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The Danger of Not Working on Your Marriage
1 Peter 3:7e–So that your prayers will not be hindered
Would you agree there are consequences to our actions? Chewing on an extension cord results in a shock. If you drive 80 mph in low gear you will fry your engine. Feeding young children lots of sugar at 9 pm will cause problems. Cornering your cat with a blanket may get you scratched. If you swim in 20 foot surf you may drown. Throwing a hammer will damage something. Insulting my wife is an automatic insult to me. Leaving your kids unmanaged with matches will cause fire.
There are consequences to our actions—if you do this then that will occur. And today, Peter tells you husbands that your relationship with your wife has a direct and profound effect upon your relationship with God. Open your Bibles to 1 Peter 3 and take your outline. If a husband does not obey what God says for husbands to pursue toward their wives, it will hinder his relationship with the Lord. Peter says your marriage has a direct bearing on how your prayers are answered. In fact God does not bless those who are in positions of authority but mistreat those who are under them.
Peter is very direct in verse 7, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Peter has been telling us in verses 1 to 7 that God holds men and women responsible to fulfill the duties of marriage.
Both husbands and wives have privileges and obligations, though men as the head are mainly responsible to keep the marriage focused on Christ, obedient to the Word and dependent on the Spirit. And as Peter wraps up his instruction to husbands, he ends on a serious note–a truth reminding husbands just how crucial it is that they work on their marriage. If a husband fails to fulfill his verse 7 obligations, God says there will be barriers between his prayers and God’s response.
One commentator says it this way–the sighs of the injured wife come between the husband’s prayers and God’s hearing. And man’s relationship with God can never be right if his relationship with his wife is wrong. So what does God hold us husbands accountable for? If you have been here the last four weeks you’d know that husbands are
1 To FOLLOW Christ as your model for marriage
To be CHRIST-LIKE–from you husbands in the same way
2 To KNOW your wife intimately
To COMMUNE with her–from live with your wives in an understanding way
3 To PROTECT your wife
To be CHIVALROUS–from as with someone weaker, since she is a woman
4 To TREASURE your wife
To be an intimate COMPANION– from and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life
5 To GUARD your marriage
To be CAREFUL–from so that your prayers will not be hindered
What exactly does that mean? What is God saying to husbands when Peter says, “so that your prayers will not be hindered”? Simply this:
1 It is a clear WARNING to husbands
2 of HARM to your relationship with the Lord
3 STIFLING communication, power and blessing
#1 A clear warning to husbands—“so that”
“So that your prayers will not be hindered”–the English words “so that” come from two Greek words that can be used as a purpose clause, as if to say “here is the reason.” Why you husbands must follow Christ’s example in your marriage–know your wife, protect your wife, and treasure your wife. Here is the reason—“so your prayers will not be hindered.”
But the two Greek words do not always express purpose in the New Testament–here in verse 7 these words “so that” indicate a contemplative result meaning this is what happens if you don’t work at your marriage. This is the consequence, this is what you reap when you sow indifference toward your bride. Let me be more direct—so that is telling each husband here, this is what happens to you when you give all your attention to college sports, your career or watching TV. So that is the warning for each husband–beware of this result.
Now before you accuse Peter of being harsh and write this off as Chris being negative, remember what God has already said in verse 7. This verse has it all. This single verse of Scripture is so full, so compact–it contains both a positive and negative motivation in a single verse. And these poles are so extreme, they seem like they’re comparing Jesus to Judas, boiling to freezing, black and white.
By depending on God to live out what Peter is teaching in verse 7 means a couple can together experience the grace of life–which is so awesome, it is the best there is in life as a believer. The negative motivation warning husbands of their failure to work at their marriage is the hindering of their prayers, which is so awful, it is the worst there is in this life as a believer.
