We continue with our fourth message in this series: Restoring Hope for Marriage. In the first message, we looked at the ideal picture of marriage, God’s design for marriage. All subsequent messages address how to restore marriage to that original design.
If you are not yet married, or if you are in a relationship of influence to your children or friends, these messages can serve you well. If you are married, by humbly and diligently applying these biblical lessons, you can grow to experience God’s intended blessings for marriage.
We’ve looked at how we can receive and give true love in marriage. We’ve addressed the practice of biblical forgiveness in marriage. This morning, we’ll look at the development of a Christ-like mindset in marriage.
Christian psychologist, Everett L. Worthington Jr. noted, “If [marriage] partners do not change their thinking about marriage, any other changes made in counseling probably will not last.”
Our mindset can be a positive or negative influence on our behaviors and feelings toward our spouse. By changing our mindset, we can change the way we see our spouse, his or her behavior and the hope we have in our marriage.
Our text is Philippians 2:1-11.
Paul wrote this letter from a prison cell. He was persecuted for his faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, he was writing to encourage the church in Philippi. How many of us can to encourage others when our own circumstances are grim? Paul was that kind of person, because he had a mindset or attitude like that of Jesus Christ.
In marriage and in life, our mindset or attitude will determine our ability to overcome unfavorable circumstances, negative personalities and a history of hurts. Chuck Swindoll wrote, “Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It’s more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home.”
I have an analytical personality, and I grew up with a strict father, and both predispose me to being critical. I have to work hard to have a positive attitude. When you show me half a cup of milk, I don’t just see a cup that is half empty. I see a cup that needs to be washed and a person who was irresponsible to leave that lying around.
But I’m getting better, and Susan and Esther are happier with me, because my attitude is becoming more like that of Christ Jesus’. The correlation between developing a Christ-like attitude and having a happier marriage should not surprise us. After all, marriage is a symbol of Christ’s relationship to His Church. So by developing attitudes of Christ-likeness, we restore God’s design for marriage.
There are four attitudes in Philippians 2:1-11 that Paul identified are Christ-like: Love, harmony, humility and other-centeredness. When Paul emphasized the importance of “being like-minded,” he is not telling Christians or husbands and wives to think alike, to love the same things or to accomplish the same goals in life. What Paul is telling us is that we are to be concerned about the same things: Love, harmony, humility and each other.
The attitude of love is the habit of bringing out the best in another. Most of us don’t have an attitude of love. We have an attitude of self-righteousness. When we argue with our spouse, we automatically want to be right. That automatic response is an attitude or a mindset.
To change our attitude from self-righteousness, defensiveness or self-protection to love requires a change in our habitual response. For instance, when Susan and I disagree or argue, I try to be the first to say, “I love you.” That not only diffuses the anger, but because that diffuses the anger, Susan’s best comes out rather than her worse. Love is bringing out the best in another.
The attitude of harmony is the habit of allowing for another’s preference. The next time you push your preferences on your spouse, remember that God only gave us 10 commandments, and it has nothing to do with how you clean the bathroom, what pot you use for cooking or where you store away the dishes or the groceries.
On Thursday night, the Worship Team met to discuss whether to have an Easter Sunrise Service or to have the Easter Sunday Service at our usual 11:30 AM. Craig said, “Listen, I prefer not to have service at 8 am, because it’s hard for my family to be ready that early, but I’m willing to go along with the majority.” That’s an attitude of harmony, explaining your stand, while not demanding your way, but going along with others, when the decision is not an immoral one.
The attitude of humility is the habit of seeing others more important than self. Self-importance is prideful and destructive in relationships. Self-importance is as faulty as believing the sun revolves around the earth. But this is a very subtle attitude, nevertheless, a destructive one.
For instance, for many years, I caused my family to be late to events by always trying to get one more of my projects in before we leave. And when Susan got upset, I persuaded her to deal with her feelings. Only recently did I realize my squeezing in one more thing to do was an attitude of self-importance. I didn’t want to wait for others without anything to do, because that was a waste of my time. But I didn’t see how others waiting for me was a waste of their time. When we see our spouse as more important than ourselves, everyone will be less frustrated, more grateful, and more loving.
The attitude of other-centeredness is the habit of putting the needs of another before my own. Many pastors use Willard Harley’s book, His Needs, Her Needs, in pre-marriage counseling. Harley notes that women tend to need affection, conversation, honesty and openness, financial security and family commitment, while men tend to need sexual fulfillment, recreational companionship, an attractive spouse, a well-managed house and children, and admiration.
When I read this book early in my marriage, I was often resentful for how Susan was not meeting my needs. I wasn’t meeting her needs either, but that wasn’t my focus at the time. We would get into arguments about things that were unrelated to the real issue, my unmet needs. But as I developed the attitude of other-centeredness, we spend less time arguing, and more time meeting each other’s needs.
You might be thinking, “I want these attitudes to be a part of my marriage, but how do I develop these attitudes?”
There are at least two ways Paul describes in Philippians 2:1-11.
First, we develop Christ-like attitudes by the company we keep. We see this in verses 1-4.
Paul points out that who we spend time with influences our mindset. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, Paul wrote, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’” The principle applies to attitude, “Bad company corrupts good attitude.”
Parents are always concerned about negative peer pressure from other children influencing our children, but we rarely recognize negative peer pressure from the adult company we keep. We think we are capable of standing our ground, but like a river cutting a path by its constant flow, the people we spend regular time with cut the path for our mindset to flow.
Let me give you a few questions Jim Rohn gave to evaluate our current company. You might want to write this down for later use. 1) Who do you enjoy spending time with? 2) Do they share your values regarding marriage or the values you want to have? 3) What have they got you saying, feeling or doing in your marriage that you would not say, feel or do if you did not spend time with them?
If the person you’re dating, the co-worker you go to lunch with or the girl friend you shop with don’t have healthy attitudes about marriage, disassociate from them. You wouldn’t let your child spend time with negative influence, why would you spend time with negative influence?
It’s your time, your life, your marriage and your attitude that are at stake. Don’t you think you can make friends with people who have Christ-like attitudes in their marriage? Sure you can. And you and your marriage will be better for it.
Second, we develop Christ-like attitudes by the model we seek. We see this in verses 5-11.
Paul calls us to develop our attitudes by modeling after Jesus Christ. It’s one thing to define the attitudes of love, harmony, humility and other-centeredness, but seeing these attitudes in the life of another has a powerful influence on our lives. The influence of the company we keep impacts us because we are passive. But the influence of the model we seek impacts us because we are proactive. We choose our models for what we want to have in our own lives.
Susan and I intentionally praise Esther for certain characteristics. We praise her for being neat in her dress more than we praise her for being pretty in her dress. We praise her for being kind more than we praise her for being first. We are helping her to value certain characteristics and attitudes over others.
When we choose a model, we are valuing certain characteristics and attitudes over others. When Jesus Christ is our model, we are valuing love, harmony, humility and other-centeredness. Over time, we become what we value. So be careful and be intentional about what you value.
Let me close with this, and you might want to write it down: “We become like those we associate with and those we admire.”