There’s No “I” in “TEAM”

Study Guide, February 14, 2016  – Pastor Clay Olsen

“There’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’!  Anyone who has ever played a team sport probably heard their coach say that at one time or another.  And of course the point was about focusing on the progress of the team rather than the preferences of yourself, and about putting the welfare of the team above the interests of yourself.  Interestingly enough, that would be a good motto to add to marriage vows, don’t you think?  Like, “And I now pronounce you husband and wife…Oh, and by the way, just remember, ‘There’s no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM’.

But ‘TEAM’ is not only to be the focus in sports, but it’s especially to be the focus in marriage.  How odd though, that such a fundamental principle can become so easily neglected.  And yet, that’s not surprising, since one of the fundamental flaws of human nature is to default to ‘I’ thinking over ‘TEAM’ thinking and to being ‘self’ focused above being ‘servant’ focused.  If we each don’t regularly re-focus to serving one another for the sake of the ‘TEAM’, then we naturally default to focusing on serving ourselves for the sake of our ‘self-ishness’.

You’ve got to watch out for that ‘ishness’ when it gets into ‘self’.  It’s like a virus…the virus of ‘ishness’ that infects the ‘self’.  And like other viruses, there are no antibiotics for that.  Just like you have to put extra effort into good health habits to overcome a virus, the same is true of overcoming the ‘ishness’ virus in marriage.  It’s takes extra effort to practice good marriage habits to overcome the virus of ‘self-ishness’.

So let’s talk about some of those good habits or work up a ‘game plan’ for promoting the best interest and welfare of the team; of ‘Team Marriage’.  And of course, the first thing to remember is that the most important person in your marriage is neither the husband nor the wife; it’s the Lord.  Ps 127:1- “Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it…” NASU Let’s get specific here: “Unless the Lord builds the ‘marriage’, they labor in vain who build it…” Remember, a Christian marriage is never a relationship between ‘two’ persons, but a relationship between ‘three’ persons, with one of those ‘Persons’ being the Lord Jesus Christ.  And He is the one whom the marriage is not only to be built upon, but He is also to be the primary builder.  Otherwise the last part of that verse kicks in…’they labor in VAIN’.

Often we think of ‘vain’ as meaning ‘prideful’ or ‘wasted’ and such, which it does.  However, in terms of building, a part that is considered ‘vain’ is a part that can’t be used to build what builder intended.  In home building, if the supplier delivers the wrong materials, those materials have been delivered in vain.  And the parts themselves were ‘vain parts’, since they can’t be used to build what the home builder is trying to build.

Be very clear on this: God intended to build something through your marriage long before you ever even met each other.  God had a blueprint for what He wanted to build in your marriage and through your marriage long before you ever got married.  Remember, God is a builder.  Even on Earth, Jesus was a Carpenter.  Do you think He wanted us to catch the symbolism of that? God builds things! And even in Jesus’ saving ministry what did He say He was doing? “I will ‘build’ My church!” God is a builder…a builder of Disciples as well as a builder of Husbands and Wives and their married lives.

So the first thing a married couple should be focused on is not what they plan to do in their lives, but on what God wants to build in and through their lives.  And the first obvious thing is that God is trying to build is His image and character into each life of the husband and wife. The not quite as obvious thing is what He then intends to build through their lives.  But be assured of this: if you are paying attention to cooperating with God in building His character qualities in your life, God will see to it that He will use you in building what He intends to build in and through your life.

Since God is a builder of your marriage, what does that make you?  That makes you a fellow builder with God, seeking to build what He is building.  You are a fellow builder of God’s seeking to first build up your spouse’s life.  And we’re not speaking about so much in physical girth as in spiritual growth. I’m definitely a bigger man than when Sharon and I got married, girth wise…but that’s not the point. Sharon has been a fellow builder with the Lord into my life in her counseling, encouraging, teaching, praying ministries and more for the building up of my life and in the building of this house of marriage that God had a plan for building even before we got married.

Which also makes building the house of marriage an adventure of discovery, because even though God has the blueprints for what He intends to build, He doesn’t show you all the details up front, does He?  Do you think He has a reason for that?  Yes, He does…and one of those reasons is so that His fellow builders, His married children, will have to work together on all levels in order to build what God intends to build.  The ‘Great Contractor’ has ‘subbed-out’ a lot of the building to us ‘Subcontractors’.  And we will have to work together for the sake of doing what our Great Contractor wants done.

Again, either building a strong house or building an effective team requires this central commitment to the goals of the primary builder or team owner, or in this case the Lord of our lives and Lord of our marriage.  And that leads to an essential habit.  And the word we often use for this habit is communication.  But we’re going to take that up a notch because when it comes to communication many times couples will agree to go further down the road of communication, but the the trouble is that they tend to leave by the side of the road the most important aspect of communication; and that is – Understanding.

It’s quite remarkable that when the Apostle Peter speaks to husbands about stepping it up in how they care for and relate to their wives he doesn’t say to ‘communicate’ more with their wives, he says “…live with your wives in an understanding way…” 1 Peter 3:7 NASU You see, the goal in your marriage is not just communication, but understanding. It’s like the old statement of: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I said, ” You know what I mean?

