end results in our marriages, homes, and families.
A truly committed minister or church leader will recognize the value of marriage and family life in ministry as a whole, and especially for his particular ministry that God has called him or her to carry out and bring to fulfillment (finish). God speaks to us in church, at prayer meetings, and at retreats and other Christian gatherings. Above all, God’s speaks a lot to us alone. Do we take time to listen?
We must take note of a few examples such as the following:
1) When the time was ripe for God to finally come down to accomplish His purposes on earth, He visited Mary (mother of Jesus) at home and not in the synagogue (Luke 1: 26-38).
2) When God spoke to the earthly father of Jesus before His birth, God spoke to Joseph at home on his bed at night (Mathew 1: 19, 20), and not in church or at a prayer meeting.
3) After God officiated the marriage ceremony of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and pronounced blessings on them as husband and wife (Genesis 1:27-30), God continually visited them in their home (in the Garden) to have intimate fellowship with them (Genesis 3: 8).
Woe unto you if God stops visiting your home and marriage to fellowship with you, instruct you, and supervise you after your wedding!
4) When God informed King Hezekiah that it was time for him to die, God did not ask him to preach to the nation Israel or even hold a special prayer and teaching conference; God told him to “set his house in order” (2 Kings 20: 1).
It implies that God is mostly concerned about the effective organization of your domestic matters, and proper order of your marriage, home, and family life more than any other aspect of your life ---- more than your preaching, sacrifices, savings, investments, buildings, establishing of churches or ministries, and your programs.
QUESTION: AS GOD’S SERVANT OR LEADER, IS YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER NOW?
Your marriage and family life will flourish if you genuinely humble yourself to learn and know God Almighty who originated and made the plans for successful marriage and family life. We can know God personally by studying and knowing His word, and applying it consistently to our daily lives. Opening of our hearts to God’s word will open the doors of revelation from God, for us to know more of God’s character and God’s ways for our family life and ministries that we are called to fulfill.
God laments when “the priests (ministers) handling His law do not (really) know Him, and therefore even the prophets prophesy by Baal” (Jeremiah 2: 8). God urges His children to make very diligent and consistent efforts to persevere and know Him personally (have a very intimate relationship with God).
Most often our marriages, plans to marry, family lives, and ministry, do not prosper as God intended, because we do one of the following:
1) We refuse to become humble and learn.
We therefore become ignorant about the real meaning of marriage and family life, relationships, and even the importance and implications of our particular ministries.
2) We forget what we learn and are expected to know.
We get our minds, hearts, and activities crowded with non-essentials and selfish ambitions that block or wipe out God’s instructions for real life in our homes and personal lives.
3) We neglect important instructions or become too lazy to obey.
The Holy Spirit will always faithfully bring God’s instructions to our remembrance. It is our duty to die to ourselves and develop the desire to obey, until we acquire the delight to obey.
4) We do not take God’s word to heart, and we live in partial obedience.
When we become successful in our minds and eyes, and get the praises of men showered on us, we are deceived by the flesh and the devil to become masters of our marriages, family life, ministries, and successes. Sometimes too we believe that we have the right to take portions of God’s instructions and obey because God has not been fair to us, and some past strict obedience did not work very well for us. This is what happened to Moses. He did not recognize the seriousness of God’s instructions, and made it business as usual to carry out strict orders. He ended up not fulfilling his ultimate destiny by entering and occupying Canaan (Deuteronomy 32: 48-52 & 34: 4-7).
5) We intentionally reject God’s instructions.
Sometimes we defiantly kick against God’s word and His divine instructions with hardened hearts like Pharaoh or the people of Sodom. The deceitfulness of sin fools us to think we can get away with things, but then we create the recipe for our own destruction.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest (minister, pastor, evangelist, church leader) for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (followers, congregation members, etc.).
Ministers and leaders should not simply know about God and preach sermons or give teachings to their followers who will be like them in possessing much head knowledge and not practical heart knowledge that enables them to know God’s true nature and His will for their lives.
“Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord” (Hosea 6: 3).
