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There was a Twitter quote that I found helped me with a timely word. It’s not something I necessarily didn’t know, but something I needed to be reminded of. It was said by none other than Tony Evans and I wanted to expound my thoughts from it, check it out below:
@drtonyevans: “The person who has the right perspective sees singleness as an advantage, not a disadvantage. #SingleBecause”.
This was a pertinent reminder to my recent thought life. If we don’t feel completely satisfied serving God as a single person, what makes us think having a girlfriend/boyfriend or spouse would change that? Of course we understand that if we’re burning with passion and struggling with issues of sexual purity that it’s certainly a solution to those problems. We also understand that in the context of today’s culture divorce happens to be unfortunately rampant within and outside of the Church. In fact some of us have likely observed this even in our parents, so it hits even closer to home.
The reality is we likely shouldn’t rush into a marriage, it’s a lifelong commitment and we don’t want to repeat those same mistakes if we can avoid them. On the same token however, as a byproduct of social norms, the aforementioned developments, or life events we’ve also pushed back the average marriage age later and later. So what we’ve got is a sex saturated culture where the media (radio, tv, internet, etc…) are all constantly bombarding us on a regular basis with sexual messages. It not only generally condones promiscuity and vulgarity, but doesn’t really even often fall short of framing it as an optimal way of life. On some level each of us has become desensitized to this negative momentum of an overly-sexualized, promiscuous culture and we’ve assimilated that into our mindsets. What people used to be shocked or impacted by in former eras are laughably tolerated and practically inconsequential in the 2010s. This pervasiveness is a problem because the men and women of the Church are postponing marriage as well. It’s not unfamiliar to see us (myself included) push marriage back until certain career milestones or graduation dates roll along. We might even find the person we think we’ll marry, but for one reason or another we’ve decided to defer that decision.
Even still we want to have our cake and eat it too, so many of us opt to live with said person and elect to live in temporal sin rather than wait for God’s ideal. Cohabitation before marriage isn’t by any stretch of the imagination abnormal behavior, but it’s not either a stretch to infer that the scriptures aren’t supportive of the idea. At least to the extent that it exposes or tempts said couple to have premarital sex. Even if nothing immoral is taking place, there is a certain connotation or perception that may cause other brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble. I like gotquestions.org’s take on this topic, so I will plug their article relevant to this issue, since it’s not the main focus of this particular blog entry. Check it out at your convenience: http://www.gotquestions.org/live-together.html. I am not claiming it is impossible to live together and avoid sin, but for a young couple who are in love it is hard enough to avoid gratifying the desires of the flesh without this added pressure. If we’re completely honest with ourselves we should understand that perfect self-control doesn’t exist in human beings outside of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Furthermore if we had perfect self-control we likely would remain single, particularly because it would probably mean we were given the gift of celibacy.
I honestly think it’s within the scope of possibilities for someone in the modern era to have the gift of celibacy. I don’t think I am that person. So essentially I would say it is safe to assume that if the couple is in love and considering marriage down the line, and they’re not ready to get married, they are not ready to live together. It will just add more exposure to the potential for sin and it won’t be doing them any favors. The Bible instructs us to keep the marriage bed pure, and I sincerely believe that there are rewards in terms of greater intimacy and revolving around obeying God that should motivate all of us to remain sexually pure or in cases where we’ve already fallen short (myself included – I have had my fight with pornography) we should aim to recommit to sexual purity and aim to honor God with our abstinence until marriage. Here’s the scripture about keeping the marriage bed pure as I mentioned:
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews 13:4 (NKJV)
Occasionally it might seem that the Church wants to help single people as if singleness was some sort of disease that needed a cure, this is an inaccurate perception. Tony Evans is correct and so is Paul in his writings that we can clearly see within 1 Corinthians 7. You may have noticed this in one of my prior posts, ironically of course the one that involved a recent acquaintance I would like to pursue dating with that I feel/felt drawn to, but I want to pay special attention to verse 25 and onward in this context.
So 1 Corinthians 7:25-39 reads:
“25 Now concerning virgins: I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give judgment as one whom the Lord in His mercy has made trustworthy. 26 I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress-that it is good for a man to remain as he is: 27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. 28 But even if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you.
29 But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, 30 those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess, 31 and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.
32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord-how he may please the Lord. 33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world-how he may please his wife. 34 There is[a] a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world-how she may please her husband. 35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
36 But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin,[b]does well. 38 So then he who gives her[c] in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.
39 A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. 40 But she is happier if she remains as she is, according to my judgment-and I think I also have the Spirit of God.”
1 Corinthians 7:25-39 (NKJV)
First I wanted to point out that in the NKJV it describes on the headline that this is a message to the “unmarried and the widows”. In other words the single people, just wanted to make that clear in case it wasn’t already. If we embrace our singleness, the reality is that God can use this season in our lives for very special missions and privileges. Paul makes it clear that when a man or a woman gets married their attention will be divided between serving God and being with/serving their spouse and family. So in essence singleness gives one the unique advantage of a lot more time that we could choose to commit to doing the Lord’s work and answering His call for our lives. Of course I am not implying that once we get married it’s all over and we’re not able to serve God anymore. It just might look a little bit different or at least the intensity of it might change some.
