Sunday, December 10, 2006

Matt's Messages - Single to the Glory of God

“Single to the Glory of God”
December 10, 2006
1 Corinthians 7 & Assorted Other Places

I want to thank you for praying for me this week as I prepared this message on singleness. I didn’t expect when I began this series on the Christian family that the message on singleness would be the most difficult one to prepare! But it was.

And, to be perfectly honest, for all of the time that I have devoted to preparing this message over the last month, I still do not have it all worked out in my mind to my satisfaction. The most important chapter in the Bible on singleness is the one in front of you, 1 Corinthians chapter 7. And it is exceedingly complex and difficult to interpret, especially in harmonizing its teachings with the rest of the Bible and getting the balance of application just right.

So, instead of directly preaching 1 Corinthians 7 to you this morning, I would like to give you some pastoral counsel on singleness based on wisdom from this passage and a number of other ones.

I am speaking mainly to singles today, but everyone needs to listen.

I was jokingly asked by a few of the married men if they had to come to church today because I was preaching on singleness.

And my response, if I had been quick, should have been “You probably ought to, you don’t know when you might need it!”

And I also want to give some counsel not just to those who are single now but also to the rest of us who are called together with singles in the Body of Christ.

I am thankful that there are a lot of singles that are a part of our church family. I will not ask you to stand to pray for you because you might already feel like you stick out. But I’m glad that you are here.

I went quickly through my church directory and counted at least 30 single adults (age 18 and over) who are a regular part of our church family.

That includes the widows we talked about last week, the divorced, those who are engaged but not yet married, and those who have never been married, some who have been single for quite some time and could give us some great testimonies this morning if we had time.

Singles, I am so glad to be your pastor. And I want to give you some pastoral counsel–especially for those of you who are young and single. You are no longer a teenager who is still directly under your Mom and Dad’s care–you have “launched” in the sense of the message that I gave last month to the teens (or at least you should have launched by now into adult life). But you have not yet married. And you may be wondering if you ever will.

I’d like to pray for you and then give you three points of pastoral counsel this morning. Let’s pray.


The apostle Paul said in chapter 10, verse 31 of 1 Corinthians, “Whatever you do, whether eating or drinking, do it all to the glory of God.”

And I think that applies to being single.

If you are single, you need to be “Single to the Glory of God.”

“Whatever you do, whether [being married or being single], do it all to the glory of God.”

So, let me give you some pastoral counsel on how to be single to the glory of God.


There is a reason why you are single today:

God is sovereign over your life.

Many singles struggle with being single. They desire to be married.

And that desire is a good thing. The Bible says that those who get married have received a good gift.

“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 18:22).

But good desires make bad masters when they become demands.

If you think that you have to be married to be happy, you are wanting it for the wrong reasons, and you will not be satisfied.

Paul says that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). He was talking there about money, but it’s true of a spouse, as well.

Godliness with contentment is great gain.

To be single for the glory of God means to be content with where God has you right now.

Some people have it in mind that you are not complete unless you get married. And that being married is a higher stage of life–especially for Christians.

There is so much talk, talk, talk about Christian marriages (like we did this Fall), and how to find a Christian mate, and so forth, but there isn’t so much talk about how to be a “Single to the Glory of God.”

So you might get the idea that singles are “second class” Christian adults.

But that idea is not biblical.

Just ask Jesus. He was single.
Just ask John the Baptist. He was single.
Just ask Jeremiah. He was single.
Or just ask Paul. And look what he says in verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 7:

“I wish that all men were as I am [single, celibate]. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Now that’s a different take on it, isn’t it?

Paul wishes that everyone could be single like he is.

Single is not second-class.

In fact, there are definite Kingdom advantages to being single.

For example, what Wilma did in going up to that camp and running their kitchen.

How many married couples here could have up and moved and did that ministry like that?

Or Katie Thompson heading to China?
Or Tom Fisch going to Thailand?

Single is not second-class.

Now, Paul makes it clear in the rest of chapter 7 that married is not second class either. Both have advantages, and while Paul would prefer singleness for many people, he knows that its not for everyone. V.7

“[E]ach man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. [Not everyone is supposed to be single. Not everyone is supposed to be married.] Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am [that’s good]. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. [That’s good, too.]”

So neither is more holy, don’t listen to what some religions say about celibacy.

It isn’t more holy to be celibate!

But neither is it more holy to be married.

And whatever you are right now, be content with where God has you.

God is sovereign over your life.

You are not single by accident. You are single right now by the providential hand of your loving God.

You are not on hold.
You are not incomplete.
You are not second class.

If you are in Christ, you are right where He wants you to be.

Be content with where God has you right now.

