Marriage is the deepest form of relationship that exists among mankind. It is a precursor to the building of a home. In the sight of God, who created the institution of marriage: 1. Marriage is honorable (Hebrew 13:4) 2. Marriage is God's package of help for the fulfillment of our divine assignment on earth (Genesis 2:7-8, 15, 18-25) 3. Marriage is for the raising of godly seeds (Malachi 2:15-16) 4. Marriage provides leverage for greater productivity (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
The crucial place of a common vision in sustaining a fulfilling Marriage
However, the experience of many in our society today seems to be the reverse because of the terrible mistake of trying to run and maintain God's creation with human ideas. Ungodly concepts like prenuptial agreement (an agreement couples sign before marriage to protect their wealth and asset in event of divorce), common-law partners (people who co-habit as husband and wife, enjoy the benefits of marriage yet they are not willing to embrace the sacrificial commitment marriage demands) and many others strange concepts are getting increasing acceptance by carnally minded people who are not willing to live by the standard of God's word. Deep in the heart of many they do not even believe that a fulfilling marriage is attainable, hence a lot of these ideas to protect people's selfish interest. As committed believers, the only model to follow is God's model - the principle found in His word. THE PLACE OF PURPOSE IN THE MASTER PLAN FOR MARRIAGE In project management, there is an interesting word used to explain the relationship between activities - dependency. The erection of a roof, is mandatorily dependent on the building of the wall of the building. The erection of a building was is mandatorily dependent on the building of a foundation. Therefore as important as the main building is, it could never have existed without a foundation. Dependency defines the sequence of activities. In the account of creation, the first thing God gave Adam was an assignment, which can otherwise be referred to as a purpose for living. Marriage came as God's gift to Adam to provide him with the complimentary interpersonal support he needed to fulfill that assignment. Purpose was defined and revealed before marriage was created or initiated. The implication of this is that marriage by God's design is founded on a purpose and an assignment; two people; male and female collectively embrace and pursue. The visualization of this purpose and assignment is what is called vision. In a larger context, vision, purpose and assignment can be used interchangeably. This purpose is something we discover by the Holy Spirit and is not what a couple invents from their own imagination. When a couple disregards this commonly-shared purpose and begins to focus on personal pleasure, it is only a matter of time; the marriage will lose its meaning and most likely collapse. A shared purpose or common-vision is at the root of any relationship that will stand the taste of time. The Holy Spirit through prophet Amos unveils this wisdom: "Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?" Amos 3:3, NIV The question to ask is - unless they have agreed to do what? The New Living Translation makes even clearer "Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?" Amos 3:3, NLT This reveals an important truth; every relationship that will last must have a clearly defined direction - otherwise called a purpose or vision that the parties involved wholeheartedly embrace, pursue and help each other attain. Succinctly put, I would say that a lasting relationship (e.g. marriage) is founded on a common vision, fuelled by love and lubricated by mutual respect for each other. However, please note it must begin with a common-vision that the parties involved have agreed to embrace and wholeheartedly pursue. CASE STUDY 1 - PAUL AND BARNABAS How they met "When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him . . ." Acts 9:26-27, NIV Lesson: This was a stage of affirmation and faith in the person of Paul. A major relationship had not yet started. He met Paul briefly and was willing to vouch for his new identity as a disciple of Jesus. This was a stage of friendship. How the Partnership Began? "Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" Acts 11:25-26, NIV Lesson: From friendship, the relationship went on to a spiritual partnership focused on ministering to the saints. For them, their common-vision was to teach and raise disciples for Jesus. God Approves of this Partnership 'In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.' Acts 13:1-3, NIV . . . The partnership last a while and exploits are done "From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples." Acts 14:26-28, NIV Lesson: It is obvious that they (Paul and Barnabas) succeeded in this "first phase" of ministry and they had lots of testimony to share of God's doing through their partnership. However, something is waiting around the corner. Disagreement Breaks the Partnership Approved of God 'Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.' Acts 15:36-41, NIV Lesson: That a partnership (in our case marriage) is approved of God does not mean it will not come under trying situations; it does mean it will automatically succeed and remain a success without the necessary inputs of the people involved in the partnership. The people in the partnership (we in the marriage) must apply extra care to ensure that we maintain an atmosphere of unity needed to make the partnership work. With all the anointing and great prospects upon this partnership, it scattered because of disagreement. The question now - what is at the root of many disagreements