Paul minces no words with his recommendation, we can see that ring crystal clear in his writings. He recommends that we remain in our current life station as we came to know Christ, in other words where you’re at you should probably remain there in terms of relationships (or lack thereof). He goes on to tell us that those who do elect to marry that they have not sinned, but that we will have “trouble in the flesh”. In other words if we burn with passion and desire in our hearts a spouse, it’s best to get married anyway. However in doing so we ought to expect a certain degree of troubles to come about as a byproduct of this new relationship. This decision of course is not one to be taken lightly, and that’s another part of the reason why Paul implores us to remain single if we are still.
In verse 32 Paul speaks of the divided attention that a person experiences if they elect to marry. Think about it logically, based on other scriptures we know that wives ought to submit to their husbands under the presupposition that the husband loves her as Christ loves the Church. No simple tasks in the slightest, the reality is a mutually submissive, team-oriented, and loving endeavor. This is a daunting task for two people who are unfamiliar with truly being accountable to one another. No doubt a careful review of scriptural principles and where each stands on the most fundamental issues is worth looking into. It can be done, but it’s going to take a certain degree of effort, work, and compromise. We may fall short in the transition and there’s no turning back, but that’s okay. God gives us the grace to straighten out one another and learn from each other, and hopefully in the ultimate scheme of things everything will click. It might take time, patience, and adaption just to name a few other assets – but at the end of the day if it brings glory to God and makes us happy then it’s certainly something to be considered.
On the other hand, It’s no surprise to hear Paul warning us that we will be experiencing trouble, and it is reasonable to suspect that our time spent in ministry endeavors might have to be adapted to some extent. This doesn’t mean that God looks down upon this transition. It doesn’t mean that we’re forfeiting heavenly rewards necessarily. God invented marriage and He also invented sex. God wants us to delight in Him and experience pleasure as well. The devil has attempted to pervert these institutions of God, we can see that in the world around us today. A fallen world corrupted by evil desires and saturated by false doctrine. It’s no wonder why so many have been led astray. I cannot claim to have a full understanding of why God has allowed this to take place. What I can claim is that if you’re willing to put in the effort to cultivate a Godly marriage and build each other up rather than tear each other down, I believe that God will be glorified by this. If you submit to the authority of God together, a husband and a wife, you’ll be able to experience the real pleasure and intimacy that God designed for us to enjoy within His institution of marriage. If we maintain sexual purity and make it a high priority to fight the bondage of spiritual sin and depravity, we’ll see it pay dividends in our intimacy in marriage. The sin will not take hold and will not separate us from God and His best for us. I don’t know about you, but I want to experience God’s very best for me. If that takes some weeks, months, or years of patience, self-control, persistence, prayer, and ultimately seeking Him above all else – that’s perfectly fine. God’s will be done. It’s not supposed to be an easy journey, but it is and will be worth it. We just have to trust God at His word and know that He isn’t in the business of lying. I cannot say the same thing for the devil on the other hand. The devil constantly aims to tear up, destroy, dismantle, lie, and ruin us – namely the things that God has presented us as blessing, rewards, and opportunities to obey our Creator. We cannot give him even a foothold, we must resist and stand firm in the faith. 1 Peter 5:8-11 puts it like this:
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 2 Peter 5:8-11 (NKJV)
Vigilance, sobriety, and alertness are all assets against the evil one. With that said we should not overestimate or underestimate the devil and/or his demons. They can only do what God allows them to do, and they do not have the authority to sink us unless we let them. God has given us all the tools to fight the battle in the leading of the Holy Spirit, His Full Armor, and the knowledge He has graciously provided us in the word so that we may not be unarmed in our fight. We also aren’t alone, as a matter of a fact God is most certainly with us at all times and we can take comfort in that our brothers and sisters in Christ are also fighting similar battles. As the verse states we may “suffer a while” but after that has elapsed we will have been perfected and established among other wonderful benefits. It’s similar to how a diamond comes to be. We’ve all probably heard the phrase ‘a diamond in the rough”. It might not look like much before it is refined by pressure. It needs to be pressured by 725,000 pounds per square inch, heated to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, and quickly propelled to earth’s surface so that it may be cooled. (http://www.livescience.com/32266-how-are-diamonds-made.html). This is no easy feat, and you and I in spiritual terms are similar to that diamond. It may take some trials, difficulties, or tribulations for us to reach our full potential. God may allow obstacles to come upon our path that are meant to make us stronger as He guides us to overcome them and they should be viewed as a chance to learn and likewise glorify God. If we learn from our mistakes and grow in maturity, we’ll see in the rear view mirror of life it all makes sense looking back. Perhaps some things will not make sense until we’re in heaven for eternity, but surely there are a number of things that we could realize by God’s grace while we’re still living.
