One day, a pastor was teaching a Sunday School class. He asked the class, "Can anyone think of a Bible verse about being married?"
A little boy raised his hand. When the pastor called on him, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Maybe you have felt that way. Maybe you have bought into the old adage that says, "Marriage is like a three-ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering."
Sadly, flourishing marriages are becoming more and more of an oddity today. But it doesn't have to be that way. Your marriage can be blessed. It can be successful. It can be something wonderful in your life, if you do it God's way.
In Ephesians 5, we find five principles for marriage that, if applied, not only can strengthen your marriage, but also can help it flourish.
Principle one: Turn on the light (see verse 13). When you can't find something, you turn on the light. Let's say that you are driving in your car at night, and you drop something. You reach around for it and still can't find it. So you turn on the light, and there it is. It had been there the whole time, but the light helped you to see things accurately.
The Bible does that for us. Psalm 119:05 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (NKJV). We are to bring our marriages into the light of Scripture and recognize that we need to conform to what God says.
The question is not whether the Bible confirms what we want to do, but whether we are conforming to what the Bible says.
Principle two: Wake up (see verse 14). We must recognize that we cannot sleepwalk through life and through marriage. We need to wake up to the fact that the culture in which we live is no friend of marriage and the family. In fact, it wants to redefine those terms.
The culture in which we live is hostile to the commitment between a man and a woman. Let me take it a step further by saying that Satan hates the family. He will do everything in his power to destroy yours. So you need to do everything in your power to protect it.
Principle three: Walk circumspectly (see verse 15 NKJV). The word, "circumspectly," carries the basic meaning of that which is accurate and exact. It is the idea of looking at, examining, or investigating something with great care.
Walk circumspectly and recognize that good marriages don't just happen as a result of mere chance or dumb luck. They are the result of work, commitment, and attention to detail.
Principle four: Redeem the time, because the days are evil (see verse 16). The phrase, "redeem the time," means to make the most of it. The end of your life is not the time to realize that you should have thought more about God and your family. Why wait until then?
Maybe you've been thinking, "I haven't really been the husband that I ought to be," or "I haven't been a good wife," or "I need to spend more time with the kids." Redeem the time, and do what you need to do now. You will never regret it. Take advantage of the opportunities you have today.
Principle five: Be filled with the Spirit (see verse 18). Anyone who honestly looks at these principles to which God calls us would say, "These are hard. I can't do them." And they would be right. We cannot be what God wants us to be without the help of His Spirit.
What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? In the original language, it carries the idea of a wind filling a sail. Rowing a boat is a lot of hard work. It is a lot easier when the wind fills your sails and carries you along. In the same way, let the Holy Spirit help you make your marriage work.
I am not saying that you don't need to make an effort. But I am saying that you should let God enable you to be the man or the woman He has called you to be. You need to be filled with the Spirit.
In our own strength, we will utterly fail. It is only as we follow the principles in God's Word, and are filled with and yielding to His Spirit, that we can be the husbands and wives He has called us to be.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!