Believing God Enough to Obey Him
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Dr. George Kenworthy, senior pastor at Wayzata Evangelical Free Church and author of the book Marriage Makeover, assures couples that their marriage will get better if they apply their faith by obeying God's word.
Dr. George Kenworthy tells couples that their marriage will get better if they apply their faith by obeying God’s word.
Believing God Enough to Obey Him
George: One of the difficulties was his wife wasn't feeling loved by him because he didn't know how to communicate love in a way that would feel like love to her. Kevin didn't speak Allison's love language. She really needed to hear the words over and over again, and he wasn't good with words. At work she met someone who was, and she was finding that this was filling a void in her life that was missing in her relationship with her husband, and she was drawn to that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 19th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Before George Kenworthy could help Kevin and Allison with their marriage problems, he needed to know what they believed about God.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. Have you seen those late-night shows on TV that are selling products, and you watch, and you go, "This looks really good," and then you think to yourself, "In fact, for 19.95, if you're getting all that, it can't really be that good," you know what I'm talking about?
Dennis: Well, I'm usually in bed by then, but I did hear a product offered the other night. Barbara and I were sitting there, and it was 50 great hymns of the faith, and they show all these great pictures of mountains and oceans and the majesty of who God is, while there's this great rendition of some of the great hymns of the faith.
Bob: So did you order it?
Bob: Why not?
Dennis: Well, it's 24 bucks, I mean, hey.
Bob: Well, I'm thinking about the mops that pick up everything, or the choppers – have you seen the ones for the choppers where you can do four times the work and …
Dennis: How many of those do you have, Bob?
Bob: I have a few, and they don't …
Dennis: You know, I think we ought to call Mary Ann and find out how many of these super-doozer blade choppers they have.
Bob: They work better on the TV show than they have ever worked in my kitchen. The reason I bring that up is because I'm thinking to myself, do we have some listeners who have heard us talking this week about making over your marriage. Marriages being in desperate shape, and the marriage being restored, and they think to themselves, "I don't know, I'm skeptical. It sounds good, but it sounds too good to be true," you know?
Dennis: I do know, but as our guest on today's program and we have talked, I do believe he is up to something here. Dr. George Kenworthy joins us again on FamilyLife Today. George, welcome back.
George: It's good to be back, Dennis.
Dennis: George has written a book called "The Marriage Makeover – Minor Touchups to Major Renovations." It doesn't have those chopping things in there.
Bob: But wait – if you buy before midnight tonight …
Dennis: You can get one, you can get one with George's book. George has been a pastor for a number of years, an Old Testament professor at Bethel up in Minneapolis. He and his wife, Joan, have been married since 1969 and have three children, and, George, you make an interesting statement in your book that if couples are willing to honestly and seriously address three questions, three critical questions, you've seen 90-percent success. Now, there's a lot of marriage counselors and pastors right now who are going, "90-percent success? How do you get that?"
George: Well, I think the honest truth is, I don't get it. It's what we see God do. But we are seeing incredible success with these kinds of couples, and I should say the success is dependent upon people coming in and doing what we're asking them to do. But the secret of the success is believing that God is a great big God who desires to work in our lives.
Part of the secret, too, is we tell the story of what we see God do. When I first came to our church in Minneapolis I, in fact, said from the pulpit and said this to all of our church leaders, something is wrong here, we're not seeing marriages saved in this church, as was the case in previous churches where I've been. And I had members of my staff and some of the key leaders of the church come to me and say, "Well, George, it's probably because we're more of an intellectual congregation than your last church." And I said, "Well, we had 100 doctors in the last church, about 70 lawyers, I don't think that's it." "Well, then," they said, "well, maybe it's because we've got more money than your last church," and I said, "No, I don't think so. We had quite a few millionaires in the last church. I think it's because the spirit of God is not working, that's what I think."
And we prayed over that, struggled with that, and said, "God, please work," and now He has. So it's about what God is doing, that's the difference.
Bob: And part of what you're saying is that there are times when the spirit of God will withdraw, will pull back, and will not work until the levers open the door, invite him in, explain that to me.
George: Well, I wish I had an explanation for it, because I tell stories in the book about some folks where I tell them it's important to trust the spirit of God is going to work, and it happens in a week. I mean, that was the case with one couple that I saw. They came in, the husband, in this particular case, Mac, was in love with someone at work; didn't think he loved his wife, Hannah, anymore; they obviously were struggling. She cried through the entire first session, and I raised the three questions – you know, "if you tell me you believe there's a God; are willing to apply the principles of God's Word to your life and marriage; and if you will pray, the spirit of God will touch you on the holy name of Jesus, I will guarantee God will save this marriage."