Since your home, marriage, and family life affect you more than any other aspect of your life, you must humble yourself to learn and know how best to lead a holy, fruitful life that fully glorifies God within the context of your home and family life. You prepare and leave home to minister and serve others, and return to your home finally with the blessings and results of your activities.
When God’s ordained or appointed minister is admonished, cautioned, and encouraged in the scriptures to fulfill and finish his or her ministry, it applied to the diligent efforts to finish marrying and establishing a successful family life as well. Not only preaching, writing of books, holding of seminars and conferences, building of cathedrals, working of miracles, and getting large followers.
Christians are commanded to bear fruit (St. John 15: 1-8, 16). However, fruit is obtained only at the end of complete growth and flowering of a plant. We cannot see the complete fruit of our labor and investment for our spouses, children, in-laws, and other family members, if we do not persevere in faith to finish marrying our spouses, finish training our children, and finish relating very well to our in-laws, and finish loving our family members.
There are numerous references in the Bible and throughout history, regarding the need to finish good things we start. True Ministers of the Gospel like the Apostle Paul, Timothy, and Archippus, as well as the Lord Jesus, emphasized the importance of finishing God’s Mission on earth. In His High Priestly Prayer in St. John chapter 17:4, Jesus pronounced that His work was finished. He said this before going to the Cross, and He therefore made His pronouncement by faith.
Jesus knew very well that He had been doing God’s will consistently, and was therefore convinced that He would by all means finish and end everything very well.
This kind of close, humble, obedient, and faith walk, should be true of every servant of God, especially for his or her marriage, household activities, and family life. The world must see the completion of tasks that God assigns to His servants in their homes and outside of their homes, for the results to become the shining testimony that fulfills God’s plans and purposes.
We should not be like Moses who received tremendous power and responsibility from God, but could not finish entering and possessing the promised Land to completely finish his assignment, because of one disobedience that God considered as very serious because Moses did not honor God before the Israelites.
“I (Paul) have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4: 7).
“But you (Timothy) be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4: 5).
“And say to Archippus, ‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it” (Colossians 4: 17).
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (St. John 13: 1).
“Jesus said to them (the Disciples), ‘My food (what nourishes Me, gives Me strength, delights Me, concerns Me, requires the investment of my energy and finances etc.) is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (St. John 4: 34).
“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit” (St. John 19: 30).
We can see clearly that the goal of Jesus was to finish doing God’s will on earth as God’s Messenger and Redeemer.
If a pastor, minister, church leader, or ministry leader of any kind finishes preaching, teaching, and serving others in any capacity, but does not end up with a good testimony about his her marriage and family life, then that person has failed in his primary ministry to his own household, and therefore did not obtain an excellent grade as someone who completely fulfilled his or her ministry as scripture requires.
Many ministers and servants of God involve their spouses and family members marginally in their ministries, or leave them out completely, for several reasons. Since a husband and his wife are one flesh in the Lord, it is a serious violation of God’s principle if one spouse has a ministry that the other mate is deliberately or unintentionally denied participation in as God expects. If one partner does not show interest, then the serving and committed partner must pray and work diligently with the Lord’s help until the apathetic or backslidden mate develops the required interest.
No matter your circumstances, it is God’s will for your calling to be intimately related to your first ministry --- your marriage, home, and family life. Each Pastor, Minister, or Servant of God, must go before the Lord in prayer and ask Him for wisdom that will enable him or her to adequately involve the spouse, children, parents, and other family members in his or her particular ministry. Each family member could be involved to different degrees. At least family members can pray and sometimes offer suggestions and encouragement, or support the ministry in kind and by other efforts. It is God’s will for you to leave a spiritual and social legacy behind in your family after you are gone into glory.
A few points to ponder over for Family Ministry are:
1) Aim At Biblical Christ-Centered Ministry Of Reconciliation
Every ministry must be based upon Christ and His finished work on the Cross, that reconciled us to God. Every ministry is therefore a ministry of reconciliation, and should be tied to a word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5: 18, 19). You cannot have a ministry without having the word of God that goes with that ministry. A marriage or family with divisions and without a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation ruling in that family cannot be God’s choice for effective ministry, and the family members would not receive the blessings of God for that ministry.
