Hi this is Pastor Ken and I want to thank you for joining me today for the Monday Marriage Message.
As a pastoral marriage counselor, I can’t help but hear, see and read things through the lens of how they might influence the institution of godly marriage. I regularly consider how all of it would either affect marriage in a negative or a positive way. I can honestly say that not much I experience won’t get poured through that particular filter. I think it helps me be a better counselor, pastor, teacher, and frankly a better spouse.
I was listening to a sports podcast this past week and the person being interviewed kept using a phrase that caught my attention. I know that he was employing it in a business model context, and that he had not coined the phrase personally, but it struck me how pertinent it is to an awesome marriage. This man kept expressing that in his role as the CEO of a particular sports league he continuously tried to make sure he was “Doing the next right thing”. He spoke of the many ups and downs, challenges and even controversies he had presided over during his tenure, and how “Doing the next right thing” had served him so well. As I listened I wondered, how much more successful we might all be at fulfilling our roles as husbands and wives if we were always looking for the opportunity to “Do the next right thing”.
Any realistic view of marriage is going to include challenges that are not always responded to as they ought to be. Tongue-in-cheek, I tell every couple who comes to me for pre-marital counseling that their marriage would be perfect except that the two of them are going to be a part of it. Human beings, it turns out, have a propensity for doing the wrong thing, simply stated, we are just good at it…that is why it is such an important endeavor to be looking for the chance to “Do the next right thing”. Even the Apostle Paul wrote that “If you marry you haven’t done anything wrong, but you will have trouble”. (My personal paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 7:28). “Doing the next right thing” is what shortens the duration of the trouble.
This is actually a biblical concept. I just said that “Doing the next right thing” has the potential to shorten the duration of marital trouble. I would go so far as to say that scripturally speaking it isn’t simply possible that will be the outcome, it is in fact, probable. When we are mistreated, the Bible offers several ways to “Do the next right thing”. One of my favorites is Romans 12:21. That verse instructs us, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. I find it easy to remember chapter and verse for this concept because the idea here is to give back the reverse of what has been given; coincidentally, the reference is reversed as well…chapter 12, verse 21. But why would we do this? Conventional wisdom would indicate that if we let someone get away with mistreating us they will almost certainly think they can continue to do so. Right? Not so according to scripture, especially in close personal relationships such as marriage. I would like to read to you the verses leading up to this one, and I especially like the way The Living Bible says it. Romans 12:17-21; Never pay back evil for evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honest clear through. Don’t argue and fight with anyone. Be at peace with everyone, as much as is humanly possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it. Don’t take the law into your own hands. Instead, feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be “heaping coals of fire on his head.” In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you. Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.
As I said worldly wisdom would say that returning evil for evil, is the only way to let someone know how it feels to be mistreated. Wordly wisdom on the other hand indicates otherwise. God’s thoughts on the subject indicate that “Doing the next right thing” by treating someone correctly though they have mistreated you, will bring them under conviction. Our thought is that they won’t know they were wrong if we don’t show them a reflection of their own behavior. God says that contrasting their poor actions with righteous ones will stand out much more clearly to them. I like that this scripture also gives remedy for a hardhearted person. If the contrast of returning good for evil doesn’t have its intended effect, we don’t need to fret, God is clear, He will repay them for their unrighteousness. We can simply stay in our lane and continue to “Do the next right thing”.
As hard as it is to admit, sometimes it is us who have been the instigator. Perhaps we didn’t start it, but we allowed ourselves to become engaged in the disrespectful words or unloving actions. Maybe we missed the first opportunity we had to “Do the next right thing”, possibly even the second or third. I get it, our spiritual enemy is always trying to kill, steal and destroy the peace in our marriages. The devil is constantly hard at work to get us off track. Thankfully, scripture offers the solution for that. “Do the next right thing” James 4:7 says Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Whenever you recognize that Satan has been getting his way in your marriage, respond as instructed…do what God would want you to, this is the first step in resisting the devil. God’s word is clear what the result of that will be…the devil will flee! Don’t let the enemy’s tactics of guilt and shame keep you from doing well, it’s not too late…it is always the right time to “Do the next right thing”.
Incidentally, if you have been listening to the Monday Marriage Message podcast for a while now you have undoubtedly heard me speak about the fact that the primary purpose of marriage according to scripture is to be a marital mirror God can look into and see His reflection. You have also heard me teach about the fact that it is in our God given one flesh condition that our potential to be more like Him is exponentially increased. Additionally, you have heard me encourage you to keep your eyes on your own paper, meaning that we all have the ability to make sure our portion of our marriage reflects God, regardless of what our spouse might be doing at any given time. If we keep these truths in mind the ability to follow the direction given in James four and “Do the next right thing” becomes more evident. When we “submit to God”, we do what He wants us to, which is to reflect Him. Additionally, if we submit to God we are allowing our half of our marriage to reflect him regardless of whether our “one flesh” partner is doing so or not. Finally, by submitting to God and reflecting Him we will be resisting the devil who would like to convince us in the moment that we should reflect the words, actions or attitude our spouse. So what powers such a response that is so contrary to our nature? Philippians 4:13 gives the answer…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. As Christ followers, we don’t have to go-it-alone…even when our spouse isn’t in step with us. Christ gives the strength in every situation to “Do the next right thing”. All of us have the desire from time to time to reflect the poor attitudes of our spouse rather than the perfect ones of God. We are all occasionally tempted to reflect our spouse instead of our Creator. Thankfully, we can rest assured that; No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, (The next right thing) that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
While we are on the subject of being awesome marital mirrors who do a great job of choosing to “Do the next right thing” to reflect God, here are some additional encouragements. According to Proverbs 21:3. Choosing to “Do the next right thing” is more pleasing to God than sacrifice. Sacrifice in the Old Testament was the symbolic way that people illustrated their love and commitment to God. It was how they showed God it was their desire to be His people. So, when you choose to “Do the next right thing”, especially in terms of your marriage you are illustrating those very things to God. In fact, His word says that “Doing the next right thing” shows your love and commitment to Him better than anything else you could do.
Finally, If we want to reflect God well then we need to look like His Holy Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 we can read the exact attributes His Spirit exudes. Knowing that, we have even more clarity about what the visible results of our marital mirrors should be. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. If we keep these fruits of His Spirit in our minds and we desire to allow them to be borne out in our lives, we will almost certainly always know how to “Do the next right thing”.
Questions to answer:
What things get in the way of you choosing to “Do the next right thing”?
What effect does it have on you when your spouse chooses to “Do the next right thing” in regards to a poor interaction with you?
What effect has “Doing the next right thing”, or the lack of it, had on your marriage?
Actions to take:
Consider ways that the two of you can attempt to increase the frequency of “Doing the next right thing”.
Commit Galatians 5:22-23 to memory so that you are never without a great guideline of what the right response should be.
So now, reflecting your Creator in your marriage, choose to “Do the next right thing”…and go be awesome!