We Are Better Together
Shoulder To Shoulder
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Genesis 2:18-25; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Sunday 5th May 2013
The family convention theme ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ connotes ‘standing together’, ‘agreement’ and ‘unity’. This could further be defined as ‘helping and supporting one another’, ‘fighting a common enemy’, ‘bearing each other’s burden’, ‘going forward’, ‘advancing’ and ‘winning together’.
In order to achieve these, certain fundamental principles to be outlined over the course of this convention is required. Today I will be opening up the concept, ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ with respect to marriage.
Let’s start with some marriage myths:
Myth 1: In today’s world it is unrealistic to believe that it is possible to have a happy and lasting marriage.
Reality: The fact that the institution of marriage has been attacked does not invalidate the blessing and joy of marriage. Whatever is born of God overcomes the world (1 John 3:8). As long as your marriage is founded and rooted in God, it will succeed and prosper despite all the challenges.
Myth 2: Marriage is obsolete. Reality: The world believes that marriage is obsolete; co-habiting and same sex relationships are in vogue. This is a deception from the devil and God still intends that marriages between men and women stand till the end of time, as founded by Him.
Myth 3: Marriage is a trap. Reality: Marriage is a gateway to express your God-given gifts of love, affection, care, support, encouragement, intercession and much more. Marriage is a forum to fulfil your assignment and it is not a trap.
Myth 4: The best cure for an unhappy marriage is divorce. Reality: Divorce is not the answer. God still hates divorce.
Myth 5: I have fallen out of love with my spouse. Reality: ‘Falling out of love’ is one of the most common reasons why people have an affair or get a divorce. Love is not a feeling; it is something you do - a choice and a sacrifice.
Myth 6: We are just too different and need to divorce. Reality: There is something good about your spouse; you may just need to look closely. Decide to focus on the good in your spouse rather than what is not going well. Whatever you focus on you give strength to. You will eventually move in the direction of your predominant focus. There is a lot of evidence from research which shows that couples who stay together through difficult times end up being much happier together just 5 years later. A study from the Institute of American Values showed that almost 8 in 10 couples who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.
Myth 7: Marriages today don't last. Reality: The fact that 50% of marriages today don’t last doesn’t mean that your own marriage will not last. Your marriage can and will thrive. By basing you marriage on the non-negotiable fact that divorce is not an option you become part of a generation that embraces the richness of marriage.
It is obvious from the realities we have just shared to refute these myths, that marriages can thrive and prosper. I declare your marriage will prosper and your family will stand.
Our foundation scripture, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 can be applied in any area of life where team work is essential. In this series however, the application of this scripture will focus on marriage - the union between a man and a woman.
From Genesis 2:7-8, 15; 18, we read the account of man’s creation and his God-given assignment to tend the Garden of Eden. Shortly after this, God returned to reassess the condition of man and declared that ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. We were not designed to live in isolation. Our primary purpose is to have fellowship with God as seen in the Garden of Eden.
In creating man, God conferred with the Trinity, his family; ‘Let us make man in our own image’ He said. In other words, the earth is a replica of what God has already established in Heaven. A family setting is an idea close to God’s heart. God created a helper in order to change ‘not good’ to ‘good’, bringing man from ‘isolation’ to ‘family’.
Again, from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 written by King Solomon as inspired by God, we read these words: ‘two are better than one’, meaning ‘Family is better than living in isolation’. You can get a lot more done in a family setting. This is God’s plan for your marriage. God wants to move you from a state of ‘It is not good’ (isolation) to a state of ‘it is better’ (being in a family).
However, the enemy wants to keep each one of us in that state of ‘it is not good’ - the reason why he has declared warfare on the family. Remember that whatever is not good cannot be of advantage to you and cannot influence your life positively. It is a place where nothing works – nobody wins, everybody loses. You have to contend with this phenomenon throughout your entire life, in order to remain in that pleasant state of ‘It is better’.
You have a choice to make - In order to live life to the full, experiencing fulfilment and satisfaction, living above average and advancing forward, you must be willing to invest.
From the Hebrew dictionary, the word ‘better’ – ‘Towb’ means pleasant, agreeable, excellent, rich, valuable, appropriateness, glad, happy, prosperous, kind, right, benefit, prosperity, happiness, abundance, plenteousness, etc. These are the things you experience in the state of ‘it is better’.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 talks about the power of collaboration, synergy, two working together, family, and ‘shoulder to shoulder’. It presupposes that each person carries something unique to invest in a relationship. Can I encourage you not to be an individual that will not invest in his/her relationships? Invest all the love, strength, grace, ability, patience and much more, within you into your marriage, so that it stands and thrives.
What are you investing into your marriage? In what way are you adding value to your marriage?
The world understands the importance of strategic alliances. God’s principles work for anybody regardless of their religions, beliefs or vocations. Two are better than one as they help each other succeed.
From Genesis 11: 1, we read about this principle of ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ working for unbelievers as they built the Tower of Babel. United, they spoke one language. And God said ‘nothing that they imagine will be impossible for them’.
