The Christian American Dream involves meeting your spouse and getting married in or shortly after college. Yet the Apostle Paul had a high view of being single. Timothy “TA” Ateek turns to 1 Corinthians 7 to discuss how to steward well the assignment and gift of singleness.
Standing Firm In A Fallen World | 1 Corinthians 16
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts | 1 Corinthians 14
A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13
How To Build A Church | 1 Corinthians 12
God's Design for Men and Women | 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Repentance, Allegiance & Deference for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 10
Giving, Sharing, and Living for the Gospel | 1 Corinthians 9
Christians and Controversial Topics | 1 Corinthians 8
Being Single | 1 Corinthians 7:7-40
Fighting For Your Marriage | 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Sex and Glorifying God | 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Church Discipline: Sin, Grace, and Shepherding | 1 Corinthians 5
The Resurrection Is the Remedy to Our Hypocrisy | 1 Corinthians 15
The Purpose, Plot Twists, and Power of Christ | 1 Corinthians 4
Being a Healthy Church | 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
The Miracle of Spiritual Maturity | 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
The Miracle of Salvation | 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Called, Gifted, and Kept by Jesus | 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
God has given some, but not everyone, the gift of singleness. Regardless, our relationship with God trumps any social status, whether single or married. He has called us to be faithful in whatever season we’re in. There are four truths to remember about singleness:
Good morning. It's good to see you guys. I hope all is well. If this is your first time at Watermark, I hope it feels like home very quickly. My name is Timothy Ateek, and I'm one of the teaching pastors here and excited to jump in to study the Word of God with you today. Today, we're talking about Being Single.
If you're here this morning and you are single, you might find it weird that a man who has been married 15-1/2 years is going to talk to you about being single, but I believe I'm qualified to talk to you about being single because I was terrible at being single. So, what I want to do this morning is share with you a message I wish I could go back and share with my single self several years ago. I truly was bad at being single, and it started all the way back in high school.
On Wednesday nights, my best friend and I would get together and watch this TV show called Dawson's Creek. I don't know if anyone remembers that show. If you're younger, it's not going to ring a bell, but if you were right around my time frame, then you know exactly who Dawson and Pacey and Joey were. We would watch this TV show, and it would create all of this teenage angst inside of us.
After the show, we would sit around and talk about who we liked, and we would just despair at the fact that we didn't have girlfriends. When I actually did go on dates, I was the guy who would try to make the relationship official on the first date. I tried that at least a couple of times. Then I remember when I was in college, that same Dawson's Creek friend… I remember him saying to me, "TA, you're just happier when you're in a relationship."
Then even after college, as I watched some of my friends getting married, it just made me feel antsy. If I wasn't in a relationship…I'm just telling you…my radar was up. Any social setting I went into, I was looking for a potential future spouse. I was not great at being single. So, what I want to do this morning is share with you from 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, what I wish I could go back and share with my single self.
I just want to be clear from the beginning what today is not going to be. Today is not going to be a message from a man who is very happily married, trying to convince the single people in the room to be really happy about being single. That's not what I'm trying to do this morning. At the same time, what I do want to do with those of you who are single is I want to make sure you steward your singleness really well. Whatever time frame, however long that season of your life is, I want to make sure you don't waste it.
So, if you have a Bible, turn with me to 1 Corinthians, chapter 7. If you're new to Watermark, we are walking verse by verse through the book of 1 Corinthians. If it feels like we've been in 1 Corinthians for a while, it's because we have been in 1 Corinthians for a while. What I hope you're seeing is the beauty of studying God's Word and unpacking one verse at a time…reading it, understanding it, and then applying it. That's where the Spirit of God does his work transforming our lives.
We are looking at a chapter now, chapter 7… We've been in this chapter before. We were in it two weeks ago. This chapter is all about romantic relationships. The church in Corinth had so much drama going on around romantic relationships. If they made a TV series just on 1 Corinthians, chapter 7, it would be extremely popular and streamed widely. Just listen to what was going on. In the church in Corinth, there were Christians who were married and refusing to have sex with one another because they thought it was sin to have sex with one another in marriage.
So, you had married couples that, if they had sex, it was only for the purpose of procreation. Otherwise, it would be displeasing to God for them to have sex for the sake of pleasure. Then you had other men who were married who were going outside of their marriage. They would have sex for the purpose of procreation in their marriage, but then they would go outside of their marriage to have sex with prostitutes for pleasure. If you just took that and made a TV series on it, you have the drama you need to have a hit show.
