How can you make Christ the foundation of a strong marriage? Read this chapter from Your Marriage God’s Way to find out!
Table of Contents
Soon after Katie and I moved from California to Washington, my parents moved so they could live closer to us. Pretty quickly, they found what seemed like the perfect house. It was beautiful, near us, and the price was low. I wondered, How had this house remained on the market for so long?
Come to find out, there was a crack in the foundation. The house was so unstable no bank would even back a loan. On one hand I thought, How sad that such a beautiful house has lost so much value because of a poor foundation! On the other hand, I thought, How valuable is a house with such a poor foundation that it could fall at any moment?
Homes and buildings are not the only things that need strong foundations. Jesus taught an entire parable making this point:
Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall (Matthew 7:24-27).
The Greek word translated “house” is oikia, and it can refer to a physical dwelling or a family or household. For our purposes, think specifically of a married couple. I would like to conclude our journey through Your Marriage God’s Way with a look at this parable for two reasons:
- Jesus brought the Sermon on the Mount to a close with this teaching. He wanted to make sure His listeners put into practice what they heard. My prayer is that you will put into practice what you have read in this book.
- This teaching makes clear that there is only one true foundation for healthy, joyful relationships: Jesus Christ.
THE FOUNDATION OF A STRONG MARRIAGE
Let’s back up to get some momentum into this point. The Old Testament looked forward to Jesus:
- Luke 24:27—“Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
- John 5:39—“[Jesus said], ‘You search the Scriptures…and these are they which testify of Me.’”
There are many titles for God in the Old Testament, and the New Testament reveals Jesus is the true and greater fulfillment of them. For example, in the Old Testament, God is called:
- Shepherd (Psalm 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:11-24), and in John 10:11, Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
- Redeemer (Psalm 19:14; Isaiah 41:14), and Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.”
- Deliverer (2 Samuel 22:2; Psalm 144:2), and 1 Thessalonians 1:10 says, “Jesus…delivers us from the wrath to come.”
- Judge (Genesis 18:25; Ezekiel 34:17), and in John 5:22 Jesus said, “The Father…has committed all judgment to the Son.”
- The strength of His people (Psalms 18:1; 28:7), and in Philippians 4:13 Paul said he “can do all things through Christ who strengthens [him].”
There are plenty of other Old Testament titles for God that have their fulfillment in Jesus, and there’s one that is particularly relevant to our focus in this chapter, and that’s Rock:
- Deuteronomy 32:4—“He is the Rock, His work is perfect.”
- 1 Samuel 2:2—“…nor is there any rock like our God.”
- Psalm 144:1—“Blessed be the Lord my Rock.”
In the New Testament, this title finds its fulfillment in Jesus. First Corinthians 10:4 identifies Jesus as the Rock that was with Israel in the wilderness: “They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” Jesus was there providing spiritually for the nation of Israel as the people traveled to the Promised Land.
Jesus is also the Rock for the church. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter, “On this rock I will build My church.” Though the verse is a play on Peter’s name, which means “rock,” Jesus was not referring to Peter himself, but to Peter’s profession of faith in Christ and the way the church would be a group of people with that same profession.
When it comes to building a foundation, the first stone laid is what enables all the rest to be set correctly, and this stone is given a special name—cornerstone. The New Testament identifies Jesus as the cornerstone:
- Acts 4:11—“The ‘stone which was rejected…has become the chief cornerstone.’”
- Ephesians 2:20—“…Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
- 1 Peter 2:6—“Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone.”
Just as Jesus was the Rock for Israel and is the Rock for the church, He can also be the Rock—or foundation—for a strong marriage.
THE STORMS WILL COME
Why is it so important to have a strong foundation in your marriage? In His parable of the builders, Jesus described what is inevitable in every life: “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew” (Matthew 7:25). You have probably seen on the news—or perhaps personally experienced—what can happen to a house under the onslaught of a powerful storm, hurricane, tornado, or tsunami. Jesus was not teaching that the weather will be unpleasant or chilly and we might need an umbrella or coat to protect ourselves. Rather, He was speaking of the trials of life—trials that will batter us, wear us down, and attempt to make us fall.
