Smiths: When we realized what Christ did for us on the cross and how much he endured for our sake and the world’s sake, we were motivated to persevere and endure with each other.
Because of our own sin, and our own broken perspectives about what our marriage was and was meant for, we were on the verge of calling it quits. God showed us that our marriage was meant for so much more than just happily ever after, which is what we were trying to chase in our own way.
He showed us that our marriage is a ministry; he showed us that our marriage had a purpose far beyond ourselves. Our marriage is his symbol, and his desire is that we use our marriage to represent him.
One of the ways this truth gets played out in our marriage is by deciding to use our unique experiences, testimonies, talents, and resources to share his message with the world. This is true for every Christian marriage, not just ours. Your marriage is God’s, and he desires it to be done his way and for his purposes. Will you say “Yes” to him as we have?
Ed: Does every marriage have its own mission and unique calling from God? What if you’re not working in professional ministry?
Smiths: Every Christian marriage is called by God to reflect the truth of the gospel by their actions, as well as with their words, toward each other and toward others.
The Bible is very clear on how a husband and wife are to relate to and love each other, and it is also clear why we are to do it this way. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that marriage is a mystery because our marriages are a symbol to the world of Christ and the Church.
Also, each marriage is unique in experience, testimony, talents, and resources. So every marriage can/should use what they have and steward it to further the gospel and build God’s kingdom. We are all united in the same mission, but it will look different in every marriage.
It’s okay not to work in a professional ministry because marriage itself is a ministry. Whether or not we are paid to do what God has called us to do doesn't change the fact that our gifts and talents are to be used to honor and serve God.
Ed: There’s a tendency to think that ministry occurs far away from home, but you make the point that our marriages and families are really our first ministry. Can you talk about that?
Smiths: The Bible explains how to treat one another and how to treat your neighbor...and what closer neighbor do you have then your spouse? How you treat each other in marriage matters not only for your marriage but also for those who are looking in to see how the gospel is making you different from them.
Are you loving? Are you respectful? Is God on the throne in your marriage or are you living for yourself? If the gospel is not preached and lived in our homes, then how can we expect to faithfully and affectively preach the gospel outside of our homes?
As long as Christian husbands and wives see ministry as separate from everything else in life instead of ministry being their life, they will never be able to recognize the true value of their marriage.
Ed: You have a lot of couples looking to you for marriage advice. What seem to be the most common struggles for Christian marriages today?
Smiths: Pornography is the most common marriage issue we receive emails about. The enemy has done a good job of convincing Christian men and women that the gospel that has in fact set us free from sin (Rom. 6:18), has no actual power over this type of sin.
Christians, while being completely free in Christ, are living as though they are still completely powerless over this. Our prayer is that Christians would begin to believe the Good News once again and begin to walk in the freedom that Christ so brutally died for.
As believers, we are no longer slaves to sin and have been given the beautiful opportunity to become slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:13 declares, “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”
Ed: What would you say to someone who feels alone because his or her spouse isn’t interested in this idea of a ministry-minded marriage?
Smiths: This is definitely a hard place to be—when you are to be one with someone in every way but they are not one with you in spirit and direction. But God’s Word and what he calls each and every one of us to is not contingent on our spouse’s actions.
A wife can love, respect, and submit to her husband even if he does not obey the Word (see 1 Peter 3:1-6). A wife’s ministry in this situation is the same. Likewise, a husband does not get to stop loving his wife as Christ loves the church just because she isn’t walking in a godly way.
That is the point. We are to minister to and love each other because that is how we walk in obedience to God. In doing this we are showing our spouse what the gospel is. By loving like this, we are doing exactly what Christ did. So we say to those who feel alone in walking with God in their marriage, “You are not alone and your work is not in vain. God is good and his Word will work through you toward your spouse. Don’t give up!”
As Paul prayed for the Colossians, so we pray for you and your spouse that you would “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:9–10).
When you abide in the Lord and when you choose to walk in a manner worthy of his calling, you pave the way for others to follow God. As you choose holiness over happiness, your marriage will grow in maturity, able to bear the weight of abundant fruit, so that others can taste the goodness of the Lord through your life and marriage. As you make choices that lead to an increase in intimacy in your marriage and in the intimacy of knowing God, the will of the Father and the good works He has prepared for you will become clearer.