"Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land."
One of the vital principles of marriage that God gives, is that husbands should help their wife become her best and a wife should help her husband become his best. Certainly that’s what a genuine believer wants for himself – to be his best version, and we should want the same for our mate. God states that your spouse is the best person to help you achieve that.
Proverbs 31 is mostly King Lemuel’s mother’s poem about qualities to look for in a wife (most of these traits can be applied to a husband as well). The format of Proverbs 31 was that the truths contained therein were meant to be repeated over and over again until it became part of the mind.
The king’s mom said, “Look for a mate who will help you to become successful, someone who will lift you up and not pull you down.” In this case it says that it is her husband that is “known” in the gates. Not all the husbands, but this woman’s husband is known in the gate. There’s something about this lady’s behavior that made her husband’s reputation really shine. It was Warren Buffet, one of the richest men in the world, who said these words, “It takes 20 years to build a good reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.” God wants husbands and wives to work for the betterment of each other’s reputations. Marriage is the ultimate partnership and as in any partnership, what the other person does can pull you up or down (note: this is one reason why God warns against business partnerships).
This husband is known in the gates. He’s known. How is he known? He’s known to have a good wife. There is something about him that reflects on her. Maybe he wore clothes that weren’t wrinkled and it was obvious therefore that someone cared about his appearance. Apparently he had a good attitude and so people must have concluded that his wife must be a kind person at home for him to have such a warm spirit. Scripture is teaching us here, that her husband is known in the gate because she had made a positive impact on his life.
Our mates affect us deeply. One time, years ago, I was talking with a man about a situation in the church that was a delicate matter. After we had discussed the matter, man-to-man, Christian-to-Christian, and Pastor to parishioner, there developed a warm understanding between us. I rejoiced because it was apparent that God had really worked. Then, the man went home. The next time I saw him things were radically changed, his spirit had turned 180 degrees. He was sour and angry. When I got a chance to talk to him alone I said, “Your wife had something to say about the matter didn’t she?” I knew something had happened. It was obvious, based on what I could tell from his attitude, that after he went home she had taken up offense for him. Things didn’t go well at home and that was reflected in the version of him I saw the time following.
When a married person has a cheerful countenance, it’s an indication that things are good at home. You can tell by the way that he conducts himself, that he must have a wonderful and supportive mate. I have been in meetings before where someone walks in with a chip on their shoulder. You can sense it. They brought it from home. How terrible to transfer that kind of tension from home into a place where everybody is trying to come up with good solutions, not more problems.
How can we help our spouse become their best version? God calls us to love people as they are, but also to love them so much we don’t let them stay that way! I’ve noticed something about plants that don’t grow…they are dying! And Christian husbands and wives ought to always be growing too. I like what Bible teacher Howard Hendricks said, as he would challenge people, “How have you changed positively in the last 3 months?” If we’re not changing, we’re not growing and if we’re not growing we’re dying. Every marriage should continue to morph and to grow. Every Christian should become their best version. We start out at a certain point when we get married, and then we continue to grow decade after decade. A spirit-filled, growing husband and a spirit-filled, growing wife help each other. They feed off each other and it’s an awesome thing!
What Can We Do to Promote That Best Version?
1. Pray for Them
Absolutely the first, foremost and highest thing that we could do for each other is to pray for them. Why is it important to pray for our mate? Because nobody knows and nobody cares for that person as much as you do. You know the finest ins and outs, both good and bad, of that person’s personality and character. Nobody can pray for my character deficiencies any better than my wife. Nobody can pray for my hurts more than my wife and nobody can understand what I’m going through like my wife can. In 1 Peter 3, husbands are told to understand their wife, so that their prayers are not hindered.
First of all, we should pray in private. We ought to get in our prayer closet and pray that God would transform, bless, change, favor and encourage them. Second, we should also pray with them. So then, we’re praying in private for them and then we’re praying with them as we have opportunity. It doesn’t always have to be a long, drawn out time together. It could simply be before bedtime or maybe in the morning before launching out. I am a firm believer in placing your hands on someone and praying for him or her. Throughout the Scripture, we find people placing hands on others as they prayed for them. Jesus would often place his hands on someone, and then pray for healing. I’m not exactly sure what the power of the hand is, but I know Paul told Pastor Timothy to stir up the gift that was in him by the laying on of hands. There have been times when I have sensed Pauline placing her hand on me and praying for me in the middle of the night. Husbands, lean over and place your hands on her and say, “O, God bless my wife today...touch her and encourage her.”
2. Give Them a Word
The fact is, every husband and wife bring ingrained family iniquities into the relationship. Sometimes, the mixing of the iniquities of a husband and a wife can be like fire and gas! You may have a set of problems with one family and a different set of problems from the other family. Separately, they are smaller issues, but when struck together they can explode! I’m sure that when two people come together in a marriage, new combinations begin to manifest themselves. We might think there’s no hope. But thank God, there is always hope! Hope comes through the power of Jesus blood, and through His Word.
Not only are there family iniquities to contend with, but there are also different sets of circumstances. Some families have no children, and that creates concerns. Some families have a lot of children, and that brings a different set of concerns. Some have quite a bit of extended family issues and others have very difficult work related conditions. We all have circumstances that work their way into our home. Therefore, we need to constantly be giving a word of encouragement to each other. Give a word from God that lifts. Constantly pray that God will cleanse family iniquities. That’s what Paul told husbands to do for their wife, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). I’ve always wondered why people get all up in arms about others trying to “change them.” Are we not supposed to always be changing for the better? Godly husbands are to sanctify their wife with the washing of the Word. Sanctification means becoming holy and more like Christ. Notice how it’s done with the cleansing of the Word. Typically, when family iniquities raise their ugly head, we try and argue about them. We try to deal with them just by talking. While this is necessary, how much more effective a word from God would be!
