Summary: This is the first of a four-part sermon series on godly marriage. This message particularly addresses the themes of commitment and service.

I’m starting a new series -- we about relationships.

Pretty much everything we talk about around here has to do with what Jesus called the two greatest commandments -- Love God, Love Neighbor.

So every once in a while I feel the deep need to preach about our relationships with each other. This won’t just be about marriage -- you can apply it however you want. But the truth is if you are married you only have a 50% chance of staying that way -- and THAT’S NOT GOOD.

If you are single -- you will have these kinds of relationships -- and God wants them to work. I have a preacher friend that did a wedding for two 90 year olds. So you never know...

If you are divorced, I don’t want to lecture you about why your marriage failed. I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on you for being divorced. I don’t want to dredge up a lot of painful memories. This was not your idea, you didn’t ask for it, you never expected it, and you wish you could undo the damage. Listen to me, you are not a second-class Christian or a second-class person because of what happened. Whether the divorce was your fault or not, God loves you and He wants to heal your heart. What I want to do is look at "from this day forward."

WE-HARMONY.COM -- using some old music to illustrate the point of the harmony we should have in our relationships. Today is ’ONLY YOU" as Joel sang for the prelude.

Jesus summarizes from the Old Testament, ""Haven’t you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator ’made them male and female,’ and said, ’For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

At Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, they have a weekly husband’s marriage seminar. At a session last week, the Priest asked Luigi, who was approaching his 50th wedding anniversary to take a few minutes and share some insight into how he had managed to stay married to the same woman all these years.

Luigi replied to the assembled husbands, "Well, I’ve a-tried to treat-a her nice, spend the money on her, but best is that I took-a her to Italy for the 25th anniversary!"

The Priest responded, "Luigi, you are an amazing inspiration to all the husbands here! Please tell us what you are planning for your wife for your 50th anniversary."

Luigi proudly replied, "I’m a-gonna go to get her."

My goal would be to help you figure out how to stay married --living in the same place. AND IT’S NOT EASY.

Following her wedding to CONRAD HILTON in 1950, ELIZABETH TAYLOR said, "Your heart knows when you meet the right man. There is no doubt that Nicky is the one I want to spend my life with."

Following her wedding to MICHAEL WILDING in 1952, she said, "I just want to be with Michael, to be his wife. This is, for me, the beginning of a happy end."

Following her wedding to MIKE TODD in 1957: "I have given him my eternal love....This marriage will last forever."

Following her wedding to EDDIE FISHER in 1959: "I have never been happier in my life....We will be on our honeymoon for 30-40 years."

Following her wedding to RICHARD BURTON in 1964: "I’m so happy you can’t believe it... I love him enough to stand by him, no matter what he might do."

Following her second wedding to RICHARD BURTON in 1975: "There will be no more marriages or divorces. We are stuck like chicken feathers to tar."

Following her wedding to JOHN WARNER in 1976: "John is the best lover I’ve ever had.... I want to spend the rest of my life with him and I want to be buried with him."

In November of 1990, ELIZABETH TAYLOR finally said, "I don’t think I’ll ever get married again." ...

However, in OCTOBER of 1991, she did marry again; this time to Larry Fortensky. One columnist suggested that this time, the guests should throw MINUTE RICE!

Following that wedding, she said at a Press Conference: "I look at marriages kind of like movie scripts. I go into it hoping it’s going to be a hit, but knowing it may turn out to be a dud."

I think Elizabeth Taylor’s problem is that she just never had a realistic view of what really makes a relationship work.

That’s why I love the new Disney movie -- Enchanted. I mean it’s still Disney -- but what they did was take a character from one of their unrealistic cartoons -- happily ever after -- stories and bring her into real life.

(Show "Enchanted" Clip, including the line "I’m going to send her where there are no happily ever afters."



Let me tell you what the most important part of any relationship is. One simple concept. COMMITMENT. It’s not love, it’s not passion, it’s not romance, it’s not compatibility, it’s not financial security, it’s not communication, it’s not being on the same page spiritually -- IT’S COMMITMENT.