Now, that will include putting the right emphasis on the right word.

Do you see yourself as a Christian single?
Or do you see yourself as a Christian single?

There is a big difference, isn’t there?

Don’t find your identity in your married status. [That’s true for the married, too, isn’t it?]

Find your identity in being a faith-follower of Jesus Christ.

See yourself as a Christian who happens to be single.

That will help you immensely if God never gives you a spouse. He has not promised every believer a spouse.

Someone may tell you that “God has someone out there just for you.” But that may not be true. It may be true, but it may not be true. There is no universal promise of a spouse for every believer.

But that’s okay if you are in Christ.
It may be difficult (it probably will be), but Christ is enough.

Paul said in Philippians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. [We could add, having a special someone or not having a special someone.] I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (4:11-13).

Christ is enough.

Now, church, married folks, let’s help our singles with this. Don’t treat our singles as second class citizens of the Kingdom God or second class members of the local church.

Include singles whenever you can in social functions.

Think about singles when you are planning ministry events.

I try to always think every week about how my message applies to the singles in our church. You may have noticed that often when I give applications, I include illustrations about living with roommates not just spouses and that sort of thing. I try not to assume that all of you are single or that sermon applies to everyone in the same way. It obviously doesn’t. About 15% of you are single adults!

And we need to remind each other that our marital status is not our identity.

We need to remind each other that we can be content in Christ–no matter what our marital status.

Be content with where God has you right now.

While at the same time...


Now, here is where it gets a little complex.

While everyone is supposed to be content with where God has them right now, not everyone is going to actually stay as they are.

God is going to call some people into marriage.

And God is going to call others into lifelong celibate singleness.

My counsel for you is to deliberately seek God’s will and calling for your life.

Don’t just fall into it. But actively seek it out to the glory of God.

The call to remain a lifelong single will probably be accompanied by a God-given ability to resist sexual temptation more easily than most.

Some scholars think that the gift Paul refers to in verse 7 is a special disposition to not feel the need for sex as much as others.

They tie it in with verse 8 and the “controlling themselves” or “burning with passion.”
Either way, if you are going to be a lifelong single, God is calling you to be a celibate lifelong single. Sex is for marriage and marriage alone.

A lot of singles are “living together” these days.

That’s wrong. Don’t do it.

Sex is for marriage. It’s that simple.

The call to remain a lifelong single may also be accompanied by a special call to a difficult ministry assignment. Some people are called to head overseas into closed countries dominated by aggressive Islam where having a spouse and a family would always be putting them at great risk.

If you have that kind of a calling, you may want to consider committing to lifelong celibate singleness.

Others of you may be called to lifelong celibate singleness because of other circumstances–such as being at fault in an unbiblical divorce such that you shouldn’t remarry or some other good reason.

And as you seek God’s will in prayer, scripture, and godly counsel, He will show you what His calling is on your life.

Again, we have some wonderful examples in our midst of godly older singles who have followed Jesus in lifelong singleness to the glory of God. If you are considering that as your call, you could learn a lot from them.

I’m guessing that most of the rest of you should be considering that God is calling you to be married or at least to pursue marriage.

Marriage is the norm even if singleness has some distinct Kingdom advantages.

And I think that there is problem in our society with directionless young men and women who are not pursuing marriage to the glory of God.

I highly recommend this book for all of the young singles in our church: With One Voice: Singleness, Dating & Marriage to the Glory of God by Alex Chediak.

He lays out a biblical framework for thinking through these issues and for looking for a spouse.

He points out that a lot of young men (especially) aren’t doing anything to become someone who is marriageable or seeking a wife.

And he calls young Christian men to stop playing their videogames and get on the stick and start moving towards marriage instead of selfishly floating around from girl to girl or fantasy to fantasy.

And in the same vein, Heather and I highly recommend this book by Carolyn McCulley: Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred which, despite it’s name, is in large part about what a young single lady should be doing to put herself in the way of getting married if God would so choose.

At another time, I’ll preach a series on “biblical dating” or “courtship.” What are the principles and standards that should guide young adults as they move towards marriage? I highly recommend (and have given to several of you) Josh Harris’ Boy Meets Girl. That’s a must-read for anyone who is trying to figure out if this one is the one and how to act in the process.

And again, living-together is not the way to figure out if someone is the one.

And neither is hooking up.

And neither is making out!

If you are young and single, save making-out for marriage. It’s really just foreplay. That’s why it feels so good and is so hard to stop.

You may think that I’m crazy for saying that, but it’s true and it will save you so much grief. [But that’s another sermon!]

The main thing I want to say to you today is be deliberate in searching out God’s will for you whether it is to be marriage or celibate singleness.