Well, they heard me say that. And then I said, "Now, we're going to cover all the topics that are in the book, and I will give you these assignments that are the one thing that you need to do." And I was thinking, you know, it will be about a six-month thing, and we'll get through, and God will do what He does. The next week when they came back, they walked in my office aglow, and said, "The spirit of God touched us." And I looked at them and said, "Wait a minute, I haven't given you my best stuff yet."
Sometimes it happens in a week, sometimes it takes several months and, honestly, I came away scratching my head because some of the folks for whom it's taken several months have been my best friends, and I've pleaded with God, "God, why is this taking so long?" So I don't have a great answer for the timing, but I do know the secret is expecting that God can work.
Dennis: And usually God works when we admit we're weak.
Dennis: I mean, doesn't it say in the Scripture, "For when we are weak, He is strong." And so it's almost a paradox that for a marriage to become strong, it needs to admit it needs help. And yet a lot of people don't want to – they don't want to come to a Marriage Conference. Bob, we see this on Friday night at our Weekends to Remember, our events all across the United States – on Friday night we ask people to hold up their hands who have never been to a Marriage Conference, and it's always 85 to 90 percent hold their hands up, and they're all kind of sheepishly hold their hand up – "Am I going to be the only one who has ever admitted to going to this kind of event?"
I think at the root of that is a pride issue of us having to admit we don't have it together, but yet that's what God is trying to convince us of in the first place, isn't it, George?
George: Absolutely. And I've seen a little wrinkle on that, too. Sometimes there's a husband who might be ready to go to a Weekend to Remember, and his wife's not ready or, conversely, a wife might be ready, and the husband isn't ready, and then they kind of flip back and forth, where one might be ready to seek the help, and the other one isn't. Oftentimes, what happens in that situation is that if a husband feels like, "You know, I think our marriage is kind of okay," and the wife is saying, "No, it's in the toilet. We're in serious trouble here."
The husband will say, "Well, I don't know that I've got the problem that you have. You go fix yourself," and he's not willing to go do anything. You know, "You need counseling, you go get counseling, because I don't really need it all that much." So I see that kind of dynamic a lot, too.
Bob: And you have seen some couples who have come, and you share with them the three questions, and they say, "Yeah, we're ready to do this," and there's a 10-percent factor here where it doesn't work. What's your explanation for the 10 percent?
George: Well, Alex is one example within the 10 percent. I spent a lot of time with Alex over a period of several months, where we were hoping that God would do a marriage makeover for Alex. And he did get all my best stuff. In the course of the time that we spent together – early on, I didn't discover this. This was after weeks of counseling I found out that there was a man in his life that he loved. In fact, several men in his life, and I said to Alex over the course of the time, "What do you think Jesus thinks about your love of this man?" And he said, "Well, I know Jesus would think it's wrong."
"Well, Alex, in the light of that, what do you think Jesus would want you to do?" "Well, I think He probably would want me to break off this relationship." As time went on, he told me privately he really enjoyed talking to me because he loved hearing about the grace of God; he loved my understanding him. You know, it was kind of like the experience that Paul had with Agrippa, he loved to hear him preach, just didn't want to do anything about the preaching.
So Alex kept coming back and wasn't breaking off the relationship. He got into a sex anonymous group and told me that as he was going to his meetings, or even coming back from his meetings, he would cruise the old neighborhood where he used to pick up men. So he was still struggling with this, and I understand this vice is a very strong vice, it's awfully hard to break.
But we continued to talk, you know, "What would Jesus have you do?" And then one of the last sessions we had with one another, he came in – at this point, now, his marriage was still in very, very serious trouble because he now was spending a significant amount of time with a young lover that he was keeping. And, all the while, his wife is wanting to believe God for the miracle and trust God for the miracle, and after months of this sort of thing – and then I said, for the last time, "So, Alex, what do you think Jesus want you to do?" And he said, "Well, I know what Jesus wants me to do." What do you think are the implications? Look with me about two years down the road. Where do you think your activity is going to take you?" He said, "Well, George, what I can predict is it's going to ultimately ruin my marriage, and my marriage is going to fall apart. I'm probably going to wreck my relationship with the people in this church that I love and appreciate, I'm probably also going to hinder my relationship with Jesus significantly. I'm probably going to catch AIDS and die."
And then, to my dismay, he walked out of my office and chose death. And you look at that, and you say, "How could someone who had such a clear idea of where his life was taking him make that choice?" But that's the choice that he made. But there are some folks who, it's their happiness, no matter what. That's all that matters to them, and they don't really believe that God can do the miracle for them.
