Have you ever received a gift that you didn’t like? JP teaches us from the Scriptures how singleness is a gift, and it’s one that we—the church—have not always done a good job appreciating and celebrating. The truths and realities about the gift of singleness apply to everyone, not just singles. Do you appreciate the gift?
How We Relate To God
Watermark, how are we doing? My name is JP, Jonathan Pokluda. I am the pastor of the Dallas Campus. If you're frustrated that Todd is not teaching today, that makes two of us. I am as well. We're continuing this series Can You Relate? We've had two amazing messages the past two weeks. I just want to start today by asking you a question. Have you ever received a gift you didn't want? Now be careful. The giver might be right beside you. It's okay to internalize that a little bit. But have you ever received a gift you didn't want?
I love gifts. I love to receive them. I love to give them. In fact, my wife Monica and I host this gift exchange every year at Christmas. We bring about a dozen pastors into our living room, and we play that game where you put a number for everybody in a bowl and you draw a number and you can take the gift in the middle or steal one that has already been opened. Have you ever played this game? White elephant, dirty Santa…whatever you call it. We play that game.
I actually provide the gifts. Throughout the year, I'll buy different gifts when I see things on sale. So they come in, and we do this gift exchange. It's funny, because you have to really outline the rules for these pastors, because they get a little crazy. They're like, "Is it stolen? Is it not? How many times? How many hands? Hold on. One, two, three. What are the rules? Let's establish them up front. Does one get to go again at the end?"
When they don't want a gift, if they get something they won't use, they just want to lose it, so they're sitting there trying to pawn it off to the next person. "Hey, did you see this? This would look good in your house." So we play this game, but we play with a catch. There's a gift that nobody wants because it comes with a consequence. If you open that gift, it can't be stolen; you're stuck with it.
This particular year, that gift was a giant inflatable nutcracker. You've seen these big inflatables. If you got the nutcracker, you had to keep it in your front yard until March. It's not just any nutcracker, though. It's a redneck nutcracker. Here's what that means. It has this half-shirt and this giant beer belly, blue jean shorts, snowflake tattoo, and handlebar moustache. Right now Fort Worth is saying, "Where did you get it? Where do we get one?" (I'm just playing, Fort Worth. I'm just kidding, man. I'm just jealous.)
My favorite part is it's holding a beer, because nothing says the birth of our Savior like a cold one. I love God's sense of humor, because my friend John Elmore got the redneck nutcracker. He leads our Recovery ministry here. He came in thinking he was going to leave with something, and instead he got something he had to use, something he just wanted to lose.
I start there because sometimes life gives you gifts you just want to lose but you actually have to use. Here in this body, I've spent the last decade of my life meeting with people who have an amazing gift, and some of them take it for granted. They just want to lose the gift. They don't know how to use the gift. In fact, 36 percent of our body has this incredible gift God has called them to use. It's the gift of singleness.
We're moving through a series called Can You Relate? We're talking about these relationships God has for us in his Word and how we relate to them. Two weeks ago, we talked about how we relate to God, and there was a word that goes with it. Todd taught the message. The word was father. We relate to God like a good Father. Then last week we talked about relating to his Word, which is living and active, and the word was treasure. We relate to God's Word like it's a treasure.
This week it's singleness. How do we relate to singleness? The word is gift. If you're married right now you're thinking, "Why did I fight the parking lot traffic to come to church today if we're talking about singleness?" Here's the deal. For you, I want you to hear, "Hey, married friends, you relate to single people like they're a gift to the church." If you're here and you're single, I want you to hear that you relate to your singleness like it's a gift from God.
What does it mean that it's a gift from God? I don't know, if you're single, whether you've never married or you're divorced or you're widowed, whether the world would tell you you're single for a season or single for a reason. I believe God has a message for you today. Singleness is a gift we've all had at some point. Everyone has it at some point in their life, but not everyone uses it.
