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The day had been littered with lots of little foxes. As pressures grew, tempers shortened. When Mahesh reached for the door handle I made a resentful remark. It was the last straw for both of us.

He dropped the dessert, on purpose, on the floor. He wasn't counting on its bouncing back! But bounce it did: everywhere. I watched, angry and horrified, as red Jell-O, whipped cream and other ingredients splattered the ceiling, walls, floor and front door.

What did we do? We left the mess and went to the meeting, sans dessert but with hearts sure for God. For months afterward I found little dried spots of red Jell-O in all the crooks and crevices of our home. Each one was a reminder of the devil's strategy to get us to back down from the war against his kingdom by starting a war at home. Satan's biggest tactic against married persons is to put pressure on them in an effort to make them retreat from active spiritual service.

Our experience has showed us that the two most effective tools for handling ministry in the midst of marital discord are: (1) commitment to God and His kingdom first; and (2) a sense of humor. Sincere commitment to God ultimately brings clarity in our personal circumstances, and a sense of humor helps us to hope, bear and believe all things (see 1 Cor. 13:7). Both these tools help us to fulfill the two greatest commandments in proper order: love God and love your neighbor.

Love says to take precautions in relating to one's spouse. As much as possible try to sidestep the areas you know will cause him to stumble or to become angry or anxious, even if you have an opportunity to make a point regarding an issue in his life. Maintain control over your own spirit, keep a guard on your tongue and refuse to indulge in self-pity or self-importance.

The key to spiritual success in marriage is realizing that each one is as unique in the plan of God as the partners themselves are unique among human beings. For this reason there must be not two, but three persons in agreement within each marriage: the husband, the wife and the Holy Spirit.

A marriage is not an organization; it is an organism, a living union no less than a person or a tree. When one or both partners demand that it become the tool to service their own comfort, convenience or demands, shipwreck is inevitable.

On the other hand, the husband or wife who uses religious or ministry business as an excuse to neglect loving service to his or her family is in danger of being in disobedience to the voice of the Holy Spirit as well. Balance and personal obedience to God are the plumb line.

Just as you must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, you must work out your marriage before God and His Word. The bottom line is: Love the Lord first, love your neighbor (who is also your spouse) second. Love seeks not its own, including its own spiritual agendas or carnal comforts. Love seeks to do the heart and will of God.

Bonnie Chavda serves as pastor of All Nations Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, alongside her husband, Mahesh, who is senior pastor.

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