All of those things are good; all of them make for better relationships. But the only thing that makes it really work -- is the unwavering commitment to stay at it.

I’ve been married for 24 years to a woman I fell in love with a long time ago. When I was 20 and she was 18. And we’ve had all of those things in our marriage and worked at all of those things in our marriage and will continue to enjoy more of those things in the next 25 years (unless I take her to Italy).


You say -- Tim your wife is so beautiful and talented -- you have it made. Or Denise -- you are married to this hunk of a spiritual giant -- HOW HARD COULD IT BE. Please. Our life is no more of a Disney movie than yours is.

Malachi 2:14-15, The LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. [15] Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his....So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

Can I just take a minute and remind you of the vows you did take. Or maybe the vows you will take. And seriously, this works for your relationship with anyone, your kids, your parents, your friends.


Numbers 30:2 When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.

"I Take You, For Better, For Worse..."

Here is the best thing I can tell you. Worse is going to be worse than you thought. I’ve known couples who got two weeks in - and decided they’d married the wrong person. Some PERSONALITY CONFLICTS come along: She always wants to go out, he wants to stay home; she’s a neat freak, he’s a slob; she squeezes the toothpaste from the middle of the tube, he squeezes it from the end...

"FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE" acknowledges we aren’t always going to get along; we aren’t always going to like each other; this isn’t going to be an easy ride, but you’re worth the price.

Super model Cindy Crawford once said, "Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford!"

For better...for worse, I’m committed to you.

"For Richer, For Poorer"

Interestingly either extreme here has its own set of problems: When money’s tight, it puts an incredible amount of pressure on the home. Every expenditure provides an opportunity for an argument. It’s hard to relax and enjoy the relationship when you’re covered up with financial pressure.

On the other side of the coin, being "richer" doesn’t guarantee marital bliss. Often, the more you have, the more you have to worry about. Statistics suggest that the wealthier a person is the more likely he is to have an affair.

Did you realize that the number one cause of marital conflict is not sex or in-laws or infidelity; it’s finances. We need to enter marriage with the understanding that money is a volatile issue. We cannot--we must not--let it come between us.

That means we work together on a budget. We learn to support each other.

"In Sickness and In Health"

How many of you have had someone in your family with a long-term illness who had a faithful spouse who took care of them through it?

There you go. Odds are YOUR COMMITMENT to your relationship is going to force you into commitment in sickness. Many of you understand well the challenge of caring for a sick mate. What happens when life’s no longer fun and exciting? What if doctor bills drain your retirement and prevent you from traveling like you’ve always dreamed of doing? "In Sickness and In Health."

"To Love and To Cherish"

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, "Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love." Marriage was intended by God to provide a safe, loving, nurturing, joyful relationship.

DR. ROBERT STERNBERG, a clinical psychologist, after 15 years of research has formed what he calls "The Triangular Theory of Love."

He determined that love is built on three ingredients.

On one side of the triangle is PASSION. This is the right chemistry; it’s physical attraction; it’s sexual fulfillment. On the other side of the triangle is INTIMACY. This is the emotional side--shared secrets, emotional bonding, having things in common that most people don’t know about and wouldn’t care to know. Passion is often more important to men; intimacy more important to women.

The danger with passion and intimacy, however, is that many married people allow themselves to become emotionally attached to others of the opposite sex, and then deceive themselves into thinking they aren’t doing anything wrong, because the relationship isn’t physical.

Atlanta Psychiatrist DR. FRANK PITTMAN wrote a book on infidelity.

He said, "Most affairs are conducted primarily on the telephone or internet rather than in bed. The essence of an affair is in establishing a secret intimacy with someone--a secret that must be defended with dishonesty." He said, "Infidelity isn’t necessarily about whom you lie with, it’s about whom you lie to."

Intimacy is easily misplaced. That’s why the third side of Sternberg’s triangle, along with PASSION & INTIMACY, is COMMITMENT. "To Love and to Cherish" means we make the marriage covenant a priority. It’s special, it’s’s exclusive! For how long?

"As Long As We Both Shall Live!"

