What was your life like five years ago? Whether things are somewhat similar or wildly different, one thing stands true–life is always changing. Looking back can give us the perspective we need to trust God for our life ahead.
“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” – Isaiah 46:9-10
Last week, in the introduction to this series, we saw that our time is given to us by God and it belongs to Him. Our time here on earth is short, and we must use it to serve and glorify the Lord. We must surrender our time to Him as individuals and as a couple. We must say as David does: “My times are in your hands” (Psalm 31:15).
So how do we make sure we are good stewards of our time? I heard a pastor say something in a sermon many years ago that stuck with me. He said, “In five years, you will not be the same.” He went on to say that we–and our circumstances–might be better in five years, or be worse. But we would not be the same.
That certainly has been true for Sabra and me. Five years ago I was teaching full time at the seminary. Sabra and I were traveling together representing the school and conducting training. Our children were both in college (one still living at home), and our dog greeted us with a wagging tail whenever we arrived home.
Today, our daughter is married and expecting our first grandchild. Our son is in law school in Florida. We are empty-nesters. Our beloved dog is gone. And due to health reasons, I have been forced into retirement. We are certainly not the same as we were five years ago. But praise God–because of His faithfulness–Sabra and I are better off than we’ve ever been.
Are we better off financially? No. We’ve had to move to a less expensive apartment, continue driving our ten year old car, and cut down or cut out many things in our budget.
Are we better off physically? Certainly not. I still have many lasting effects from my health problems, and we both are five years older with all the issues that come with aging.
But we are better off in the ways that really matter. Sabra and I are closer to the Lord and each other than we’ve ever been. And I wouldn’t trade that for all the other things we no longer have. We have seen God be true to His Word. Five years ago, we could quote many of the things God’s Word promised, and we believed them. But now we have experienced them first hand and know them to be true.
Looking back five years and beyond encourages us. It helps us remember what God has done for us before and encourages us that He will continue to be with us today and into the future. It reminds us of God’s greatness and goodness. It encourages us and helps us to continue to move ahead with trust in Him.
The people of Israel faced hard times. They were under Persian rule. They began to believe the Persian rhetoric that their gods were more powerful than Israel’s God. So God sent Isaiah to speak for Him.
We read God’s words in Isaiah 46:8-10: “‘Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
God encouraged the Jewish people to stand firm in their trust of Him by remembering all that He did in the past. We must do the same in our marriages. When we face difficult times, we can recall together how God saw us through other hard times. This will help empower us to trust Him and stand firm in whatever we are dealing with today.
But we can’t stay in the past. We must not allow the past–especially our past failures, sins, and shortcomings–to defeat us. This is what Paul was referring to when he wrote in Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Some people use this to say we should never look back and never consider the past when making decisions today and for the future. But Paul is not saying that. He is teaching that we should not let the past control us. We should learn from past mistakes, and be encouraged by the past working of God in our lives. But we should not let the past defeat us.
If we look at Paul’s words immediately before this passage, he explains how he once depended on his works for salvation and spiritual growth. Then God taught Him it was by faith in Christ that he was saved and was to live (see Philippians 3:1-6). He would no longer let the negative aspect of his past control him.
He makes this clear in Philippians 3:7-9: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”
This is why it is so important that when we study the Bible as a couple or as individuals that we read all of God’s Word. We must not read a verse or passage out of context. There is no better way to misunderstand the Bible and be led astray than reading it or hearing it out of context. We must take to heart Paul’s admonition to his younger protégé in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Our time past and remembering how God worked in it for our good–especially the hard times–encourages us to move toward the future with confidence. We can also have hope for the future because of God’s promises. God says, for example, in Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
This was a promise given to the Jewish people to encourage them about their future when they were captives in Babylon. But I can assure you that we have it preserved in God’s Word to encourage us in whatever we face today. This verse is often quoted, but we should not allow familiarity with it cause it to lose its power. It is still very important for us to recall it regularly.
God’s plan for our lives and marriages at times seems difficult and we may not understand it. Nevertheless, His plans for us are always better than we could ever predict. As Paul concludes his prayer for his brothers and sisters in Christ at Ephesus, he writes in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”
We must trust in God as we look to the future in our marriages. We must never forget that He is cheering for us and wants the best for us. Paul also writes to his persecuted fellow believers in Rome words of encouragement. He writes in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” They are words about the future for us as well.
So we don’t want the past to keep us from moving ahead in our walk with God together as a couple or individually. We don’t want to get so focused on the future that we miss opportunities to serve Him today. We want to learn from the past to trust God and not continue in the same sins. We want to place our futures in His hands and seek His guidance for it. We can trust Him fully–past, present, and future.
Psalm 33:4 assures us: “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.”
Five years ago your marriage was different. Maybe you weren’t even married yet. Five years from today your marriage will be different. Will it be “better or worse,” as the traditional marriage vows say? It will all depend on how you use your time. Will it be used to follow and serve God?
Questions for Discussion
♦ Read this week’s teaching post together. Discuss what God has taught each of you individually and together.
♦ Every experience we have in life is a stepping-stone to something else God wants to lead us toward. God has a plan for you and your marriage, and He is moving toward it. He is using you at every step along the way.
Think about Paul and all the experiences God used in his life to move him where He wanted him. He was a Pharisee, then he became a missionary and church planter, and finally when he was confined in prison at the end of his life, Paul became an author of a good part of the New Testament. Paul could look back on his life as he approached its end and write in 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul was able to see God’s hand in every stage of his life. Look together at what God has done in your lives up to now. Discuss what God might be doing with that so you can serve Him now. Discuss also what He might have prepared and be preparing you for in the future.
♦ As mentioned above, Psalm 33:4 says God is faithful in all He does. Songs have a way of helping us remember God’s Word. Here is a VBS song, by Jay Stocker, based on this verse…
♦ Close your time together by praying for God to reveal His plan for you in His perfect way…in His perfect time.
Next week we will continue our discussion of what God says about time and how it affects our marriages. We will look at some specific ways we find in the Bible to use our time to serve God and grow in our walk with Him as a couple.
Until then may God bless you in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the TIME & MARRIAGE series:
Part 2 – One in Purpose
Part 3 – Making Time for Rest
Part 4 – Making Time to Love and Serve
Part 5 – The Value of Waiting
Part 6 – How to Wait Well
Part 7 – Strong to the End
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