From a young age, Douglas MacArthur was an achiever with a distinct ability to lead. In his mid–40s, he became the youngest major general in the U.S. Army and later achieved the rare rank of five-star general.
His tactical prowess and bravery during World War I made him a star. After a brief retirement, he was called back to active duty in 1941 as World War II escalated. President Roosevelt appointed him commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, headquartered in the Philippines.
Unable to halt the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines, MacArthur and a small group escaped in the middle of the night, safely arriving in Australia days later. He gave a speech upon arrival and uttered his most famous words, “… I shall return.” He audaciously and boldly proclaimed on the world stage that he would return to the Philippines and liberate its people.
For two and a half years he worked to fulfill his promise, even declining to run for President until he had kept his word. In the fall of 1944, he triumphantly waded ashore on the island of Leyte and, via a radio broadcast, let the Filipino people know, “…I have returned.” General MacArthur accepted Japan’s formal surrender less than a year later, ending the war.
General MacArthur’s astounding promise to the Filipino people has been celebrated and admired for nearly 80 years. The mention of his name among military leadership circles elicits deep respect. Say his name among elderly Filipinos, and you will get nods and smiles all around.
As amazing as this moment in history is, it pales in comparison to the promises God makes to his children. A thousand generals’ promises are like chaff on the threshing floor when compared to the word of the Lord. Consider how truly astonishing it is that God who created the universe makes and keeps promises to us. The Almighty values his children to such a degree that he engages us in daily — as well as eternal — promises.
Thousands of years ago, he promised never to flood the Earth again and set the rainbow as a symbol of that promise. Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, Old Testament prophets proclaimed the promise that he was coming. Christ’s brutal death on the cross fulfilled the promise to give us the way to eternal life with him. He promised his disciples and all future believers the gift of the Holy Spirit and power from on high.
Every single day of a believer’s life is coated in God’s promises. The book of Exodus says the Lord will fight for us. (Exodus 14:14) Deuteronomy affirms the Lord goes before us and continues to be with us. (Deuteronomy 31:8) We will never be alone or forsaken. Isaiah tells us he gives strength to the weary and empowers the weak. (Isaiah 40: 29) He will uphold us. John declares if the Son has set us free then we are free indeed. (John 8:26) Paul writes in Romans of how God will work all things for our good and his glory. (Romans 8:28) God’s love is all-consuming, unwavering and unbreakable. Philippians speaks of God’s promise to meet our needs. (Philippians 4:19) First John tells of his promise to forgive our sins when we confess. (1 John 1:9) The book of James tells us God will generously give his wisdom to believers who ask. (James 1:5) Revelation declares the promise of eternal salvation. (Revelation 3:5)
How should we respond to the treasure of God’s promises? Make them real to ourselves, then live them out. How do we do that? We learn about them by reading God’s word and asking the Father to cultivate in us living examples of what he promised. If you are not certain where to start, examine the verses mentioned above. We will not experience, endure, enjoy or embody anything that is not covered by God’s promises. What a privilege we have in Jesus to be recipients of his promises.
Fights in marriage are inevitable. If a couple isn’t fighting, then they likely aren’t communicating. Lindsay and I started dating in the summer of 2008 and, like most couples, we didn’t fight much when we first started dating. I assumed this was due to our amazing compatibility, but the truth is that we just weren’t talking. In order to avoid conflict, we held our opinions close to the chest.
Some call this stage of the relationship the honeymoon stage, but I call it the pretend stage. The pretend stage is probably a more accurate description, because up to that point in the relationship, no one has actually shared their true feelings. As every romantic comedy movie will demonstrate, the honeymoon stage must come to an end.
All couples fight at some point, and that is good. Avoiding fights can be worse than having fights. So, how can a couple fight the right way? Here is a good question to ask before any conflict:
What am I fighting for?
As a pastor, I have observed that most fights are born out of selfish desires. Fights occur when a person wants something that they can’t have or something they didn’t get. A person becomes angry because their selfish desires were not met. The reason for arguments and quarrels is nothing new, look at what the book of James has to say:
Why do you fight and quarrel? It is because your feelings are fighting inside of you. That is why you fight. You want something but you cannot get it. Then you kill. You want something very much and cannot get it. So you quarrel and fight. You do not get it because you do not ask God for it. You ask for it, but you do not get it, because you ask in a wrong way. You want to use it for yourselves and not for others.
— James 4:1–3
Did you catch it? Did you see what James said? Fighting comes from selfish desire. Fighting happens when people are more concerned with their desires than those of the other person.
