29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. Phil. 1:29-30
I am a vain man. I tend, for example, to believe that my wife is the greatest woman in the entire universe. For once though, despite my overblown vanity, I could be right on this one. From reading the Word of God and from experience I am absolutely certain that my wife is one of the most excellent women in the world. To me she is Ruth, she is Esther, she is Abigail – all wrapped in one. I couldn’t provide a better description of her than Proverbs 31. She fits it like a glove. Her price is, undoubtedly, far above rubies.
I feel extremely blessed and somehow even over-favored by God to have Flo as my wife. She has enriched my life in many different ways. Above all, she has enabled us to have a stable and fulfilling marriage. I realize that having her for a wife is one way of God telling me, “I love you”. He is so caring, loving and faithful!
There are many men, though, even fellow brethren, who are not as blessed as I am in their marriages. They have suffered in many different ways through their marriages. One of my brothers, a fellow minister, has had the most difficult marriage imaginable for close to 30 years! The bad news is that the problem has only grown worse with time. The man is no angel, of course, but I know his heart. His wife, on the other hand, is an intractable, unyielding and unforgiving woman.
Another one of my friends hadn’t yet tasted what marriage was about before his wife began wearing a complete “full suite” to bed. She would even wear hard-core shorts, complete with a lockable Rambo-style belt – to bed!!
I used to feel sorry these and other people who were suffering in their marriages. I would think in my heart: ‘Poor folks! I am so blessed to have such a wonderful wife.’
And then, one day, the Lord showed me something that changed my whole outlook of the situation. He showed me that it is not having a spiritual wife that constitutes a blessing. The true blessing, He revealed to me, is when I am taking my cross and following Jesus.
God showed me that even though He may have blessed me with the sweetest wife on the planet, it did not mean that He was going to let me off the hook when it came to suffering for Christ. My faith may be working well in my marriage, but there were other areas where it would be tested. God would use other areas in my life to try out whether I was fully obedient to him. It is so easy to exercise our faith only in the small, painless areas of our lives. But we cannot serve God half-heartedly. God wants our entire lives to be submitted to His will. And in this regard, God is not short of areas to work in in our lives!
Whatever the case is, God will make sure that I arrive at a place where I will be confronted by the cross of Christ. Christianity is not there just for me to enjoy myself. Sure, God will allow me to enjoy myself in many areas. But in my relationship with God, my becoming a spiritual person is of far greater importance than my earthly enjoyment of His favors. Above everything else, God wants me to be spiritual and to live a spiritual lifestyle. But this spiritual lifestyle can only be attained when I am constantly crucifying my flesh and its desires. For this reason, God will make sure to bring obstacles in my life to club spiritual sense into my life. In other words, God will confront my carnal nature.
God may not use my wife, but He could use my children, or my neighbor, or a situation at my workplace. God could also use a financial situation. He could make me rich or He could make me poor, to test me. God could even use my pastor! Or He could use persecution. God can use anything. Many times we do not know what He intends to use. The one thing that is sure is that if I am called of God, He will put a stumbling block in my life just to block out all the carnality in my life.
That is why, much as I have no complaints in my marriage, still I must carry the mind of Christ and be ready to suffer in many other areas of my life. This suffering, as we just noted, comes in the form of confrontation. God uses situations or people to confront us in our different carnal ways. How we react is the most important thing with God. Do we humble ourselves or do we hold onto our rights? The one reaction holds life, and the other means death. We must choose wisely.
I can tell you from experience that it is not easy to choose to humble ourselves. It is not easy to choose life! But I am learning – sometimes step by step, like a baby – to walk the strait and narrow road.
God calls me to arm myself with the mind of Christ. For this reason I must watch my attitude, not just towards my wife but towards other situations also. That is why I must have the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ is a mind of humility. With a mind of humility, I can give God the glory by humbling myself in every situation and allowing Him to break the things that come from my human folly and pride.
That was the struggle that Paul had. Paul had no wife, good or bad, to deal with. Yet Paul suffered in many other areas of his life. Flesh is flesh. God had many areas to deal with in Paul’s life.
The joy of having a loving wife is that, after I have come from a day out working the “conflict” that Christ has set out before me, I can go back home to warm, welcoming arms, a beautiful smile, and a deeply loving and caring heart. That’s Flo.
[Below: Vain me with my Flo]