2) Have A Vision And Share Your Vision
Develop a sharp ministerial vision from your dreams through faith, prayer, and enlightenment of God’s word. Make time to share your dreams and vision with your spouse and family, and patiently teach your spouse or family members to catch your vision.
3) Get Ready
Prepare and sanctify yourselves through prayer, effective Bible studies, and open discussions. Make a list of all your talents, gifts, and resources as a couple, or as family members, and assess which areas in ministry that each talent could be used effectively (2 Timothy 2: 20, 21; Isaiah 40: 30, 31).
4) Develop Unity
Avoid selfish ministry that have impure motives. Do not allow selfish ambition, ego, and desire for personal prosperity to divide your home and family, and destroy the unity without which the Holy Spirit would not move in your lives to manifest God’s power. Look for common ground to further your relationships and to become mutually engaged in serving the Lord. That will enable you to take positive steps to deepen the individual as well as the corporate interest and zeal in your ministry. “Every city or house divided against itself will not stand” (Mathew 12: 25).
5) Be Committed To Duty And Be Focused
Seek to develop absolute devotion and commitment to the ministry unconditionally. Look for your praise and rewards only from God. Avoid trade-offs and attractions or suggestions of the enemy that could blur your vision, cause you to deviate from your original calling, cloud your mind, and hinder your progress. Colossians 3: 23-25; Romans 12: 1, 2; Hebrews 12: 1, 2.
6) Evaluate And Affirm
Engage in frequent and appropriate evaluations and affirmations that would help you to develop better insights, make corrections, reinforce strong areas, avoid or drop what is not in God’s will for your initiatives, and infuse faith, courage, and enthusiasm into your hearts for perseverance in ministry. Haggai 1: 2-14.
7) Maintain Holy And Righteous Standards
Do the best you can, and depend entirely upon the Lord to guard the faith and holiness of your ministry. You can do so by living and walking in the Spirit, through daily application of scriptures, and obedience to God’s word. Do not allow immoral acts, covetousness, and desire for wealth or popularity to infiltrate and quench the original fire or taint the purity of your ministry.
8) Be Faithful
Strive to remain faithful to God, your spouse, your family, and your ministry, in order to fulfill your calling, and receive the blessings that God reserves for His faithful servants. Luke 16: 10; Mathew 24: 45; Mathew 25: 23; Psalm 31: 23; Psalm 101: 6; Proverbs 20: 6; Revelations 2: 10.
Commitment to God, true love, and commitment to one another, must form the foundation of our marriages, family lives, and all productive relationships. A few points in this regard, are:
1) Both partners in a marriage relationship are to love one another deeply.
2) The husband is commanded by God to have a more concentrated and greater love for his wife.
3) God commands the wife to humbly submit to her own (chosen) husband’s headship and leadership in order to invoke more love from him, and be able to help him to become the leader that God intends him to be.
4) We are to owe no man anything except love (Rom. 13:8). “Love works no evil towards your neighbor” (Rom. 13:10), and will enable you not to devise any evil plans for your spouse, children, parents, or other family members.
5) God expects us to be rooted and grounded in love” (Eph. 3:17). We are to practice love and become rooted first, in order to absorb nutrients in the marriage and family, to grow and bear fruit; but we must consistently persevere to practice love and get a deep tap root that enables us to be grounded enough so as to have the stability and strength to stand the trials and endure the hard places of marriage, family life, and ministry. Then we can “forbear one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). God is love (1 John 4:8), and He alone teaches us to love one another, as “the love of God is (continuously) shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5).
(THE PRESSURE POINTS IN MARRIAGES)
There are 5 most important areas in every marriage that work together to make the institution a whole (complete) marriage that is productive. Any of these areas that is left unattended or partially attended, could be the source of trouble in the relationship. Every problem in our marriage and family lives could be traced to some trouble or a weakness in one or more of these major and essential components. Every minister, counselor, parent, elder, or guardian who prepares and counsels any man or woman for marriage, must ensure that he or she has focused adequately in all 5 areas during the counseling and preparation process.
