The Pastor's Wife and Her Family

Nov. 4, 2011 Holly Elliff

Session Transcript

Holly Elliff: Well, I want us to talk a little bit today about the pastor’s wife and her family. Now I can’t imagine why Nancy gave me this topic apart from the fact that I’ve been married for thirty-eight years to a pastor, and I have eight children. I have six grandchildren who are four and under. I also take care of my mom who has Alzheimer’s.

So I have some family around. As a matter of fact, the other night when I walked into the hotel room I thought, “Wow, there is no one here but me,” and it was a really nice feeling. I don’t think I’d like it all the time, but it was really nice for a couple of nights to just have time to really get in the presence of the Lord.

I don’t know what your season of life is. It looks like we have several seasons represented in here. Wherever you are in this season of life, God has something to say to us about our families and how important that is.

I remember an episode of I Love Lucy. In this episode Lucy walks in and she is in her house, and Ricky has had a box delivered to the house. I don’t remember why, but the box has a little lever on it that says, “Do Not Touch.” Some of you many remember this episode. And, of course, Lucy has to know what happens if you touch the little handle.

So she pulls it, and it is a life raft. When she pulled the handle it instantly inflates and starts getting bigger and bigger, and she’s trying to survive the giant life raft. Then she’s trying to get it back into the box, which is really small. As I thought about that TV episode, I thought that is exactly how I feel about covering the topic The Pastor’s Wife and Her Family in 25 minutes or less.

We are not going to be able to get it all squished in, but we’re going to talk fast and see what God wants to say to us today.

A few years ago there was a really decent movie called National Treasure. Did any of you see it? It was about some guys who were looking for a treasure map that was invisible, and it was on the back of the Declaration of Independence. I actually loved this movie because I would have liked to have been on that adventure with them.

But on the back of the Declaration of Independence there was supposed to be a treasure map, but it was written with invisible ink, so you had to find the way to make the ink show up. Then there were all these clues that led you to other things that would help you understand what the map said. It was a very complicated story, but it was really interesting.

At one point they were to find these spectacles. Now I’m not just putting these on for illustration; it is because I really can’t see my notes too well without them. So they were in search of these spectacles, but these spectacles were special. They were hand made by Benjamin Franklin himself. They were hidden in the clock tower in Philadelphia where the Liberty Bell was going to eventually be.

So they find these spectacles, but they are not just normal spectacles. They have three lenses and the lenses kind of move back and forth, and they are different colors. As they adjust these special lenses on the glasses, they can see different parts of the message.

Now the guy without the glasses didn’t get the whole message, but because they had the special lenses that all fit together, they could understand the message and the symbols that were on the back of the Declaration of Independence. You’ll have to go watch the movie is you want to know what else happened.

But those spectacles worked together to make the map make sense. You know what? God in His sovereignty has given us a map.  He has given us a map for every season of our life. He has given us maps on every page of His Word, and all of those maps lead us to the truth. Today, Colossians 3 is going to serve as our spectacles.

We are going to look through Colossians 3 and see what God has to say. What three different lenses are there that bring our families into focus. Now the first lens we’ll call the “lens of perspective.”

Look at Colossians 3 verses 1-4. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Now did you know that as believers we have dual citizenship? I have a good friend who moved to Cambodia to adopt some children. They are trying to get dual citizenship for those children so they can bring them back to the United States. But as believers, we already have dual citizenship. Paul understood that. He encourages us to seek; to know the reality of God’s heavenly kingdom, even though we still dwell here in this earthly kingdom.

Now the relationships present in heaven speak to us about God’s intended design for us. Mary Kassian has written it this way. “Men were created to reflect the strength, the love, and the sacrifice of Christ. Women were created to reflect the responsiveness, the grace, and the beauty of the bride that Christ redeemed. Marriage was created to reflect the covenant union between Christ and His bride, the Church.”

At the beginning of time for the human race, God created family. It was important to Him. He understood the significance of what He was doing. He created family because it was the very best way to display His character and His nature to a watching world.

Now the other day as I flew over here, I had a window seat for part of my flight. I am looking out the window and I can see beautiful landscapes below me. There was sunshine, and then suddenly we flew into a cloud and I couldn’t see anything. But every once in a while there would be a break in the cloud cover and there would be a little moment of clarity where once again I could see what was actually there. Now, was the stuff on earth there all the time? Sure it was, but I couldn’t always see it clearly.

