Ecc. 4:9-12 is not only about marriage, but it sure fits a marriage ~ two are better than one… ending with this wonderful wisdom saying: “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Two, two, two, two…then suddenly three. The 3rd strand is Jesus Christ interwoven into the marriage.
Today, the necessity of God being intertwined in our homes/relationships. Not an occasional visitor, but a permanent resident. My intent is to emphasize real life marriage, the imperfect situations. If the preacher says you need to make God the center of your marriage but your spouse doesn’t cooperate it can seem overwhelming! Of course you need God intertwined. Duh! In real life, many spouses feel alone in their spiritual journey. If one spouse is luke-warm towards God and the other is excited, the tension can feel like war. If all I do is make you feel guilty or hopeless in your un-even marriage, I will have failed. I want to give you hope. I want to encourage you to never give up.
In Ecc. 4:9-12, marriage is a journey. Never give up in your marriage or in the marriage of the people around you that you love. Whatever your marriage is like today, it may be different tomorrow. Never give up. Here is the take away idea I see in today’s scripture: FROM GOOD TO GREAT. A good marriage is good, but a great marriage is better. Start with good, but here’s the key, and we’ll get to this point later in the sermon: don’t ever be completely satisfied with a good marriage, but work towards a great marriage. Be thrilled with good and work towards great! I want our world to have good marriages, I really do ~ but how much more blessed are all of us when good marriages turn into great marriages. From Good to Great!
The Scripture begins: Two is good. Four sayings describe good relationships ~ Getting on the same page is a wonderful first goal of marriage. One person outlined these saying as Productivity, Perseverance, Preservation and Protection. (I don’t really know the difference is between perseverance and preservation, but they all start with “p” so I’ll use the outline!)
Productivity: two have a good return for their work (Ecc. 4:9). A team of people can exponentially accomplish more than an individual. If one man can build a house in ten days, how many days will it take for two men to build a house? The answer is not five days, because two can accomplish much faster than one alone. Perhaps this is where you are in your marriage: trying to get on the same page in balancing the demands of daily life. Maybe you already have a good marriage, the division of labor, blessing each other with accomplishing the daily routine. Work towards a good marriage.
Perseverance: “If one falls down, his friend can help him up” (Ecc. 4:10). Sometimes what we need more than anything else is to look out for each other. When one has a bad day, the other can bring encouragement. When Sally and I were getting to know each other at UW, I went to a meeting with instructors from the Graphics Art Department to find out if I was accepted into the program. I was crushed to learn I was rejected. As I went walked down the hallway like a Zombie with my shattered dreams who should I meet but Sally. “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” Work towards a good marriage, to help each other, encourage, to pick up the pieces.
Preservation: “If two lie down together they will keep warm” (Ecc. 4:11). Guys, do you know what the word “husband” means? It is a gardening term ~ to nurture, to protect, to help the plants thrive. “Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church” we are told. Husbands are to do whatever they can so their wives will thrive and grow… preservation, to offer warmth.
Protection: Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves (Ecc. 4:12). Emotionally, physically, we just sometimes need each other.
A good marriage ~ Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, provides practical advise on how to strengthen your marriage. God wants good marriages in which the husband and wife are working together, protecting each other, helping each other, nurturing one another. The last few years I’ve spent a lot of time at the Health Care Center in Lynden. If you have been there, odds are you’ve seen Bob walking with his wife Sharon, who is clutching a doll. What a good marriage, ~ a great marriage, the husband simply loving his wife with dementia. Two are better than one…
The problem: stress. All of these qualities of a good marriage are needed because of tension. Even the final saying, “A cord of three strands is not quickly ______” indicates strength is needed to overcome stress and brokenness. Inefficiency, stumbling, coldness, weakness are all stress. A marriage is good when we help each other through stress, rather than creating more stress. A difficult marriage is one where stress is brought into your life as a way of life….Sally and I work together to try and minimize stress around us, work through stress. I try hard not to be her source of stress!...
I ran across A Prayer for the Stressed you may appreciate:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I cannot accept,
And the wisdom to hide the bodies of those I had to kill today because they got on my nerves.
And also, help me to be careful of the toes I step on today,
as they may be connected to the feet I may have to kiss tomorrow.
Help me always to give 100% at work...
