Love, Serve, Lead
About the Guest
Do you know your job description as a husband? Pastor Rob Rienow, a husband and father to six, talks about a man's responsibility to love, serve, and lead his wife.
Do you know your job description as a husband?
Love, Serve, Lead
Bob: Are you trying to help your spouse grow in godliness? Should that even be your project? Rob Rienow says it should.
Rob: One of the common myths about marriage out there is that you shouldn’t try to change your spouse. You hear that all the time. “You shouldn’t try to change your spouse.” Now, I know what people mean by that—“Don’t berate your spouse,” “Don’t control your spouse,” “Don’t manipulate your spouse.”
I am with you on all of that, but there is a mission that—if you are a husband—God has brought this woman into your life as the most important ministry He will ever give you, which is to nurture and encourage faith in her.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I am Bob Lepine. Rob Rienow joins us today to talk about having a strategy—having a strategic vision for our marriages. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, at most businesses, if you get hired for a job at the business, there is some kind of a sheet that they give you that tells you what the job description is. It gives you your assignment—
Dennis: What your responsibilities are—
Bob: Here, at the ministry, we call them Position Focus Sheets.
Bob: It kind of keeps you focused on what you are supposed to be doing. When I got married, I did not get a Position Focus Sheet. Did you get one?
Dennis: Oh, Barbara gave me one. (Laughter) She knew I needed help in focusing!
Bob: Was it right there at the altar that she said, “By the way—”?
Dennis: No, she didn’t.
Bob: “Here is what I am saying. Here is what you are saying, ‘I do,’ to.”
Dennis: I am kidding. She didn’t know any more than I did what she was doing. You know, we didn’t have that, Bob. At that point, we hadn’t started FamilyLife.
Of course, at the Weekend to Remember ® marriage getaway, we spend nearly two hours on Sunday morning at the conference, talking to the men separately from the women about what their job description is; and we talk to the women about their job description. Really, I think—for some of them—I think it is a break-through to finally understand, “You know what? I am exhausted because I am trying to do my job and my spouse’s job.”
Bob: Well, if you are going to have marriage be what marriage is supposed to be, then both of you are going to have to be in the role you are assigned to play.
Dennis: Yes. We are going to ask our guest today on the broadcast, Rob Rienow, to give us a high fly-by on the man’s responsibility. I am looking at the clock, Rob. I am going to give you ten minutes for the men, and I am going to give you ten minutes for the women.
Just talk about, “What is the job description for husbands and wives in a marriage relationship?” And by the way, welcome to the broadcast.
Rob: Thank you for having me back.
Dennis: Rob and his wife Amy are the founders of Visionary Family Ministries. They have been married since 1994. They have six children, ages 13 to 1—which, “That’s a load man. That’s a load!” (Laughter) You are going to have several teenagers—
Rob: A lot of sanctification taking place at our house.
Dennis: --at one time! He, along with Amy, is the author of Visionary Marriage: Capture a God-Sized Vision for Your Marriage. Let’s start with the men. What is their responsibility, Rob?
Rob: At the outset, I just need to say that I believe God created men and women with equal value, equal worth, equal dignity, and equal importance. That comes right out of Genesis, Chapter 1. I also believe we are equally sinful after the Fall, which means we contribute equally to the problems in marriages, in families, in churches, and in nations; but He also created us differently.
He created us differently physically. He created us differently emotionally, even spiritually. The reason for that is that He has given us different roles and responsibilities in the world to help the family and the church succeed in the mission that God has called them to. In the Bible, God gives these job descriptions, as you gentlemen just referred to. Ephesians, Chapter 5, is filled with job descriptions for husbands and wives. We will start with the husband. It is in Ephesians 5:25 and 26 where we read this, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word.”
I see three bullet points in the job description here. The first one is plain. Husbands, what? What is the first one?
Bob: Uh, love your wives.
Rob: Husbands, love your wives.
Bob: Okay, right.
Rob: We know the world has given us a poor definition of love with warm fuzzies and all of that. Well, God tells us what love is, right? First Corinthians 13: “Love is patient, love is kind, does not envy, does not boast.” So if a man says to a woman, “I love you,” what he is saying is, “When it comes to you, I am patient. When it comes to you, I am kind. When it comes to you, I don’t boast. I don’t keep a record of the wrong things you have done. I don’t delight when bad things happen to you; I rejoice when good things happen to you. I always persevere. I always hope. I always trust.”
