Making Marriage Work


This upcoming Thursday through Saturday I will be talking a lot about marriage and many tools that can help strengthen your relationship no matter how short or long you have been married. Since this topic is on my mind, I thought I would preach a sermon on the topic as well.


A man by the name of Tim Timmons maintains that there are basically three stages in marriage. Stage #1 is the Ideal. That’s when everyone is excited, when love is grand, and “our marriage is going to be different!” But then along comes stage #2. The Ideal becomes an Ordeal. This is when we realize that our Prince Charming has warts, and that our Sleeping Beauty is not nearly so lovely once she wakes up. Then, far too often, along comes stage #3. And that’s when either one of the spouses begins wishing for a New Deal. Have you noticed that trend in our culture? With a divorce of rate that continues to hover around the 50% mark, I be you have.

Now I know there are many problems in marriage– but I’m not convinced we should ditch the institution of marriage. Instead, I believe we ought to return to God’s original blueprint to find how marriage ought to be. You see, you cannot make proper use of anything until you understand what it is made for. That’s true about anything.

Felt Pen: I hold in my hand a felt-tip pen. It is a great ideal for, the purpose for which it was made. But, if I try to use this felt-tip pen as a screwdriver– not only will it not accomplish that objective, but I will essentially ruin the pen for the purpose for which it was made.


The same principal is true when it comes to marriage. We’ve practically ruined the institution because we’ve tried to make marriage be what it was never intended to be. Which is why I think it’s long overdue that we open God’s glove compartment and read the Owner’s Manual.

Today, from Genesis 2, I want us to focus on one simple verse– verse 24.


Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.


This verse is repeated by Jesus in Matthew, and Paul emphasizes this thought in the book of Ephesians. I believe our verse gives us a strong foundation for making a marriage work. In fact, from this verse we will learn that marriage is designed by God to operate according to three fundamental priorities.


The first priority is leave.

If your marriage is going to be what it ought to be– THERE HAS TO BE A LEAVING! “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother.”

Leaving does not mean that you abandon or forsake your parents– even though that is exactly what the original Hebrew suggests. We know from other Scriptures that we must always honor our parents, but when we get married and establish our own home we are to loosen our dependency on mom and dad and start living our lives for ourselves.

Moms and dads must also realize that your child was given to you by God but only for a limited period of training. By the time your child is 12 years old, 2/3 of your time is gone! None this does not mean that you cannot continue to be positive influence on them later on, but we must take their training seriously while we have the greatest influence in their life. When we do our job right, we can know that we have done our part and now it is time for them to live their new lives when their new mates.


I read once where a preacher’s dad came to him his wedding day “Son, you’re on your own, now. I’m here for counsel when you need it. But you won’t hear it unless you ask. And if you don’t make it work with you new wife, don’t come running home to us. We’re moving on with our lives. And it’s time for you to do the same. You’re a man now. I love you– but you are on your own.” That was probably the greatest wedding present he could receive!

The principle of this leaving is this.... NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ON EARTH, IS TO TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR MATE. And when it does, you are in clear violation of the first fundamental priority of marriage. That leads us to the second principle:


2. Cleve.


If your marriage is going to be what it ought to be– there also has to be a cleaving!


Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife

Now, I want to make this clear, this word cleave has nothing to do with a meat cleaver or with slicing and dicing. The word “cleave” means “to cling or glue to something. To keep close to something and remain bonded to it.”

This same word is used in 2 Kings 5:27 to describe leprosy which clings to the body. It’s used in Job 19:20, describing bones that cling to the skin. In Ezekiel it describes scales clinging to a fish. Now, scales cling to a fish and bones to a body and leprosy to skin– because they are joined as one. They are simply different parts of the same thing!

That is the point. At the very inception of marriage, God says: THIS THING IS FOR LIFE! The marital bond is a permanent and is not meant to be severed.

When you stood before the Lord, whether it was in a beautiful house of worship or a justice of the peace, and said, “I take you to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part,” you were making a covenant with the future. This is a vow that is not to be broken and we all know that God hates divorce:


Malachi 2:16 "For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce,


We gain a deeper appreciation of the word cleave from four examples of its use in the book of Deuteronomy which speak of cleaving to the living God:


  1. “You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. (Deut. 10:20 NASB).
  2.  “…. To love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast (cling) to Him.” (Deut. 11:22 NSB). 
  3. “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Deut. 13:4 NASB).
  4.  “….by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast (cling) to Him; for this is your life……” (Deut. 30:20 NASB).


Just as we are to have this wholehearted commitment to God as we cleave to Him, we are to cleave to our mates in the same way. When we have that strong commitment to stay with them through the good times and bad times then we will have the foundation in place to weather the storms of life.

3. We are to become one flesh with our mate:


Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 


To become one flesh means that they weave themselves into each other’s life. And that’s a process– not an instantaneous event. “One flesh” doesn’t happen just because the preacher says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife”; it doesn’t happen when you sign the legal documents; it doesn’t happen on your honeymoon because it is a life long process! And it is built on the two previous principles we have already examined leave and cleave.