As you think about how the gospel has moved through the church over the centuries, covering the world in the name of Jesus Christ, building the kingdom… As you think about that happening at this church, I want you to know there's a health engine here at Watermark made up of single people who are using their gift.
I'm going to be in 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, if you want to turn there in the Scripture. As you do, I just want to give you a few disclaimers. First, it can be a little unnerving to follow two great messages in this series and then just address a portion, 36 percent of our crowd, so I'm not going to. I'm going to teach the Bible, and I believe God's Holy Spirit has something for everyone here today.
If you're here and you're married, I want you to know there's a problem in the church, and I think we're not only a part of the problem; we're actually a part of the solution. Let me explain. You may pray over your children. Maybe you've always prayed over your children. Maybe you've prayed for their spouse. "God, I pray for whoever they'd marry, that they would love you, know you, fear you, and walk with you."
But what happens when that 23-year-old comes home from college and there's no one to marry; there's not even a prospect? That 23-year-old becomes 33 years old or 44 years old, and they're looking back on those prayers you prayed since they were this big, and what verses are you going to go to, Dad? How are you going to encourage them?
In those moments, you didn't even realize you were projecting something on their life that maybe the Lord didn't have for them. Anybody praying for their kids, "Lord, I pray that you'd keep them single and send them overseas for missions, that I'd never have grandchildren"? Anybody praying that? The Scripture addresses this in ways I think we need to open our eyes to.
See, the church has elevated marriage. It is a good thing, but I think we've inadvertently or unintentionally devalued the season of singleness. If you feel that way, I want to start with these two words: I'm sorry. You need to know you attend a church that loves single people. In fact, the leadership here, as they were outlining this series, said, "Hey, you have to teach that message. We want our single friends to hear that they are a gift to the body."
The last disclaimer is I'm married. I've been married for 13 years to my amazing wife Monica. We have three kids. If you're single, you might be like, "Oh man. Great. Here we go. Another married guy telling me how awesome the gift is that he got rid of." I want you to know I've spent the last decade of my life meeting with tens of thousands of single people, and I've seen them using the gift God has given them in incredible ways.
I've also seen many, many, many of them not, and it's a huge difference in the church. Some of them find their purpose; some of them don't. I hope that you would be a part of the group that has found their purpose. As we move through 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, we're going to talk about how we can relate to the gift of singleness by trusting the giver, living for another world, and understanding that people are single for a reason and what that reason is.
To set this up, Paul wrote this letter, the apostle Paul, who was single. He's in Ephesus. It's AD 55, roughly. Here's what's going on in the culture at this time. Nero is the emperor. Nero is heating up persecution of Christians. He's about to make it a sport to persecute Christians. In Corinth, where Paul wrote this letter, there's a temple, the temple to Aphrodite. In that temple, to go and worship there, there are hundreds or thousands of prostitutes.
You would go to church and sleep with prostitutes. So there's all kinds of sexual debauchery happening in Corinth when Paul writes this letter, and Christians are overcorrecting. They're saying, "Man, sex must be bad, so because sex is bad, when we become Christians we shouldn't have it." Paul writes to respond to this. He says, essentially, "You should experience sexual intimacy, but only with your own spouse according to God's design."
Then he writes in verse 7, "I wish that all of you were as I am." What does he mean? Paul's Facebook status was "Single." He's saying, "I wish all of you were as I am." "But each of you has your 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 do." He says, "Hey, those of you who are unmarried, it's good." "But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
1._ Relate to this gift by trusting the giver_. Paul says that singleness is a gift. Some of you single friends are here like, "It's a gift, huh? Does it come with a receipt? Is it a gift I can exchange? Can I take this gift back?" That's not seeing it as a gift. That's seeing it as a curse. If you get frustrated when you receive wedding invitations, if it stirs anger in your heart toward God, you might have a perspective problem.
