The battle for the family has long been a key battle in life. Family is unique in that it can be one of the greatest blessings, and the greatest source of pain, all at the same time! I’m not setting out to counsel warring couples or to do a marriage or parenting seminar, but to look at the spiritual battlefield that is family.
Solomon, wisest man in the world, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. That’s 1000 wives, worse 1000 mother-in-law.
Put a man and a woman together, add a few kids, a grandparent or two, maybe an in-law, an adopted stray or two, and you have a recipe for a rich and wonderful life, or a world class disaster and a battle for the family. Let’s face it… Drive through the streets of our town and houses look nice, look peaceful and affluent , but inside they are wall to wall hell! I heard this week that 2 of every 3 call outs Police get is about domestic violence, so this battle for the family is hotting up!
When we marry (or when we dream of marriage) we have an idyllic vision of what family life will be like. We see happily married people and we think, “Yep, that’s going to be me.” The man thinks his wife will always be attractive. The wife walks down the aisle to the altar while they’re playing a hymn and she thinks that’s what marriage will be like… I’ll alter him!
Psalms 128:3-4 (ESV Strong's)
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots
around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.
The reality is often far from the initial vision, especially when you add children to the mix. We realise that putting 2 selfish sinners together doesn’t lead to marital bliss, it leads to marital blitz often times, because, as my wife says, marriage is perfectly designed to grind.
Proverbs 11:29 (ESV Strong's)
Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
We seem powerless to build good families, and good families seem more a result of chance rather than planning. On this battlefield, the enemy wins many times, but if we seek God’s wisdom, I believe that we can win the battle for the family. So on what fronts does the enemy attack in this battle for the family?
BATTLEGROUND 1: THE BATTLE FOR THE FAMILY UNIT
For a long time, and increasingly in recent years, the family has been under attack. Mum, dad and the 2.4 kids is ceasing to be the norm in our society. We have so many single parent families, grandparents raising kids and now same sex families, that the legal definition of families has changed.
But God’s plan has not changed. Jesus said,
Matthew 19:5-6 (ESV Strong's)
‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
God’s plan is to have a mum and a dad and the kids. If you are a single parent, then the task is greater, but even when one party or other steps out of God’s will, He can still lead and guide you. But despite fashion, current trends and the social situation, God’s plan is still His first choice, whether you aren’t alone or with a partner.
Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong's)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Praise God that, even if you are going through marital difficulties, separations or divorce, God loves you, has a destiny for you and can do wonderful things in your life. Whether we are partnered, or single parents, understand that God wants us to keep the family unit together as much as possible and win the battle for the family.
BATTLEGROUND 2: FATHERHOOD
Men are under attack as never before. Australia has long been known as the land of the absent father, with traditionally many dads down the pub or at work or not even on the scene. Over the last many years, the role of the father has been a battlefield, and socially men and being a man is undermined and under attack constantly.
I believe it is time for men to stand up and be men! Real men. It’s time for us to become real fathers to our kids, and real husbands to our wives. The greatest gift a man can give his children is to love their mother. Our inspiration, and I know the men’s conference coming up is looking at this, should be God as a father, because He is the perfect father.
Psalms 68:5 (ESV Strong's)
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
Men in relationships are frequently the abusers. They hit, they speak down to, they manipulate and control their wives and children, but this is not the heart of your Heavenly Father. This is…
Luke 15:20 (ESV Strong's)
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
BATTLEGROUND 3: FAMILY CONFLICT
The Bible is full of family conflict stories, so conflict in the family is nothing new. Look at Adam’s sons
Genesis 4:8-9 (ESV Strong's)
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?”
Look at Jacob and his favouritism of Joseph and the troubles this caused. Look at David and his son Absalom. Family conflict is a fact of life, and I bet it is in your family too!
Many couples might be together physically, but their relationship is not together at all. Some of you here may be like that. You’re married, but there is so much conflict in the home that you’re looking for any excuse to be away from the home.
If your family looks like a soap opera, it’s time to declare to the enemy that enough is enough!