I have personally seen it time and time again in my life. Something that at its’ inception looked like an absolute disaster was eventually turned around and used for the benefit of God’s kingdom and my own person. God has caused certain stumbling blocks and life detours in my life to lead me to draw nearer to Him and further away from my selfish ambitions. My desire to conquer the world in a day and succeed in all the superficial milestones that the world holds dear were quickly set straight and I tried my best not to spurn the correction of God. It wasn’t easy, the plans I had in my head to graduate at a perfect timing and start my career were derailed to a degree, but now I can see more clearly that this was for God’s best. If it wasn’t for that detour I wouldn’t have explored writing to the degree that I have. If it wasn’t for that detour I wouldn’t have met my good friend Jim Sager or had the privilege of storing up eternal treasures and building our site www.FatherSpiritSon.com to glorify God. I wouldn’t have had so much free time in this season of my life to be able to exercise some of the gifts and talents God has blessed me with. You see in my life I have no doubt that there was a silver lining to everything that looked unfavorable at the start, and I know that God isn’t stopping that there. Whatever the devil and his demons try to use for wrong, being grounded in God and focused on Him, God will eventually turn for something good. I trust that there’s a reason behind these circumstances, and I know God won’t ever let me down. I have failed him countless times, but He has been there to catch me when I fall and restore me to even greater levels than I had ever reached before. I don’t believe He will be discontinuing that and He has never given me a reason to stop trusting that. Even if He did, my life is all His anyways, in other words He owns me. Whatever is best in the scope of eternity I pray that He would use me for in the context of my person. I am not trying to function from a platform of self-righteousness, I fall short on a regular basis but God has forgiven me. He has been abundantly merciful with me and I am thrilled to be counted as one of His children. What an honor!
God knows exactly what we are capable of and we are always provided a way of escape. There is always a silver lining when the going gets tough with the Lord if you obey Him. We can see this particular silver lining at work in 1 Corinthians 10:13 which reads:
13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)
Sometimes the way of escape is fleeing the source of temptation, other times it could be a phone call or a seemingly mundane distraction that keeps us from dwelling on potentially inappropriate thoughts or behavior. The key is to keep an eye out and take these loving reminders that God places in our lives and pay careful attention. We need to aspire to see sin the way God sees it and try our best to avoid what we can. If we see sin as God sees it we see it as filthy, detestable, or even abominable. Once we draw closer to that point and pray for God’s guidance He can bless us with the clarity to discern good from bad even in the seemingly grey areas. Let’s take Him at His word and know that it’s worth it to avoid and escape from the snare of sin.
God is honored when we love our wife and kids. When you become one flesh with someone you simply aren’t looking out for yourself anymore. Life changes, and your priorities are somehow restructured. The one thing that remains as your highest priority should always be God and having a heart for God’s will. That’s where we understand that as I have posted recently a couple of blog entries ago about how a cord of three strands isn’t easily broken. Often quoted scripture in wedding ceremonies but does everyone really know what that entails? Let’s read it again for extra clarity:
“Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12”
When someone embraces singleness they are made complete by God’s presence in their life. If you choose to embrace a relationship that may one day become a marriage, tread with caution and prayerfully consider each step as you pursue God’s ideal mate for you. I have messaged a variety of girls on dating sites and prayed that He would give me the words to convey the truth and to frame a favorable message. I have also prayed that the girls that I have no business dating would not respond or that I would at least have the discretion to know not to message them in the first place. Sometimes if we’re in the process of dating or have had some relationships there may very well be a few people we could come across prior to meeting our lifelong marriage partner. That’s perfectly fine, maybe God wants you to learn from them or build them up for a season. Maybe that person needed you to be there for them or vice versa. Possibly we went through a season with the person so that we might see that down the road when we meet our spouse that they are a rarity indeed. That way me appreciate the unique character and special person God has brought into our lives. Simply because we do not fit with one another doesn’t make either of us superior or inferior, all it means is that we didn’t connect on enough levels. That’s okay, if you approach this with emotional maturity and use scripture as a lens, it’s very easy to see that there is always something good to learn from these experiences too.
Marriage is something I think I will engage in one day. I want to find a girl who wants to discover whether we get along and see if there’s potential for something long term. I don’t want to rush into marriage, but I also don’t want to waste precious time. If I am dating a girl I am operating under the assumption that there’s potential for something greater in the future. When I don’t see that potential is still there or something has compromised that view, then I would not hesitate to be open and sincere about it to her. Likewise I would expect her to do the same if she felt this way about what we were doing. Imagine the time, heartache, and general uncertainty that could be saved if more people had the maturity to play less games and be more up front about these issues. Dating wouldn’t be the field of deception and games that it is today. Be careful and guard your heart, for as the Bible says in Proverbs 4:23:
“Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)
May your lives as single people, people in relationships, or married partners bring glory to God and joy to you as you pursue His will.