If I do live with my wife like Christ, knowing her intimately, protecting her chivalrously, and treasuring her as my highest value next to Christ, then we will together experience the grace of life and my prayers to God will be helped. But the warning is this–if I fail to live with my wife like Christ, ignoring her intimately, failing to protect her, and not treasuring her above all others, then I will not experience the grace of life and my prayers to God will be hindered.
Now the husbands Peter addresses in this letter have been treating their wives as they should. And Peter assumes these husbands will continue to treat them like Christ so that they avoid having their prayers hindered. And the warning Peter is giving is the same as if you were to say, “How could you pray and expect God to answer if you fall back in the old unsaved practice of ignoring your wife or treating her poorly?”
Now this is radical truth–soul shaking principles, and terrible enough to rock a man’s life and change His behavior. Growth means change and change is always painful, and today is gasoline on the ashen coals of men’s hearts. This is a strong man-motivation to change. For every believing husband, this is a kick in the spiritual pants. Do this or God is going to turn His back on you.
Oh yes, if you are His child you will still be His child. He is not going to stop being your Father and your Savior, but He does not like it when you behave poorly toward your wife. He’s not happy with husbands who are not working at marriage. Think about what the phrase “so that your prayers will not be hindered” is teaching you and me. It assumes some truths that are very unpopular today, but are still true and are ongoing.
First God will spank you for sins of omission
The Bible promises us God spanks every one of His true children. If you are genuinely saved God is going to discipline you to help you grow, help you change, to express His love. Read Hebrews 12:6 to 8, “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives. 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
God spanks His true children because He loves us. But the phrase “so that your prayers will not be hindered” teaches us God not only spanks for disobedience when you disobey a clear command of Scripture, but shockingly, God also spanks when you choose not to obey, when you ignore what God has told you to do. When you don’t do what you are supposed to do–how about that?
In other words, God spanks not only for doing something wrong, but for not doing something right. God spanks for lying, cheating, stealing, lusting and anger, but God also spanks for not loving, not serving, not attending and not giving. And husbands here in verse 7 are warned of God’s discipline for not working at their marriage, not pursuing what He has told husbands to do in their marriage. Husbands are spanked in verse 7 for not knowing, loving, honoring and protecting their wives as a weaker vessel. Husbands suffer consequences for your non-actions. We don’t like hearing it, but that is exactly what Peter warns.
Second There are consequences to our actions or non-actions
You reap what you sow. No one believes that anymore in our culture and today Christians who love God’s grace are in danger of presuming on God’s grace. It’s true we don’t earn our salvation, nor work for our sanctification–but we are held accountable for our actions and our non-actions. God spanks and there are natural consequences we pay for the choices we make.
Continually use your credit card and spend money you don’t have, you are going to enslave yourself to debt and be a weak giver. Continually exceed the speed limit in your car and eventually you will get a ticket or have an accident. And husbands, God says continually belittle your wife, ignore her needs, devalue her and don’t treat her as your life partner and greatest treasure and you’ll reap a weak relationship with your God who gave your wife to you. And one more shocker from this last phrase in verse 7—“so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
Third Lifestyle choices dramatically affect your prayer life
Your lifestyle, your behavior, your actions, dramatically affect your relationship intimacy with Christ and your effectiveness in ministry. Peter not only says this here in verse 7 but also two other places in 1 Peter–let’s look at all three.
1 Peter 3:7, “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
1 Peter 4:7, “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”
What struck me is that all three passages in 1 Peter teach us not that praying helps us live right, but that living right helps us pray. Now it is true that praying is one of the ways God has appointed to help us live the way we should, but Peter’s point in each text is to affirm it is also true the other way around. Lifestyle choices affect your intimacy in prayer and effectiveness in ministry.
And Peter’s point in verse 7 is this–the way we live with our wife can clog our prayers. Just like a clogged sink, with scum, hair, stinky smelly gunk that makes our life worse–if we treat our wife poorly, or do not work at our marriage, then our prayer life gets smelly and makes our life worse. If you want your prayer life helped and not hindered, then you have to live with your wife in a certain way.