WILLIAM BENNET, former Secretary of Education, said he went to a wedding recently where the bride and groom pledged to remain together, "As long as love shall last." He said he sent paper plates as a wedding gift!

WE’RE CALLING THIS SERIES WE-HARMONY.COM -- you’ve seen the ads for They’re going to help you find that compatible partner. And that’s all good.

But the truth of the matter is that no matter what kind of a compatibility test you take or what kind of dating service you end up with -- YOU ARE NEVER GOING TO BE COMPATIBLE WITH ANOTHER PERSON. Because you are imperfect and they are imperfect.

Maybe we should just start like this.

(Shows video from - "Lowered Expectations")

I’m kidding. I do want my girls to be picky when they choose a mate. That’s why I’m sending them away from here to go to school to get away from your boys.

The love and dating relationship is fine. We live in America -- we don’t do arranged marriages here -- although as a father of three daughters, I’m starting to think it works. The question is are we prepared to take the covenant seriously and hang in there when the going gets tough?

That’s why the song we picked for today was ONLY YOU.

Let me give you a couple of commitments that you can make that will help you stay married.

1. The first commitment I believe will help rekindle some sizzle in your marriage is to make a commitment to a growing marriage. Staying together is not enough. I know a lot of marriages that are devoted and faithful, but they are nothing more than ROOM-MATES. It will take growth to keep them sizzling.

I can’t believe I’ve been married for 24 years. It doesn’t seem that long ago. But in 1984 I was a different person, and so was she. We’ve committed to making this an everlasting marriage. But we’ve also grown.

When I think about my parents -- and my in-laws -- married 49 and 50 years respectively, it’s amazing to think about how much they’ve changed.

You are going to change. The question is ’HOW?"

Well what do you want your marriage to look like when you’ve been married for 50 years? Denise and I want to be emotionally intimate, physically intimate, spiritually intimate, and intellectually intimate. We want to be that old couple that is holding hands, talking walks around the lake -- getting hits off one another’s oxygen tanks! A oneness, a connectedness, an indescribable depth.

When I paint that picture, how many of you would like a relationship like that? Why? Why did that strike a chord? Because it’s supposed to. God designed us that way. He gave us the capacity to love and to express it.

I can tell you that I don’t have any idea what the world will be like in 2034 when we celebrate 50 years. It doesn’t matter what the world is like -- it matters what YOU are like. THE GROWING BEGINS WITH ME

The reason I’m more in love with my wife now than I was in 1984 is because we’ve both grown.

Said of Jesus as a kid -- grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man. Pretty good outline of what we should be doing in our life. Intelligence, health, spirituality, and relationally.

What about you? Is your marriage boring -- BECAUSE YOU ARE BORING? Have you ever thought about that?

Archibald Hart - Most people’s model of marriage is like buying a new car. Don’t you love the new car smell and how everything works right? My wife drives a two year old minivan and we have two other cars that are both 10 years old. We have 4.5 drivers now in our family -- Becca has her permit. I will be honest with you. I like driving the newer car better.

In that model of marriage - what do you do with a 10 year old marriage? You either restore it back to its original condition, OR YOU TRADE IT IN FOR A NEW MODEL.

All of those are bad options for marriage.

Try a new model. That’s when you begin a marriage; you begin with a box of car parts. (It doesn’t seem that way, because of romantic love - Eros - which is a temporary form of insanity - and it muddies the picture.)

Hart - "What we need to be doing, is we need to look at the marriage relationship, as two people at the altar, bringing a box of parts... you bring car parts, and they bring car parts, and you come together, and you take a lifetime to build the automobile, and then it gets better and better the more time you spend on it."

That’s why it strikes a chord for you, when I say... "You want to be walking around that pond, getting a hit off an oxygen tank together" ...because you know... you’ve seen people. We will recognize people in service that have been married for a long time, and you will see them, and see the way they interact, and you will know it’s because they have a faithful, growing marriage. Then you have to figure out how to put it all together to make something beautiful.

The great part of this model, is that the longer you work on your relationship, the better it becomes.

