in the Lord
first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added to you.
I think about the first 30 years of my life, I automatically think, That’s when I did everything wrong!
I say this?
my new reading friend, that’s when there was no rhyme or reason for my
life. That’s when there were no guidelines for my life, no instructions
for how to live my life. That’s when I wanted what I wanted and did
things my way. In short, that’s when I did not have a relationship with
God…which is why I am choosing to begin our book here, with God as the
Number One way to make a difference in your life and in your marriage.
was it that I wanted for those three difficult decades? I wanted a lot of
things, and most of them were things that every person wants. My personal
“I Want” list included happiness, fulfillment, a life of meaning
and contribution. I don’t remember wanting fame or fortune, or to climb
any corporate ladders or shatter any glass ceilings. No, I wanted what
I’m sure you also want—a life that matters and counts. I dreamed of
a life of joy and graciousness. And thrown into my dreams was, of course, a
happy marriage that was satisfying and exciting.
marry at age 20, as I was beginning my senior year of college. Jim was 22 and
entering his senior and fifth year in pharmacy school. There was the usual stir
and flutter and frenzy of emotions that accompanies every new budding love
relationship. Ours was truly love at first sight as we passed and smiled at
each other regularly on our way to and from classes. Then came the “blind
date” in November…with a proposal for marriage on Valentine’s
Day…and the wedding on June 1. Wow, what a whirlwind of excitement!
went well for a while. And then… Well, both Jim and I would tell you that
after eight years, things became awfully empty and got pretty rocky, even after
two children were added to the makeup of the George family.
“miracle” occurred, and we became a Christian family. By God’s grace, our hearts were
opened to the truth of Christ…and by God’s grace, we responded to
that truth. And, beloved, that has made all the difference in the world! Things
have never been the same. Before becoming Christians, we were like a couple
with a great car…only we had no key. We couldn’t get the car
started. We couldn’t make it work. We couldn’t use it. We
couldn’t go anywhere.
friend, a relationship with God is the
key, the key to all of life, including your marriage. And that’s what
this chapter is all about—growing in the Lord. And that means learning
what God, the Creator of all things and of
marriage, has to say. You see, God and God alone possesses the instruction book
for your marriage, and He’s made it available to you. He knows what makes
a marriage work. And He’s written His divine guidelines right in the
Bible. We’ll look at what God has to say to you and me as wives in the
chapters to come, but for now, let’s see why it’s important for you
as a wife to grow in the Lord.
chosen as our theme verse for this chapter a beloved favorite of many
Christians. They are the words—and the heart!—of Jesus. They were
spoken to His disciples and His followers. And they address the concerns of
daily life. After telling His listeners not to worry, Jesus said they should
instead “seek first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
does Jesus’ teaching apply to you and me as wives? Well, married or
single, every Christian is to put
first things first. Every Christian
is to seek the Lord first and foremost. God expects every Christian to grow. For instance…
· The apostle Peter wrote that we are to “grow
in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
- He also urged you and me to, “as newborn
babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).
- And the writer of Hebrews, in Chapter 5, chastised his readers with this scathing rebuke: “By this time you
ought to be teachers, [but] you need someone to teach you again the first
principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not
solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk…is a babe” (verses 12-13). In other words, these people had not grown.
So how do
we grow in the Lord? Answer: By putting God first. That’s how spiritual
growth occurs. And the most tried-and-true way to put God first is to read His
Word, the Bible, and obey it. I like to think of spiritual growth as a
three-step process. Keep in mind as you note them that all three steps are
absolutely necessary to grow in the Lord. There are no shortcuts to spiritual
Step #1— Discoverthrough reading the Bible what God says about your life and how He
wants you to live it. How is this done? By listening to God’s heart
through His Word. By reading and paying attention to the teachings in the
Bible. By learning more about Him and His standards for righteousness.
Step #2— Discernthrough studying the Bible the meaning and implications of what you
are reading. This is the point where you pray and seek to understand what God
has said in the Bible.
Step #3— Do through
heartfelt obedience what you have read and learned, discovered and discerned.
This is the step where you do something about what you now know to be the will
of God. This is where you put your knowledge into action in your life.
here’s a question for you: How’s your heart? Is your heart strong
in faith…or weak? Is it a hot heart…or perhaps one that’s
losing its fire? A woman—and a wife— after God’s own heart is
someone who follows hard after Him and close behind Him (see Psalm 63:8).
