Ephesians 5:21-33Theme: Marriage.This week’s lessons teach us that when the institution of marriage crumbles, society crumbles. LessonI think of the story where the man with the withered hand was confronted by Christ and was told to stretch it forth. Humanly speaking, he couldn’t stretch forth his hand. That was his problem. His hand was withered. But when Jesus said, “Stretch it forth,” he stretched it forth. He obeyed the command. And in obedience came the healing that he needs. Don’t say, “I believe it. It’s true, but I can’t do it.” You never know what you can do until you step out in obedience to God.
Then there’s this excuse. People say, “Well, I can do it. But if I do it, I won’t be happy.” One is tempted to say in response to that, “Whoever promised you’d be happy?” Jesus promised a cross. But I think that isn’t quite to the point. What I want to say in response to that objection, “I can do it, but I won’t be happy,” is this: “You certainly are not going to be happy by following the world’s counsels,” which is what the alternative is. I think, for example, of the First Psalm. It speaks of a wicked man who follows the counsels of the ungodly. And by contrast, it speaks of the righteous man who meditates in the law of the Lord day and night and follows God’s teaching. I think this means that we just have to come to a point in our lives when we say, “If happiness is to be found in my case, it is certainly going to be found in following God’s commands. Furthermore, that is what I determine to do, and I’m going to resist every temptation to do the contrary.”
A woman who was having marital difficulties once said this to Ed Wheat: “I had to learn to take a stand on this matter of outside influence. Everyone has been anxious to give me advice about my marriage. I have learned to refuse to discuss it with people who hold an unbiblical viewpoint. That includes Christian counselors, or people who try to turn me against my husband, or people who make me feel sorry for myself and encourage weakness in me. I can’t afford to be around worldly friends anymore. I want to be with people who will stand with me and support me when I’m inclined to falter.”
That’s what we need in the evangelical church today, not people who will bend because they’re afraid that the teaching of the Bible will wound or be unacceptable to another hurting person, but people who will stand side by side with hurting persons and help them stand in obedience to the clear commands of Scripture. Where we do that, God, who honors obedience as he perhaps honors nothing else, will intervene. He will bring love out of hate, and life out of death, and will provide the victories we and the world so desperately need. Study Questions

What is often true about our ability to obey God?
What is the key to true happiness? How is this often contrary to what we can see today?

ReflectionAre you in a relationship or situation where you believe that obedience will cost you your happiness? God wants you to trust him, to believe that obedience to his Word as applied to your situation will make you content in the long run.
PrayerOur Father, we confess – we do it personally – the failure in our lives. It’s great; it’s known to you and known to others, certainly to those who are our husbands and wives. We confess that. But we confess as well that you are the God of healing, that you’re in the business of reconciliation, and that where we’re concerned, our life (and our relationships) is the battleground where the power of the Holy Spirit must be seen. God, give us grace and power to win the victory there for the sake of the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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