Lucado- "Satan won’t suddenly steal your home from you. He’ll paint it a familiar coat of drabness. He’ll replace evenings on the town, with evenings in the recliner. He’ll replace the evening gown with the bathrobe. And romance with routine. He’ll scatter the dust of yesteryear over the wedding pictures, so that they seem like another couple in another time."


2. The second commitment is making a commitment to serve your spouse.

For some reason the home seems to be the hardest place to serve.

My favorite marriage joke of all time. The old couple went to the doctor... I need a drum roll. Favorite wedding joke of all time.

Thank you.

Old couple goes to the doctor and the doctor pulls the wife aside, and says, "Listen I need to talk to you. Your husband’s really sick." The wife’s kind of like "Okay whatever." The doctor says "Look, I just gotta tell you, your husband’s really, really sick. He’s really, really fragile right now. You are going to have to do everything for him. You are going to have to get him up in the morning. You’re going to have to cook his breakfast. You’re going to have to cook his lunch and his dinner. You’re going to have to feed him. You’re going to have to bring him food and bring him drinks. It’s really important that you do all the chores around the house. It’s really important that you make love to him; anytime that he wants you to. It’s really important that you just completely take care of this guy, or else he’s not going to make it." So, they walked out afterwards and the husband turns to the wife and says "Well, what did he say?" She says, "He said you’re going to die."

You know we laugh at that, because it’s so true, isn’t it. The hardest place to serve is in the home. The hardest people to serve are the people that you are closest to even thou the Bible tells us in

Romans 12:10: "Love each other with genuine affection. Take delight in honoring each other." Another translation says "Outdo one another in showing honor."

One of the ways we honor our spouse is to serve. I have read this scripture at every wedding I’ve performed: Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

The bottom line is selfishness kills; serving wins. It applies to all relationships not just marriages. Jesus gives a new form of relating to one another.

In my personal bible reading, I’ve found this: My Father will honor the one who serves me. 5The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. - John 12

I think the same is true in marriage. And the same is true in anything we do. I have to tell you.

I’ll show you some pictures. Here’s a picture of our group singing in Costa Rica. You have to understand, this wasn’t a choir. This was something that our group put together. We went and we took all the drug addicts, and the recovering alcoholics that are in the men’s center, and the women’s center and the senior center. They have a place for all these people. These people are all on rehab, and we had a party for them. The Parkview people have a party for them. We even learned "I surrender all" in Spanish. That’s why we’ve got notes up in front of us, because we’re doing it in Spanish. And we had a dance for them, and we had a party for them. Here’s a picture of me playing the congas at the service of the guy who’s the best conga player in Latin America. I just pushed him out of the way and went up and played.

And we put on this little party for them. We put on this little party for them, because we wanted to serve them. Let me tell you who were there. People that were there was the hardened drug addict in the third world country in Costa Rica. One of the guys that was there had such a bad drug problem that he went to steal things, which is how you get money for your drug habit, and he decided he would go try to steal some copper wire from an electrical plant. Yeah, it was a bad idea, especially when you’re strung out. He grabbed a hold of the wrong wire and got 35,000 volts. It blew his arm completely off. It blew out several different places of his body, and blew part of his face off. He was in a coma for four months. That’s one way to kick your drug habit. He came out, and God’s got something for him, and he was one of the guys that was dancing out there. He’s one of the guys that we were singing too. He’s one of the guys that we served dinner to that night. Out of all my memories in Costa Rica, that will be the one indelibly printed in my mind, as we went out and salsa danced with the women who have been turning tricks on the street in Costa Rica, and now are in here.

And there was something about the opportunity that we had, us privileged American people with multiple cars and nice homes, and great lives, but we had the privilege to serve these people, and that was the thing that I will always remember in every relationship. It is service that makes the difference.

Believe me, I have a long way to go in my life, too. If I’m really honest with you, deep inside I’ve very selfish. I’m a selfish man. I don’t want to be. It’s a battle that rages inside of me every day. I want to serve, but there’s something inside of me that hangs back to see if someone else does it.

Unfortunately, I take that into my marriage. As much as I want to love Denise and serve her, there’s something that says, "Don’t get off the couch yet. Maybe she’ll think you didn’t hear her."