Now, when I think about that, in my relationship with Amy—that this is the bar God has called me to get over, right? “Husbands, love your wives”—it means those actions and those attitudes. I look at that bar, and I fall on my knees. I say, “God, I don’t have it in me to love this woman like this. The only chance I have of doing these things on this list is if You will supernaturally empower me and enable me to do things that I can’t do.”
I think one of the things we do with the righteous and holy commands of the Bible is we lower the bar so we can get over it, as opposed to saying, “No, that is the bar; and I can’t get over it.” So, “Jesus, I need help every day.”
Dennis: That point of being on your knees, feeling helpless and hopeless to do it yourself, and crying out to God to do it in you and through you, is the place to begin. I just want to read Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” That is the fruit of the Spirit. If you know Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord—if you have placed your faith in Him—you have the Holy Spirit in you. He was given by God to you to produce this fruit that Rob is talking about—to help you love your wife the way Christ commanded you to in Ephesians 5. That is a great place to start.
Rob: We got to start out on our knees—not lower the commands—but keep them where God put them. Lower ourselves and ask God for help. The good news is that Jesus really did die on the cross, and He really did rise again from the dead—which means there is forgiveness for the past and supernatural help for the future.
Bob: Okay. So we are to love—
Rob: “Husbands, love.” Now the next one is, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” The word I am going to use for that is the word, “serve,”—that a husband is to literally lay down his life for his wife. There are a lot of things in this—of provision for his wife, to the best of his ability. One of the big ones is protection of his wife.
One of the things I will do in a lot of the marriage counseling I do is with couples who are real foggy in their roles. One of the questions I will ask, “I want you to imagine you are lying in bed, and the window breaks in the other side of the house. There are heavy footsteps toward the baby’s room. Which one of you grabs the baseball bat and goes out and deals with this?”
Ninety-nine times out of a 100, the gal quickly points to her husband and says, “That is his job.”
Rob: Okay, because she has a natural—and he kind of sits up taller in his chair, and he says, “Yeah, that’s right,” because he understands that God created men as the protector of women and children.
I can remember one time in my office where the woman sat up straight in her chair and said, “That’s my job. I’m doing that.” I’ll never forget. This guy put his head in his hands and just wept. She had emasculated him. She had ripped away from him this God-given role of men as the protector of women and children.
You look down through history. You think of something like the Titanic, where—most people don’t know this—but the vast majority of the people who survived the Titanic were women and children.
Rob: Why is that?—because all the rich, fat-cat businessmen are on the deck shouting, “Women and children first! Women and children first!” They were men! That’s what men do—they lay down their lives for their families.
So, it is love and serve; and then there is a purpose. In other words, “Why should a husband love his wife? Why should a husband serve his wife?” That is the beginning of verse 26. It is, “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word.” In the book, we talk about the first mission of marriage being the mission of spiritual transformation.
One of the common myths about marriage out there is that you shouldn’t try to change your spouse. You hear that all the time. “You shouldn’t try to change your spouse.”
Well, unless you marry Jesus, your spouse needs changing! They have character—I know I need changing. I have a world of character problems. God has blessed me with Amy, more than anybody else in the world, to help change me.
Now, I know what people mean by that—“Don’t berate your spouse,” “Don’t control your spouse,” “Don’t manipulate your spouse.” I am with you on all of that, but there is a mission that God—if you are a husband—God has brought this woman into your life as the most important ministry He will ever give you, which is to nurture and encourage faith in her.”
Dennis: Yes, and what you are saying there, Rob, is really important for men. Your love and serving of your wife authenticates your leadership. It creates the respect in her heart that ultimately empowers you back to be able to lead. Otherwise, you are going to be competing with her; but if she senses you want to nourish and cherish her, and care for her needs, then she will follow you.
Bob: So, when I read, “Make her holy by the washing of the water with the Word,” I go, “I can’t make my wife holy. I can’t make her anything!” But, you are saying, “I can lead her in a spiritual direction. I can point her.” I can say, “Come with me and let’s, together, grow in godliness.”