Therefore prayer and awareness of weak—or sinful—areas in your walk
with God can be the beginning of even greater growth. God desires that we
develop spiritual muscle so we are strong enough to stand against the powers of
this world and to resist its pressures. God asks that you and I “do not
conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
God desires that we develop spiritual muscle
so we are strong enough to be His kind of wife.
another question for you: Are you satisfied with your current condition,
spiritual maturity, and rate of growth? If so, you will grow no more. However,
if there is a holy desire to grow in the Lord, to know God in a deeper, more
intimate way, to be a woman after His heart,
to strive toward His standards, to please Him, to be more Christlike, to
identify, attack, and triumph over ungodly conduct and practices…then
yours is the soft, responsive-to-God heart that will grow in the Lord.
sure you are as busy as I am. Honestly, every morning when I wake up, I wonder
if I am going to make it through the day in front of me—if I’m
going to get everything done, if I’ll have the time and energy it will require to take care of my responsibilities at home and to others.
Then one day it hit me that I sit
in the driver’s seat concerning most of the structure of my every day,
including growing in the Lord. I decide
whether the things of the Lord are really that important to me…or not. I decide whether I will make the effort to
grow…or not. I decide
whether I will schedule in the time it takes to grow, to meet with God
regularly, to stop, look, and listen to Him by reading my Bible…or not.
The most important thing you must decide to do
each and every day as a wife is to put the Lord first.
one, as you can see, you and I are our own best ally…or our worst enemy,
depending upon our choices concerning spiritual growth. I remember the day some
months after becoming a Christian that I wrote an impassioned letter to God
about the issues in my life at that time. It was sort of my covenant with Him
to seek to grow—my commitment to grow in Him. It expressed the desires of
my heart to mature as a Christian, along with my dreams of honoring and serving
Him. I included the issues and areas in my life as a wife and mother that
definitely fell under the “Needs Improvement” column. And I
included the practices in my life that I labeled “Sin Areas,”
purposing to be done with them. I prayed on paper that God, through His great
grace, would come to my aid and sustain my deepest desires to grow.
the spiral stenographer’s pad where I wrote my “Letter of
Commitment” to God those many years ago. It has aged (about 30 years
worth!), and how I thank God it was written in ink and not pencil! And now I
want to ask two things of you.
First, realize that this is the commitment section
of this chapter. A section like this will occur throughout the book that asks
you (and me!) to determine to grow, to determine to move out, to determine to
take action, to determine to do the “putting off and putting on” of
the practices and attitudes God calls us to, to determine to pay the price to
follow after God—to put Him first, whatever that cost may be and however
high it may soar, no matter what. I know my heart is racing right this minute
as I’m writing about the most important thing you and I must decide to do
each and every day of our lives—to put first things first and make the
choices that can help us grow in the Lord.
want you to write out in your own way, in your own words, and from your own
heart, your personal commitment to God. Make a commitment—a
decision—and determine to grow into the woman—and wife—you
yearn to be—a woman after God’s own heart, one who will do all His will (Acts 13:22). You’ll be glad you did! And by the way, save it in a special place and read
Tending Your Growth
any skill or talent requires careful attention, so does your precious,
priceless spiritual growth. What will it require?
Spiritual growth results from discipline. Winning
a race requires purpose and discipline. Paul uses this illustration to explain
that the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial, and grueling preparation.
As Christians, we are running toward our heavenly reward. The essential
disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and worship equip us to run with vigor and
stamina. Don’t merely observe from the grandstand; don’t just turn
out to jog a couple of laps each morning. Train diligently—your spiritual
progress depends upon it.
Spiritual growth results from self-denial. At
times we must give up something good in order to do what God wants. Each
person’s special duties determine the discipline and denial that he or
she must accept. Without a goal, discipline is nothing but self-punishment.
With the goal of pleasing God, our denial seems like nothing compared to the
eternal, imperishable reward that will be ours.
friend, your “special duties” as a wife definitely require
discipline and denial. And your reward for
faithfully tending your growth? How about a gentle and quiet spirit that is
precious in God’s sight (1 Peter 3:4)? How about bringing honor to God as
you live out His Word and His will for wives (see Titus 2:5)?
almost got ahead of myself. This is the blessingssection, but I just had to mention those two spiritual growth
truths. But let’s go on and count—and consider—a few more
blessings you will reap as you grow in the Lord. As you tend to your growth
Your behavior changes. How? You will take
on more of the character of Christ. You’ll become more Christlike as
God’s Word and your walk of obedience work together to conform you to His
image (Romans 8:29). In short, your life will be changed.
Your relationship with your husband changes. (And,
by the way, this goes for your relationships with all people!) As your behavior changes (for the better, of
course), and as you put more and more godly practices into place and heed more
and more of God’s commands, and as you grow in the Lord, you’ll be
a better wife. You’ll manifest more of God’s love, peace, patience,
kindness, and goodness. You’ll display more of a spirit of meekness and
gentleness, not to mention greater self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Now I ask you, why wouldn’t these spiritual changes make a difference and bless you
and others, beginning with your closest, most intimate relationship— your
husband? They do…and they will!
of the difference such glorious changes will make in your dear husband’s
life. He’ll be more relaxed… instead of waiting for the next
blow-up or attack. He’ll be more comfortable with you, knowing the two of
you can communicate peacefully. He’ll be more appreciative of you as a
wife as he senses your heartfelt concern and support of his endeavors. He might
even talk to you more often and about deeper subjects (like the issues and
challenges on his job), knowing he has a tender, sensitive, sympathetic, and
wise listener to share them with, knowing he has a wife who will pray for him.
