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Marriage Workbook

By Craig Caster

WEEK 1 - GOD’S PURPOSES FOR MARRIAGE

DAY 5 - COOPERATING WITH GOD’S DISCIPLINE

When we take responsibility, or “ownership” of our behavior, we will ask God to forgive us, our spouse to forgive us, and begin to pray, “God, take this out of me.” That’s when transformation begins; until we respond to situations in this way, we will never experience growth. Often, when Christian couples come in for counseling with five, ten, even 20 years of toxic communication behind them, because they didn’t understand God’s will in this area, they feel hopeless and want to give up.

Even after learning that God uses our relationship as a husband and wife to transform us, apart from His daily grace we are unable to accept and cooperate with Him in this area. When we are not abiding in Christ daily, and the testing comes, we will most likely react in the flesh with anger, pride, blame, self-pity, and more. It is even becoming more common for Christians to believe that their sinful behaviors are the result of external causes, so they are not to blame. When we are abiding in Jesus daily, looking unto Him for the grace to do His will, then and only then can we experience this inner transformation.

Hebrews 12:2, says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Self-Examination 1

Notice that Jesus endured the pain of the cross because of the joyous result, the salvation of our souls. What joy do you see that makes the pain of transformation worthwhile? Name at least two areas God is revealing within you that He wants to change (example: anger, impatience, resentment, unforgiveness, harshness, bitterness, evasiveness, etc.)

The verse also says “look unto Jesus.” Write out a prayer of commitment to look to Him when a challenging marital issue comes up in your home?

You know, God sometimes uses things that we perceive as unjust to do His work. Have you ever read the story of Joseph? There’s a young man that should have been in 25 years of therapy. I tell you, he could have been on every medication they have on earth today.  “My brothers were jealous, so they beat me up, dug a pit in the ground and threw me in there to die, but they decided to sell me as a slave, blah, blah, blah…then my master’s wife seduced me and I ran but they put me in prison, etc.”

That guy’s life was messed up, but he wasn’t messed up because he put his faith and trust in the Lord. When Joseph’s brothers were devastated by guilt over what they did to him, he said, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Gen. 50:20) He had plenty of opportunity to say, “Alright God, life stinks, it’s unfair, and so I’m just going to do what I want.” You can read his story (Genesis, chapters 37-50), how he trusted God.

But as Christians today, if our spouse disappoints us, fails our expectations, we get angry and sin. All the while, God is waiting for the light to go on, for us to realize that He is allowing the trials for our good. (Note: God does not condone or have anything to do with sinful abuse.) God doesn’t want us to excuse our sinfulness and stay in a state of disobedience. This is the hard part for us; when God wraps His fingers around you and me, and begins to mold and shape, it doesn’t always feel good. The Bible says that He is the potter and we are the clay.

Isaiah 29:16, New Living Translation, says:

“How foolish can you be? He is the Potter, and He is certainly greater than you, the clay! Should the created thing say of the one who made it, “He didn’t make me”? Does a jar ever say, ‘The potter who made me is stupid’?”

Ouch! So many times in a heated moment, when God is trying to bring about transformation, we tell Him through our actions, “Take Your hand off of me, Lord! I don’t want to be shaped; I don’t want to be transformed, I don’t like the ways You reveal my sin nature and teach me!”

I know that you may not have viewed your husband or wife as the very fingers of God, but He is telling you it’s true. He will continue to press upon us until we surrender, or become miserable. And there are many people in marriage very miserable, not experiencing what God wants, because they are ignorant of His purposes.

The Lord has used my wife to reveal things in me that I didn’t like, and I know God didn’t like. He has used my oldest son Nicholas, more than anything or anyone on earth, to reveal the ugliness in me. I didn’t know how angry I was inside until my son came along. By the time he was three, he was able to anger me more than any other human being on earth. But God revealed to me, “It’s not Nick, Craig, it’s Me. I put this strong-willed child in your life to reveal things that I hate in you. And when they surface, until you take ownership and repent for them, and ask for Me to change you, you will never change.  And you will not have a relationship with your son, either. It’s up to you, Craig.  Surrender, or suffer.”

We don’t like challenges, or suffering. Many Christians think, “Oh wait a minute, God, I’m supposed to be happy.” Yes, but not in our way, because we are selfish! You and I should not say to God, “Okay, I know what I need, here’s my list.” God knows that we are wicked; His Word says that we cannot trust our own heart. We have to look to God’s Word, where Jesus says in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of who sent me.” Glorifying God means living out His will and purpose in and through our lives.