You get a baby announcement and it stirs in you anger… If you take invitations with a plus one and set them on fire, you might have a perspective problem. Okay? God is saying it's a gift. The Greek word is charisma. It translates literally gift given according to God's grace. The essence of seeing something as a God-given gift is to realize the need to use that gift as it was intended to be used.
You're here and you say, "But how do I know if I have the gift of singleness? How do I know if this calling is on my life?" I have developed over the past 10 years the incredible ability to tell someone if they have the gift of singleness or not with 100 percent accuracy. I've never once been wrong. Not one time. I can ask one question. Depending on how you answer this question, I can identify if you have the gift of singleness or not.
Here's the question. Did you wake up this morning single? Because if you did, you have the gift of singleness today. You think, "Hold on. Is it forever?" I don't know. The Scripture doesn't speak about it that way. It's today. I don't know if it's temporary or permanent. Since I've been a Christian, I've learned God very rarely reveals his five-year plan for my life.
Usually it's, "I'm going to give you today your daily bread, and today I want you to walk in faithfulness, one foot in front of the other, today; that you would focus on how to be faithful today, how to use that gift today." If you woke up single today, then you have that gift today. If you woke up married today, then steward that gift well also.
But what is the gift you have today? Not seeking just to lose the gift but use the gift. We live in a time where married people are seeking to be single and single people are seeking to be married. Everyone is discontent with the season of life God has them in, and instead of using the gift they just want to lose the gift. Paul makes it clear he sees singleness as a gift, even though it means celibacy.
In verse 9 he says if they cannot control themselves they should marry, saying, "Hey, that sexual intimacy is available exclusively in marriage and not outside of marriage." If you're single, it can make you feel like God is holding something good back from you. He's not. He has another good for you that you need to see. So how does Paul see his singleness as a gift? Because he trusts the giver. He knows God gives good gifts.
I was at another gift exchange where we did the same thing, the white elephant deal. It's my wife's family's gift exchange, so it's always at her aunt and uncle's, and her cousins are there, and whatnot. It gets a little unruly too. I don't know what it is about this, but it's always like, "Hey, I thought it was supposed to be a $15 gift. That's too much" and "That's too little" and "What is this? This looks homemade. Where did you get this?" There's always some argument that ensues.
As we're doing this gift exchange, my brother-in-law gets this old box. He opens it up, and it's a plastic stopwatch, and it doesn't work. So he's sitting there. He's trying to get rid of it, like, "Hey, did you see my stopwatch? It doesn't work." He gets stuck with it. Game over. Nobody stole his watch. I'm sitting there, and I'm like, "Can I see that?" He was like, "What, this?" I'm like, "Yeah." He's like, "Dude, you can have it," and he throws it across the room at me. I'm like, "Are you sure?" He's like, "Yeah."
I look up the model numbers. I'm sitting there at the Christmas party. I'm just searching on my phone, and I realize it's a TAG Heuer stopwatch that was used to keep time in the Olympics, so I sold it on eBay for $150 before I left. I brought a $15 gift. That's a 1,000 percent return, so I did pretty well. Here's why, though: I know his uncle is a good guy. It doesn't seem to make sense at the surface why he would put a broken stopwatch, but I know he's a good guy. He clearly knew there was value there. I think you can trust the giver.
If what you have doesn't look good, God is not done or your perspective is off. If you can't see good in what you have, God is not done or your perspective is off. Luke 11 and Matthew 7 say he's a good Father and that good Father gives good gifts to his children. James 1:17 says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…" As Paul has learned to trust the giver, he's able to use the gift as the giver has intended. He's able to use it for ministry, to build the kingdom and to advance the gospel.
I was raised in a Christian home. I went to church twice a week growing up. I was involved in small groups and youth groups. I went to a church school for nine years. I went through True Love Waits. When I went to college, I can remember my parents pulled up to my on-campus apartment and unloaded all my stuff. We brought it inside, the door shut, and they drove off the parking lot and left me there with all the freedom in the world, but I lacked the maturity.
