“Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13
God designed the church to be a community of people who actively and intentionally help each other to heaven. And I’d like to suggest that in marriage, God does a very similar work.
When God brings a Christian man and woman together as husband and wife, He provides them with one of the most potentially potent discipling partners on the planet. Your spouse knows you like no one else does and together you can serve each other’s deepest spiritual needs—including helping each other persevere in love for Jesus, until death do you part.
In fact, I’d like to propose that one of the the primary purposes of a Christian marriage is to glorify God by helping each other to heaven.
What follows are four observations from Hebrews 3:13 that apply to the way husbands and wives should strive to help each other persevere in faith until the end.
#1 – Encourage each other.
The word “exhort” shows up 109 times in the New Testament. Depending on how it’s used, the word can be translated “to speak words of encouragement,” “to invite,” “to beg,” “to urge,” “to persuade,” “to plead,” and “to implore.”
The heart behind this word is one of passion in which one person is doing all they can to help another person do something important. In the context of marriage, it is a call for the couple to inspire each other toward Christ. Husbands are to speak words of encouragement to lift their wife’s heart to find strength in God. Wives invite their husbands to come to the banquet table of grace by reminding them of promise in God’s Word. Together, couples are to urge each other on toward heaven.
While this type of encouragement is wonderful, I suspect we can also recognize the potential difficulty in it. My flesh resists people exhorting me and imploring me. I’m prone toward being defensive and irritated, especially toward those who are closest to me. And if I’m honest, I’m often fearful to challenge and encourage my wife because I don’t want to come across as nagging or judgmental.
But God knows that we need this kind of help from each other and that is why He calls us to fight through all our sinful excuses to engage in it.
In what ways do you think your spouse needs encouragement to more fully rely upon God?
What ways could you spouse help you? Have you shared this with them?
What kinds of fears do you feel when you think about giving and receiving exhortations with your spouse?
How are you openly warring against cowardliness and defensiveness in your marriage?
#2 – Encourage each other daily.
In Hebrews 3:13 the command to “exhort” shows up as a present, active, imperative verb. That means it’s something we’re commanded to be doing in a consistent way. We could literally translate the command “you are to keep on encouraging each other every day.” Date nights are great for your marriage, but daily encouragements are better.
God calls husbands to consistently invite their wives to not lose heart after an exhausting day. The Lord commands wives to relentlessly plead with their husbands to fight their insecurities by clinging to God’s Word. Husbands and wives are exhorted by God to daily exhort each other to strive through dark seasons of doubt and despair.
What a wonderful portrait of how Christians are called to enduringly love each other!
Again, this is where our sinful nature will rear its ugly head and call this kind of persistent love an annoying intrusion. Do not believe this lie. God initiates love with us each day (1 John 4:19; Lamentations 3:23) and never takes a day off from showing us His faithful commitment to us (Psalm 136:1; Jeremiah 31:3).
Jesus has shown us a relentless love, and He has called Christian husbands and wives to show that same kind of love to one another (John 13:34, 15:12; Ephesians 5:22, 25, 28, 33).
While there is no formula that works for every couple, here’s a few ideas of how to encourage each other daily toward heaven.
- Go to bed at the same time and close your evening by praying together.
- Get on the same Bible reading schedule and share one thing each day that you saw from the reading. This won’t work for everyone, but try it for a week or a month and see how it goes.
- Memorize verses or portions of the Bible together. By doing this you will both be meditating on the same scripture and can share insights from that text to situations you are facing.
- Share with your spouse the promises from God’s Word that most edify your soul. Set up a plan of how they can approach you and use them when you are in need of this kind of encouragement.
#3 – Encourage each other daily to protect your hearts from sin.
The context of Hebrews 3-4 is essential to understanding the urgency of encouragement. Here, the author is exhorting the church to not harden their hearts against God like the Exodus generation who faltered in faith and fell under His judgment (Psalm 95:6-11). To ensure this doesn’t happen to us, God commands His people to provide daily exhortations to each other reminding them of hope that lies before them.
In the context of marriage, Christian husbands and wives are commanded by God to exhort each other to not fall prey to sin’s deceitful offerings. Satan is daily seeking to lure us away from God, so we must daily be exhorting each other to remain faithful to God. This kind of regular encouragement is one of God’s prescribed antidotes to the satanic poison that leads to apostasy.
Do you know how your spouse is currently being tempted to harden their heart against God (Hebrews 3:12, 3:15)?
What plan do you and your spouse have in place to help each other war against the sin that so dangerously hinders our progress toward our heavenly home (Hebrews 4:11)?
How are your regularly calling each other toward the throne of grace to gain help in your times of need (Hebrews 4:14-16)?
Talking to our spouse about how we are being tempted can be tricky for many couples. For some, there is a fear of being exposed, while others wisely know their spouses’ God-given limitations when it comes to hearing about certain sins. I would however strongly encourage couples to find a way to talk about their battles with sin in a way that works for them.
For a help in considering how to discuss temptations with your spouse, consider the principles in the article “Should I Tell My Spouse About My Struggles with Sexual Purity?”
#4 – Encourage each other daily to protect your hearts from sin, until death do you part.
Our text challenges us to “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today.” There is a day when “today” will turn into “the day” we will see the Lord’s face (Hebrews 10:25). But between now and then, husband and wives are to help each other strive forward in faith.
As Christians, our marriages are commitments that last until death separates us. Because of this, we must take the long view and encourage each other despite all our differences and difficulties. Marriage is not easy because it is a union of two sinners, but the grace of God is sufficient to help us make it home.
The day is coming soon when we will see the Lord Jesus, our hope will be realized and we will forever thank Him for the way He used others, including our spouses, to help us persevere and see Him face to face.
Oh what a day that will be—come Lord Jesus, come!
A Few Final Action Steps:
- Encourage your spouse to read this article and set up a time to discuss its implications in your marriage.
- Humbly share the hopes and fears you have about encouraging and challenging each other in your walks with God. Don’t give into the temptation to hide from your spouse—that is exactly what sin wants you to do.
- Prayerfully select another couple from your local church that can help you grow as a couple. Encourage them to read this article and talk openly about things the Lord challenges you with.
May the Lord give you and your spouse grace as you help each other toward heaven.