Maybe a better question is: Why is the ‘understanding’ part of communication the tricky part? Remember this: We tend to see things not as they are; we tend to see things as we are.  In Apologetics that’s called having a World-view, where we tend to look at things and understand things through a preconceived internal filter in our mind and emotions that causes us to form a belief or opinion or notion about things.  And we not only do that with the world of ‘beliefs’; we tend to do that with whatever and with whoever is in our world; like even with our own spouses. So that’s why the Apostle Peter tells us husbands to not just to seek to communicate more with your wives; no, he says you have to go deeper than that; seek to live with her in an ‘understanding way’.

Now, being an Apostle, he only spoke truth.  Therefore, he didn’t say it was possible to completely understand her…he said ‘live with her in an understanding way…’ Sure, all things are possible, but in the case of men and women fully understanding each other…that seems to fall under that part in the love chapter of 1 Cor 13:12 where it says: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” NASU  It’s like when Sharon and I are in Heaven, and I’ll say, “Oh, now I fully understand what you meant when you said…”

But the point is that we are to make ‘understanding’ and ‘living with each other in an understanding way’ be the goal of our communication. And that means learning more and more about each others way of thinking, feeling, and acting concerning the spiritual and physical, and the mental, emotional, and volitional areas of each others lives. And that means that we make ‘learning’ more about each other become a priority work, or team-work of our marriage. And that makes sense because the word ‘Disciple’ means ‘Learner’. So it makes sense that we would certainly be a Learner of our Lord and Savior and about our Lord and Savior and also then a Learner of and about our Spouse and Fellow Team-mate and Fellow Builder.

Here’s a fascinating Proverb: Prov 20:5- “A person’s thoughts are like water in a deep well, but someone with insight can draw them out.” TEV  So here are several helps in our goal of seeking to better live with our spouse in an understanding way; some helps in drawing out this water from a deep well.  Over the years in premarital counseling and in marriage counseling we have used some key questions for married couples to regularly talk about in order to help them better understand one another and to also then better serve God and others together as a team.  I’ll just give some of them and if you want to see more of them I’ll cite the source at the end in the study guides.  So here are some great questions for married couples, or even for the unmarried to keep, for if or when marriage comes along, or for good helps in counseling others. So here are the questions:

  • What are some of the most important things we’ve learned since we’ve been married?
  • How can I be more sensitive to your needs? (And after your spouse comes to off the floor…then you can talk further about that…)
  • What has happened to us in the past year to make us draw closer together?
  • Do you feel threatened when I disagree with you, or make a decision you don’t like? Do I give you a fair voice in decision making?
  • How can we disagree on something without offending each other?
  • Are there any habits or mannerisms in my life that bug you? (You might need to stipulate a cap on this, like only 5 at one time or something…)
  • What should our priorities be for: our personal growth as Disciples; our development of our children’s lives; our material needs; our vocational goals?
  • How can we encourage each other more?
  • Are we being good stewards in the use of our tithes and offerings of our finances?
  • What can we be doing to teach our children financial wisdom?
  • What are some positive ways we can teach our children: to be unselfish; to be kind to others; to be responsible; to be committed to the Lordship of Christ in all areas?
  • What values and practical skills should our children have learned before they leave home?
  • What have you learned from your Bible readings lately?
  • If someone came up to us and said, “Tell me how I can know God personally”, what would we tell them?
  • Are we contributing to our church family in our time, talents, and treasures as we are able?
  • How can we resist the materialism that’s swallowing up our culture?
  • What were some of the highlights of your week?
  • What have we learned so far about our next home; Heaven?1

Again, the point of these questions is not the gathering of information from each other, but the continual pursuit of better understanding each other and building up your ‘Team’ mentality.  And by the way, your ‘Team’ includes ‘God’s Team’, or God’s church. For remember Jesus’ words? “I will build My church.” So that means part of your team building exercises include those things you do with and for your ‘Church Team’.  Studies have shown that 97% of broken marriages involved one or both partners who did not attend church regularly.  On the other hand, only one marriage in 57 of those who regularly attended church broke up.  Furthermore, only one in 500 marriages of people who were deeply devoted to God broke up.  And that devotion included serving God’s family and His cause.  It’s when we serve a cause bigger than ourselves, God’s cause, that our hearts enlarge. (And we’re not talking ‘inflammation’ here, but ‘inspiration’.)

And how like our God to design us in such a way that we thrive on inspiration, but we wilt from dissipation.  And dissipation includes the definition of ‘using or expending or consuming thoughtlessly or carelessly’.  You see, When we are just going through the motions of marriage or of life in general without regular refills of ‘inspiration’ then we default to these effects of dissipation.  But when a couple makes it their goal to build what the Master Builder is trying to build; to build what the Lord God is trying to build in and through their marriage, then He refills them with the inspiration they need to stay on task and to provide that ‘joy for their journey’ that we know is their strength for living.

Remember that we pointed out in our Men’s Advance highlights that ‘Maintenance’ is not the purpose of living – Making the most of the times we’ve been given for the glory of God is!  And that applies to our marriage as well. Marriage is a gift from God, just like Singleness is a gift from God.  The point is; whatever you’ve been given from God, the maintenance of it is not the purpose of it.  The purpose of it is to join with God in making the most of it, not first for yourself, but first for the glory of God and then the gain of your spouse, the gain of your own family, the gain of your church family, and the gain of others.  And in doing so, you will be inspired by God and blessed with gain in your own life for joining with God in being a fellow team builder, for the glory of God and the gain of His Kingdom.

1. Dan Benson, The Total Man, pp. 157-163