What I brought into my life in the following months is I began to pursue sexual relationships with women. I began to consume a lot of alcohol, party, experiment with drugs, and feed an addiction to pornography. I felt guilty. I was saying my prayers one night in my twin-sized bed in my on-campus apartment, and I just felt like they were bouncing off the ceiling. I began to weep. I began to cry all by myself there, just thinking, "Nobody is listening to me. God can't hear me. I'm running from him as hard and fast as I can."
So the next day I woke up and called a friend who I looked up to. They were cool, had a lot going on in their life. I just confessed all my sins to them. I said, "Hey, this is what I've done. I've gone to college, and I have pursued all of these things." They said, "That's just what you do when you're single. Later on in life you get married and settle down, but that's just what you do when you're single."
I don't want you to hear that message. That's really bad advice. That's not using a gift; it's abusing a gift. It's not using a gift; it's wasting a gift. Imagine how the giver must feel if he gives you a gift and you use it for evil purposes, feeding your flesh. That's a miss. You're missing out on the season and the attention of the gift he has entrusted to you. Some of you are wasting your gift. It's a huge miss.
For my married friends, you don't have to email me. I know marriage is a gift. I know it's a good thing. I know marriage is good. I know it teaches us about how Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5). I know it teaches us as a metaphor for God (1 Peter 3). I know it teaches us in Colossians 3. I know these Scriptures well, but let me tell you something. Did you know that singleness teaches us?
When you see a brother or sister here faithfully pursuing God and pursuing purity and using their time, their talents, and their treasures to serve God, to be a part of the church, to belong here, it teaches us something. It teaches us about the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It teaches us that we are his and he is enough. We can learn that from them. Let's go back into the text.
Verse 28: "But if you do marry, you have not sinned…" That's good news. "…and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them."
You read this and you're like, "What?" Like, that's one of those things I'm just going to have to get up there and ask Jesus "What does that mean?" because clearly nobody understands down here. Like, the Holy Spirit took his hand off the wheel and Paul started writing some crazy stuff. "What does that mean?" "For this world in its present form is passing away." That's really key to understanding this text. The Holy Spirit through Paul is saying that life is short. Don't get distracted by the things of this world.
2._ Relate to this gift by living for another world. Our world has a different perspective of marriage. They say you jump into marriage, and then when it doesn't make you happy anymore you jump _out of marriage, and while you're single you sow your wild oats and really enjoy it, and why do you need to get married? They have all of these different perspectives on marriage. He says we need to have a biblical perspective on marriage, which includes the context of eternity, that we're going to be with God forever and ever and ever in a different world or a redeemed version of this world.
Here's what he's saying. You weren't made for this world. You were made for a perfect world, and Christ is going to come back and set that world here, and that's where we're going to live forever and ever and ever. So whatever you do here, make sure you maintain that perspective. Our time on earth as you know it is short, so as you mourn… It's okay to mourn. It's okay to be sad, but don't mourn like those who don't have hope. Mourn with an understanding of eternity and the goodness of Christ and what's to come.
He says as you're happy, praise God. It's good to be happy, but understand that happiness is just a commercial of the eternal joy that is to come. It will not sustain you. There is no sustained happiness here. When you're happy, in front of you, should God give you more days, there's sadness. It's okay to be happy, but don't idolize a feeling. Know it's just a commercial. If you buy things, praise God. It's good to buy things, but hold them like this and share them with others and don't let them grip your heart. Use them as things, because rust and moth will destroy those things. They will not be with you in eternity.
What does he mean when he says, "If you're married, live as though you're not"? He's saying something really important you have to understand. He's saying there's another family that lasts longer than the family you understand here on this earth. He's saying you have an eternal family. That's your church family. You need to make sure you belong to a church and that you're known there and that those people are coming alongside you and that you're in a community there, because that's your spiritual family.