I want to share a survey with you. Before I do, I want to point out that surveys are always limited to sampling of people and they can only give us a general idea of things. With this in mind a recent survey says that 84 % of women don’t feel like there is much intimacy or oneness with their marriages. A large majority of female divorcees say their married years were the loneliest of their lives.


Men, God wants us to love our wives as we love ourselves. Paul makes this point clear in:


Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,  26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word,  27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.  29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.  31 "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."


God’s plan for marriage is that two become one. And this is much more than just sharing the same residence, the same food, and the same bed. It is two people giving themselves to one another until their lives are woven together into one.


Husbands and wives, let me ask you. Are you developing true companionship in your marriage? Is your marriage more than a joint checking account and the children? God wants much more than that for you. He designed marriage for companionship! Stop using it as a screwdriver and use it for it’s designed purpose!

When we made that vow to marry our mate, we also made the commitment to share our hearts with them so that we could become a great team. In order for this to happen, it is important that we make time for each other and spend quality time together as friends. When you do it right, your mate will be one of most trustworthy and loyal friends.


We must also understand that marriage is hard work. There are many issues that will come up in our marriages that will take effort to learn to overcome or adjust to. We cannot just check out every time things get tough. We can learn a lot from being married and one the biggest things that we must learn is forgiveness.


From time to time you will be hurt, disappointed, and offended by your mate. In fact, our mate can wound us emotionally quicker and more deeply than anyone else can. The only way we can ever recover from these times is by learning to forgive each other our faults.


Here are 12 words that you will hear often in a healthy marriage:

“I was wrong, I am sorry, please forgive me, I love you.” These words or similar ones are very powerful and needed within our marriages because not only must we learn to forgive, we must learn to seek forgiveness and be humble enough to admit when we were wrong.


We must also avoid criticizing our mate. You don’t have to be a football fan to know this very important principle– YOU DON’T TACKLE THE GUY WHO WEARS THE SAME COLOR UNIFORM! Your mate is on your team. There here to help you win the battles of this life and to help you get to heaven, so be careful how you treat each other and the words you use toward each other.


Now do not get me wrong there is nothing wrong with constructive criticism, but we must work on not be negative toward our mate because I promise you if your teammate is not feeling good about the game, they are not going to play well and things are not going to go well for you.


Let us not forget to use the power of prayer. Husbands ought to pray to God for wisdom for being a better husband and father. Wives should pray to God for wisdom to be better wives and mothers. When we put our trust in God and lean on Him to help us in our journey as husband and wife, we can know that God will be working in the background giving us opportunities to grow close together.


The current research shows that those couples that have same faith and actively participate in that faith will most likely have a marriage that lasts a life time. This is just another incentive that shows that serving the Lord together by worshipping regularly and serving Him in your daily lives will benefit you marriage.


It is also important that we never stop being friends. We should laugh together and enjoy life. I was just talking to Dee and Curtis the other day and they were telling me how much fun they have as they gotten older. Between their hearing loss and their short memories they get tickled at each other especially when they try recall someone’s name or some event. That is what is good marriage is about.

Just the opposite of this is what Rodney Dangerfield once said, “We sleep in separate rooms, we have dinner apart, we take separate vacations– we’re doing everything we can to keep our marriage together.”


Sadly that is how some couples are, but that is not weaving! That’s not building a team. Let me ask you, which one sounds more like your marriage?


As we come close to the end of our lesson I want to leave you with two more important thoughts:

1. You must accept the fact that your marriage will never be perfect. Even the first marriage between Adam and Eve was not perfect and they found themselves kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Even the best of marriages have problems that crop up from time to time, but this does not mean marriage does not work because it does despite the ups and downs. If you are expecting your prince charming to not ever have warts or sleeping beauty to never wake up on the wrong side of the bed you are fooling yourself and you have unrealistic expectations. We must understand that problems and conflict will happen, but what is important is how we handle those problems. One of the best places to begin with ourselves because it takes two to tango. If you come to my workshop you learn many tools to help you with problems that arise in your marriages.


2. You must realize that success in marriage is not so much as finding the right mate, as it is in being the right mate. You may think that you have married a dud, but have you ever looked in the mirror? Even if you made a bad decision and married the wrong person, you can still treat your mate with love and respect and make the union you committed to work out. When you do your part, many times it will influence the other mate to do their part as well.

A few years ago, someone wrote Dear Abby: “Dear Abby, I’m single; forty years old; and I’d like to meet a man about the same age with no bad habits.” Abby replied, “So would I!” Give it up. You are not going to find the perfect person in which there is no conflict or who does everything right from your perspective. You are far better off to focus on making sure that you are being the best person that you can be and realizing that your mate is not always going to meet your expectations 100%.  

In conclusion, we have learned much for our verse in Gen. 2:24: God’s instruction sheet for making marriage work reads like this:

Step One - The husband and wife are to LEAVE their parents and form a new relationship that will take first priority.

Step Two - The husband and wife are to CLEAVE and form a permanent relationship by gluing them together in marriage.

 Step Three - the Husband and Wife are to WEAVE their lives together as they give themselves to each other in developing oneness.


May God help us to follow His instructions for marriage so that we can have a marriage that will last a lifetime. 

Adapted from Mark Magee