From Matthew 18:19, 20, once again this principle is reiterated - ‘Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.’ In other words, if two or more hearts connect and agree on an issue, it will be done for them. There has to a “together” factor. It is one thing to gather and another to gather together. God shows up where there is a gathering together.
(Amos 3:3, Psalm 68:6, Genesis 11:6, Deuteronomy 32:30)
The Bible is full of accounts of the power of Synergy or ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ and agreement. The concept of 'Shoulder to Shoulder' is so important and powerful that it is a channel through which God releases His blessings on His people, visits His people and releases His power on the church (Psalm 133: 1, Acts 2).
Successful marriages are pivotal to the success of every society. That is the sole reason why the devil is working against marriages and families. Today we are confronting the spirit of the age that says marriage is irrelevant. We are gathered here because we believe in the concept of marriage as God intended it. We believe in the wellbeing of our marriages and families and as such, the wellbeing of our society.
Healthy marriages lead to healthy families which ultimately lead to healthy societies. It is a ripple effect. So the success of your marriage is not just about you. If you refuse to work on your marriage you are depriving your family and society of what rightly belongs to them. When marriages fail, families suffer and then societies suffer.
The family is the cornerstone of every society. More than any other force, it shapes the attitudes, hopes, ambitions and values of a child. When a family collapses, it is the children who are the most damaged and on a massive scale, the community as a whole becomes crippled. Unless we work to strengthen the family and create a condition in which most parents will stay together, all the rest – schools, playground, public assistances and private concerns will never be enough (Lyndon Baines Johnson).
Marriage is foundational because it is on the basis of this that God builds a society. Every facet of human society depends on the success of marriages.
Our societies are in disarray – a consequence of the global attack on the marriage institution. The adversary knows that if he destroys marriages it will be a ripple effect because then he can destroy families, societies, and ultimately humanity.
A healthy family is also the key to a healthy church. If the family is not whole, the church cannot be whole. Your marriage is a tool in the hand of God to create a healthy society. So, before you give up on your marriage, think of the multiplied effect of your decision. The society relies on the success of your marriage. Your marriage is worth fighting for.
Ecclesiastes 4: 9 again reads ‘Two are better than one’. In order to function effectively, the two have to be together. Each time this principle is violated, you’ve compromised your effectiveness, and as a result you become vulnerable and lose your strength.
In a circle of love, the couple experience excellence, richness, happiness, appropriateness and prosperity. But if they step out of this circle, the contrary ensues.
‘Two are better than one’ refers to Covenant, Agreement and Synergy. Synergy is from the Greek word ‘Synergia’ which means ‘joint work’ or ‘cooperative action’. It means the efforts of a group bring about more and better results than that of an individual. In God, Synergy says 1+1 = 10 and not 2. The Bible says ‘one will chase a thousand but two will put ten thousand to flight’ (Deuteronomy 32:30). We miss out on greatness when we go on our journeys alone because ‘shoulder to shoulder’, we can achieve greater results. Your effort will bring results. But with your spouse you do a lot more as your strength becomes ten thousand times more powerful.
Let me share with you 5 expressions of synergy – the benefits of ‘two are better than one’
(a) They have a good reward for their labour - Ecclesiastes 4:9 - The word ‘good’ in this verse is the same Hebrew word for “better” and means beautiful, best, bountiful, cheerful, at ease, fine, glad, graciously, joyful, kindness, merry, precious, prosperity.
The result of collaborative effort is much greater than that of an individual going the journey alone. The outcome of a joint partnership is much better. Many families are operating below the levels of their potential. God’s plan for the family is absolutely unlimited, representing Him on earth. Your marriage and family is full of potential which can be released when you walk ‘shoulder to shoulder’.
(b) They lift up their companions if they fall - Ecclesiastes 4:10 - Everyone goes through discouraging situations and challenges of life. No one is an island - You need encouragement, emotional support and love, affection, care, advice, nurturing, strength, intercession and support from your spouse. It is dangerous not to find help when you need it. Can I encourage all of us to stand together ‘shoulder to shoulder’? However, it is important that you watch out, using discretion in deciding where you go for comfort - Beware of Delilah(s). Ask your spouse for help. Find strength in each other as you look up to God. Don’t pretend you are fine when all is not well or be so judgmental that others cannot tell you their pain and vulnerabilities.
(c) They keep warm together - Ecclesiastes 4:11 - They have intimacy within the context of marriage. Masturbation is not right and opens up your body to demonic forces. The devil makes your body a base, afflicts and violates you at will or afflicts you with sickness. When you sin against your body you become vulnerable to demonic attack. Beware also of pornography. Masturbation and pornography mess up with the anointing and grace you carry. These sins steal God’s power from you and make your prayers ineffective.
(d) They withstand the enemy together - Ecclesiastes 4:12 - Two can overcome the challenges of life better and advance the purposes of God. When you pray together, you can withstand, challenge and defeat the enemy.
(e) A threefold cord is not easily broken - Ecclesiastes 4: 12b - When you stand in agreement, you create a middle ground for God to work or step in.
When you agree on a thing and work together ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ in your marriage, God shows up and even the sky is no longer a limit.
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