You say, "Wait. Are you sure that's what he means?" You realize that nobody is married in heaven, right? In Matthew 22, Jesus says they're not married or given in marriage in heaven. Some of your minds just exploded. I heard it. Nobody is married in heaven. Remember when they came to Jesus and said, "Hey, Jesus, your mother and your brothers are here," and he's like, "My mother and brothers? No, no, no. My family is right here." He says that in Matthew 12. He says, "Those who do the will of my Father in heaven are my brother and sister and mother."
You have a spiritual family. Do you feel that today? You have a spiritual family that's really, really important. It's your eternal family. So don't make marriage an idol. Don't make children an idol. Don't make any relationship an idol. The Scripture says it's good. I know. Proverbs 18:22: "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord." I know. But it doesn't teach that if you're not married it's bad. In fact, here he clearly says it's good. Marriage is good. Singleness is good. Do we feel that today? That's teaching the fullness of the Scripture.
He goes on to say, "With marriage you will have trouble." That's verse 28. Those who are married experience trouble. Amen? That was a test. I heard murmurings. That's where you just stay silent. "I don't know. What kind of trouble? I haven't experienced trouble." It's funny. So many of my single friends think all of their problems would go away if they just got married. Single friends, do you hear the laughter? Those are people who know better, and they want you to learn that.
Let me just give you a picture into their day-to-day. I know, because I've lived it. Husband is on the couch this morning, kids are walking around with no shoes on, wife is scrambling, trying to get everybody dressed. He's sitting there like, "Babe, we're going to be late. Church is about to start." She's like, "Hey, I'd really appreciate some help." He's like, "Sure, babe. You've got it. Whatever you need. Just tell me what you need me to do."
"What I really need you to do is get off the couch and look and see what needs to be done so we can go."
"Fine. You don't have to snap at me. I was just saying we're going to be late."
"I know we're going to be late. That's why I need you to help."
Somehow you get the kids dressed and get them in the car, and you're driving here, and the conversation continues in loving ways. Then you get here, and there's a long line into the parking lot, like you're going to Six Flags, and you're like, "Man, we should have went to the Saturday service. Why didn't you…?" You pull into the parking lot, and you're like, "Do these parking attendants know what…? What do you want from me? Oh, yellow tag. Yes, I have one. Just get me into a spot."
You get a spot, and then it's like you're playing Frogger in the parking lot. Like, "No, no. Hold on. Ready? Okay, go, go, go! Okay, stop, stop, stop!" Big SUV. "Okay, go, go, go." Then you get in here somehow. By the grace of God, you make it into this place, and you go to this kiosk. There's another line. You're like, "Okay, hold on." You type in the name. You have all these tags.
"Okay, you take this one. I think you're in that building over there. You're over here. You come with me. All right, "Blue 2." What is Blue 2? I don't know. Just come on. We'll figure it out." It's just stressful. Meanwhile, your single friend is walking by with Starbucks and a smile. "You guys okay? Y'all look stressed. You should have come on Saturday. Man, marriage. It looks hard."
Imagine with me for a moment. The government of Syria calls Todd and the elders today and says, "Hey, we've heard of the renown that is Watermark Community Church, and we have seen the benefits of a Christian nation, so we want to bring you guys into our country, and we want you to share the gospel. We're going to protect you and provide for you. We would like them to come for 12 months. We're going to send helicopters to Watermark right now."
The only catch is you have to go right now. You have to walk through those doors and get on a helicopter right now. You're going to be there for 12 months. They're going to protect you. They're going to provide for you. They're even going to pay you to go and do this, but you have to go right now. Who could go? My single friends could go. Some of you, your heart is like, "Man, tell me you're serious right now. I'll get out there. What kind of helicopter? Let's go." My married friends are like, "Nah, dude. Soccer practice Monday."