Jesus didn’t present these storms as possibilities that only some people will be unfortunate enough to experience, because trials are inevitable in every person’s life. That is made clear in the following Bible passages:
- James 1:2—“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
- Acts 14:22—“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
- 1 Thessalonians 3:3—“No one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”
- John 16:33—“In the world you will have tribulation.”
- 1 Peter 4:12—“Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.”
We don’t know when we will experience storms, but we do know they will come. In the same way that physical storms have the potential to destroy a house, life’s storms have the potential to destroy a marriage; they can make us feel as though we are going to collapse. How many people have said, “I can’t do this anymore! I don’t know if I can stay in this relationship one more day”?
The words “beat on that house” in Matthew 7:25 are analogous to the daily struggles that wear on a strong marriage—such as a health care or financial issue, rebellious child, job loss, sleepless nights with a baby, or betrayal from a friend. The storms can even become unrecognizable because they happen so regularly. Couples may have found themselves to have honorably endured great trials—such as adultery and addictions—but then floundered when they discovered they were too weak to endure the smaller, daily ones.
In November 2015, Czech pilot Zbynek Abel was forced to perform an emergency landing of his Aero L-159 Alco subsonic attack jet when it collided with a bird. The aircraft was armed with powerful weapons that could destroy other planes and attack cities, but it was downed by a bird hundreds of times smaller that had no powerful engine, deadly weapons, or skilled pilot. In the same way, small, daily trials can do a lot of damage to marriages, making them as dangerous as the large trials we fear most.
As we look at Matthew 7:24-25, let’s note what Jesus was not teaching. He was not saying that obeying Him keeps marriages from experiencing storms. Sometimes we think that if we are “good Christians,” then God will prevent trials from coming our way. But note that Jesus said the storm was beating on a house that was, in fact, built on the strong foundation of His teaching.
If obeying Jesus’s teaching does not enable couples to avoid the storms of life, then what is the benefit of obedience? The promise Jesus was making is that our obedience to Him enables our relationships to survive even the worst trials: “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25). While spouses who obey Jesus’s teachings will not avoid the storms of life, they will survive those storms.
Perhaps you have witnessed a Christian couple experiencing terrible problems and suffering and thought, How can they handle that? I don’t know what I would do if that were me! The great encouragement to take away is that if you are obeying Jesus’s teachings, you can be assured that you, too, will be able to withstand difficult trials.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OBEDIENCE FOR A STRONG MARRIAGE
When I was a schoolteacher, anytime I gave instructions to the students, I would encourage them to carry them out on their own. Then I would walk around the room looking over shoulders, and it would be evident that even though all the students had received the same guidance, they generally fell into two groups: some applied what they heard, and others did not.
When I coached wrestlers, I spent part of each practice session teaching new moves. I would explain the technique step by step and then put the wrestlers in pairs to apply what I had taught. Again, even though all the athletes had watched the same demonstration, some put into practice what I taught, while others did not.
Jesus also knew His hearers would fall into two categories: Some would hear what He said and apply it, while others would not. This is evident by the fact He said, “Whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
The importance of going beyond hearing (or reading) to obeying is a regular theme in Scripture. Jesus said, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it…If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (Luke 8:21; John 13:17). We do not learn God’s Word simply for the sake of knowing it. We learn it so that we can apply it.
James 1:22 urges us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” This verse reveals a common mistake people make. They learn God’s Word and believe they have done enough and end up falling short of applying it to their lives. Husbands and wives do this when they believe they have a marriage built on Christ simply because they know what the Bible teaches, read Christian marriage books, and attend Christian marriage conferences. But none of their learning will have any effect if they are not obeying Scripture’s instructions. As believers, our responsibility goes much further than simply obtaining information. We must obey what we have learned.