The key difference between a healthy and unhealthy marriage is not whether you fight or don’t fight, the key difference is the ability to identify what you are fighting for. Healthy relationships fight for the betterment of the relationships. Unhealthy relationships fight for selfish desires. When disagreement occurs in a relationship, make sure that your end goal is not a win but the betterment of the relationship. This will make all the difference in the world.
So, the next time you find in yourself in a disagreement, ask yourself, “What am I fighting for?” Are you fighting for yourself, or are you fighting for the relationship?
When we were kids, my sister and I were always together. We were the best of friends. We always had each other’s back. That being said, there were also times that we would argue. Although I don’t recall what it was about, I do remember my dad asking us one day if we needed a pair of boxing gloves to take care of our issues. We said no, so he told us to stop acting like that was what we wanted. I always had such a sensitive heart. I just teared up. I couldn’t imagine ever hurting her. It would be incredible if all of our days were filled with Kumbaya moments, but that just isn’t realistic.
Married or single, we all have relationships with people, and guess what: we’re all human, and we live in a broken world. Conflict is guaranteed, but if we do our best to remember whose we are and act like we actually love each other, we can navigate through the conflict with our relationships intact and, often, stronger in the end.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
— Philippians 2:3–4 ESV
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
— Romans 12:18 NIV
My parents have been married for 50 years. I celebrate them often. I thank God that he entrusted me to them, and that I have them in my circle. They don’t just provide godly wisdom. They live in a way I know to follow. One of my dad’s greatest pieces of advice has to do with communication. He said he promised my mom very early on that he would always do the best that he could to make her happy, but that he would disappoint her often if she didn’t communicate with him. At a young age, he shared the same sentiment with me and my sisters. He told us that God didn’t give him the ability to read minds, so if we had something we needed, we also needed to share it with him. So often, our greatest conflicts arise because we have unrealistic expectations.
Communication will make or break any relationship. It isn’t just about us verbalizing expectations. In its basic form, it’s giving and receiving information. It’s opening ourselves up to one another. It’s gaining and revealing insight. It’s also remembering the old saying, “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you to say it.” Failing to communicate, and communicate well, results in frustration and disappointment.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.
— Proverbs 18:21 MSG
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.
— James 1:19 MSG
Listening and tuning in to the other person are as crucial to effective communication as using your words. We have to pay attention, listening and engaging to what is being said and even clarifying, making sure we are really receiving the message. Have you ever poured out your soul to someone while they were looking at their cell phone? That didn’t really go over well, did it? We have to love each other enough to invest our time, attention and hearts.
If all else fails, think and act like Jesus. Whether in conflict or not, if we just take a step back and truly attempt to have the mindset of Christ, we would be so much better to listen, respond and give our best selves to each other.
Love and marriage, love and marriage
They go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you, brother
You can’t have one without the other
— Love and Marriage, by Sammy Cahn & Jimmy Van Heusen
Sound familiar? Some of your minds may go to Frank Sinatra, but it takes me back to the days of the great family show, Married With Children. Well, maybe it wasn’t a great family show, but it did solicit some great laughs.
You know, you could change one word in that verse and it would seem equally true: Conflict and marriage, conflict and marriage. They go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell you, brother, you can’t have one without the other.
Now, I don’t say that to because I have a low view of marriage. Marriage, as God ordained it, is perfect. It’s the humans who are imperfect and incapable of having conflict-free marriages. It is just a reality that conflict is part of marriage. And since that is true, we must learn to navigate the conflict in our marriage in the most loving and God-honoring ways possible.
It is extremely important that we learn how to properly engage our spouses in the midst of conflict, but it is equally important to learn how to properly view our spouses in the midst of conflict. How you view your spouse will determine how you engage them.
I would like to address two different groups of Christians today: First, I would like to address those Christians who have an unsaved spouse. Second, I would like to address those Christians who have a saved spouse.
For all Christians who have an unsaved spouse:
If you have truly been born again, then you remember what it was like before you were recreated in Christ. You know what it means to be a slave to sin and unable to walk in the Spirit. And you know that, if your spouse is unsaved, they are still a slave to sin.
Your heavenly Father may own your heart and dictate your rules of engagement, but the enemy still owns your spouse’s heart and he dictates their rules of engagement. It is not that your spouse is unwilling to show you godly love and godly grace, it is that they are incapable of showing you godly love and godly grace, because they have never experienced either one and have no idea what they are.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
― 1 John 4:7–8 NASB
Your real conflict is not with your spouse. Your real conflict is with the enemy that holds your spouse captive. If your spouse is unsaved, then you could win every battle against them and still lose the war, because the real war is for their eternal soul.
The real battle is not fought in the arena with your spouse. The real battle is fought in your prayer closet, crying out to the Lord to save your spouse’s soul and recreate them in Christ.