When he says those who are married should live as though they're not, he's really saying our single brothers and sisters should set the pace of full devotion around this place. You say, "How?" Here's how. Make sure you're plugged into a Small Group. Make sure you're a member and under the authority of the elders. Make sure you're serving every single place you can. You sign up. If you don't know how to do that, write in the Watermark News, "Hey, I'm here, and I want to be known, and I want to serve. I'm reporting for duty. Let's go."
You mentor kids. You make disciples. You live in full devotion. You share the gospel. I think of so many people. I look out there and see some of your faces. I think about my friend Cheryl. She's in her 40s, never married. She's going for it. Every time I see her, she's going somewhere else. She leaves today for somewhere…I can't even remember…some other country to share the gospel. I saw her the other day. "How's it going?" She said, "Oh man, four months, seven different airports."
"What did you do?"
"I went here and made disciples, met with these people, went over here, shared the gospel, went here." You think, "Well, she's not being used here, then." Yeah, she is. She's fully deployed in this body. She taught at ReCharge last night. She's just going for it. I think about my friend Mo. In his 40s, never married. When an earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, he grabbed a backpack with a change of clothes and drove to the airport. He said, "Hey, they need help. I'll go and help. I'll figure it out."
He's always going somewhere, finding where there's a need. In fact, I asked him a question recently. I asked, "Where have you been lately?" This is what he told me. I wrote it down so I wouldn't mess it up. He said, "Well, I went to northern Uganda. I was helping to rebuild an economy there with some other single friends. Oh, then I went to Ethiopia. I was sharing the gospel with some Muslims there.
I went to South Sudan. I was helping those impacted by war heal with Christ. I went to northern Iraq. I was working with Samaritan's Purse. Oh, I went to Jordan, Turkey, and Iran. I was documenting refugee camps, loving, serving, sharing the gospel. I went to the Congo after that. I was helping people recover from war and sharing the gospel." He got back from Uganda yesterday. Some of you married friends are jealous. It's awesome.
I look at my own life, and I'm like, "Man, I remember when I became a Christian." I went to Brazil, went down the Amazon River, woke up in the different villages, sharing the gospel. Then I remember going to Africa and meeting with the government and teaching conflict resolution, and then going into villages and sharing the gospel.
Then we went to Haiti, up in the mountains in Haiti sharing the gospel, down in the cities in Haiti sharing the gospel, doing work, painting houses, doing whatever was needed. Then my family began to grow, and I'm like, "Where have I been? I went to Haiti. I had to come back early because there was that soccer tournament…" Ministry just changes. It looks different.
You think, "That's awesome and all, but do I need to go somewhere? Is that really what you're saying?" No, it's not about travel. I think about so many faithful single friends here. I think about my friend Lindsey who serves in our singles ministry, serves at Gather. She pours her life into discipling other women. Everyday faithfulness.
I think about so many people who are next door to us right now pouring into your children, teaching them the Bible. It's not childcare over there. It's not day care; it's children's ministry. They're being poured into. I think about those who use their singleness to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes, who are learning God's Word and teaching it to others consistently, who mentor kids, like at Vickery, like my friend Charla does.
I think of everyday faithfulness. These people are my heroes…heroes of mine like Mother Teresa, who never married but gave her life to serving lepers in Calcutta; Amy Carmichael, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in India; Corrie ten Boom, who helped the Jews escape the Holocaust, using her gifts.
I think about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who sought to save the world from Nazi Germany and Hitler's regime and even built an army of people, but he had a prerequisite, a credential you had to meet, and that was that you were single, unhindered by marriage. I think of C.S. Lewis for most of his ministry and Eric Liddell for most of his. So many people.
What I'm saying is if you're here and you're single and you're using your gift to advance the gospel, you're pursuing purity, and you're satisfied in Jesus Christ, you are my hero. Thank you. Thank you for the ways you give of yourself. You're not incomplete. Hollywood might tell you that. The Bible says otherwise. Colossians 2:10 says, "…in Christ you have been brought to fullness." Something interesting about Christ, by the way. He, too, was single. The most complete human ever to live was single, never married. Back to the Scripture. 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."