Third Purpose: To Meet Each Other’s Companionship Needs

The next purpose is meeting each other’s companionship needs (Gen. 2:24). Again, this is not accomplished in our way or in our own strength, but by His Word and His grace. We must understand and believe that God created Adam and then created woman as a “helper comparable to him.”  Let’s bring some clarity to what that means.

Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good that man should be alone. I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

Fact File

Helper- azar (Hebrew), a verb meaning to aid, to support, give encouragement, one who surrounds, protects, and helps another.

Comparable- means one who is the counterpart, the other side, a part opposite, a mate, a companion, but not identical.

God calls the marriage of man and woman “becoming one”, not identical, but the uniting of two halves in order to create a perfect whole. I’m not supposed to be like a woman, and my wife isn’t supposed to be like a man.  What God is saying here is that we need to adapt to the uniqueness of another, become a matched pair that truly meets the companionship needs of one another through the power of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to minister to our spouses, meeting their companionship needs, and create a relationship with depth and intimacy.

According to this account in Genesis, seeing that it was not good for the man to be alone, God gave him a helper, or a helpmate. Notice the word He used here is helper, not leader or coach. God formed the man out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7), but He also formed or, literally, built the woman out of the rib of the man (Genesis 2:21-22). God was demonstrating the role that the husband and wife would have in one another’s lives. They would be mutually dependent upon one another. The man needed companionship. The man needed help! God provided that help through the woman. A woman would make up for what was lacking in the man, and vice versa. The woman’s life came from the man, and man’s life would proceed from the woman.

Self-Examination 2

Wives, do you want to be a helper/helpmate to your husband?

Husbands are you willing to admit to yourself and your wife that you need her?

God also desires that husband and wife have a unique relationship that He calls becoming “one” spiritually, emotionally, and sexually, thus fulfilling one another’s companionship needs. God said this right from the beginning.

Genesis 2:24, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

Fact File

Joined- carries the sense of a permanent or indissoluble union, so that divorce was not considered.8

“One flesh” speaks of a complete unity of parts making a whole, e.g., one cluster, many grapes (Num. 13:23) or one God in three persons (Deut. 6:4); thus this marital union was complete and whole with two people.9

In Matthew 19:5-6, Jesus says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh, so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate.”

God desires us to become one with our spouse. It is so wonderful to grow into such intimacy with your husband or wife that you can know what the other is thinking. Have you experienced that? That’s what God wants.

Often, I don’t have to make requests of my wife because she already knows what I need, and vice versa. We desire to prioritize each other and be aware of one another’s needs, and meet those needs before they’re requested. That’s what God desires. This is the great mystery He is talking about. When God looks upon you after you’re married, He sees you as two-in-one. The journey is to learn how to see and treat one another as God sees us, not independent but as one. Many have not been discipled in these truths and still think in a very independent way, which really destroys the relationship.

Through this study, you will learn about the different companionship needs of a husband and wife. But there is one need that is equal for both men and women, and that is love. Our greatest companionship need is love, and God’s Word is very clear on how to love one another.

God instructs husbands:

Ephesians 5:25, states, “Husbands love your wives just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for her.”

God instructs wives:

1 Peter 3:3-4, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward, arranging your hair or wearing gold and putting on fine apparel, but rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which is very precious in the sight of God.”

God has set standards for love that seem hard to keep, but would God ask us to do something that is impossible? Is God fair and just? Are you sure? There are many people who would not say God is unfair, but their heart is saying I can’t love my spouse the way God desires. The truth is, that attitude is not “I cannot”, but more “I will not”. And that is rebellion! Let us all be very clear that God promises to give you ALL the grace you need to do His will, including loving your spouse. Amen?

God said I am supposed to love my wife as Christ loves the Church, and my wife is supposed to love me with an incorruptible love as to the Lord. Is that possible? It is possible! God is not a liar. If He says it, what will stop Him from working through us to accomplish this ministry of love? Only we can, along with our stubborn selfishness or lack of faith. The only thing that can stop this from being fulfilled is your rebellion, “I don’t believe it and I won’t try. I won’t pray, and I won’t desire it.”