You say, "How long do I have to serve?" Romans 13:8 "Pay all your debts except the debt of love to others." You can never finish paying that.

When can I stop serving my spouse, my friend, my family member those people I’m in relationships with? NEVER.

3. Commitment to a relationship with God.

It’s a commitment to put God first. This is the foundation.

I know you’re thinking -- come on Tim -- that’s all you’ve got? Love God? I’m getting my money back.


A) That’s why we don’t pass the offering till after the sermon


B) It’s the most important marriage advice I can give you.

Everything else will fail if the foundation isn’t there. God doesn’t want our relationship with our spouse to be first. He doesn’t want our relationship with our kids to be first. He wants our relationship with Him to be first. That we would seek Him first, that we would put Him ahead of everything else.

Some of us here have learned this the hard way. Our relationships with other people do not work when we’re not plugged into Him. I believe that the fullest potential of marriage will never be realized until both husband and wife are rightly related to God first as well as to each other.

1 John 1:7 "If we’re living in light of God’s presence, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other."

The key to fellowship and joy is to be in the presence of God. If I’m pursuing my relationship with God, wanting to be a man of God, and Denise is pursuing her relationship with God, wanting to be a woman of God, there’s something that spiritually brings us together that no seminar, no book, no message can accomplish.

Harvard did a study several years ago for people who went to church together regularly and they prayed together regularly, and they studied the Bible together regularly. I’m not talking about just a casual personal relationship. I’m talking about two people that were really, really deeply trying to follow God. And their odds of getting divorce were one in one thousand, as opposed to one in two.

If you’re here today, and you’re just checking this whole church thing out, I really respect you for coming. You are I are a lot alike. We got a lot of the same issues. I have kids to raise. I have a mortgage to pay. I have a job. I have to figure out how to love my wife. I’ve have things I have to do, people to see, places to go. The difference between a seeker and a believer is that as a believer I have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe, and I’m not just his creation. I’m his child. So he is the one who is able to bring love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and goodness and kindness and gentleness and self control, into my relationship.

Galatians 5, "When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us. [See if these descriptions would not change you and/or your marriage.] Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control."

Some of you are saying, I need that in my marriage. You get it when you’re connected in relationship with God. I’ve said yes to Him. And because I’ve said yes to Him, He’s come into my life and forgiven me of everything I’ve ever done. He’s wiped away my past. He guides me in my present. He gives me a hope for eternity. AND HE HELPS ME IN MY RELATIONSHIPS. That’s the big difference.


If you want to know what it’s going to be like in your marriage on your 50th anniversary -- a lot of it is up to you. Not your spouse -- you.

It will depend on your commitment to God.

Your commitment to serving

And your commitment to growth.

Make a commitment right now.

I’ll end with a clip from a movie called "A Vow to Cherish." It’s a movie about a man and his wife, who had Alzheimer’s. It’s a great clip for this sermon, because he basically looks at his wife, who can’t understand, and doesn’t even know he’s there, and he repeats his wedding vows back to her, as you see their teenage daughter looking on in the background.


If you’ve been married for 25 years or longer, even if your spouse is no longer with us, could you please stand up right now? We would like to recognize you. Congratulations...Look at that!! Stay up, stay up, stay up, stay up, stay up, stay up. If you made it 35 years, or longer, please stay up, would you do that... alright, I want to keep this going, alright. Thank you!!! Alright, fifty, if you’ve been married fifty years or longer, could you please stay standing. Ladies and gentlemen, we have winners, awesome, awesome!! That’s what I’m talking about!! Hey you guys, Frank and Shirley up there, awesome!! Alright, you may be seated, thank you!

We’re going to honor you in a couple of weeks. We’re going to do something special for you guys. That’s what I’m talking about. Taking hits off each other’s oxygen tank, growing and loving. And you notice, some of those people don’t have their spouse with them anymore. Some of them have gone on, but they proudly stood to say, "I did it. We did it. We made a commitment for better or worse, sickness and in health, richer or poorer, as long as we both shall live."

BLESSING -- May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance to you and give you peace.