Bob: And we've talked already this week about these three questions, and that second question is will you obey what the Word says, and here is somebody who said, "Yeah, I'll do that," but when it came face-to-face with "Will you obey?" The power of sin had a strong hold in his life that either he couldn't walk away from, or he chose not to, right?
George: Yes, that's exactly right.
Dennis: And in all of our lives, ultimately, it does come down to a fork in the road – are we going to choose the way of wisdom, the way of the Scripture, or are we going to choose the way of evil? And, you know, all three of your questions – the first one asks the question, do you believe there is a God, and is He powerful enough to be at work in your life and your marriage? The second one is are you willing to do what's right – obey God; the third one, are you willing to pray and ask that the spirit of God would touch you and give you the power to do what's right in your marriage and to love by faith.
All three of those questions, just listening to those, are spiritually rooted. Will it make sense? Where did marriage come from? Did it evolve? Did it come about through amoebas crawling up out of the ocean onto the land and suddenly there was a male and a female, and they reproduced, and they began to evolve into human beings, and that became marriage, and the offspring became a family? Or was there a supreme being, an intelligent designer who created marriage and therefore knows how to make it work? And so when we ignore Him, we are choosing death just like your friend.
Dennis: That when we turn to God, and we yield to God, and we obey God, and we say, "I am willing to obey you, I am willing to allow your Holy Spirit to guide my thoughts and my actions." Then at that point we can get on with life and marriage and family the way God designed it.
George: Well, that's an exciting thing that we see regularly, and even in a more positive illustration of this, you know, there was a couple that I saw many years ago now – Kevin and Allison. As they came to see me, they both were heavily involved in our church, and what happened is that Kevin didn't speak Allison's love language. For those of your listeners who are familiar with Chapman's wonderful book on love languages – but he didn't speak his wife's love languages.
She really needed to hear the words over and over again, and he wasn't good with words. At work she met someone who was, and this man at work started telling her how pretty she was, wanting her to know how much he loved her personality. He even wrote her a three-page, single-spaced love letter, letting her know how great she was, and she was finding that this was filling a void in her life that was missing in her relationship with her husband, and she was drawn to that.
And so when we met, naturally, her husband, Kevin, thought the only thing he could do to resolve their marital problem was to go find this guy who was threatening his marriage and beat him up.
Dennis: Go work him over.
George: That's what he was going to do.
Dennis: That's an interesting solution.
George: He even drove his vehicle to the place where this man worked and parked out there waiting for him and steamed and then drove back. I mean, he never got out of the car.
Dennis: Good for Kevin.
George: Yes, absolutely.
Dennis: Okay, back to what happened.
George: What happened is that when it became apparent one of the difficulties was his wife wasn't feeling loved by him because he didn't know how to communicate love in a way that would feel like love to her. So we talked about that. We talked about her distinctive love languages, his distinctive love languages, and as we talked, I said, "Kevin, I'm not sure it's a great idea, necessarily, for you to write a love note." I wasn't confident that he could compete with the lover, because I saw that love note, and it was pretty good. But I said, "I believe God is still the God of Creation. I believe God will show you something that will enable you to love your wife in a way that will feel like love to her. So I want you to pray." And she was there, too. "Allison, I want you to pray that God will show your husband a way to love you in a way that will feel like love to you."
And so we then waited to see what God was going to do. A week or two later, they came back to the office. I said, "So did God answer our prayer?" And Kevin was smiling, he said, "I think so." And I then looked at Allison, "Did God answer our prayer?" And now tears were forming in her eyes and streaming down her face as she said yes. I said, "Tell me what happened."
Well, what happened is that Kevin decided that he would write little 3x5 cards with notes on them, and he put one on the mirror in the master bedroom in the morning, and then put another one on the mirror in the master bedroom in the evening, and they were cryptic little notes. Now, Kevin wasn't a man of great words, so it was just a phrase or two, you know, "Allison, that day two years ago when we were up at Lake Malleck [ph], and you were walking around the lake, and the sun hit your hair, it just was radiant."
Dennis: That's pretty good.
George: That was pretty good.
George: Or another one that he might put in the evening is, "Allison, I love the way you love our girls." So every morning, every evening, he had a note that was that specific.
Dennis: Bob's writing these down.
Bob: Do you have these in the book?
George: There are some of them in the book.
Bob: All right.
Dennis: Not bad for a guy who couldn't write.
