Do you ever feel like your marriage is kind of a mess? Maybe your relationship with your spouse isn’t as close as it used to be? Or maybe your marriage is really good right now, but you wonder if it will stay strong as time goes by?
What can you do to prepare your marriage to not only last, but to grow and thrive through the years? How can you cultivate a closer relationship with your spouse right now that will continue to grow stronger each day?
The good news is it’s not as complicated as you might think.
This week we conclude our series on the Parable of the Sower and what it teaches us about preparing our marriage to thrive. The four types of soil Jesus mentions represent the condition of our hearts–the place where our thoughts and actions begin.
As Jesus tells this story, we see what happens when the seed falls on the various types of ground. The condition of the soil determines what will happen to the seed, just as the condition of our hearts will determine what happens when we hear the Word of God. And just as the farmer needs to prepare the soil, we need to prepare our hearts to accept God’s Word so that it will take root and grow and produce healthy fruit in our lives.
So far, we have studied the first three soils–“along the path” (Mark 4:2-4), “on rocky places” (Mark 4:5-6), and “among thorns” (Mark 4:7). This week we end our study by learning about the “good soil.”
“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times” (Mark 4:8).
All the other soils didn’t produce a thing that lasted. One was too hard and the seed couldn’t get through it. Another was hiding a solid barrier just under the surface that kept the seed from taking root and it withered. And the other soil allowed the seed to sprout and begin to grow, but the thorns and weeds took over and choked the life out of the new plants.
These first three soils are a warning to us. Isn’t it a blessing that the Lord first warns us about the terrible consequences of not preparing? But He doesn’t leave us there. He also tells us how to prepare ourselves to receive His Word so that our lives will become fruitful. And as our hearts are changed by the truth of His Word, our marriages will begin to come alive and grow.
In Mark 4:20, Jesus tells us: “Others, like the seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown.”
Hear the Word
The first step we must take to condition our hearts is to “hear the word.” This means we must read, study, and listen to the Word of God.
Is this a regular part of your daily life? Is it a regular part of your marriage? Do you and your spouse spend time praying and reading God’s Word–together and individually? Do you attend church together, listening to His Word and worshiping Him as a couple?
Accept God’s Word…Put It Into Practice
The second step Jesus tells us to take is to “accept it.” James put it this way: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).
He then explains the consequences of whether we accept the Word or not: “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:23-25).
Are you learning and putting God’s Word into action in your life each day?
It does no good just to read and know how God wants us to live. We have to put it into practice.
When I attended seminary, my classes taught me how to preach, but I had to put that knowledge to work by preaching before the class. When I taught biblical counseling, our students were required to counsel people. My son, in law school, must learn about the law, but he also has to participate in simulated court proceedings. Would you want a doctor operating on you who had graduated from medical school, but had never done surgery before under the supervision of a trained surgeon?
Putting knowledge into practice is what makes a difference.
Many people know what God’s Word says, but they don’t live it out. And then they wonder why their lives and marriages are a mess. When we don’t follow God’s Word, our lives get messed up because of sin. James 4:17 says: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”
But when we do hear God’s Word and follow it, our lives will flourish and our marriages will grow stronger.
Just look at what Jesus says happened to the seed sown in the good soil: “It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times” (Mark 4:8). The good soil is the only soil that produces anything of value that lasts. When we follow Christ’s formula for our lives, we are that good soil.
Jesus teaches throughout His ministry that the evidence of a strong relationship with Him is the good fruit we bear. In Matthew 7:16-20, He said: “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”
What type of fruit should we be looking for in our lives and marriages? There are many God mentions in His Word, but why not begin with the fruit of the Spirit–“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23). When our lives are filled with these wonderful attributes of God, our marriages will indeed be filled will good things.
Jesus concludes His parable with these powerful words:
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9).
For our marriages to thrive, we’ve got to get rid of our hard hearts. We have to remove whatever barriers lie inside us that keep us from listening to God and following His plan. When we allow the worries and desires of this life to get in the way of seeking Him and His solutions, we are setting ourselves up to fail. The only way to thrive in life and in marriage is to intentionally seek God through His Word, accept His truth, and follow it every day of our lives.
“Those who are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing.” – Psalm 92:13-14
Questions for Discussion
- Read this week’s teaching. You may want to review the past teachings in this series. Discuss how it applies to your marriage. Consider using the Couple Connect tool to help you as you study God’s Word together.
- Take some time to assess the soil of your own hearts. Is it hard, or is it filled with pain or distractions? Is there anything not allowing the seed of God’s truth to sink in and take root? Share this with your spouse and pray for each other. Remember, you are one. You are in this marriage together. And God has given you to each other for just this purpose.
- Pray together and ask God to help you have the patience you will need to stand firm and follow His Word. The large crop the farmer experienced in the parable did not come overnight. It came after hard work and in time. The same is true in our marriages as God does His work in us.
- Remember the goal of your marriage is not to have a happy marriage or to be happy yourself. It is to please, serve, and bring honor to God. It is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). He will then teach and help you to love each other with a love only He can give. Jesus said: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). “These things” in this verse are the things you need to live and thrive in your life and marriage. Pray together, and ask God to help you love and serve Him first, and then to love and serve each other and those around you.
Next week, we will begin a study about the importance of serving God together as husband and wife–yet another aspect of oneness in marriage that will help you grow closer as you walk together with the Lord.
Until then, may God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the PREPARING YOUR MARRIAGE TO THRIVE series:
Part 1–The Importance of Your Heart’s Condition
Part 2–Softening the Hard Places
Part 3–Breaking Through the Rocky Places
Part 4–Removing the Thorns
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.