Well, putting on the right lens allows us to clearly see what God knows all the time about why He created relationships on earth that are to reflect the relationships in heaven.

When we choose as a family to live out what God has already set in place and it happens as the Lord’s prayer says, “on earth as it is in Heaven,” then we become pockets of clarity. Our family becomes a lens through which God’s perspective is displayed, and He receives the glory that He already deserves as it is manifested through our family.

What would it be like if in Indiana and Michigan and Ethiopia and Arkansas, where I live, Kansas, the Dominican Republic, what if in all those places there were pockets of clarity that fully illustrated what God desires for us in our human life that reflects the glory of God? Those pockets of clarity should be there, and they should be our families living out God’s perfect will.

If that could happen, then God’s perspective, that first lens we’re talking about today, would be made known on earth as it is already in Heaven.

Now our second lens is the lens of priority. God has a blueprint for us that details how our families can grow to look more like Christ. We see more and more of God’s design for that as we apply Colossians 3 to our family.

Now, let me ask you this. How many of you have children in this room? Raise your hand if you have children. Okay. Like I said, I have eight children–four girls and four boys. Do your children have any article of clothing or a pair of shoes that is just ratty, maybe it is really stinky, and you have tried to dispose of it?

My son Timothy who is currently seventeen has this pair of tennis shoes, and they are really, really ugly. They are filthy, and they have holes that go all the way from the bottom of the tennis shoe to the inside of the tennis shoe. You can stick your finger, which I did one day to show him that it really was a hole, you can stick your finger from the inside of the tennis shoe to the outside of the tennis shoe. All the trim on the front of the tennis shoe is kind of dragging on the ground when he walks. They are just really ugly.

Well, I have tried to get rid of those tennis shoes multiple times. I hide them in the trash can. I have covered them with stuff. I even got them in a Goodwill sack one day, but somebody ratted on me. You know, he digs them out every time and puts them back in his room. Timothy loves those tennis shoes; I really hate those tennis shoes.

Timothy is focused on hanging on to those tennis shoes even though they are shabby and crummy. You know where God wants us focused? He wants us focused. The enemy, however, does not want us focused here, would you agree? We’re just going to stop and pray right now, is that okay? [Note—There are sound distractions in the room.]

Father, I just pray that even in this moment you would take care of any distractions in this place and Satan we just remind you that in the name of Christ, we stand against any attempt to block or circumvent the clear truth of God’s Word.

And Father, we know that you are bigger than those things so even if they continue, give us the ability to focus. Lord, open our ears so that Your Spirit can lead us into truth. We ask You to do that in Jesus name.

Alright. So Colossians 3 is our next lens. We’re going to look at what we’re to do about those crummy, shabby things in our life that God calls us to get rid of. He’s going to bring some things to your mind, and maybe you’ve already dug them out of the trash or gotten them out of the Goodwill sack and you will not let go of them. But today He is going to put His finger on some things. He’s already done that in my heart as I’ve been preparing for this moment.

Colossians 3: 5-9. In those verses, we’re not going to read all of them, but you can read along as I’m talking if you want to. In Colossians 3: 5-9, we are encouraged by the Lord Himself to put aside anything that doesn’t look like Jesus. He lists some of those things for us here: “immorality, evil desires, greed, anger, abusive speech, lying,” anything that is part of who we are or who we were apart from Christ.

Now, we’re not to just stay there though. So we chunk the shabby stuff, but then He gives us a proactive command here, and He says to us that “we are to put on the things that make it evident that we have new clothes.” God has already bought and paid for them as Kim said. He has done the work for us already. We have new clothes, so we are to understand that in His eyes we are holy and beloved. “We are to put on them compassion and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience. Those things should not be foreign to us” (vv.12-13).

Kids are a wonderful barometer of our lives, aren’t they? They are just little mirrors that run around all the time reflecting to us what we need from the Lord. So if you’re not sure if you have put on the right things, go ask your husband. Go ask your children. “Am I patient? Am I kind?” It is not fair to do that on a day when you’ve just bribed them with lunch at McDonalds or something.

They will tell you because they are honest, but you probably already know that. I already know that in my own life the things that God wants to put on me because they are part of the clothing that He has already purchased for me. I should be wearing those things all the time. They should be like a suit of clothes that I wear that looks like Jesus. They are already mine.