Effective communication is the blood of all relationships, and must be kept alive at all times. To be an effective communicator you need to observe 5 major principles:
a) Choose the right (best) time to speak.
b) Choose the right place to make your statements.
c) Choose the right words (that fit the occasion and the need).
d) Choose the right attitude (attitude gives color to actions --- behavior, body language etc.).
e) Choose the right tone of voice (no matter how upset, frustrated, anxious, angry, etc. you are).
2) Sex And Romance
Marriage is a sexual relationship. Sexual intercourse and all sexual activities must be properly handled in a romantic, loving, and meaningful way. Romance means your whole attitude and actions towards your lover. Throughout your marriage and family life interactions, you must be creative in different ways that will enable you to be romantic to your spouse and family members. God (and society) expects each of us to be romantic and not sexy. You can therefore have sex in a very un-romantic way.
Sex in a marriage must be:
i) Frequent, with moderation (not too much or too little).
ii) Prepared or planned for, and wisely conducted.
iii) Romantic, delightful, and exciting.
iv) Well done to be enjoyable and satisfying.
viii) Part of our stewardship (managers of God’s gifts and resources).
3) Finances, Plus Choice Of Career And Job
Don’t be led astray by abundance; don’t trust in riches (Prov. 11: 28; Psalm 52:7; Jer. 9: 23; Mark 4: 19; Luke 8: 14). “If riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10).
A few of the biblical principles of financial management (stewardship) and faithfulness are:
i) God owns everything --- Psalm 24:1; 1 Tim. 6:17.
ii) God is (and should be) your only source --- Deut. 8:18; Proverbs 10:22; 1 Chron. 29:12.
iii) The Lord’s blessing makes a person rich, without any additional problems --- Prov. 10:22. Therefore, if God does not bless you, then you can never be truly rich in this world.
iv) Understand God’s purposes for wealth: To establish a covenant with you --- Deut. 8:18.
v) God gives you wealth so that you can give to bless others. God uses what you have to meet the needs of others --- 2 Cor. 9:11, 12.
vi) God expects you to use your resources to honor Him, for worship, and for thanksgiving --- Prov. 3: 9, 10; 2 Cor. 9: 11, 12.
vii) God promises to meet all of your needs --- Philippians 4:19; 2 Cor. 9: 8-10.
viii) When you honor God with your possessions, he blesses you with more possessions ---
Prov. 3: 9, 10.
ix) God expects you to use all of your talents and energy to work hard --- 1 Thess. 4:11, 12; 2 Thess. 3:10; Prov. 10:4; 1 Cor. 4:12. “Diligence is man’s precious possession” (Proverbs 12:27)
x) God does not want us to trust in our riches --- Prov. 11:28; 1 Tim. 6:17; Psalm 62:10.
xi) God requires you to yield all of yourself, money, and resources to His control --- 2 Cor. 8:5.
xii) God wants us to “use our riches to do good, and become rich in good works, and store up a good eternal foundation for ourselves” (1 Tim. 17-19)
xiii) God requires us to share. You must share money and resources equally in your marriage. God warned that has if you cheat your wife, your prayers will be hindered (answers from God will be blocked) --- 1 Peter 3:7; Gal. 6:6, 10; Heb. 13:16.
xiv) It is an obligation for you to provide for your immediate family and relatives --- 1 Tim. 5:8.
xv) God expects you to excel in giving --- 2 Cor. 8: 1-7
xvi) God wants you to give willingly --- 2 Cor. 8: 3, 4 & 9:7; Col. 3:23; Eph. 6:6.
xvii) God wants you to give lovingly and cheerfully --- 2 Cor. 9:7.
xviii) Give wisely and responsibly; avoid being like Ananias and Sapphira --- 2 Cor. 9:7; Acts 5:1-11.
xix) Give sincerely, and complete your giving --- 2 Cor. 8:10-12.
xx) Always use Christ as your standard of giving in love--- 2 Cor. 8:9.
xxi) Know that God uses money and resources to open doors of opportunity --- Luke 16:9.
xxii) Learn to save and invest --- Mathew 25:14-30.
xxiii) Have the right attitude towards retirement. No matter your savings and investments, you must still depend on God to be your ultimate supplier and provider.