If there has been no effort to understand her needs, no care for her weaknesses, no recognition of her high value as a coheir and no giving her honor, then your prayers are clogged up and your spiritual impact stops up. Christian husbands must live in a way that frees up our prayers and empowers our impact for Christ and that is only when you work at your marriage in the way verse 7 describes.
The first two words of the phrase, “so that”, tell us of the potential consequences to Christian husbands who do not dependently pursue God’s Word for their marriage. Men–heed God’s warning here . . . three sober truths.
1 Our prayers can be clogged–literally stopped up
2 The way we live with our spouse determines whether our prayers are hindered or helped, clogged or clear
3 Repentance of indifferent behavior is what unplugs the blockage–do you need to repent? Are you harsh, hurtful or heavy-handed with your wife? Then repent.
Are you indifferent, insensitive and inattentive? Then repent
Not only does Peter give . . .
#1 A clear warning to husbands, but he also says
#2 Do not hamper your relationship with the Lord
Look again at the phrase “so that your prayers will not be hindered.” That phrase “will not be hindered” is really direct. It is a cards on the table, shoot straight, man to men talk. The verb hindered is like getting a bucket of water dumped on you in the morning in order to wake you up. It is like you touching the stove of God’s heart and getting a little burned as a warning.
The verb hindered is passive, meaning it is not something that you do, but something that God does to you as a part of His loving discipline to those husbands who don’t work at their marriage. And the verb hindered is present tense, meaning being hindered can be ongoing for a season. In a sense God is saying to all believing husbands, you may be put in the dog house for a season for not treating your wife biblically.
The root word of hindered is very harsh–it means to cut down, to cut off or to strike, but is used metaphorically in the New Testament to impede, hinder or render fruitless. Look how hindered is used elsewhere in the New Testament in your outline.
Romans 15:22, “For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you.”
Galatians 5:7, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
1 Thessalonians 2:18, “For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us.”
You’ve been there–you’re in the midst of a serious conversation with your spouse, but in the midst of your talk you’re rudely interrupted by someone right in the middle of the heaviest part.
You were hindered. You’re dancing with the love of your life and some L-7 comes up and asks to cut in–you were hindered. You’re counseling with a needy believer, and in the middle of your discussion they get a phone call or text–you were hindered.
You are walking with the Lord Jesus Christ, you are His child, but because you continue to be indifferent to your wife, or you don’t honor her or treat her as a weaker vessel, you are now hindered in your relationship with the Lord. Your bad behavior cuts into God’s willingness to listen to your prayers. Your indifference to your wife interrupts God’s willingness to hear what you have to say and what you need. By treating His greatest gift to you (next to salvation) badly or inattentively, you are grieving Him and His Spirit, and it hampers your relationship with your Savior. By not honoring your bride it is like you’re tying your shoelaces together in your walk with Christ.
Do you husbands understand what God is saying to you? Are you getting this? Are you hearing God’s Word here? To take the time to maintain a good marriage is God’s will. To work on your marriage is serving God. To pursue your spouse is a spiritual activity pleasing in God’s sight. Taking time to maintain a good marriage is God’s plan. You are actively serving Christ by working on your relationship.
For believing husbands your life can’t all be about career, TV, your children, hobbies, sports, cars, food, working out, video games, or hanging out. You actually are honoring Christ by honoring your wife and displeasing Christ by ignoring your wife. A husband who treats his wife poorly, is not forgiving, is rough not gentle, is cruel not kind, ignores her and is not attentive, doesn’t honor her or protect her as a weaker vessel, and doesn’t really try to get to know her intimately will himself be unfit to pray, will scarcely pray at all, and will have no life of prayer. Even His praise in song, which is a form of prayer, will be minimal.