Then, in addition to that, there were believers who were married to unbelievers, and the believers thought it would be pleasing to God if they divorced their spouse, because they thought being married to an unbeliever made them unholy in some way. Then, in addition to that, you had single people, and then you had people who were engaged to be married who were scared of getting married because there was this belief circulating in the church that to get married was sinful. So, there's all sorts of drama going on. There are all sorts of problems, and Paul is addressing it.
A couple of weeks ago, we saw him address safeguarding your marriage by having sex regularly, and we saw him talk about staying in your marriage, to not get divorced. Now we're going to see Paul talk to those who are single. As we look at what Paul has to say, we're going to see four key truths you need to know if you are single. So, look with me at 1 Corinthians, chapter 7. Let me read you verses 7-9.
Let me just tell you how today is going to play out, because we're covering a lot of text. It's going to feel like we're jumping around the chapter, and we are, because Paul jumps around the chapter. He talks about sex in marriage, and then he takes a brief break to talk about being single for a few verses, and then he goes into divorce. Then after divorce, it's going to feel like he takes a huge off-ramp to talk about slavery and circumcision, and then he's going to come back to talking about being single. He's all over the place, so we're going to be all over the place. Here we go. First Corinthians 7:7:
"I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
Singleness is a unique gift God gives to some individuals, but not all individuals. Just because you're single now doesn't mean God has given you the gift of singleness. So, some of you can breathe a deep sigh of relief. When we talk about the gift of singleness, we are talking about this unique place in life where there just isn't an urgency in you or a need for or desire for that marital relationship or that longing for sexual intimacy in the context of marriage. That's what we're talking about.
That was Paul. Paul was all about being single. Paul loved being single. In fact, he was like, "All of y'all should do it. I mean, I do it, and I love it, and you should be single too." He's talking about the fact that God gives a gift of singleness to some. He gives some the ability to go through life with this deep contentedness with where God has them, without a spouse and without that sexual intimacy inside of marriage.
I've had conversations with different single individuals over the years where I've heard different people articulate, "I don't know that I ever want to get married. I think I'm okay not getting married." And they weren't these people who were like, "You know what? I'm going to be a bachelor to the rapture, and being a bachelor is great," and they're having a different girl every night of the week and love being a player. That's not what we're talking about.
I'm talking about having conversations with individuals who are so content with what God is doing in them and through them there just isn't this urgency, this desire, or this need for that marital relationship. I realize I'm not talking to the majority of the single people in the room right now, but I am talking to some.
If that's you, you just need to know there's nothing abnormal about the fact that you're content where you are. That is a gift from God. God's generosity is seen in your life. Do not feel in any way like you need to conform to social pressures that this is just the way it is. You graduate from college, and you work for a few years, and then you meet someone, you get married, and you have kids. No. That is a gift from God.
At the same time, God doesn't give everyone that same gift. That's why he even says in verse 9, "If you cannot exercise self-control, then you should marry. For it's better to marry than to burn with passion." What Paul is addressing here is some single men in the church who were following the lead of some married men who were going outside of their marriage and having sex with prostitutes.
There were some single guys who started doing the same thing, and Paul was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa! It doesn't make sense for you to have sex with prostitutes for the sake of gratification. That is sin against God. Instead of sinning against God, it would be better for you to experience that intimacy inside the context of marriage where sex is actually pure and a way to glorify God." It's just good to acknowledge that if you are single now and have a desire to get married, that's okay. That is actually a good and healthy desire to want to be married.
I'm not going to stand up here today and be like, "Okay. You need to squash that desire." There's this weird theology that circulates in some Christian circles, and it sounds something like this: "You just need to date Jesus, and when you date Jesus, that's when Jesus will finally give you a spouse." Or it could go something like this: "You just need to stop looking for someone, because when you finally stop looking for someone, then you will finally find someone."
So, you have all of these singles who are like, "Okay, God. I'm not looking for… I'm totally content. Jesus, I love you. Is it him? I'm not looking. I'm just wondering. I'm wondering if it's… I don't know." It's so unhealthy, because what it does is it turns God into this cosmic-size vending machine, where you get the combination just right and God gives you what you want. If you can somehow find a way to stop looking, then God is somehow required to lead you to someone.