4) In-Law Relations
An example of what I consider as one of the best in-law relations, is the one between Moses and his father-in-law Jethro. Moses focused on informing Jethro and making him know and see “what God had done”, and “Jethro therefore rejoiced and blessed the Lord for all the good which the Lord had done for Israel” (Exodus 18: 8-12).
The Apostle Peter also had a good relationship with his mother-in-law; otherwise she would not have been at home waiting to serve Peter, plus Jesus, and the other disciples, when they went out ministering (Mark 1: 29-31).
Let us take note of the following:
1) God requires that you make provision for your relatives and in-laws without ignoring or neglecting them (1 Timothy 5:8).
2) Your in-laws should be loved and respected. They invested heavily in your spouse before you met him or her, and some still continue to invest even after you are married.
3) Be a testimony and a witness to your in-laws. Minister lovingly to them, for them to know and serve God as you do.
One of the best attitudes I propose to people for marriage is: consider the home and family that you took your wife from, or got your husband from, as your mission field. That will help you to be more tolerant with the weaknesses of your spouse and in-laws, find the best ways to deal with their mistakes, and have the power to deal with any evil activities of your in-laws. Then you can patiently demonstrate the love, grace, power, and works of God to them consistently.
Most people who write on marriage family life usually focus on the first four points, and do not mention faith, especially because several of them are not committed Christians. Faith, however, is very important, because your beliefs shape your thinking, actions, practices, likes, dislikes, methods, and lifestyle.
**God has warned us in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 that a true Christian MUST marry a Christian man or woman. There is no middle road or shades of gray in this matter ---- it crystal clear. If you disobey, you will finally pay for the consequences, sooner or later**
Then comes the hard work of the necessary agreement between the two of you regarding your core beliefs, and how you understand and express your faith for different things, under different circumstances. There could be a fierce battle of minds and opinions for belonging one particular denomination, attending one particular church, paying of tithes and offerings, prayer, Bible study and interpretation of different scriptures, what is truly sinful and what is not, good and bad habits, spiritual gifts (typically tongues and revelations), and involvement in church programs.
Every couple must know that a husband and his wife must have faith that produces and promotes common agreement, for unity, joint training of the children, joint worship (in church and at home), and joint service to the glory of God.
Important Investments Required By A Husband (The Head)
There are at least 11 specific investments that God requires a husband to make into the life of his wife, marriage, and family life, in order to overcome the hurdles the couple would encounter as the deal with the 5 pressure points I have enumerated.
If the woman encourages the man to make all the investments that God has instructed, then the marriage will yield the profits of the blessings and quality of life the husband expects from his wife (and vice versa), and what both expect to see in the marriage as a whole.
These 11 investments of a husband are found in Ephesians 5:21-33 & 1 Peter 3:7:
a. Submit to her (mutual submission by both partners, based upon the fear of God as the starting point for any successful marriage) --- Eph. 1:21.
b. Love her --- Eph. 5:25, 28, 33.
c. Sanctify her (using the word of God to as water to wash your wife) --- Eph. 5:26.
d. Present her to yourself clean (delight to draw her closer, embrace her totally, merge with her, feel her in and out, let her infect you completely) --- Eph. 5:27).
e. Nourish her (emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually) with the best loving and encouraging words, ideas, actions, and attitudes --- Eph. 5:29.
f. Cherish her (treat her as very precious, make her number one, celebrate her, be excited about her) --- Eph. 5:29.
g. Dwell with her (marry her permanently, never leave her, don’t ever dream of divorcing her, take time to spend quality time with her) --- 1 Peter 3:7.
h. Understand her (as an opposite sex with a different make-up, different background, unique characteristics, dreams and desires, expectations and hopes) --- 1 Peter 3:7.
i. Give her honor (confer exclusive distinction on her, give her the best position of respect and dignity, admire and praise her, appreciate her efforts) --- 1 Peter 3:7.
j. Regard her as the weaker vessel (treat her gently, lovingly, and patiently as a woman without your robust masculine muscles and hard bones) --- 1 Peter 3:7.
k. She is a joint her by obligation (you vowed that she will inherit all things together with you; do not cheat her, share all resources equally with her) --- 1 Peter 3:7.
