Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif., shared on Sunday the last sermon of a series called "Happily Even After," showing the importance of family and sharing keys to having blessed and successful marriage and parenthood.
Laurie once again stressed that marriage and family are under attack in America today, "battered by a high rate of divorce, cohabitation, unwed child-bearing and fatherlessness." And the push for same-sex marriage and civil unions has brought the marriage to a state of crisis in our country, he said.
The pastor quoted a study that found that divorce and unwed child-bearing alone cost our taxpayers $112 billion a year. "This is a national problem, and it's been said that a family can survive without a nation, but a nation cannot survive without the family."
There is an experiment happening in the country that seeks to see how much they can change marriage, he said. "If you follow the culture… your marriage may be doomed," he warned.
But the good news is you can have a blessed and successful marriage and family, if you do it God's way, Laurie told the congregation, sharing six keys to a lasting marriage.
"A successful and lasting marriage begins with a leaving and a cleaving," he said, introducing the first key. He quoted Matthew 19:5, which states, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."
Marriage is one on one, he said, adding that if a marriage doesn't get to leaving and cleaving, it will have problems throughout.
About leaving, he explained that the closest relationship outside of marriage specified in the passage is that of a child with his or her parents. If leaving your father or mother is necessary, then obviously all lesser ties must be broken, changed or left behind, he said. A man's full commitment must be to his wife, and vice versa.
Cleaving means to sticking together, and holding on to one another, he said. Your spouse if your best friend, he underlined.
The second key, Laurie said, is that a successful marriage requires that the husband and wife submit to each other, based on Ephesians 5:21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."
"Submit" is a military word, which means to rank beneath or under, he said. "So you have to put the other person above you... put the needs of your mate above your own."
When a husband submits to his wife, he does not leaves his responsibility to be the spiritual leader at home, he cautioned, explaining that he sacrifices his own desires for that of his wife.
Laurie shared the third key, saying that to have a successful marriage, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit, based on Ephesians 5:17-18: "Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit."
We have the power to do what God has called us to do, and that power is given by the Holy Spirit, he said. "I can't love my wife as Christ loved the church... and my wife cannot love me... without the power of the Holy Spirit."
The word "be filled" means to be constantly filled... again and again, he explained.
The fourth key to have a successful marriage is that the husband must love his wife as Christ loved the Church, as Ephesians 5:25 states, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."
In many marriages, spiritually, men are passive at best, and actually work against the marriage at worst, Laurie said. Sadly, in many Christian homes, it's the woman who is the spiritual leader; it's the wife who says, let's go to church, read the Bible and pray.
He asked the husbands if they are doing what they are called to do.
The fifth key is the wife must respect and submit to her husband, the pastor said.
1 Peter 3:1-2 says, "Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."
Man needs respects, and a woman needs to be nurtured and told she is loved, he said. A woman will not lose her dignity by submitting to her husband, he added.
"The husband has the God-given responsibility to provide for, protect and lead just as the Lord does for the Church," Laurie told the congregation. The wife should submit to the servant leadership of her husband, as the Church submits to the headship of Christ.
The sixth and the last key, the pastor shared, is that for a successful marriage, communication must be constant. He quoted James 1:19, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
Asked in a survey, 84 percent said they think their marriage broke because of deficient communication, Laurie shared.
It's important to have fights in marriage, he said, explain that he is talking about disagreeing verbally, and not a physical fight. Fight fair, he told the congregation. Have a calm conversation, and hear each other out before drawing conclusions. "The objective is to resolve, and not to win."
He quoted Ephesians 4:31-32, which states, "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
Laurie also quoted Ruth Graham, who once said, "A successful marriage is made of two good forgivers."
After dealing with the subject of marriage, the pastor talked about family, focusing on parenthood.
He quoted Ephesians 6:4, "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."
We can provoke our children by showing favoritism, Laurie said. Children know when you have a favorite. Do not compare your child with another child, it hurts them, he advised.
Another thing that provokes our children is when we never compliment them, he said. And sometimes we can do so by over-praise our children. We need to learn to find a balance.
We also need to train and admonish our children, Laurie added. The passage doesn't say beat them up. "We need to bring them up because their sinful nature brings them down."
If we do not proactively take an interest in our child's physical as well as spiritual welfare, someone else will. "That's not good." Don't leave it to the public school or the media to teach values to your child, Laurie said, quoting Proverbs 29:15, "A child left to himself brings shame to his mother."
Create a thirst in the child for spiritual things by being an example, he said. It's important to create a boundary – what your child can do and what she or he cannot. It's also important to discipline you kids, he added.
Laurie quoted a study, which said a child is not likely to be delinquent if there are certain things in his or her family. Those things include the father's firm, fair and consistent discipline; the mother's supervision and companionship during the day; the parents' demonstrated affection for each other and for the children; and the family spending time together in activities where all participated.
The Bible tells us to do these things, Laurie said, adding that sociologists are merely catching up with the Bible by undertaking such studies.
More than anything else, parents' responsibility, he said, is to point their children to God so that they get to heaven.
The choices of time are binding in eternity, Laurie said. The question is, is it a godly or an ungodly legacy. "Family matters… and we are leaving a legacy."