Ephesians 5 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is.”

A lot of singles are going nowhere fast.

But as your pastor, I encourage you to be going somewhere even if it is slow.

Seriously Consider Whether God Is Calling You to Marriage or Celibate Singleness.

And then purse that calling to the glory of God!

For guys that are called some day to marriage, it means growing up and being a man.

And it also means becoming a man that some special lady would want for a husband.

Check out 1 Timothy 3 for a list of what a godly husband looks like. And get busy.

For young women that are called some day to marriage, it means becoming a lady that some special man would want for a wife.

Check out Proverbs 31 for a description of a lady like that. Carolyn McCully points out Proverbs 31 was an alphabetical poem written for young men probably with a description of what to look for in wife.

If you are Proverbs 31 single woman, you are putting yourself in the path of maybe becoming a Proverbs 31 wife.

But guard your heart unless and until God brings that man into your life.

Don’t give yourself over to steamy romance novels and soap opera type television, movies, and magazines. Keep your heart pure for the man God might have for you.

And guys, keep your heart and your mind (especially) pure for the woman God might have for you.

Men, don’t give in to pornography. If you have, seek help. I recommend Josh Harris’ book Sex Is Not the Problem, Lust Is for really good practical biblical advice on how to deal with your lust.

What I’m trying to say is, “Be intentional. Be deliberate. Consider what God is calling you to and pursue that with all of your might.”

That doesn’t mean that if you think you’re called to marriage that you will get married.

And it doesn’t meant that if you think that you’re called to singleness that God won’t surprise you. He is sovereign, and He hasn’t told us everything about His plans for us.

But it does mean that you live your life intentionally now.

And married people, let’s help the singles among us to do this well, too.

I’m not saying, “Let’s try to get everyone married off.” We don’t need a match-maker church.

I am saying let’s pray with our singles and for our singles for God’s will for them to be clear. And let’s give them our wisdom (when asked for!), and let’s walk with them through the process of searching out what God is calling them to.

I loved being able to help Tom and Stacey Fisch determine if God was calling them into marriage.

That was a picture of how these sorts of things should be worked out–in the context and gathered wisdom of the local church.

Heather and I got to be involved in Katie and Scott’s courtship, as well. And that was a great example of two singles to the glory of God becoming a married couple to the glory of God.

We need to work together on that sort of thing.

Seriously Consider Whether God Is Calling You to Marriage or Celibate Singleness.

And pursue that calling to the glory of God.


And I’m not talking about how you can save a lot of money by living with your folks!

I’m talking about how you are free right now to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in ways that married people are not.

Look at verses 32 through 35 of 1 Corinthians chapter 7. I’m not going to explain all of the context, I just want you to see the advantages that Paul sees for Kingdom living for those who are single. Verse 32.

“I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs–how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord's affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Now, Paul is not saying that being married is bad. Remember, last week, he recommended that some young widows get remarried.

But he’s also pointing out that if you can stay unmarried, it has some definite advantages–especially for focusing on the Lord and ministry.

What he calls, “undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Now, of course, a married person is supposed to have undivided devotion to the Lord, too. And even pleasing a wife or a husband is supposed to be done in a way that is devoted to the Lord and brings Him glory.

But we can all see how a single person doesn’t have the same temptation to be distracted by worldly affairs.

If you are single, you can give undivided attention to the Lord and His work.

So use that advantage while you have it!

Get busy in ministry while you can.

Don’t just concentrate on a career or an education or entertaining yourself to death!

Give yourself over to ministry. You have a lot to give!

Invest heavily in relationships with your own gender in a way that moves them along in discipleship.

Figure out what your gifts are and give them to the local church.

Bible studies, youth ministry, children’s ministry, teaching, evangelism.

You are not second-class citizens in the Kingdom God.

You are called to service in the Kingdom of God.

Undivided devotion, while you are single.

This requires creative planning and intentionality, but you can do that.

And we have some great examples in our church of single men and ladies who are ball utilizing the Kingdom advantages of singleness.

Watch what they do and get in the game!

I recommend this book by Andy Farmer, The Rich Single Life. He says that being single gives you opportunity to be rich in identity, rich in vision, rich in wisdom, rich in impact, rich in relationships, rich toward marriage, and rich in hope.

And it’s is all about snapping up those Kingdom opportunities that singleness affords.

And married people (the rest of us), let’s help the singles do that. Let’s find ways to include the singles in ministry and in ministry leadership allowing them to take advantage of this season (however long it turns out to be), to the glory of God.

Singles, be content with where God has you right now.

At the same time, seriously consider whether God is calling you to marriage or celibate singleness.

And while you are, utilize the unique advantages of being the glory of God.