The level (richness) of your mercy and forgiveness towards your spouse or any person is dependent upon the extent of your love for your spouse or that individual, and further determines how far you wish to go to resolve conflicts with the person.
“God, is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us. Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2: 4-6).
We can learn from God that even if your spouse or family member is “dead” in any area of your marriage and family life (spiritually, sexually, romantically, socially, etc.) and has become very stubborn, disobedient, immoral, cruel violent, apathetic, unenthusiastic, un-loving, uncaring, wasteful, etc., or even demonic oriented with very bad habits, the one can still come alive through your love, mercy, prayers, and diligent efforts. We can then make our marriages, homes, and families revived again, sit and converse together, and enjoy the fellowship and benefits of marriage and family life.
The Place of Anger in Relationships
Despite the fact that anger is a foundation of conflict and consequently one of the primary hindrances to agreement, we must accept sincere and righteous indignation or anger as a natural, healthy, and vital part of the normal life God designed for mankind.
Anger is one of the beneficial emotions God created and put in us for our protection, expression of our feelings in support of what is wrong and opposition to what is wrong, and the pursuit of what is excellent.
After man disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all the precious and godly emotions that God Almighty freely imparted to us from His nature, were distorted by the sinful nature we acquired. The emotions of anger, jealousy, pleasure, fear etc. were tainted with iniquity, became influenced by the Devil and the sinful flesh, and became carnal and satanic agents that now fight the Divine plans of God for mankind.
We are therefore commanded: “Be angry, and (but) DO NOT sin; DO NOT let the sun go down on your anger (do net let it stay overnight without dealing with it)” (Ephesians 4:26). We should not, therefore suppress or repress anger in the home and in our relationships, or even in our church interactions, in a hypocritical, pretentious and carnal way.
If married couples, Church leaders, business executives, and political leaders have always been honest with their approvals and disapprovals, and were offered the right atmosphere and opportunity to express their anger or discontent in acceptable manner, most divorces, family tragedies, Church breakups, business collapses, and political setbacks could have been prevented. Most problems between stepchildren and stepparents would have been solved, and many children would have developed better relationships with their parents.
Some fathers and mothers become perfectly aware of the building resentment in their homes, but simply refuse to do anything about the mounting anger and discontent until things get out of hand. Under those conditions people sink into despair and degradation or become hardened and are driven into lifestyles that they originally never intended to develop.
When we feel offended, we should honestly admit that we are displeased or angry, when confronted, for the truth to come out and the matter bothering us to be resolved in love and peace. When you sense or observe resentment and anger in a companion, you should also confront the person in love, with genuine desire to be a peacemaker. You should not become a person with malice who seeks to investigate what is in people’s hearts in order to get weapons to use against them.
We should do the best we can to make people feel free to interact with us, in order not to create an atmosphere of fear, threats, intimidation, or competition that silence people and force them to keep all their disapprovals and anger in them no matter how they are treated.
If you have been helpful to your spouse, family member, in-law, friend, Christian brother or sister, it is not right to use your kindness to control the person. Do not cause the one to feel so obliged to you that you can mistreat the individual and expect him or her to swallow every abuse, cheating, foolishness, laziness, pride, disrespect, deception, infidelity, selfishness, or unloving attitude of yours without ever feeling offended and angry.
We need to train ourselves for the appropriate exposure to healthy expression of disapproval and anger from people close to us, or who receive our words and are influenced by our attitudes far and near. Some of them will offer us constructive criticism that will be helpful to us. We need such exposure to help organize our lives properly, learn how to improve upon our treatment of people, and deepen our love and understanding in our relationships.
We have to prayerful, wisely, and thoughtfully express our disapproval as humbly as possible WHEN IT IS NECESSARY TO DO SO.