12% on Monday, 23% on Tuesday, 40% on Wednesday, 20% on Thursday and 5% on Friday
And help me to remember...When I'm having a bad day and it seems that people are trying to wind me up, it takes 42 muscles to frown, 28 to smile and only 4 to extend my arm and smack someone in the mouth! (anonymous).
Stress is difficult. For those who are married, do everything you can to live the basic truth that two are better than one by helping each other overcome the stress of life. Do not be the problem for each other, but work together towards overcoming stress.
Try this out. It’s awesome to pray to the Lord to overcome stress. I will read a prayer I found that will help with overcoming stress. Then I want to change a few of the words and read it again, only instead of asking the Lord, a husband will ask a wife to help with the stress. We need God to help overcome problems, but God also gave us each other. Here’s the prayer as written:
Lord, I'm just having trouble managing this stressful time in my life. The stress is just getting to be too much for me, and I need your strength to get me through. I know you are a pillar for me to lean on in tough times, and I pray you will continue to provide me with ways to make my life a little less burdensome. Lord, I pray that you provide me your hand and walk me through the dark times. I ask that you reduce the burdens in my life or show me the path to get things done or rid myself of the things weighing me down. Thank you, Lord, for all you do in my life and how you will provide for me, even in these stressful times.
Wonderful prayer. We need to get rid of stress. For a good marriage, change the words a bit in this prayer ~ two are better than one the Bible says. So live it. Become vulnerable to the love of your life, share the stress. I’ll make it personal so you’ll get the idea. God is there for me, but he also gave me Sally! Sally, I'm just having some trouble managing this stressful time in my life. The stress is just getting to be too much for me, and I need your strength to get me through. You are a pillar for me to lean on in tough times, and I ask that you will continue to provide me with ways to make my life a little less burdensome. Sally, provide me your hand and walk me through the dark times. I ask that you be patient with me and see if we can find ways to reduce the burdens in my life or help me to get things done or rid myself of the things weighing me down. Thank you, Sally, for all you do in my life even though these are stressful times.
Two are better than one the Bible says. You want a good marriage. In a good marriage where the two are blessing each other you can produce more, help each other persevere through tough times, protect each other. A good marriage is a blessing!
But Go From Good to Great. Two are good. But don’t stop with good! Go for great! “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” God is the third strand.
Deliberately choose to bring God into your marriage! Josh 24:15 “…choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Bringing God into your marriage is deliberate. Just like the crazy and amazing wedding vows, you must deliberately choose God.
A great marriage is one in which God is at the center. Husband and wife live to the best of their ability by the standards of the Bible, they trust God, adopt values and principles that God desires, seek God’s will, welcome the Spirit in their home, seek to be stewards of all they have, look to the Lord to guide them in all things, believing his plans trump the plans of the husband and wife. In a great marriage, God is intertwined in the relationship.
The strongest rope is a threefold rope. The largest number of strands that can all touch one another is three. If you take away one and leave only two, obviously the rope will be weakened. if you add an extra strand and make four, you do not add to the strength of the rope because the strands no longer touch one another. If you have a rope of three strands, one or two of the strands may be under pressure and start to fray, but as long as the third strand holds, the rope will not break. God is the third strand, touching both lives and becoming an integral part of the relationship making for a strong marriage.
A few days ago I was watching one of the NBA playoff games. The announcers were impressed by the play of one team in particular, and they taught a lesson of how the best Playoff Teams striving to win an NBA title go from Good to Great. They compiled a series of examples of how a player would pass up a good shot and pass it to a teammate for a great shot. From good to great. Good is good but great is better. Good marriages are good but great marriages are better. Go for great. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Only God can make a marriage great. A great marriage includes God as the third strand intertwined, touching both husband and wife. Never give up. Even if you have a spouse that is unbelieving, or a spouse that is a believer but is more passive about God, never forget you can always actively work together towards a good marriage ~ protection, perseverance, productivity ~ but never give up on the great marriage, seeking to intertwine God, influencing in whatever way you can, praying for your spouse.
Go for good and never give up on great. May the Lord grant good marriages, healthy marriages, strong marriages. Two people working together is amazing. Two people helping each other overcome stress. And by his grace, may we also be blessed with Great marriages ~ A cord of three strands is not quickly broken! Amen.