today? The answer - Separate visions, the loss of focus on the common-vision and in some cases the common-vision still exist, however, the individuals have differing opinions on how to go about achieving this common-vision. The latter was the case of Paul and Barnabas - they both shared the vision of teaching and raising disciples but differed on how to go about it as regards which fellow worker they should take along. An issue as small as this, scattered a spiritual partnership that God himself endorsed. We must not only share and run with a common-vision as a couple; we MUST ensure at all times, we are progressing towards this common-vision with one heart and common strategy. Every difference in opinion must be prayerfully sorted out and focus maintained. CASE STUDY 2 - PAUL AND DEMAS Demas Started on a Good Note "Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house" Colossians 4:13-15, NIV "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers." Philemon 1:24, NIV Lesson: We see Deman working closely with trusted disciples like Dr Luke (the writer of Luke gospel and Acts of Apostles), Aritarchus (the never-say-dies co-worker and helper of Paul in ministry) and Mark. Birds of the same feathers flock together. There must have been something good about Demas. The only reason he could walk with such men was that he shared (at that point in time) in the common-vision (teach and raise disciples for Jesus). However, later on he changed. Worldliness Corrupts Demas "Make every effort to come to me soon. For Demas has deserted me for love of this present world and has gone to Thessalonica" 2 Timothy 4:9-10, AMP "Timothy, please come as soon as you can. Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica." 2 Timothy 4:9-10, NLT Lesson: This scripture reveals the depth in the statement of Jesus made in Matthew 6:24. No man can serve two masters. You cannot be pursuing God and loving the world at the same time. Demas tried it and eventually ended up a backslider. Applied to marriage - every other pursuit a person has in life (career, business, friendship etc.) must align with the common-vision God has given you in marriage else, soon you will forsake your marriage (knowingly or unknowingly) to serve these things. One key twin enemy of godly homes is Sin and worldliness. Sin and worldly pursuit has a way of blurring a person's vision and twisting his or her perspective. Jesus puts it this way: "Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware" Luke 21:34, NIV "But take heed to yourselves and be on your guard, lest your hearts be overburdened and depressed (weighed down) with the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence, drunkenness, and worldly worries and cares pertaining to [the business of] this life, and [lest] that day come upon you suddenly like a trap or a noose" Luke 21:34, AMP Sin, worldly passions, cares and worries reduces a person's spiritual sensitivity, thereby making it easy for the devil to sneak into a marriage and cause damage. This is because the couple are pre-occupied with self and have forgotten the common-vision God gave them as a basis for marriage. CASE STUDY 3 - PAUL AND TIMOTHY Proximity of heart beyond proximity of the body "But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel" Philippians 2:19-22, KJV Lesson: The critical factor in any relationship that will last goes beyond living in the same house to the bonding of the heart: the unity of two hearts in the pursuit of a common-vision. Many people where around Paul but they were not trustworthy for a partnership due to their selfish interests. They were physically with Paul but their hearts were far from Paul in pursuit of a self-agenda - a totally different vision from the divine vision to raise disciples that was burning in the heart of Paul. Of the many, only Timothy was able to qualify for a partnership with Apostle Paul because he was "like minded" with Paul, sharing the same vision. Wonder how come about the intimate relationship that existed between Paul and Timothy, which gave birth to two inspired books of the Bible - the answer is in the fact that they shared the same common-vision. "For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state" Philippians 2:20, KJV "For I have no one like him [no one of so kindred a spirit] who will be so genuinely interested in your welfare and devoted to your interests." Philippians 2:20, AMP FOOD FOR THOUGHT At this point in this article, I need you to pause and think. Where do I want my marriage to be in 30 years? Do I have the divine knowledge it takes to overcome the present day lies and deception that are ravaging marriages? How clear is the common-vision of my marriage to me? The issue of vision in marriage is so crucial one cannot afford to take it for granted. Stephen Covey in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People" puts it this way: "The core of any family is what is changeless, what is always going to be there - shared vision and values. By writing a family mission statement, you give expression to its true foundation”. I concur with these words: the true foundation of a family is the shared vision and values. The life span of a marriage depends on this. Prayerfully seek answers to the questions below: 1. What is the center of my life? What is the primary source of security, guidance, wisdom, power and sense of self-worth? 2. What have I decided to exalt above every other thing in my life 3. Why am I living? 4. What is my pursuit in life? As you think and ask the Holy Spirit for answer to these questions, I believe a clearer picture of the core of your life, the purpose of your living and how it fits into marriage will be revealed.