God’s will is for your marriage and your family to prosper. But the fact is that we are all sinful people, and we are all selfish, so conflict will occur between selfish parties. This is a battle of the devil is exploiting every day, and many people’s lives and ministries have been ruined by family conflict.
“Nine-tenths of our unhappiness is selfishness and is an insult cast in the face of God.”
- H. Morrison
BATTLEGROUND 4: FAMILY REBELLION
Rebellion in families is not new either, and many times godly, honourable parents find their children rebelling and rejecting Christ. Remember the prodigal son, who took his inheritance and squandered it? Kids rebelling against parents, wives and husbands rebelling against each other, kids going their own way and disregarding their upbringing and parent’s standards…
1 Samuel 8:3 (ESV Strong's)
Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice.
Even godly men like Samuel, like King David, like Josiah and others had kids that rebelled. Talk to older people here and they will tell you that kids are more rebellious today than ever before, and it is true. Here’s how Paul describes the last days…
2 Timothy 3:1-3 (ESV Strong's)
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents,
Rebellion in families is almost impossible to avoid, because the devil is battling hard to break up families. He knows that if he can turn children against parents and parents against each other, he can win big victories, yet we are not without influence here, especially mothers, and especially when you start young. Poem…
Woman, how divine your mission, Here upon our natal sod;
Keep—oh, keep the young heart open, Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages Are from mother-love impearled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world. (William Ross Wallace).
This is saying that the one who brings their kids up the right way has incredible, influence.
Look, you might have 3 kids and one goes off the rails. It’s important to recognise that you do your best and bring your kids up, but that at a certain age, the child has the free will to make a choice. If they reject Christ, stop blaming yourself and start praying and believing for their salvation.
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV Strong's)
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The devil fights for the souls of your children, because he fears what godly parents can instil into the hearts of children who obey and love God! Train them up when young, and pray like crazy when they are older, because a parent’s prayer can win your child back to Christ!
BATTLEGROUND 5: GENERATIONAL CURSES
The devil would like nothing more than inflicting upon your family a generational curse. And we see it all the time, from inheritance of diseases to girls falling pregnant at 16, generation after generation. The concept of generational curses comes from passages like
Numbers 14:18 (ESV Strong's)
‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’
But we need to also recognise that God wants to set us free from such curses in our families…
Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV Strong's)
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
Psalms 103:17 (ESV Strong's)
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children's children,
If your parents, or your parent’s parents suffered or sinned or seemed cursed, if you love Jesus you do not have to tolerate these generational curses. It’s time to do battle and we will be victorious!
STRATEGIES TO FIGHT THE BATTLE FOR THE FAMILY
Of the many battles we face in life, this is one we need to win! But don’t fall into the trap of excusing the mistreatment of people close to you you saying, "They’re only family, that won’t hurt" and so passing off any offence and failure on our part as if it has no consequence.
But it does matter. It matters because it isn’t just some fluke of nature that you have a family. It is part of God’s plan for your life. Your family is important to Him and to you. It doesn’t take much effort to let barriers build up between members of the family, between husband and wife, between parents and children. It happens so easily. And it happens most often that our pride will not let us be the first one to apologise and start tearing down those walls and open up the communication of love and forgiveness between us.
So in your family relations you face a choice… your way, or God’s way…
Joshua 24:15 (ESV Strong's)
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
So what are some strategies you can employ right now to win the battle of the family?
1. PRAY, DON’T SAY
If you saw the movie “The War Room,” you would realise that prayer is essential to fight for your family. Was are often tempted to speak our mind, but I believe we can get better results when we pray, not say. You cannot nag your husband or wife into a great relationship, and you cannot nag your kids into a godly lifestyle. You can nag them and drive them away. Or you can pray them in!
1 John 5:14-15 (ESV Strong's)
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
So read His Word, pray and get closer to God, and as you do I guarantee that your life, your relationships and your home will start to come into alignment. I challenge you, if you are struggling in your marriage, build a war room in your home and pray rather than say.
2. LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY
I was asked at the Father of the Year by the Premier how to become a great father. I told her to love her children unconditionally because that’s how God loves us. If you want to prosper in your marriage and your family, love each other unconditionally.