3._ Relate to this gift by knowing people are single for a reason_. You've heard that said. "Single for a season or single for a reason." I want you to know if you're here and you're single, you're single for a reason. It's not that you're too flirty or that you have BO or bad breath. It's not that you don't do CrossFit enough or you don't have style. It's so that you would live in undivided devotion to the Lord. That's what Paul is saying here: that you would live in full devotion to the Lord. God desires to use you in a unique way in this season of your life.
I don't know how long this season is, and you don't need to know. You need to be faithful in it. I think about my own life when I look back. I've been blessed by Todd's teachings for 15 to 16 years now. When he was single, he soaked up God's Word. He used that season of his life to know God's Word. When he's preaching, you're hearing the overflow of him when he was in his 20s. When I was in my 20s, I was drunk.
When I want to teach a Scripture to you, I have to go scramble through the commentaries and spend a lot of time catching up to know it, to pass it on. It's just different. Some say, "No regrets." They don't live with any regrets. I have so many regrets. I regret not using the gift God had for me. So if you're here, plug into the church, serve, study, and go.
Right about now you might be thinking, "Isn't there something weird going on in 1 Corinthians 7, though? What is Paul saying? That's just one of those confusing chapters that seems to contradict other Scriptures." Paul is just expounding on the words of Jesus. Do you remember that? This is Jesus' message. Jesus taught this message. You say, "Where?" Matthew 19. Do you remember this?
He's talking about marriage. He's with his disciples. He says, "Hey, guys, listen. Marriage is permanent." They're like, "What do you mean by permanent?" He's like, "I mean permanent." They're like, "Permanent, permanent?" He's like, "Permanent, permanent, permanent." They're like, "Whoa! Who should get married, then, if it's permanent?"
He says in Matthew 19, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way…" What's a eunuch? It's where we get the word unicorn. No, it's not. I'm kidding. A eunuch is someone without reproductive organs. "For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others…" That's the least fortunate group.
"…and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs [to live celibate lives] for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." Who said that? Jesus said that. That's what Jesus said. So use your singleness, is what I'm telling you. My buddy John with that redneck nutcracker… He took it home, was faithful, put it in his front yard. December, fine. January, grace. February, neighbors come knocking. "Hey, can we talk about HOAs here?"
He just said, "Listen. Let me tell you about a gift I received, and can I tell you about another gift?" Jehovah's Witnesses came knocking on his door. They're like, "Dude, what's up with that thing out there?" He said, "It was a gift. Can I tell you about the faith I have? It says we receive grace as a gift from God and that we're saved not by our own works but by that gift."
Then a magazine salesman was going door to door in his neighborhood and saw his house and said, "This guy must have a sense of humor, so I'll go there." He knocks on his door. "Dude, what's up with the nutcracker in February?" He said, "It was a gift. Can I share a story with you?" He shares his story and tells him about the grace he has received through Jesus Christ, and the brother leaves there considering what it might look like to have a relationship with Jesus.
He used his gift. He had more fun with his gift than anybody else who left that party with a gift they wanted, because he didn't seek to lose it but to use it, and he used it according to what the giver would have him do. So don't waste a gift by squandering it; use the gift. That friend told me, "Settle down when you're married." Sadly, I took that advice. I went to the bars. I went to the clubs. I tried to be a millionaire before I was 30, and I poured my life into my work.
It was wash, rinse, repeat, because sin robs you of creativity, so you just get stuck doing the same things over and over and over, looking for life there. Then I stumbled into this place, and what happened when I came here is I began to see peers of mine, people my own age and in my life stage, people who were single, but they were using that gift, that season of life, in a very different way. It seemed they had a very different purpose than I did. The Lord began to use that to woo me into a relationship with him.