Somehow we need to give them specific words that deal with the particular problem they’re facing. It should never be given in a condemning way of course, but out of a spirit of love, for the Word of God is where the power to change comes from. After my wife, Lynette, passed away I married a fine Christian woman who I had known for over 25 years. Her husband also had died. Although she had been in our church for many years, she had no experience being married to a pastor. She was surprised then, when I told her how much it meant to me if she would share a verse with me. She thought pastors knew everything (well almost)! I’ve told her, “If the day should come that I have to be in a rest home and become mentally incompetent, I beg you, that whatever else you do, make sure that you read the Word to me!” I know that’s going to make a difference.
3. Praise Them
We all know that nagging doesn’t work, right? But how many of us still nag? That’s just human nature. I know they say that ladies nag more than men, but I’m not so sure that’s the case at all! Praising someone, however, is incredible! The power of praise lifts people. I’ve noticed that praise is a crucible that purifies and shapes the ore of character. Wise praise is powerful. “As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise” (Proverbs 27:21).
I so admire the story of David and Abigail found in 1 Samuel 25. In fact, this is one of the reasons why our youngest daughter is named Abigail. I was studying through 1 Samuel and absolutely fell in love with this amazing woman of God. Abigail had a rough go of it in her marriage to Nabal. Despite that, she was able to change a very angry and bitter man, David, through the power of praise. In the story, her husband dishonored and put King-elect, David, and his men into an unsafe scenario. This offended him, and rightly so. Therefore, David and his men set out to fight for the honor and safety of their country to the approaching retribution. Oblivious, Nabal and his men were just minutes from death at the hands of these angry warriors, when soft-spoken Abigail stepped up! She ran out and brought food to David and his men (what a smart lady to bring food!). She spoke to him thoughtfully and wisely. When she met David she didn’t hold up a sign saying, “I hate Israel, we have our rights.” No, she did the most amazing thing when she said, “David, the fact is, you are a bigger man than this…you are a way bigger and better man than to carry out selfish vengeance on your enemies. Fight the Lord’s battles. You are a man of God.” She buttered him up! By the time she was done, David’s anger had melted. He packed up and went home. She did a work through praise. One woman through praise changed the course of a nation…amazing! I encourage every husband and wife to read that Bible story some time and meditate on the incredible principles of positive praise.
4. Communicate to Your Mate Ways That They Can Help You
Let me give an example of how to influence change in your mate. Occasionally, over the years there have been church members that have become upset about something and let me know as much by their attitude. Now maybe it’s my manhood, or maybe it’s my lack of character, or perhaps it’s just being a leader, I don’t know, but I can tell you that you’re not going to get anywhere with this pastor if you cop an attitude! If you come busting through the office, kick open the door and start ranting and raving – things will go nowhere. But, if you want to change your pastor, here’s what you do; you love on him, give him a Bible verse and you tell him you’re praying for him and that’s it. That’s what you do. And that’s the only way it’s going to happen. That’s also about the only way you can change a husband or a wife too.
There was a situation once where my wife wanted me to do something. She wanted me to notice something. But I was clueless. This, unbeknown to me, went on for quite a while. When the matter finally came out I said, “Honey, why didn’t you just tell me?” She said, “I didn’t want to tell you… I wanted you to notice.” I told her, “Honey, I beg you, I am as dumb as that tree out there in the yard. I can also be blind and deaf… just give me a hint. Tell me something, because most times I don’t get it.” I know that helped give her the freedom to say some things. It would be such a blessing if husbands and wives would just swallow their pride a little, admit what is bothering them and verbalize how their mate could help. How much better it is to do that than to just sit there fuming because people don’t recognize what’s going on in your world. The best thing to do is to just let them know. Give them some idea of how they can change for the better.
5. Show Private and Public Honor to Each Other
“Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her” (Proverbs 31:28).
Sons and daughters owe honor to their parents. It is so important that children are taught to praise their father and mother! I love when I see husbands encouraging their sons and daughters to write notes and do things for mom, on Mother’s Day for example. There are many ways to show honor to our mate. Maybe a mother could say to her daughter, “Sweetie, go get dad’s iced tea glass and fill it up.”
Husbands and wives are also to speak words of praise to each other. Husbands, learn to speak well of your wife’s character to others (and not just when we want something) like, “I’m so grateful for her positive attitude.” Just noticing something they do, even just one thing, would be such an encouragement to them. It might take a whole 15 seconds to say something like that, but wow...what a long lasting impact it has! The reason this is so important is because everybody knows that our wife or our husband sees the nitty gritty of our life. They know us backwards and forwards. They know our bad points and they know our good points. So, if they are praising us, in spite of everything they know about us, then that’s a high compliment. A person who is not my wife might say, “Tim is a good man.” That is always appreciated, but may or may not be accurate. You may not know the real Tim. But my wife does…oh my! If she praises me, then everybody will say he must really be a good man, because she knows all the bad and still speaks highly of him.
Shakespeare once said, “My honor is my life, take honor from me and my life is done.” I really think if you asked a person if they could have all the money they wanted, but would have to live in total disrespect, just about everybody I know would take honor. Respect is incredibly powerful. We want that, more than almost anything.