Suppose I wanted to honor my wife, and give her my best. Should I put my hands to work, staying long hours at my job until all my energy and time were consumed so I could buy her nice things? Is this the best thing I could do for her from God's perspective? Sadly, most husbands, being Godless, will never get it past their thick skulls that this kind of thinking is a self-defeating rut, destroying the very goal of providing for their wives that they claimed to be seeking in the first place.
I refer to the quality of a husband's heart as he loves his wife to illustrate this general rule, that Godlessness has a disastrous effect on every meaningful aspect of life. It is a trustworthy statement that genuine love, dedication and any admirable quality proceeds out of the underlying state of a person's heart.
A worldly husband might stretch his mind so far as to save up all his extra income so he could buy his wife jewelry or an impressive luxury car or maybe a fabulous cruise for two. Such a gift would no doubt seem impressive to outsiders such as her lady friends and coworkers. Yet, tragically, this same worldly husband, who supposedly thought so highly of his wife, might not think it shameful to admire someone else's wife on his way to the car dealership or the travel agency. Such is the stupefying nature of this illness called sin, that it would justify a man, in his own mind, to covet the same saleswoman who sold him his fiancé's engagement ring. So it goes that, apart from God, natural men are oblivious to true value.
What good are all the riches in the world to a wife when her husband's heart is still far from her? All the shiny anniversary gifts in the world from a cold, unloving husband are less than worthless to that man's wife.
Therefore husbands are wiser for neglecting worldly things in order to spend more time, energy and attention on their wives directly. It is impossible for a husband to love his wife indirectly via the nice things he buys her. And he does well in God's sight to place all worldly estimations of marital success in their rightful, negligible place in order to seek out Christ with his wife first of all.
A plant needs water, sunshine and a good soil to live and grow. Any commonsensical person would admit that the gardener who spray-paints his dying plants to make them look alive is a fool, especially when that gardener should know better, especially when the watering can sits nearby. In fact, he is not a gardener at all who considers a plastic, pseudo-healthy appearance acceptable over the real, living thing. It would be a similar waste of time to dedicate one's life to caring for a vast garden made up of only plastic plants. So it is with marriage that God designed it to contain more profound value than for making a good outward show (this also applies to any other meaningful gift from God).
Granted, couples can go through financially hard times, so that it seems like there's no choice but to spend all their time trying to make ends meet. But there's always a choice.
As for any Christ-seeking married people, the question is not whether money allows something, the question is whether God allows it. The poorest couple is not the one deprived of money. The poorest couple is the one that lacks living roots of faith in Christ. Married people are better off seeking Christ before they worry about any worldly concern because, this way, they will be storing up heavenly riches in Him that can never fade away or be stolen.
A couple could not ask for a more powerful marriage than one that is consumed with Christ, striving by His Spirit toward God's kingdom on earth. And this is also a truly priceless commodity, that two people might be one in Christ's name.
In an unimaginably significant way, Christ outsmarts otherwise hopeless men by imprinting Himself directly onto their hearts and convictions. He imparts to each one of them His own, perfectly consistent love for God, obedience to the Spirit and desire for purity. He implants in His followers a refined set of desires and affections, which stay solid and determined, independent of any circumstance, even when no one is watching.
Therefore, Christ enables husbands to honor their wives beyond anything they could have imagined without Him. Men might manufacture something that looks like decency, but groundbreaking Godliness proceeds exclusively from the Spirit of Christ.
When a man's heart is approved by God, he will naturally bless the heart of his wife. And a husband who seeks Christ's counsel is dipping into such a depth of heavenly riches that he will not be able to avoid a joyful, successful marriage. This is spiritual truth.
A Christ-following husband must be the very best kind of husband, because he follows Christ's example, who loves His church, His bride, to the uttermost, freely imparting to her the depths of His divine love. In this way we have earthly marriage as a point of reference, to remind us of the unspeakable profundity of the church's heavenly marriage to Christ.