Rob: Absolutely, and there is a critical word that you just said. “—to make her holy by”—The “by” word is a method word: Here is how you get it done, “by the washing with water through the Word.” Scholars disagree in the “washing with water” part—maybe it is a reference to baptism or something—but the “with the Word” part is really clear.
You get this picture in the Bible of husbands being responsible to make sure that God’s Word is present in the relationship. Make sure that the supernatural Word of God is present in the marriage and present in the family because, as the Bible says in Hebrews, “it is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, able to penetrate soul and spirit, joint and marrow.”
When a husband will just bumble and stumble—even men, if you were to say to your wife today, “Hey, Honey, would you just be willing to sit down on the couch with me while I read a little bit of the Bible together?” She might say, “Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?!” or have a heart attack or something—I don’t know; but she will probably awkwardly sit down with you and, “Okay.”
You can just read this—open this Book—open it to the Gospel of John. Read a paragraph. When you get done, say, “Thank you, Honey. That was nice.” She will awkwardly say, “Yes, that was nice.” You go off on your separate ways. You don’t have to have this big, long, hour-long conversation about it; but the Book is supernatural. Reading it—just bringing the Bible into your relationship with your wife—according to Ephesians 5—has supernatural, transformative power.
Dennis: Time’s up. Time’s up for the men. It is time to turn to the women. (Laughter)
Alright, where do we start with our wives because this is a challenge for a man to speak to a woman; but you are speaking from the Scripture. We are just talking about what the Scripture calls women up to, right?
Rob: Absolutely; and you know what? The culture accuses Christianity of male dominance and women’s subservience, right? Because we are generally too cowardly to talk about it—we just keep our mouths’ shut—and then the accusation sticks. Even though we just got done reading that the number one command from God to their husbands is to love them; number two—to serve them—laying their life down for them, if necessary. I’m not seeing a lot of dominance and subservience there, but either way. (Laughter)
We have got some very specific words that God gives to wives, in the Bible. These are treacherous. Ephesians 5—you get this—you get the “R” word in verse 33. “Wives are to respect their husbands.” Verse 22, you get the “S” word, right? They are to “submit to their husbands.” Back in Genesis, God creates the man. He says, “It is not good for man to be alone. I am going to make a”—
Rob: --“helper suitable for him.” So you have these three words, which I think, really form the cornerstone of the wife’s job description: to respect, to help, and to submit. The respect word—if you look at this one in the Greek—what it really means is, “Respect,”—(Laughter)—which is the deeper meaning of that; and all those things that go with it, which is to speak to him with a respectful tone of voice, and to be kind—just like you would show respect to a stranger, or a teacher, a friend, or things like that.
Now, of course, when I do a lot of this marriage counseling, a lot of women will say, “Well, you know, respect needs to be earned! How can I respect a man who doesn’t deserve respect?” I appreciate that, and I very much empathize with the wife’s hurt that she is experiencing in that situation.
Let’s go back to the men for just a quick second. “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Do we deserve the unconditional love of Christ?
Rob: No, we do not. Wives, do you deserve the unconditional love of your husband? The answer is, “No.” The world says, “Yes”; but the answer is, “No.” You haven’t earned his love with your noble character and perfect behavior; and yet, your husband is commanded to love you, even though you have character problems. God says that he must love you, in spite of your character problems.
Now, men, have you earned the respect of your wives? Do you deserve it? Have you earned it with your noble character and perfect performance? I hope you are saying, “No,” to that; and yet, despite the fact that you have not earned it, God says to your wife to give it to you.
Now, these other terms of help and submit—this is where I believe a lot of Christian women are in a pretty maddening and difficult situation. These two terms are relative terms. What I mean by that—Dennis, if I were to call you up and say, “Hey, can you come over next weekend and help me at my house?” My friend, Dennis, would say,—
Rob: “Sure.” Then he would ask me a question.
Dennis: What do you want me to bring—a chainsaw? (Laughter)
Rob: No power tools! Don’t hurt yourself! Yes, you would say, “What are we doing?”