In summary, relate to this gift by trusting the giver, relate to this gift by living for another world, and relate to this gift by knowing that people are single for a reason: to live in undivided devotion. It's interesting, guys. Paul wrote this text. We know a lot about Paul. He wrote roughly 60 percent of the New Testament. A lot of historical writings tell us about the character of Paul. He's well known throughout history.
Some scholars believe he was married at some point, but we don't know. How do we not know? We have so many writings about Paul. How do we not know? Because he prioritized another relationship, because all of his writings were about another relationship. All of his life was pointing to another relationship. Can I explain?
My son Weston came home this year from preschool… He's 4 years old. He says, "Daddy, we've got to talk." I said, "What's up, buddy?" He said, "No, I need you to sit down." Okay. He says, "Daddy…" He looks me in the eyes. "…I'm going to get married." I said, "Buddy, you don't need to think about that for another 20 years." Essentially, what he's telling me… He's like, "Daddy, I've found out what relationship really matters."
You might laugh at Weston, but do you remember in the sixth grade? You might have felt the same way. Right? Sixth grade comes around, and it's like this switch goes off in your life. You start to notice the opposite sex, and you can't wait to go to that dance, even though when you get there girls are on this wall and guys are on this wall just staring at each other. One lucky man (or two lucky men) finds himself to a Boyz II Men song, standing in the middle, dancing like this. He is looking at everybody else, saying, "Hey, I know what relationship matters."
Then you go from there to high school. In high school you have prom and Sadie Hawkins, and you have drama, and you see people crying and breaking up long before they should ever be dating, committed to these crazy relationships and walking around the hallways saying, "Now I know what relationship really matters."
We can think that's silly now, all thinking they were going to marry that person, but then they go to college. In college it's sororities and fraternity functions, and it's those late-night phone conversations. "You hang up."
"No, you hang up."
"No, you hang up."
"No, you hang up."
You're like, "Now I know what relationship matters." Then you get out of college and you're in the real world, and it feels like the stakes just got a whole lot higher, because any date you go on could be the one. Any loser you go on a date with could become your forever loser. So you're thinking, "All right, I really need to turn this…" Then maybe you get to a place where you're like, "Now I know what relationship matters."
Maybe you find yourself in front of a minister, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and your family and friends, making crazy promises to each other, and you're saying, "Now I know what relationship really matters." Then you have kids, and you're like, "Now I know what relationship matters." Then you have grandkids. All the fun of parenting, none of the pain, so I've heard. You're like, "Now I know what relationship matters."
I don't know what relationship it is for you, but what I'm telling you today is that one day soon you're going to die, much sooner than you think, and you're going to be face-to-face with Jesus. In that moment, you're going to be like, "Now I know what relationship matters. I should have lived every relationship I had in light of this relationship." Let me tell you what's not going to happen in that moment.
No one is going to get up there and be like, "Jesus, bro, we've got to talk. Did you not see that I was single down there? Come on, man. I lived for 33 years and never married." He's just going to say, "I can relate." It's not going to happen. When did Jesus stop being enough? Why not make Jesus the center of your marriage? Why not make Jesus the center of your singleness? If there's any regret up there, I imagine it would be squandering the gifts we had down here. Let me pray that we wouldn't do that.
Lord, help us to live in light of that relationship, that you sent your only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, that you paid for our sins so we don't have to pay for them, and that you've invited us into eternal life with you so that every interaction we have down here, every relationship we have, is in the context of eternity. Father, help us to prioritize our church family. Help us to belong here.
To those in marriages that are hurting today, help them to see that pain is a gift and to know their role, that they draw a circle around themselves and change everything inside, to keep those crazy promises they once uttered to each other. To every single person in the room who's listening to this message, Father, I pray they would see their status as a gift and that they would know how to use it, that they would not waste it, not spend it on themselves, but they would use it for your kingdom, for your glory, and for your honor forever and ever. In Jesus' name, amen.