Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Know Your Enemy/Enter The Battle (Marriage Restoration, Part 4)

If your marriage is in crisis it probably feels like you are in a battle. Your spouse has probably said or done some things that hurt you, or perhaps you have said or done some things that hurt your spouse. Your spouse may be behaving completely out of character from the way he/she normally does. People do this because they believe the lies of the enemy and have been "taken captive, forced to run his errands." You may feel like the person you are supposed to love and who is supposed to love you the rest of your life has become an enemy. But that is the farthest thing from the truth. Your spouse is not your enemy.

"Run away from infantile indulgence. Run after mature righteousness-faith, love, peace-joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God's servant must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a teacher who keeps cool, working firmly but patiently with those who refuse to obey. You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil's trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands." - 2 Timothy 2:22-26, The Message

So let me repeat what I just said. Your spouse is not your enemy. But YOU ARE IN A BATTLE! You're in a battle for your very life. A battle for the life of your spouse. A battle for the lives of your children. A battle for the lives of your grandchildren. What? That's right! Your marriage being restored or being destroyed has the potential to impact not only you, your spouse, your children, and your grandchildren, but also the lives of your family, and those around you for generations to come. So, the sooner you realize you are in a battle and identify who the real enemy is, the sooner you can take a stand against the attacks that are coming your way. The Bible warns us who our enemy is and urges us to stand firm! The devil is the real enemy and he is here for one reason only, to destroy each of us.

"Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ-eternal and glorious plans they are!-will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word, yes, he does." - 1 Peter 5:8-9, The Message

"A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of." - John 10:10, The Message

The scriptures tell us our enemy, the devil, is here to steal, kill, and destroy. The devil is out to steal the joy and love from your marriage, he is out to kill you and ultimately he is out to destroy your family. You may say, I know the devil is my enemy, but my spouse is acting this way or that way. The enemy wants you to be preoccupied with what your spouse is doing. If the enemy can get you to worry about your spouse instead of praying for them, then your focus shifts from the Lord and His will, to the hurt and anger your spouse may be causing you. Jesus told us about the power of two or three agreeing together so we would stand together because, "By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped." - Ecclesiastes 4:12, The Message.

"Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is a yes in heaven; a no on earth is a no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there." - Matthew 18:18-20, The Message

The enemy knows there is power in the family, and if he can destroy the family he would destroy what should be an automatic partnership in the Kingdom. A husband and wife in agreement coming together in prayer is one of the most powerful forces on this earth. God designed it to be that way. The enemy knows it and has been trying to destroy it since the garden.

Most people I have talked to in a troubled marriage tell me about what their spouse is doing, how their spouse isn't meeting their needs. Very seldom do they tell me about where they are failing as a spouse or what they have done wrong. They have shifted their eyes off of allowing the Lord's life to be expressed to their spouse, serving their spouse, meeting the needs of their spouse, and lifting their spouse up in prayer to a selfish view of what their spouse isn't doing for them. You may want to put the blame on your spouse for the way things are going in your marriage, but let me encourage you not to do that. Instead, look for the Lord.

"Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, 'Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?' Jesus said, 'You're asking the wrong question. You're looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do.' " - John 9:1-3, The Message

In this passage of scripture Jesus tells his disciples not to look to put the blame on someone, but instead look for what God can do. In the same way, I encourage you not to look to put blame on your spouse for the things they have failed to do in your marriage. Don't look to blame your spouse for the trouble in your marriage. Instead, I'm encouraging you to accept responsibility for your actions. I say this because, unless you're perfect (which I'm sure none of us are), you contributed your fair share to your marriage, both good and bad, and until you deal with the sin in your own life the enemy will try to use it over and over again to bring condemnation upon you and destroy you as a person. I am not saying your failures are the cause for your spouse's behavior. Your spouse is responsible for his/her choices. I am saying to take your eyes off of your spouse's negative impact and look at your own contributions to your marriage. Have you allowed the Lord to express His life in you, through you to your spouse?  Have you given your spouse the very best you have to give? Are you lifting them up daily in prayer? Are you thanking God for the good things your spouse brings to your marriage? Are you sharing the Life of Christ with them? You need to acknowledge where you have failed as a spouse, confess those things to the Lord, repent of them and then, look for what the Lord wants to do. This is an ongoing process, not something that will happen over night. As you begin to draw near to the Lord, He will draw near to you and begin revealing to you, in a corrective way, the things that need to be dealt with in order to restore your life and relationship with Him. Then you can grow from there and begin seeing what the Lord can do.