Our companions should also give us listening ears that hear our voices as well as our hearts, and give us the right responses for us to resolve all matters properly and completely. We then take time to dialogue and negotiate appropriately, and help everyone on the team or in the relationship to gain the desired understanding for us to move on progressively.
If we bottle up anger in us for too long, we sink into deed-seated resentment and bitterness, or develop self-pity, depression, and silence that cut off fellowship with those around us. We can also accumulate piles of anger or cause our anger to become inflated till we explode in all directions for the burning debris to fall and harm everyone in contact with us.
We should, however, know that we are not to be immature and sensitive or without endurance in a disturbing way, always expressing anger at every little thing, and foolishly blowing out our anger in a destructive manner in public and in private.
Anger and foolishness are always closely linked together. “Do not hasten in your spirit (be quick) to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom (hearts) of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).
“So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath (anger); for the wrath (anger) of man does not produce (work) the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20).
The “destructive anger of man” that we possess can become transformed after receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord. After that it is our duty to allow our temperament to be controlled and directed by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, in order for our anger to become “righteous indignation” against what is wrong.
The results of our sanctified emotions work in favor of the righteousness of God for the extension of His Kingdom.
When Conflict Develops in Your Relationship
When you realize that disagreement is brewing between you and your companion, you begin to receive conflicting messages as to the interpretation of all the actions and utterances of the individual you associate with, whether good or bad. You can be irritated when he or she laughs or sings, and expresses happiness or sadness. On the other hand his or her silence can also “get on your nerves”. Nothing pleases you in such circumstances. If allowed to continue, the resentment can grow to unbelievable proportions such that everything of the person annoys you.
Your initial light resentment can develop into intense anger, bitterness, and even persecution. You will find yourself now going after the one directly or indirectly with evil intentions and unbelievable malice. This has happened in marriages where divorce, atrocious cheating, wicked schemes, and even physical harm and murder has resulted. The person’s pet or domestic animal (cat, dog, sheep etc.) can even suffer heat from your simmering anger if the animal comes into contact with you.
You can be so angry that you will not want to touch your companion’s food even when you are dying of hunger. That is when a husband or wife sleeps in a sofa in the living room, on a mat on the floor, in a separate bedroom or the children’s room for a long time.
I met a couple who were still married and do not engage in any violent fights, but have had their disagreement unresolved for so long that they had slept in two separate bedrooms in the same house for six years without any sexual activity for that period of time. In such situations a husband or wife can be driven out of the house by fired emotions into adultery and shameful relationships that usually result in tragedy.
Depression, abuse, divorce, immorality, suicide, and murder can be some of the consequences of unresolved conflicts in a home. Life under such circumstances can be a living hell!
You identify the root problem and break free from your bitterness by first focusing on “your nerves” which the one is “always getting on”, and deal with “those nerves”, using the right tools. Then you will become stable, think properly, analyze things objectively, and use wisdom (right mind) and inner strength (right heart) to handle yourself and the person. You must aim at lasting solutions that will benefit both of you and bless you with sweet companionship. We often attempt to deal with disagreements the wrong way and create more problems for everyone including ourselves.
Many of us also cowardly, deceitfully, or heartlessly ignore or pretend there is no disagreement, or try to say that “what is going on does not matter”, and bulldoze ahead with our agenda till the situation explodes or the relationship crumbles.
Benefits Of Agreement
I wish to emphasize here, that the efforts we put into working out agreement with our companions, especially family members who know us so well, have the tremendous benefits of:
1) Shaping and building excellent, godly character in us. Especially self-denial, love, humility, patience, forgiveness, self-control, faith, and endurance.
2) Making us grow to maturity in our thinking, speech, and behavior.
3) Enabling us to accept and live with people of different tribes, races, status, gender, ages, beliefs, temperaments, and maturity.
4) Offering us opportunities to know our own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of others close to us. We can then understand and work better with people.
5) Encouraging us to use our talents and gifts properly to bless people’s lives.
6) Having the cooperation and necessary companionship of close associates. We then get more accomplished from our efforts in life, especially in our homes and families.