You are blessed. Growth is definitely
rewarding. You’ll experience unspeakable rewards as you surprise yourself
by the way you handle life’s challenges and difficulties, as you marvel
at your peace of mind, as you (miracle of miracles!) hear yourself speaking
with wisdom and expressing comfort and encouragement to your dear husband. Oh,
you will most definitely be blessed! And when the rewards and blessings tumble
in, there is only one response to make and one person to thank—and that
is the response of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for His marvelous grace!
very special evening, Jim and I had the opportunity to dine with the founder of
Harvest House Publishers.
asked questions of this legendary man and he shared openly, he made a statement
I’ll never forget. He said, “Three words will sell a book— simple, love, and home.”
precious reading friend, I’m not selling anything, but here’s how
I’m thinking after reading what I’ve shared in this opening
chapter. Growing in the Lord is simple! There
is nothing new or earth-shattering here. Life-changing, yes, but you probably
already know these simple (there’s that word again!), foundational
guidelines to spiritual growth. Like the cookbooks I received at my bridal
shower, they were simple, basic, fundamental—the first-steps and the
how-tos of cooking. As simple as simple can be. Aren’t you thankful that
God keeps it simple when it comes to such a mystical, mysterious element as
spiritual growth? We only need to know what God says is the basic recipe for
being a woman and a wife after His own heart…and to faithfully follow His
recipe. That’s what “great creations” are made up of. And I’m
praying that you and I will become just such creations as we faithfully follow
these very few-but-simple steps for growing in the Lord!
Things That Make a Big Difference
1. Read your Bible every day.
mind that something is better than nothing, so aim for at least five minutes a
day of Bible reading. That’s about how long it takes to read one chapter
in your Bible. Because of the subject matter of this book, and especially that
of the next chapter, I suggest this schedule for your first five days:
Day 1 . .
. . . . Genesis 1
Day 2 . . . . . . Genesis 2
Day 3 . . . . . . Genesis 3
Day 4 . . . . . . Ephesians 5
Day 5 . . . . . . Colossians 3
back and begin at Genesis 4 and finish the book of Genesis one day at a time,
one chapter at a time.
2. Pray for your husband three times every day.
before he wakes up, at noon, and right before he comes home from work. Of
course it will be easy to repeat this exercise every day for a week. Then, of
course, you’ll want to do it for life!
3. Plan to go to church this week.
you are a little rusty on your church attendance, haven’t been going at
all, or don’t know where to go, planning to attend this week will set
your personal church wheels in motion. Place this all-important
“date” on your calendar. Then make any necessary phone calls to
neighborhood churches or friends to find out where to go, the exact times of
the weekly services, and any other information you might need regarding a
couples’ class or a program for your children. Then begin the night
before to get your act together—lay out your Bible, organize for a
no-hassle breakfast, and get to bed a little early.
important that you talk to your husband about your desire to go to church. Ask
him if he would like to go along with you and see what it’s like. Tell
him you value his opinions. Also share the information you’ve gathered
and ask for his input. If he doesn’t want to go to church with you,
that’s okay. Your assignment is to be friendly, excited, and to make a
move in the direction of attending church yourself. God’s job is to work
on your husband’s heart. And, of course, you’ll be praying for him!
4. Sign up for a Bible class or Bible study.
you’re busy, but you should never be too busy to take care of your
spiritual growth. This “little” exercise may require making a few
phone calls, but it will be worth it when you experience the exhilarating joy
of growing in the Lord, which is the most important way to make a big
difference in your life and your marriage!
5. Purchase or borrow a Christian book on any topic.
friends and other Christians for their favorite Christian book titles. You
can’t buy every book, but you can create a list to remind you which ones to
purchase in the future. And don’t forget to make good use of your church
library. It’s been said that “by spending 15 minutes a day you can
read 25 books in a year.” Now, can’t you scrape up 15 minutes
today…and every day? As you learn from authors and teachers and scholars
who share their knowledge and their passion for God and His Son, you, too, will
grow in knowledge!
6. Write a letter of commitment to God.
pour out your desire to grow spiritually. It will only take you about five
minutes…but those few minutes could set in motion the direction for the
rest of your life!
Excerpted from A Wife After
God’s Own Heart By Elizabeth George. Copyright © 2004 by
Harvest House Publishers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part
of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing
from the publisher.