Rob: What do you need help with because “Help me,” doesn’t mean anything yet. It needs something to relate to. “Well, I need help moving wood.” Dennis—“Oh, now ‘help me’ means move wood,” or, “I need help watching the kids.” Now, “Help me,” means, “Watch the kids.”
Dennis: I can’t use my chainsaw for helping with the kids. (Laughter)
Rob: Again, leave anything dangerous at home!
Same thing with “submit.” Somebody comes to you, Bob; and says, “Bob, I want you to submit.” You are going to say”—
Rob: “Okay, maybe; but I need a little bit more information. What are you asking me to submit to?”
Bob: Uh, huh.
Rob: That is the situation that Christian women find themselves in, “Help with what? Submit to what?” The what is—and I don’t mean to bring it back to the man too quickly—but this is where the role of husband and wife come together. This is the key.
“Help with what?” and, “Submit to what?” hinges on the husband’s compelling vision for his life. If the man has, what I call, the dime-a-dozen vision, you ask the guy, “What are you doing all this for? You have a home, you have a family, you are going to work, you are going to church—what is this all about?”
If the guy says, “Well, I don’t know. I guess I want to have a good marriage, a good family, and be good people, and raise some kids and have some grandkids, take some trips, and get some cars, and have a good life.” If that is his compelling vision for success, that is not compelling enough for her to want to give her heart and soul to help you succeed. She can find 999 other guys who have that exact-same vision.
What it takes is for a man to come to a woman and say, “Honey, let me tell you why I think God made me. I think He made me to glorify Him first and foremost by loving, serving, and nurturing faith in you; and I think God has brought us together for a mission. I think God has brought us together for the mission of raising this next generation for the glory of God. Our family, then, would pass faith on to grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and beyond; and that our family is going to be a blessing to our churches and bring the Gospel, ultimately, to the ends of the earth. Now, I have a big question for you, Sweetie. I have to ask you, ‘Will you help me succeed in that mission God has given me?’” The heart of the Christian woman at that says what?
Rob: “Sign me up for that! Your mission is to love me? I’m all over that!” (Laughter) Alright? She wants in because now what happens—the mission of the man—which is a family-centered Gospel mission—and the mission of the woman to help him succeed with his family-centered Gospel mission—come together.
Dennis: Okay. So, are you saying then, because I can hear a wife who is listening to us right now, “Are you saying, ‘If my husband doesn’t have that mission, that that lets me off the hook as a helper and as one who is supposed to submit?’”
Rob: Absolutely not. Here is why. Your mission is to help him succeed. Now, some of your husbands don’t have this family-centered, Bible-driven mission. We talked a moment ago about, “Don’t try to change your spouse.” Well, if your husband doesn’t have this Bible-driven mission, he needs changing. God has brought you, as his wife, into his life—more than anybody else in the whole world—to help him grow as a godly man.
Bob: And you don’t do that by coming to him tonight and saying, “I heard on the radio you need to have a Bible-centered mission. I am here to help you. What do you need me to do?” That is not the way you would start it. Is it?
Rob: With the couples we have done counseling with so much over the years, we have found two extremes. We have a lot of women who are in their husband’s face, making it very clear to them that they are not living up to expectations; and, “You need to be doing ‘x, y, and z.’ I am very disappointed with you.” The guy is kind of in the dog house. He knows he is in the dog house. It is incredibly de-motivating to him.
On the other end of the spectrum, they tried that for a while. That doesn’t seem to work. So, some loving girlfriend comes and says, “Well, you just need to trust him to the Lord, Honey. You just need to pray and give it to God.” She closes her mouth for a year or so and just prays in her closet. That doesn’t seem to be going so good. So, then, she goes back to the other side—not that prayer is not powerful—don’t get me wrong. They go back and forth between these two extremes.
My wife was a wonderful example to me of how a woman, how a wife, in a godly way, can help her husband grow. She definitely spent time in those two extremes—no doubt about it. But a couple of things that Amy did: Number one—when I would take some bumbling, stumbling attempts at spiritual leadership in the home, she would praise me. She would tell me how much it meant to her.