This neglectful kind of husband will not experience the grace of life, and this kind of indifferent husband will not be in step with His God but hindered. Come on Christian, you know what Jesus says in Matthew 5:23 and 24, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
Matthew 6:14 to 15, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Jesus says don’t come to Me when you know there is a brother who has something against you. The New Testament is clear–your relationships with others affect your relationship with the Lord. You can’t be right with your Savior if you intentionally, so far as it depends on you are not right with others, especially your spouse.
Husbands, Peter says in verse 7, especially your wife. When you are not right with your wife, 1 Peter 3:7 says you hamper your relationship with your Lord. Peter is motivating you husbands to take responsibility for a fresh, alive and genuinely warm marriage relationship. How can I cultivate a fresh relationship with my spouse?
First Evaluate and adjust your affections
Next to Christ, is she your greatest joy, treasure, love, delight? Be honest, ask others, it should be obvious. And if football season, career, ministry or your boat receive more of your affection than your bride, repent today and turn your heart towards her. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence–the grass is greener where you water it more. Turn your affections and attention toward your wife.
Second Keep working at loving each other
As a believer you have Christ’s love shed abroad in your hearts, and His love is infinite, vast, bigger than you can imagine. Therefore keep working at ways to show love to your spouse. This is not self-serving, it is spiritual work that pleases Christ. Keep working at loving each other.
Technology is tough to keep up with and Jean was having a hard time keeping up with digital pictures–how to print them, organize them, get copies of them. After expressions of legitimate frustration, I decided to try to figure out how to get the job done. And even though it was over my head, by God’s grace, I learned how and demonstrated my love for my bride in a whole new way, by helping her with pictures. I was slow, but keep working at loving your spouse.
Third Make regular time together and fight for it
You can’t love Christ without enjoying special time with Him, and you can’t enjoy your spouse without regular time with her–date night, breakfast, before the kids get up or after they go to bed . . . but make regular time with your bride.
Fourth Saturate your marriage in Christ and His work
Start doing ministry together–a Bible study, a D-group, an RMG, a children’s class where you study the Word together or talk about it and pray together. Enjoy the Lord together, celebrate the Lord together. Remind each other of the Gospel and share the Gospel with each other and others often. Start serving Christ together, giving to others together, and watch how your affections for each other grow. With this phrase “so that your prayers will not be hindered” Peter gives us . . .
#1 A clear warning to husbands–plus exhorts us
#2 Do not hamper your relationship with the Lord
Finally Peter tells us if we don’t pursue verse 7, then we’ll be . . .
#3 Stifling communication, power and blessing on your prayers
Notice Peter is saying that the hindering is with prayer—“so that your prayers will not be hindered.” Some think your prayers here only refers to times when the husband and wife pray together–but you already know that verse7 is addressed specifically to husbands. When Peter says your prayers he must be referring to you husbands. So your prayers here is a general reference to the prayers of a husband–those prayers are hindered when you husbands don’t pursue God’s instruction in verse 7.
You might be able to say the same consequence is in store for a wife who doesn’t pursue the Lord’s instruction found in verses 1 to 6. It could be that the implication of the phrase “so that your prayers will not be hindered” could also be applied to all you wives who refuse to live out what God says in verses 1 to 6. But what is prayer? Prayer is talking to God, communing with God and conversation with God. God speaks to us through His Word and we speak to Him in prayer. In and through prayer we express our adoration for God–we bare our souls in contrite confession before Him. We pour out the thanksgiving of grateful hearts and we offer our requests to Him. Prayer from a pure heart is directed at God consistent with the mind and will of the Holy Spirit in the name of Christ and for the glory of the Father.
But you say, “Chris, why should I pray if God knows everything and is sovereignly in control over all? If God has pre-ordained every event, why pray?” Prayer is primarily meant to effect a change in you rather than in God. But there is a real sense in which prayer is effective because it is an ordained means by which God carries out His plan.