I catch a glimpse of Christ's love and then I ask myself, how might such heavenly love look from me to my wife?
If any Christ-seeking husband wants to know how to honor his wife in the most meaningful way possible, then he should ask Christ. The same thing also goes for all Christ-followers concerning every significant aspect of life.
A Godly husband might express appreciation for his wife in a simple fashion, such as in an unassuming poem or a card. But even the simplest gesture from the heart of a Godly man contains unmistakable, otherworldly power. This man's efforts to honor his wife, though modest in appearance, are backed by the heavenly weight of an otherworldly, Spirit-led life. When a Godly man sets out to love his wife, he has the endorsement of Almighty God, who is pleased to encourage all aspects of that man's virtuous living.
Therefore the main gift that a Godly husband gives his wife is the fruit of a life devoted to the Lord. His Godliness manifests itself in the form of unassuming purity, love and faithfulness. Such is the heavenly quality of a Godly man's love that it lasts throughout the day, even when no one is looking. This man's loving devotion will last for a lifetime because it is grounded in the rock-solid grace of God.
And a Christ-following husband also has the freedom to depend on Christ for the fruition of his efforts, whether he is seeking, listening or obeying. For this reason a Christ-seeking man cannot resist being a successful husband in God's estimation.
God, in His wisdom, decided that a man makes a better husband by maintaining a simple outlook on life, striving first of all in ceaseless prayer, advancing in the Spirit only to the extent that he surrenders to Christ. If this sounds extreme, then that is exactly what kind of extremity is needed to offset the Godless undercurrent driving this present generation.
Christ-following husbands and fathers also have this very useful reality check for their thoughts and actions, which is a healthy fear of God. Men might be able to hide from their loved ones for a while, but they can't hide from God for even a moment.
Men didn't know how to deal with this fact on their own, therefore God sent His Son to teach us the most productive and practical way to fear Him.
I have heard certain short-sighted men sum up all their duties as a father in how the bills get paid and food gets put on the table. But the Spirit of Christ says that a lifetime of whole-hearted dedication, patience, availability and unconditional love are the best gifts a father could give his family. Worldly men go through with their daily chores, thinking that there is some virtue in doing work for work's sake. But a man's true success, in God's eyes, springs from a life-consuming obedience to Christ. In other words, putting food on the table and paying the bills is at best an outcropping, or maybe an afterthought, of a man's Christ-centered dedication.
Because Godly men make Christ the Head of their households, therefore they and their whole families will enjoy a heavenly sort of success all the time. God will honor such families by using their everyday faith to accomplish His heavenly goals.
All of this is to encourage you, O reader, toward a more thorough obedience to Christ, regardless what your responsibilities are. I am not trying to say that we should merely try harder not to screw up so much. But rather, instead of focusing so much on ourselves, or anything else of this world, God is calling His people to focus on His Son.
If you are in charge of anyone's well-being, then cry out to God. Ask Him directly, "What's next?" for you and for your loved ones. If you ask Him directly for teaching and guidance, then He will teach and guide you directly.
We should be encouraged by God's wisdom, that He meets us at our low places and works us up from there. It is not so much how well we strive toward a place that is acceptable to God, but rather it is Christ who lifts us up to a higher place than we could have achieved on our own. This is all to Christ's glory and not ours.
Though we start with nothing more than a life consumed by sin, yet Christ works out a letting go of this life through total death to our old selves. Death in Christ is the secret to a life well-lived.
If I am a Christ-follower then I must eventually arrive at certain life-consuming conclusions about every aspect of my life, especially for such main things as loving my wife or providing for my family. This means that, when I am 100% surrendered to Christ, then I will be a 100% good husband and a 100% good father.
This is an excerpt from To the Church of the West, Scattered Throughout the World. Find this book and similar articles at www.BooksByPatrick.com
Patrick is an average Christ-seeker. His goal is to turn people to Jesus Christ.