You may be thinking, "What about my spouse? My spouse is lying and saying hateful things to me, doing things to cause me pain. What do I do about them?"

Turn them over to God. Turn them over to God and stand in the gap! Begin to battle for your family!

"Now, I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends." - Acts 20:32, The Message

This is the most loving act you can do for your spouse. Remember you are not responsible for the way your spouse is behaving. You are responsible for your words and actions. The best thing you could possibly do for them is to lay them down. Turn them over to the Lord. Let Him be concerned about dealing with them. It is not your place to try to convict them of their sins, or bring them to repentance for their actions. That's the job of the Holy Spirit. And what better thing for them than to be dealt with by the One who loves them beyond measure and has the ability to bring conviction, correction, lead them to repentance, forgive them and bring restoration to their life in a right manner. Ultimately that should be our desire for our spouse because when they are in a right relationship with Him, they have the ability to be in right relationships with everyone else. Ultimately that should be the desire for our own lives because when we are in a right relationship with God we then have the ability to be in a right relationship with everyone else.

So you're in a battle, now what? Your stand for your life, your marriage, and your family must begin with you.

"So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You've had a taste of God. Now like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God." - 1 Peter 2:1-3, The Message

You've got to rid yourself of malice, pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You have to let go of the things your spouse has done to hurt you, give those things to the Lord and forgive them. If you harbor your hurt instead of releasing them to the Lord and forgiving those who have wronged you, it will fester and turn to bitterness, which will lead to anger and hate. Those things will destroy you as a person.

"Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry-but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry. Don't give the devil that kind of foothold in your life." - Ephesians 4:26 & 27, The Message

I know there are things going on that will make you angry. But as the scriptures tell us, don't let your anger be a fuel for revenge. If you seek revenge you will be hurting the very person you are called to love. Instead go to the Lord with your anger and ask Him to give you a righteous anger and use that as a fuel to stand up and fight the enemy that much more. I'm not saying to disregard the things your spouse is doing. You must love your spouse enough to let them go in the physical realm, but you must go to war for them in the spiritual realm. In order to do this, you must prepare yourself for battle!

"And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for your, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out." - Ephesians 6:10-18, The Message

Begin to use the weapons of warfare that have been afforded to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Prayer and the scriptures are two of the most valuable weapons a believer has. Don't think you have to do this alone. There are others who have fought this kind of battle before who are more than willing to walk with you during this time, to help train you up in the things of the Lord. That's what the church is here for! Find one or two brothers/sisters in the Lord. It is extremely important that you surround yourself with people who will speak words of Life into your life, saints who will point you to Christ. Many people will have advice and opinions to offer. Its okay to hear what they say, but be sure you don't just jump at everything they throw at you. Some people will tell you to do this or do that. You must test everything they say against the scriptures, and above all, you must seek the Lord about your situation. He is the only One who knows exactly what you need to do. He is the only One whose will is perfect. You must recognize that you are in Christ and allow Him to live His life through you. Allow His life to be expressed in and through you. The battle is not fought against your spouse. The battle is fought against the enemy who is out to destroy you and your family. In the power of the Holy Spirit you must fight for the freedom of your spouse from the things the enemy would use to enslave them. This is how the battle must be fought.

"The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way-never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity." - 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, The Message

I would like to give you a prayer to use for this battle. It is a prayer of recognition that the Lord has placed you in Christ and He is your covering, He is the Armor of God. I've never heard of a soldier going into battle without knowing their position. It is no different when we're battling for our families. In Christ Jesus, we have the full Armor of God!

The Scripture:
"A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against the wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere." - Ephesians 6:10-18, NLT

The Prayer:
"Father, I submit my life to you today. Thank you for placing me in Christ. You have placed the Truth of Christ around my waist. Every aspect of my life is encompassed by Truth, and you have set me free. You've placed the Righteousness of Jesus Christ upon my chest, and You guard my heart, for it is the wellspring of Life. You protect my feet with the Good News and Readiness that comes from the Gospel of Peace of Jesus Christ. Guard my path, that I would know your ways and walk in them. You are the Shield of Faith to extinguish all of the fiery arrows that the enemy would try to bring against me. You are the Helmet of Salvation, and You guard my mind. You keep my thoughts pure and my dreams focused and centered on you. I take every high thing and every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. You are the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, sharper than any two edged sword. In Christ, no weapon formed against me will prosper. Amen.

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