We talked before about prayer together. Maybe three months would go by and I wouldn’t have prayed; but maybe one night I did because I felt like I should and feeling guilty about it. She would oftentimes tell me, “It just meant the world to me that you prayed. You are such a good man. Thank you for doing that.” That made me puff out my chest. “That is spiritual leadership, Baby, right there!” It motivated me, basically, to do more of that—and to come back around and do more of that.
Dennis: Catch your husband doing something right.
Rob: Yes, and I think a lot of women in our counseling practice say, “I don’t want to affirm him, because if I affirm him, he will get complacent.” I just plead with them. I say, “You got it all backwards! If you find these little flickers of light that you see—praise him. Praise him for those things, especially in the spiritual area.”
The thing that I don’t think—wives, I just encourage you to hear this. I don’t think women understand the intense spiritual attack their husbands are under in this area. Your husband is under assault every single day to stay passive in your home. Anything he does, which represents active spiritual leadership, he had to fight a tremendous battle inside his heart to pull that off.
I even know of some situations—let’s say it is Thanksgiving dinner—the guy usually doesn’t pray before meals because he feels awkward about it—but he bumbles and stumbles a prayer out. There have been situations where a wife will go to him afterwards and say, “Well, that was kind of short.” I mean, he just climbed Mt. Everest!
Rob: He was probably anxious about that moment for a month and a half. Rather than come to him and say, “I am so proud of you. I know that was hard for you, and you did it! I am proud of you for praying,” she rips the guts out of him.
Bob: There is real power in a wife doing that. Isn’t there?
Rob: Oh, it is incredible! It is incredible. Another thing that Amy did: She gave me her heart. What I mean by that is—rather than say, “Here is your job description. You need to be doing these things,” and, “I’m upset and angry that you are not,” she would say things to me like, “Honey, I am feeling lonely—lonely spiritually.”
That wasn’t an order, wasn’t a command. That wasn’t a criticism. She was just giving me her heart. Because I loved her, it stirred in me a desire to reach out to her. It stirred in me a desire to step up. I don’t want my wife feeling lonely. I don’t want my wife feeling discouraged.
If you are in a situation, wives, where it is safe to give your husband your heart and there is no fear of reprisal—you are not in any sort of dangerous situation—I encourage you to do that. Let him into how you are feeling about the situation in your marriage. Tap into that noble manhood.
Dennis: As you have talked about this, Rob, it is really amazing to me that the Bible is so practical. Even though it was written 2,000 years ago, here is Ephesians Chapter 5 that calls the man to love, serve, and lead; and here is the command to wives to respect their husbands, to be a helper, and to submit. If a husband and a wife in their imperfect state—in their selfishness, their sinfulness, their own brokenness—can allow God to begin to work these responsibilities out in their relationship, they become powerful!
Dennis: I mentioned earlier that a husband and wife praying together are dangerous. Well, a husband and a wife who are working out their responsibilities as husband and wife together are really dangerous as well. They are dangerous to make an impact for Jesus Christ and to push back against evil and to also give their children a picture of what it means to be a man, a husband, and a father and what it means to be a woman, wife, and mother.
We have a generation of young people today who desperately, who desperately need to see a man and a woman working out life together, as imperfect as they are—but not quitting and not giving up—but just hanging in there.
Bob: They need to see the model, but they also need the mentoring that both you and Rob have provided. Rob, you wrote a book called Visionary Marriage, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. A listener can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about your book. Visionary Marriage is the title, and our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Dennis, you and Barbara wrote a book called Two Hearts Praying as One, where you give specific coaching advice to husbands and wives about praying together and cultivating that spiritual foundation in your marriage relationship. This week, we are making your book available to those who help support the ministry of FamilyLife with a donation. You go to FamilyLifeToday.com and you make a donation online. Type the word, “ONE” (O-N-E) in the key code box. We will send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara’s book, Two Hearts Praying as One; or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone.
If you are interested in a copy of Visionary Marriage, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. There is information about the resource available there. You can order it from us, or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Just ask about Visionary Marriage. We will make arrangements to get it sent to you.
Now, tomorrow, we want to encourage you to be back with us. Winston Smith is going to be here. He is an author, speaker, and a marriage counselor. We are going to talk about how couples can get their marriage “unstuck.” If you are in a situation where your marriage is “stuck,” what can you do to help get it dislodged? We will talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can join us.
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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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