If we are not making Christ the foundation of our marriage—which is to say we are not obeying the commands in Scripture—then we should not have much confidence that our marriages will survive the storms of life. Jesus made that clear when He said, “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall ” (Matthew 7:27). Jesus’s words are strong, but was He being harsh? Just the opposite! He was being gracious and loving. He wanted to convince His hearers to build their lives on Him, the solid Rock. When we do that, our marriages will become stronger and will remain standing when the storms come.
The Sermon on the Mount is filled with incredible teaching for every believer, but those who familiarize themselves with its teachings without obeying them are no better off than those who have never heard or read the teaching. You are nearly finished reading an entire book that has presented the Bible’s commands for husbands and wives, but if you do not obey those commands, your marriage will be no different from the marriages of those who have never read what Scripture says about marriage relationships. Christ is the strong foundation we need in our lives so that we can experience a strong marriage, but that requires us to do what He says, and not merely hear Him.
Response Determines Outcome
The accounts of the wise builder and the foolish builder are almost identical:
- They both seem to be talented builders.
- There was nothing to indicate any difference in their houses; they both achieved the goal of building a strong, sturdy house.
- They faced the same storms; verses 25 and 27 say that “the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.”
This is why the two widely differing results are so shocking: “it did not fall” versus “it fell. And great was its fall.” The builders had nearly identical circumstances, but completely different outcomes. The only noteworthy difference was the foundation under each house.
Similarly, it is not the marriage itself, nor the number or intensity of trials suffered, that leads to different outcomes for couples. At the church I pastor, we have celebrations for people who reach 50 years of marriage. Did they stay married that long because their marriages were free from troubles? Are we celebrating how God graciously gave them five decades without storms? No. It is not the absence of trials that enables couples to stay married for any number of years. It is the foundation they have built upon. A couple’s response to Jesus’s teaching determines whether their house will stand up to life’s storms.
Wisdom and Foolishness Revealed
We typically think of wisdom and foolishness in terms of knowledge. People are considered wise because they have some measure of knowledge or they are foolish because they lack knowledge. But a lack of knowledge doesn’t necessarily lead to foolishness. More accurately, it leads to ignorance. This is why, when the apostle Paul wrote to people who were ignorant, he gave them knowledge.1
If foolishness isn’t the absence of knowledge, then what is it? A good definition of foolishness is “failing to apply knowledge.” A good definition of wisdom is “making sure to apply knowledge.” Consider the builders in the parable. They both heard the same teachings of Jesus, which means they had the same knowledge. The wise builder was deemed wise because he applied what he heard, and the foolish builder was deemed foolish because he did not. The questions facing you and your spouse are:
- Are you going to be wise, or are you going to be foolish?
- Are you going to apply the knowledge you’ve gained?
- Are you going to build your marriage on a strong foundation, or are you going to build on sand?
Your wisdom or foolishness is not shown by what you know or by how many Christian marriage books you have read. Rather, it is shown by whether you obey Christ’s teaching, which is to say your wisdom or foolishness is shown by whether you build on Christ. Here’s the simple yet crucial truth: Marriage God’s way means having Christ’s teaching as the foundation of your relationship. This gives us not only the assurance that our relationships will survive any of the storms we face, but that we can experience all the blessings God has for us.
THE PRAYERS FOR YOU TO MAKE CHRIST THE FOUNDATION OF A STRONG MARRIAGE
As I wrote this book, I prayed repeatedly for everyone who would read these chapters. I will continue to pray for every reader—including you—for years to come. But the greatest encouragement you could possibly receive is knowing that, at all times, Jesus is “[making] intercession for [you]” (Romans 8:34). You can be sure that His intercession includes your marriage because it is a depiction to the world of His own relationship with His bride. Nobody wants your marriage to reflect the beauty of that divine relationship more than Jesus Himself. And by the power of the gospel at work in your life, you can follow the guide in Scripture that enables you to experience a healthy, joyful, Christ-centered relationship.