I played trombone under Dr. Bartlett, who directed our 80 member symphonic band. One day at practice he asked us to close our eyes and start the song together. The first time we tried there were 80 different sounds and a lot of laughter; it was a train wreck. However, we were all amazed to discover that through practice and listening, we were able to play together beautifully without being able to see our conductor. In the same way, many marriages in our culture become a train wreck. But it’s possible to have a beautiful, enjoyable, intimate marriage, even when life is hard and we can’t see our Heavenly conductor.
The Bible says that a husband and wife are yoked together in 2 Co. 6:14. A yoke is a harness used to connect two oxen to a plow, or two horses to a sleigh. It requires the two go the same direction, the same speed, with the same exertion, and always at the pace of the slower, weaker partner.
Ephesians 5 is a prescription for a healthy, equally yoked marriage. Verse 25 says a man is to give himself up for his wife, or sacrifice. Verse 22 says a woman is to stand under with confidence, or submit to her husband. The husband makes sacrifices or yields when he feels too busy or too tired. The wife submits, or yields, and stays confident when she feels frustrated or lonely. Sacrifice and submission are the keys to being equally yoked.
If a husband and wife are yielding to each other, it’s pretty hard to have a head-on collision. In marriage, you have to choose to go the same direction, at the same speed, pulling with the same exertion. If you don’t, your marriage yoke will be a pain in the neck.
After Stephanie said yes to my wedding proposal, we sat on the top of the sand dunes over looking Lake Michigan and Silver Lake, and I handed her a Snickers bar and said, “Have a Snickers, we’re not going anywhere for a while!” Those next months leading up to our wedding seemed like the longest months of our lives.
Often times it feels like we need a Snickers in our relationship to God. We’re all excited about eternity with Him, and then it seems like His direction for tomorrow just vanishes. I know He’s promised, but why is this taking so long? Where did He go?
I wonder if that is how Job felt during his year of suffering? Or if Joseph ever had a Snickers moment in his two or more year imprisonment during his thirteen year debacle? How about David’s 8 years as a caveman? What was Paul doing during those fourteen years of obscurity between his miraculous conversion and his ministry? Zerubbabel endured a 16 year delay. Maybe the servant of God I most want to talk to in heaven is Caleb, who faithfully and confidently waited 45 years in tents between seeing the promised land and living in it.
But I know for sure God didn’t forget these men. And He hasn’t forgotten you either. And I know for sure these hard events in their lives in no way damaged how God was to use them. Neither has what’s happened in your life damaged in any way how God has planned to use you from before you were born!
John 12:24 says, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it bears no fruit.” Death hurts so badly. Paul said, “I am called; that is why I have suffered” (2Ti. 1:11-12). When you are suffering, don’t think you were wrong about your calling. Your suffering PROVES that you are called. Have a Snickers – He will come.
We live in a world of who’s right and what’s wrong. Every day ESPN’s SportsCenter shares stories of controversy. Facebook is filled with arguments and disagreements of opinion. I’m always trying to figure out what is right so I can communicate it clearly. So then, is being right what’s most important?
The Scripture teachers of Jesus’ day were very sure they were right, so in John 8 they brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus and asked Him to confirm their rightness. Deuteronomy 22:22-23 clearly commands that a woman caught in adultery should be stoned to death. However, Jesus points out that the teachers’ “rightness” did not make them righteous. A few chapters earlier in John 5:39, Jesus told the teachers: “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess [the blessedness of the righteous], yet you refuse to come to Me to be made righteous.”
In contrast to the “rightness” mentality, true righteousness requires mercy. Mercy is being right and acknowledging the wrong, but then offering compassion. If we are going to be righteous in God’s eyes, we need the mercy of Jesus through His shed blood for the forgiveness of our sins. We’ll never be right enough. Yet even when we’re wrong, He can make us righteous.
Jesus acknowledged that the woman caught in adultery was wrong. He also indicated that the teachers were wrong in other areas of their lives. Commentaries suggest that while pretending not to listen, Jesus was writing their sins on the ground, proving they deserved death as well. And yet He offered mercy to all of them. Did they receive it?
You and I long to be right, and we often spend a great deal of time trying to prove it to others. But the reality is that Jesus offers us righteousness even when we’re wrong. Have you received His mercy? Have you extended it to others? Choose Mercy.
Choose Mercy was birthed on a journey from wrath to mercy. While many in the church think wrath is the appropriate response to disagreement, we think the New Testament calls us to choose mercy (Col. 3:12) We have a passion for supporting and encouraging pastors and their wives and children. This comes from the comfort we have received in our own pastoral experiences and witnessed in the lives of pastoral colleagues. Unfortunately the pain of church conflicts, forced exits, health challenges, broken family relationships, and personal failures often leave us wondering how to move forward. Our greatest desire is for each of God’s children to know their Father’s heart for them, and for pastors to personally experience the love and grace they have preached to others for so many years. If you know of a pastor in transition that we can come alongside, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.