Human love is usually conditional. I love you if you do well at school, I love you if you make money. Or I love you if you’re beautiful, or handsome. Your spouse needs to know that you love them, no matter what. If they get fat, or bald, or if they go broke, or fail an exam, or spend too much on shoes, or prang the car. I heard of a wife who tops her husband she had good news and bad news, which did he want first. He said, good be me the good news. She said, “The airbags on the car work.” Your love must be unconditional.
Romans 12:9-10 (NIV-WS)
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
When you love unconditionally, you honour your wife, your husband or your children above yourself. Your spouse or children, when they know they are loved no matter what, really feel secure.
Ephesians teaches that husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves His church, and wives are called to devote themselves to their husbands as the church devotes itself to Christ. Emulating the love that exists between God and His church in a family is essential, but no easy feat.
3. TAKE A TIME OUT
When conflict erupts in the family, you WILL react rather than respond. A reaction is fast, it’s heated, it’s the first thing that comes into your head, it hurts others and it is almost always destructive. A response takes time, is thought through and measured and is much more constructive.
Proverbs 15:1 (ESV Strong's)
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger
So when you have a fight looming with your spouse, or with your children, before you or they explode, agree to take a “time out.” This one, simple tip could save a ton of heartache.
Instead of exploding and reacting badly, agree that either side can call a time out for 30 minutes, and that you have to walk away and say nothing in that time. Then when you return the conversation will be a lot more civil and a lot more constructive!
Proverbs 13:3 (ESV Strong's)
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
4. CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES
As a parent or a partner, you don’t have to win every battle. Erwin Rommel said, “Don’t fight a battle if you don’t gain anything from winning.”
There are some you must fight for and win, but others are not as important. With your child, for example, you can lose a small battle with them over a tidy room or a set bedtime, but your dare not lose one over taking drugs and sleeping around!
Ephesians 6:4 (ESV Strong's)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Parents, if you fight over every little thing, as your child gets older they will become exasperated, enraged by everything. You can win the battle for your family by choosing the important battles you fight and win.
5. PUT EACH OTHER FIRST
We are naturally selfish, and marriage and family are hard because every one of us wants their own way. Don’t say you don’t, because you know you do! We all think we are right, and we all want our own way. Here’s what Paul writes about any group living together…
Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV Strong's)
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
So, in your marriage, put each other first. Honour each other, and each of your children. Don’t show favouritism, but find something to celebrate in each child, and each other. See the best in them!
6. PUT CHRIST AT THE CENTRE
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV-WS)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
A rope is made strong because it’s not 2 but 3 cords. And these cords do not run in parallel, they are intertwined, woven together. If you put Christ at the centre of your marriage, you can survive the pressure and prosper into eternity. So honour God in your life, do quiet times, read His Word and come to church, because you will reap the benefits in your marriage and in the battle for the family.
7. ASK “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”
I know we have books and wristbands asking WWJD, but honestly it is best practice in all your relationships, within the family and outside as well. That phrase comes from a book called “In His Steps,” and the book is based on this verse…
1 Peter 2:21 (ESV Strong's)
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.
1 John 2:5-6 (ESV Strong's)
but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
So if you have turmoil, tension or battles within your family, if you have anger, rebellion, cold fronts or a daily soap opera at home, then stop before you speak or act and ask the question, “What would Jesus do?”
Would Jesus explode in anger? Would Jesus say those aggressive, hurtful words? Would Jesus compare children and aliens some of them? Would Jesus give someone the cold shoulder if He didn’t get His way?
THE BATTLE IS ON IN THE BATTLE FOR THE FAMILY!
Like it or not, the battle for the family is on… big time! Don’t think that shutting down, walking away or just giving in to keep the peace in the home is God’s way. No, ask if Jesus would do that?
You may feel like you’re battling your wife or husband, fighting your wayward kids, but remember,
Ephesians 6:12 (NIV-WS)
our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
So if you are struggling with family conflict, between husband and wife, or parents and kids, then it’s time to tell the enemy, “Enough is enough!”
Let me share the words of Nehemiah when he faced a formidable enemy…
Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV Strong's)
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
My challenge to you this morning is… who wants to fight for your marriage, your home and your family?