When you believe what God’s Word says, that this is what He wants to do in and through your life; only then will you become His vessel to pour His love through you. God’s Word determines the value you place on your spouse, not selfish expectations. When your partner fails to obey God’s will, you are to remain faithful to God’s desire for you in the marriage. When God tells a man to love his wife as Christ loves the Church, He does not mean “if” she does what he wants when he wants. His Word does not say to the wife, love your husband with this incorruptible love and honor him as unto the Lord only “if” He follows the Word of God.

I counsel many Christians who want to blame their anger and unloving behavior on their spouse’s failures. After 15 or 20 years of a marriage not functioning according to God’s Word, it is easy to develop sinful habits and want to give up. I encourage them to commit the next few weeks to learning God’s will, and to take responsibility for whatever they do contrary to God’s Word. What happens is a miracle.

I’m very busy as a counselor, not because Craig Caster is wonderful - I’m not, I have read 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. The truth and power is in the Word of God, but we must choose to obey it. When couples say, “Okay, I’m going to do it, God. And when I fail, I will tell my spouse I’m sorry. When I fail to love them, I’m not going to blame them. I will go to them and say, ‘I’m sorry, I blew it.’”  When individuals do that, and ask God to change them, He does. I don’t care how much hardship touched your life before you got married, or what kind of ignorant or stubborn person God blessed you with as a husband or wife, God is bigger and He’s more powerful.

If you don’t trust God, you’re calling Him a liar. And there are serious consequences when we do that to God. When we harbor such thoughts as “You don’t know who I married, God”, we fail to acknowledge that God created that person. God knows that your situation is difficult, but He also knows that ignorance, stubbornness, sin and failure to follow His design will bring negative consequences to you.

Read the following Scriptures about faith, and write out what your attitudes and actions should be.

Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Proverbs 29:25, "The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe."

2 Corinthians 5:7, "For we walk by faith, not by sight."

Hebrews 4:2, "For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it."

Fourth Purpose: Multiply - To Conceive and Raise Godly Children

To multiply, or raise children, is another God-ordained purpose for marriage.

Genesis 1:27-28 reads, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them, then God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’”

This does not mean that all married couples must have children. If that were the case, all would have the ability; however, one purpose for marriage is to raise and train children, not our way but God’s way.

Some people avoid having children because they endured terrible parenting, were hurt, or experienced some trauma that created unforgiveness, or fear that has taken root in their heart. If this is your reason, then seek the Lord to help with those issues and to heal you. Do not let other people’s sin rob you of God’s will for your life.

Another common reason for not having children is our selfishness. Children are looked upon as a hindrance or obstacle to our plans, ambitions, and goals. While it may be wise for some couples to plan on having children at a later time so they can settle into their newly married life, make sure they have a steady income, finish school, as well as various other reasons, the operative word is plan. In other words, there is a plan set in place. It should also be noted that many newly married couples have children right away and are totally blessed by raising children. This is something that each couple needs to bring before the Lord in prayer. When you really stop and think about it, if your parents had been selfish and considered children an obstacle, you would not be here.

Final note: If you feel that you are not equipped to raise children, let me encourage you to go through the material titled Parenting Is a Ministry, which is on our website. Just as many have not been discipled on how to have a biblical a marriage, the same goes for parenting. If you have a child/children, or are planning for the future, the only way to make it a blessing for all is to raise them according to God’s Word. In so doing, you glorify God and can be sure that He will provide His grace and power to fulfill this awesome task. My wife and I spent our first five years doing it our own way, which resulted in frustration. Once we applied God’s wisdom to raising our children, it became a joy and very fruitful. Now, my children are adults and I see the wonderful fruit of doing things God’s way. Plus, we are experiencing the wonderful life of having a granddaughter and seeing how my son and his wife are raising her.

NO KIDDING, GOD!

Now, do you feel that fulfilling God’s purposes as a spouse, glorifying God in all your actions, yielding to being transformed into His image, meeting your spouse’s companionship needs, and raising children is easy? If you said “yes”, I want your autograph. It’s not easy; it’s downright difficult!

Fulfilling God’s purposes for marriage is challenging and can be confusing at times. It is never God’s intention for us to panic and think we must do this by our own strength. In fact, we can’t do it without Him! When you believe that, really believe that, you will really appreciate what’s coming in the next section of information.

Many marriages fail because we do not access the most important relationship one could have, their relationship with Christ. When this is not done, then you will not have the knowledge and power to do God’s will.

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8 The MacArthur Study Bible, ed. John MacArthur, Ge 2:24.

Ibid.