If your spouse is lost, then listen carefully. Every single conflict with them is an opportunity for you to hold up before them the love and grace of the Savior, in hopes that someday their eyes will be opened and he will become their Savior.
Don’t fight to win the earthly conflicts with your spouse. Fight to win the heavenly conflict for their soul. If you do this, it may turn out that losing every battle may be the means to winning the war.
Victory is not winning arguments with your spouse. The true victory is you and your spouse, side by side, worshiping and serving the Lord in heaven for all eternity. I’d lose every earthly battle to experience this victory.
For all Christians who have a saved spouse:
If both you and your spouse are saved, then you must understand that you have two different relationships with your spouse and, therefore, two different ways in which to relate to them. First and foremost, you have a heavenly relationship because you are siblings in Christ. You are brother and sister in Christ. Second, you have the earthly relationship of marriage. You are husband and wife.
First let’s look at the heavenly relationship of brother and sister in Christ. This is your primary relationship. This is an eternal relationship that will never end. You must learn to recognize the supremacy of this relationship over the temporal relationship of husband and wife. She is your sister in Christ before she is your wife. He is your brother in Christ before he is your husband. Because of this truth, you must treat them as such and never lose focus on this relationship.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ― Galatians 3:28 NASB
When you have conflict with your spouse, you must see this first as a conflict with a brother or sister in Christ and afford them the love and grace that you would any other brother or sister in Christ. If your spouse has wronged you in any way, you must see their sinful behavior first and foremost as a rebellion against their heavenly Father. Your primary concern must be to see your spouse reconciled to their heavenly Father. You must deal with them in a loving and restorative manner, as you would any other brother or sister in Christ that had fallen into rebellion against the Father. You must encourage them in love to take the necessary steps to be reconciled to the Father. Then and only then should you concern yourself with the fact that your spouse had wronged you. But honestly, if you are concerned enough with your spouse’s relationship with their heavenly Father and seeing them reconciled with him, you will not be very focused on how you were wronged.
Second is the earthly relationship of husband and wife. This is just as real of a relationship as the heavenly one of brother and sister in Christ. But this relationship should be seen as secondary because it is only a temporal relationship that will end when this life is over, and the other relationship is an eternal relationship that will never end.
The heavenly relationship of brother and sister in Christ is a relationship in which both the man and woman are equals in both position and responsibilities to one another. The earthly relationship of husband and wife, on the other hand, is slightly different. In marriage, both the man and woman are also equals, but God has given them different responsibilities. Sometimes these different responsibilities cause husbands and wives to forget that they are equals. Now, if they would always keep their primary focus on their heavenly relationship of brother and sister in Christ, then this would not happen.
Even marriages in which both the husband and the wife are saved will have conflict. There will be no conflict-free marriages this side of eternity, and there will be no marriages in eternity. So, the bottom line is, there will never be a conflict-free marriage. But there can be great marriages. The best marriages will be those in which a saved man and a saved woman understand that they are both brother and sister in Christ and husband and wife, and they are more concerned with each other’s relationship with their heavenly Father than they are about any wrongs suffered.
Please make sure you are viewing your spouse properly during any marital conflict, because only when you view them properly will you engage them properly.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
— Philippians 3:3–7
Humility is the secret sauce for great relationships. The apostle Paul commands us in his letter to the church at Philippi to take on the humility that we see exhibited so well in the life of Christ.
When it comes to seeing conflict resolved in our marriages, I can’t think of anything that will make more of a difference than this one little admonition:
… but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
— Philippians 3:3
We are commanded to count others as more significant than ourselves. If you think about this verse, it really helps to simplify things. If you could, imagine the most important person you know of coming to your house for a visit. It could be a celebrity, a great athlete, a President, or just someone else that you are convinced is a person of great esteem. When that person showed up, how would you treat him or her? My guess is that you would do a lot of deferring. You would give up your favorite seat. You would allow them to get their food first. You would get up and get them a drink if they needed it. And if there was a disagreement, you would probably just let it slide. All of this would occur because you view them as more significant than yourself.
This one simple commandment would resolve 94.6% of all conflict in marriage. (OK, I made that number up, but 82% of all statistics are made up anyway.) But seriously, what if in our marriages we started viewing the other person as more significant than ourselves and looking out for their interests? It would be great and would honor Jesus if more of our disagreements were about wanting the other person to get their way. Not only would it honor Jesus, though — our marriages would be better, and we would be happier. And that, as Michael Scott from The Office (a show that I do not endorse) would say, is a “win-win-win”.
So let’s follow the example of our Savior and exercise some humility in all our relationships, but especially in our marriages!