It used to be a fairly common term years ago – “dying to self.” Now I wonder how many of us really know what it means – let alone practice it very often when it comes to our spouse. I attended a Pastors’ luncheon yesterday to hear Mark Gungor give a preview of his marriage seminar, Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage. A couple of things he mentioned especially stood out to me. He said, “The key to a successful marriage is not – finding the right person. The key to a successful marriage is … doing the right things. If you do the right things you’ll succeed…if you don’t, you’ll fail. It’s just that simple.”
Indeed the Bible is full of instructions on “right things” to do in relationships with others, and particularly with your spouse. One of the principles we see throughout scripture is this idea of dying to self. The Apostle Paul said it this way: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3 NASB). In other words, what I want, what I think, and what I feel is secondary – at best. If we are to have a successful marriage and love each other well, it will require us to give up or let die what we want, think, and feel countless times.
Mark Gungor said three weeks ago he preached a message at his church he entitled: “God is out to kill you!” Whew! He didn’t really mean that did he? YES HE DID! Ok, Ok, Ok – not literally. God is not out to kill us physically – but He is out to kill that part of us that is self-focused rather than others focused. He’s out to kill that part of me that gets defensive when my wife is hurt by something I’ve done; or the part of you that wants to spend your time or money your way without thinking about how it affects your spouse. He’s out to kill that “me-centered” mindset that we all carry around. Here’s why: either God kills that self-centered part of us first, or that part of you and I will end up hurting or “killing” someone else – often those we love the most. It’s one or the other. Take your pick. Personally, I have chosen to ask God many times to “kill” that part of me that does things MY way because I want to learn to love well, don’t you?
It’s not easy – dying to self – even Christ Himself agonized over the idea when in the Garden He prayed three times, “Father is there any other way?” But die, He did. How? And why? Hebrews says He did so “for the joy set before Him!” He died to Himself…He let the Father take His life for the joy that awaited Him when all who received Him would become “children of God!”
So my word to you this month is DIE! When your wife needs one more thing done – die. Get off the couch, and help with a smile. When she wants to talk and you’re watching sports, turn if off, and graciously turn to listen. And when your husband wants to be intimate again – die. Minister to him with a smile. When he makes a decision about anything that isn’t exactly what you’d like to do, say anyways: “Sure honey – that would be great. Thanks for taking the lead!”
Die to self…let God put to death that “me-centeredness.” Ironically, it will lead to great joy!