Forgive And Forget
To forget an offence does not literally mean that it is impossible for it to come into your mind sometimes. What it really means is that you deliberately decide to forgive and NOT HOLD IT IN YOUR HEART AND MIND AGAINST THE PERSON ANYMORE. THEREFORE YOU INTENTIONALLY REFUSE TO ALLOW IT TO INFLUENCE AND CONTROL YOUR FEELINGS, ATTITUDE, AND ACTIONS TOWARDS THE INDIVIDUAL. YOU HAVE TO CONTINUOUSLY REMIND YOURSELF OF THIS PRIVATE COMMITMENT YOU HAVE MADE IN THE SECRECY OF YOUR HEART, AND WORK HARD (WITH GOD’S HELP) TO ALWAYS THINK, SAY, AND DO WHAT IS RIGHT UNTIL YOU TRAIN YOUR MIND AND HEART TO LOVE AND FELLOWSHIP WITH YOUR COMPANION AGAIN.
The final stage, and the icing on the cake in the process of conflict resolution and reconciliation, is the building of trust in the both parties involved in the conflict, especially the offended learning to build trust for the offender.
The person wounded and disappointed will find it hard to trust the other person whom he or she finds as unfaithful. The other fellow who caused the hurt can also develop mistrust for the one he or she offended because of the fear of the disappointed companion not trusting him or her anymore.
After dealing with offences and resolving all conflicts, the hurdle to overcome is the establishment of trust. We need to understand at least three very important characteristics of trust around which we can consequently concentrate our thoughts, mend broken trust, renew our trust for a beloved companion, and build deeper and more meaningful trust in our relationship:
1) Trust is a process, not an act or event. It is the process that takes the act of forgiveness to completion, and enables us to establish true love and fellowship with any neighbor or companion. You CANNOT achieve it as a flight by night or in one sprint, no matter how gigantic your initial effort is. Broken trust is like a broken bone --- it needs time to heal.
Without patience and consistent works of righteousness towards the person you are dealing with, you will forever struggle to trust your husband, wife, child, in-law, relative, or friend. I must confess to you that it can take you the patience of a donkey to trust some untrustworthy people again, as you wait to get convinced that you can open up wholeheartedly to them without getting wounded or disappointed AGAIN.
2) Because trust is a process, it has to be earned like a certificate and not simply given to anyone. Although we can deliberately decide or try to trust people or entrust things to them, even that is still a process of attempting to help the distrusted (or doubtful) person to earn some trust in order for us to have a foundation to trust him or her more.
AFTER CAUSING AN OFFENCE AND REPENTING, YOU WILL HAVE TO PROVE YOURSELF TRUSTWORTHY BY WHAT YOU DO (OR DON’T DO) FROM THEN ON, IN ORDER TO REPAIR THE BROKEN TRSUT, AND EARN MORE TRUST.
3) Trust is created and built in order to grow in size and strength with time, so as to meet the challenges in a relationship that demand deeper trust with changing seasons.
Remind yourself daily, that you will ultimately bring to your home and family, the results of all that you say and do anywhere. It is therefore wise and responsible on your part to make every effort to abide in righteousness, in order to invite God’s blessings into your home, and family life. God desires that your household becomes a vital part of the overall “household of faith” of all believers (Gal. 6:10).
Jesus said this about the sinful tax collector who humbly made his sincere prayer to God: “I (the Lord Himself) tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other (proud Pharisee); for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled (including his family, since he will not go home justified), and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18: 14).
Despite the fact that Cornelius was an officer in the army, and occupied a position that created difficult circumstances to practice any faith in God, he was able to become “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2).
We are exhorted constantly: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16: 31). We can see examples of the Jailor and Crispus the Ruler of the Synagogue in the Book of Acts, whose faith infected and influenced their whole households for them to believe as well (Acts 16:34; Acts 18:8).
Whole households can therefore be infected with wrong teaching as well, by “deceivers who subvert whole households” (Titus 1:10, 11).
“The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just” (Prov. 3:33)
“The house of the righteous will stand” (Prov. 12:7).