Well, imagine how disappointing it is when you feel like you do everything you're supposed to do and God doesn't give you a spouse. Also, it requires you to suppress natural and good desires. If you desire to get married, that is an okay desire. That's a good desire. So, that's where we have to start: being single is a gift for some but not for all.
That's why Paul shares with us verses 17-24. The reason we're jumping down to verse 17 is that we've already walked through verses 10-16 because it talks about divorce. Now, in verses 17-24, we're not going to be able to walk verse by verse through it, but I am going to read you the whole section and just tell you what Paul's point is. It's going to feel like a massive swerve, because he's going to talk about circumcision and slavery, but it has everything to do with what is going on in the church regarding romantic relationships. Watch what he says. Verse 17:
"Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.
Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. Were you a bondservant when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God."
Let's make sure we understand what Paul is talking about. His point is you don't have to change your social status to be more pleasing to God. He uses the example of circumcision. Circumcision was not a big issue in the church in Corinth, but imagine how radical it would sound to any hearers who were Jewish for him to say, "Look. If you're not circumcised, for you to become circumcised is irrelevant, and if you're circumcised, you don't need to worry about becoming uncircumcised."
His point is your relationship with Jesus Christ trumps all social standing. Now zoom out and see how that applies to the surrounding passages. He just talked about divorce. What's his point? Hey, if you're a believer married to an unbeliever, you don't need to worry about your unbelieving spouse making you unholy, because your relationship with Jesus trumps your social standing. It trumps your relationship status.
If you are engaged to be married and there's this belief circulating that to get married is sinful… If you get married, your relationship with Jesus trumps everything else. You don't have to remain single to be more honoring and pleasing to God. In our day today, the issue is more whether you can still be as honoring and pleasing to God when you're single as you could be when you're married. The answer is "Absolutely." You don't have to get married to fully experience God's best in this world, to glorify him most.
Did you see Paul's wording in verse 17? Look back at the wording one more time. He says, "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him…" That's it. Whatever your relationship status is right now, that is an assignment from God. I don't know how long that assignment will last for you, but if you're single, that's an assignment given to you by God. How are you doing with that assignment? If you're married right now, that is your lifelong assignment. How are you doing in that assignment?
I remember talking to one of my good friends. She's still single, and she really wants to be married. She really has the desire to be married. At the same time, it really blessed me to hear her say, "You know what? I want to be married. I don't know if marriage is God's will or plan for my life, but right now, I'm loving being single." That wasn't her saying, "You know what? I love being single, because I'm getting asked out by a bunch of different guys, and I can just keep it casual, and it's really enjoyable." No.
What she's saying is, "I'm not going to wait for marriage to start living life, because God wants to use me now." She was enjoying her time of being single because she was fully invested in community and fully invested in ministry. She was serving like crazy, and she was using the life and the assignment God gave her to glorify him. So, how are you doing with your assignment? You just need to be clear. Being single isn't second class.
Now, I want to speak to the married people in the room for a moment. If we aren't careful, we will unintentionally turn the volume up on this message to our single friends that being single is second class. It will be completely unintentional, but here's how we do it. I'm just going to confess. My wife Kat and I are guilty of, at times, looking at some of our single friends and buying into the lie that their life is somehow incomplete because they're not married yet.
There are times where we've looked at our single friends and thought, "You know what? What they truly need to be really satisfied in this life is a spouse." Do you ever do that with any of your single friends? It's like, "Oh, I just wish he could meet someone. I just wish she could finally find someone." It's this thought of, "Oh, they must be missing out. They need someone." So, we make it our mission to find someone for them.
It's like, "Have you ever thought about Jim? He breathes. I know you breathe too. That's good. I mean, I don't know how old he is. I don't know how old you are, but you're single, and he's single. Isn't that all that's necessary? Y'all must want to be together." Do you see the message there? It's like, "I know you must be miserable, because your life is super incomplete. It's super second class. I just need to help you graduate. I need to help you get from JV to varsity."
Here's another way we unintentionally turn the volume up on that message. We educate our single friends on what it really means to be busy. Even though our single friend might be working 60 to 80 hours a week and serving the church for 10 to 15 hours a week and are super invested in our community, we listen to that, and we're like, "Man, you're so lucky. Just wait until you're married. Just wait until you have kids."