George: And then what ultimately happened is I looked at Allison and said, "Have you kept any of these?" Now tears were flowing as she reached into her purse and held up the stack of notes that she carried with her wherever she went.
So even in that case, you know, trusting that God had answers that I didn't, that He still is a God of Creation who could provide solutions, was critical to what we saw God do.
Bob: And, you know, we talked earlier about the Weekend to Remember conference and God showing up at those conferences, and we often stop and think what is it that got said or what is it that the Lord used? And the truth is, the Lord uses His Word, and He applies different passages, different situations, different people's lives. If we're faithful to show up to present God's Word to ask the Holy Spirit to do His work, then what the Holy Spirit does is a whole bunch of individual surgeries at different points on different issues throughout the course of the weekend.
Dennis: I remember one woman who came to one of our events, Bob, where God showed up during the conference experience. She and her husband came to the Weekend to Remember in a totally hopeless state, but God showed up. In fact, so profoundly did God show up in her life and her marriage and family and was her marriage healed as a result of that over the next 12 months, she invited, like, 40 couples to come back with her, because she thought that was the only place God showed up. She'd never been to church. She didn't realize that God shows up in a lot of places in life, and it's not that God just shows up in one of our Weekend to Remember conferences. He does show up through the Scriptures, through the results of prayer that had been prayed where we're asking God to minister to people. He does show up in church but you know what? He can show up in that apartment right now, that car, that office building, that kitchen, you just may need right now to yield to Him as, Bob, you were talking about, and there may be an individual person who just needs to slip to their knees and say, "God, I'm desperate. Unless you show up in my life, my marriage and family, we're going to fail."
And I can promise you, based upon the authority of Scripture, not anything we've done, that the Lord God of Heaven, He is sitting on the edge of His throne in heaven waiting for those prayers. He delights to answer those prayers. So will you take Him at His Word? I'd just do it right now. Just slip to your knees, and if you can't do that where you are, then just express that to God and ask Him to show up in your life.
Bob: And make plans, too, to attend one of these Weekend to Remember conferences that we've been talking about. We're going to be in dozens of cities this fall all across the country. In a city near where you live, we're going to have a weekend conference where you and your spouse can get away and relax, enjoy the time together, learn, grow, be stretched, and where there can be some – well, everything from fine-tuning to major overhauls take place – everything from touchup to complete remodeling jobs take place at these Weekend to Remember conferences.
If you want more information about how you can attend a conference when it comes to a city near where you live, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click on where it says "Today's Broadcast," and that will take you to a page. You'll find a link there to the information about the Weekend to Remember conference or call 1-800-FLTODAY and just mention to someone that you're interested in getting more information about the conference, and we can get a brochure sent out to you.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, and you use that same contact information to get in touch with us to get a copy of Dr. George Kenworthy's book, marriage makeover. It outlines some of the ideas that we've talked about here today but gives some very practical suggestions, the kind of suggestions that you give couples as you spend time with them helping them remodel their marriages.
Again, the title of the book is "Marriage Makeover." You can order a copy from our website at FamilyLife.com and, as you might imagine, we've got a number of resources we can recommend to couples who are in a tough spot in their marriage. Go to the website, FamilyLife.com, and you'll see some of those resources listed. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY and just mention your unique situation, and someone can help you with suggestions on resources that are available. Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com.
You know, it occurs to me that last year we heard from a number of listeners who found our conversation with Dr. Emerson Eggerich on the subject of marriage to be very helpful. We talked about a husband's need for his wife to show him respect. The Scriptures call on a wife to respect her husband, and we talked about how a wife needs for her husband to express love to him and, again, the Scriptures charge a husband to love his wife well. His book, "Love and Respect," was one of the resources that many of our listeners contacted us about last year, and the CD audio of our five-day visit with him last year was another resource that people requested from us.
During the month of January, we want to make that two-CD audio series available to any of our listeners who can help us with a donation of any amount to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We're listener-supported, and when folks like you make a donation, it means that we can continue this work on the station you're listening to and on our network of stations all across the country.
If you'd like to help with a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, it's easy to do. You can go online to make a donation or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. And, in either case, we'd be happy to send you, for a donation of any amount, the two-CD series with Dr. Emerson Eggerich. If you're making your donation online, when you get to the keycode box, let us know that you'd like the CDs by typing either the word "love" or the word "respect." You can pick. Type either word into the keycode box, and we'll know to send the CDs to you. Or when you call to make a donation just mention that you'd like the CD set, and we'll make sure that gets out to you. Again, the contact information – call 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com.
Tomorrow we want to continue to provide some practical help for couples who find themselves in a different situation in their marriage. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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