God takes pleasure in granting the requests of His children because He then receives their praise, like Paul said in I Corinthians 1:11, “And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many.” God’s ultimate ability to answer our prayers and the fact that He works concurrently with our actions and motives provides the incentive for you and I to bring petitions before Him.
Prayer, more than anything else, is a vehicle through which God can demonstrate who He is. It is our appeal to Him, and our reliance on Him which brings Him glory, perhaps even more than His answer to us. It is an active, alive relationship.
So here in 1 Peter 3:7 our loving Lord may be speaking to some believing husbands who are praying for the salvation of their non-Christian wives. And God warns here if you believing husbands are not fulfilling your responsibilities found in verse 7, God may not answer your prayer. But we also know Peter is talking to believing husbands of saved wives since He calls them co-heirs of the grace of life. And with that God is warning husbands that by not living out verse 7, these saved husbands are cutting themselves off from divine blessing.
I remember some of my spankings as a kid, but I’ve never forgotten when my parents cut off blessing from me. I don’t remember what I did, but I clearly remember what they did. Because I was bad once I didn’t get to go to the theater to see the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when it came out. I was also not able to go on a trip to the snow to sled after I had been exceptionally bad, which scarred me for life—no. But it did get my attention in a big way. To this day I have never forgotten when my dad cut off blessing.
And our heavenly Father is trying to get a husband’s attention by cutting off blessing when he’s bad or indifferent toward his wife. Are you getting the message? Understand you can’t be filled with the Spirit unless you pray. You can’t experience answers to prayer without prayer. You can’t ask God to bless or protect or help without prayer. And when prayers are hindered, most things that can be good in this life are cut off from you, including the grace of life–the best there is in this life, believing marriage. So how should I respond to God’s Word? What if I find my walk with Christ or my marriage dry today?
First Appraise your marriage
Compare your life against the teaching of verse 7 and see if you need to repent, turn from sin and turn to Christ in your marriage.
Are you CHRIST-LIKE? You husbands in the same way
Do you COMMUNE with her? Live with your wives in an understanding way
Are you CHIVALROUS? As with someone weaker, since she is a woman
Is your wife your favorite COMPANION apart from Christ? And show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life
Are you CAREFUL with her? So that your prayers will not be hindered
Repent of where you are falling short–confess it to God and to your wife, and commit to work together to get back on track. I guarantee you men, if you’ve married a born again woman she will do anything to help you be the husband God wants you to be.
Second Check your prayer life
An open, real, satisfying life of prayer is not automatic–it doesn’t just happen while you are passive. Your prayer life in 2011 will depend in part (along with God’s enabling grace) on how you choose to live at home, at school and at work every day. Therefore do whatever you must do in order for your prayers not to be hindered. Do it now–resolve now while I am preaching to take whatever steps you must.
You don’t want your prayers hindered, because once they are you are not connecting with God, and God Himself will start to become distant and unreal to you. If you’ve ever tasted intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, then you know how awful it is to be distant from Him. Once you have tasted of His blessings, no one can stand being cut off.
Third Evaluate your first love
The well-taught, extremely godly Ephesian believers slowly lost their first love, and John told them how to restore that first love in Revelation 2:4 to 5. “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
God says remember where you were at camp, when you were first saved, when you first got married, when your affections for Christ alone were strongest. Then repent–turn from where you are now to be more of what you were then. Do or repeat what you did before–live that way with Christ. If you want your marriage restored, it starts with firing up your first love with Christ. It is Christ who is the source of a great marriage and without Him at the center, without him empowering you both, your marriage will never experience the grace of life.
Let me add “REALIZE”–practice the presence of Christ in your home, work and school. Realize that Jesus walks next to you. Talk as if Christ were a part of the conversation and “REVIVE”–read, study and meditate on the Word of God, and don’t live a single day without a verse or portion of Scripture as your living lamp.
Fourth Test your faith
Second Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” Is Jesus Christ in you, alive, 24/7? If not, turn to Christ!