This passage encourages us to dwell in the Word of Christ. Look at verse 13 here. Let’s start with verse 12, “Put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, 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 put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony and let the peace of Christ rule in your heart to which indeed you were called in one body and be thankful” (vv.12-15).

Those are some big, descriptive terms of who we are to be as women who have put on Christ. Right? We don’t just put Him on outwardly, but we put Him on inwardly so that every word that comes out of our mouth is governed by Him. Every thought that pops in my head is governed by Him. Every response to my husband or to my children or to that church member is governed by Him. It is part of the lens that God desires to focus in on my life.

His Word as we dwell in the Word of Christ is to be absorbed into us so that whatever we do we can do all in the name of Christ with a grateful heart that acknowledges God and lives to honor Him at every moment. You know what? It is really confusing to our husbands when we are sitting holding our Bibles one minute and disputing him, belittling him in the next minute—that doesn’t make sense.

It is really confusing to our children when they hear us proclaim the truths of God’s Word and then yell at them in the car when we’re trying to get them all out there on a really bad day, or when we have no grace for the challenges women in your church. You probably have those in your life—I do.

Every action, every word, is done in the name of Christ with a grateful heart so that God can be honored through our life. What is interesting is that immediately in verse 18 Paul links all of these commands to our family. It jumps right into the home. Now why do you think that would be? Because it is the hardest place to live it out, right?

So there are to be wives that are fitting, who are subject to the needs of their husbands. There are to be husbands who are loving their wives and relinquishing bitterness toward them. I can’t imagine that any of our husbands could ever be bitter towards us, but it must be an issue because it is addressed here in Scripture. Men who are understanding as they deal with their children, not exasperating them, which causes them to lose heart the Scripture says. And the children in this home are to desire to please the Lord so much that they obey their parents in everything.

Now, at this point I would imagine that you are sitting there thinking, “Well, you know that it is a good thing that is a reality in Heaven, because it is sure not a reality at my house.” So many times we don’t see this reality in our home. Look back at verse 12. It says, “And so, as those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved . . .” It is talking about us if we claim the name of Christ, if we are His children.

The Ryrie Study Bible states it this way. It says, “Paul’s appeal is simple. Become in experience what you already are in God’s grace.” You see, the creation of your life, my life here on earth was intentional; we’re told that all through Scripture, right?

God knew what He was about; He did it for a purpose. If you’re breathing today, it is because God was intentional about your life. He was intentional about the way in which He created you.

The life of our family is also to be intentional, and that is our third lens. The lens of God’s process in our life.  

Do you know that God originated apps? That is a new revelation to me this week, that God originated apps. So we’re going to do this: I’m going to make a statement, and I want you to reply with this, “There is an app for that.” Can you practice with me? Say “There is an app for that.” (audience practices) Very good!

If we need wisdom, “There is an app for that.” If we need grace, “There is an app for that.” If we need courage, “There is an app for that.” If we need perseverance, “There is an app for that.” And if we need love, “There is an app for that.”

You know what? God has already done the work. He has already given us, Scripture says, “Everything we need for life and godliness” but we’re not accessing the apps. They are already there, we just have to access them. We have to run to Him for what He longs to do as we see His process in our life.

Now God’s process is to teach us to live by His Spirit through His Word. It really is not that difficult. Kim has already shared with us how critical it is for us to live in wholehearted devotion that drives us to the Word; by His Spirit, through His Word.

Another term for this process is sanctification. Now that is a big word, but you know what it means? It means “growing up into what we are to be in Christ.” We have this syndrome now in our culture where guys don’t grow up. They just keep doing teenage things. If we’re not careful, we'll be eighty-year old women who never grew up to look like the women that God had in His mind when He created us.

When I was twenty I really believed and I really did (I also separated my eyelashes with a straight pin at that point in my life). When I was twenty I really believed that if I just read my Bible, did what it said, was nice to people, smiled a lot, that everybody would love me and that I would never encounter any difficulty in my life. I really did believe that at twenty and at about thirty when God allowed us to start walking through deep waters, it was such a shock to my system that God had a different plan for my life.

Now, I don’t believe that any more because I would have had to stay scripturally illiterate to keep believing that because it is not in God’s Word. His Word says exactly the opposite. But it is not because God desires to harm us, it is because He desires to grow us so that we look like the women He has called us to be. We will be assaulted by the world, by the flesh, and by the devil because those things rule in this earthly kingdom where we currently live. But as Kim shared, we won’t always live here, right? And while we are here that has purpose in our life.

Now sometimes in ministry, we feel like we live in a pressure cooker. Anybody ever cooked with a pressure cooker? You know, you put that little thingy on the top and it gets really hot. If you don’t know what you’re doing—which I did one time—if you don’t do it the right way and it blows the lid off the pan and whatever, you have it on the ceiling of your parsonage and you have to try to figure out how to get it off without telling anybody that you exploded it all over the ceiling—real life story!

Well, that pressure cooker can do one of two things. That pressure in our life that we feel can do one of two things. If we ignore it or deny it, there will be a disaster. There will be an explosion. I talked to pastors’ wives all the time whose lives are imploding. I talked with a gal last week whose husband has left; left her with her five children. He just needs space and time to himself. He’s walked away. Their life is imploding at this moment.

But the same pressure that causes the explosion can make the toughest cut of meat fork tender and savory, so that it is attractive and desirable. The same pressure that can cause the explosion can also make us tender if we will run to the heart of God when we are struggling.

God’s process at work in my family is critical. You see, what happens to my family matters because God’s glory really matters. Many other religions are actually much more intentional than Christianity at making sure that their belief system is launched into future generations. Those other religions choose to have more children so that they can be raised indoctrinated with their belief system.

They are absolutely committed to discipling their children in their belief systems, and they have a much higher retention rate than we currently have as believers as their children reach young adult ages. Our kids are walking away in droves from a message of Christianity. You know what? If we don’t have children and we don’t raise those children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in a way that they can understand the reality of that, there will not be an army of believers marching into the next generation.

What we do in our family really matters because God’s glory matters. God is calling us to embrace His process for our families, and that means we need to keep our covenant. We need to guard our marriages. Girls, if your marriage is in trouble, don’t leave this place without getting honest about that. You can only leave those cracks in the foundation for so long, and that explosion will occur. Don’t ignore it.

Build your family on relationship and not rules. Nancy talked last night about the difference between Mt. Sinai and Mt. Calvary. If we build our family on rules they will breed rebellion in our children. But if our family is built on heart relationships that are honest, we'll have a much better chance of those kids staying connected to us for the long haul. Start early, get them talking when they’re young so when they are thirteen they don’t have a tendency to go into their room and slam the door.

At our house we talk it out, no matter what it is, no matter what time of the day or night it is. We talk it out. As a matter of fact, one of my kids called me at 2:00 this morning forgetting that I was in Indianapolis. Value, transparency, and honest communication, it is critical to the life of our family. Pray without ceasing. That should be a lifestyle for us, and we can pray no matter what we are doing. We can be praying in the midst of it.

Deal quickly and biblically with hurt. Don’t be afraid to apologize to your kids. Be the first one to apologize to your husband if your response was wrong. Acknowledge and teach God’s sovereignty. I did not understand that at twenty, but the understanding of God’s sovereignty keeps us from building up stockpiles of bitterness when God allows something to touch our life that we don’t understand. So from very, very young our kids can understand God is really big, and He is really smart, and He knows what He’s doing. Then when they encounter tough places in their lives, you know what? They aren’t going to resent the Lord. They will have an understanding that God is sovereign and that it is good in their life because He loves them and He is for their good.

There is no formula for a perfect home, but by God’s grace we can live in the honest reality of God’s presence in our failures, in our weaknesses, our joys and in our love for each other so that our marriage, our family and our ministry all come together to point others to a heavenly reality that changes lives for all of eternity. If that is not happening, something is wrong because that is God’s lens. Those are the lenses that come together to give us the clarity of focus that changes lives. It needs to start here, right?  It starts with us.

Let’s go to the Lord. Father, I thank you that You fully intend to continue the process of growing us up. I pray Lord that You would draw us to Yourself and that we would not be stubborn two-year-olds who refuse to come. But Father, as You show us truth, would You give us a heart that says Yes! I will listen, and I will obey, and I will lead my children to do that as well. Father, would You give us hearts to love our husbands, to love the places in which You have put us because those schools make us desperate to run to You. They are good for us. And so Father, today would you grow us up as women who long to give You the glory You so greatly deserve and we ask it in Jesus’ precious name, amen.