Here's the deal. Do you hear what we're saying? We're like, "You don't have the responsibility I have. Your time isn't as important as my time is. I know you think you're busy, but you're not busy like I'm busy." It's "You're second class. Being single is second class." So, we have a responsibility to guard our single friends from ever believing the lie that their assignment given by God is anything less than God's best for them.
Look with me at verse 25. We're just going to walk verse by verse. Here we go. Paul says, "Now concerning the betrothed…" Some translations say virgins. Who he's talking to here is most likely young women who are engaged. So, he's talking to the young women and their fiancés. He says, "Now concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy."
This is really interesting. Paul says, "Hey, I don't have a command from Jesus." What he means by that is, "Hey, Jesus, during his earthly ministry, never spoke specifically to the situation going on in Corinth, so I don't have a command from him." Paul is basically saying, "I'm just going to give you my opinion, but my opinion is trustworthy because God called me to be an apostle." So, we should listen to what Paul has to say.
This is an interesting moment for Paul, because he's saying, "Let me just speak from my heart and my experience," and what we're going to see him say is, "Hey, if you don't agree with me, that's okay," but we should take what he has to say to heart. This passage isn't a passage full of commands. The end goal is not obedience. The end goal is just complete surrender to whatever the Lord has for you and for me regarding singleness or marriage.
Here's what he says. Verse 26: "I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is." You need to know this passage is probably the most debated passage in the whole book of 1 Corinthians, which is awesome. I'm glad I drew this passage. It's because there are so many different things, we're not sure what he's talking about. This is one of those examples.
He says, "I think that in view of the present distress…" We don't know exactly what Paul is referencing. Some people speculate there's a famine going on in Corinth. Other people just think he's talking about the time period between Jesus' resurrection and Jesus' return. So they're thinking, "Hey, we're in the end times right now. Because of that, stay as you are." We just don't know.
Where I kind of land on it is I would imagine there probably were some extenuating circumstances going on in Corinth at the time that had a taste of the end. It was just a reminder to Paul to share with his friends, "Hey, look. This world is passing away." We talked about it last week. A new heaven and a new earth are coming. This world is on the clock, so you want to live with the end in mind. I think that's what Paul is trying to get at here.
He says, "Are you bound to a wife?" He's not talking about those who are married already. He's talking about being engaged. Those who are bound… He's probably talking about engagement, which was more official, more serious, during this time than it is today. He says, "Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife."
This is really good, because remember, he is battling asceticism where people are like, "Hey, it's sinful to get married." He said, "Look. If you're engaged to be married, fine. Get married. If you're not engaged to be married, consider not getting married." Both are okay. Verse 28: "But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned."
Do you see how he's combating what is going on? His point is marriage isn't a bad thing. If you're in here and you're single, this is not my attempt to say, "Hey, do you know what the Bible says? The Bible says you just need to stay single. See? Paul didn't think it was a good idea, so it's not a good idea, so you shouldn't get married." No. That's not what Paul says. Marriage is a good thing. It's a gift from God.
"Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that." Watch this. Verse 29: "This is what I mean…" Okay. Thank you, Paul. That's really helpful, because we'd like to know really what you mean here. "This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none…" Some of the guys are like, "Amen." Paul is not saying what you think he's saying.
He says the appointed time is short. He's basically saying, "The end is coming." Our time on this earth is short in comparison to the timeline of all of eternity. Some people in this world don't want to think about death. They don't want to think about the afterlife. They just want to think about the here and now. It's like, "What do I want to do today? I just want to enjoy today. I don't want to think about the future. I don't want to think about death."
Paul is like, "For followers of Jesus, it's the opposite. We live with the end in mind." Because this world is passing away, it is absolute foolishness to sink deep roots down into the world, attempting to squeeze every bit of comfort and pleasure this life has to offer. Marriage is one of those things. Marriage, according to Paul, is a worldly thing. When he talks about it being worldly, he's not talking about it being sinful; he's just talking about it being temporary.
I don't know if you know this, but there is no marriage in heaven. The Scriptures tell us that no one will be given in marriage in heaven. Why? Because we will be perfectly complete and satisfied in Jesus. Marriage is a thing for our time on earth. That's why we promise to love one another until death. Marriage is temporary. So, even Paul is saying, "Look. Let's be careful that we don't try to squeeze every bit of comfort and pleasure out of everything this world has to offer."
That's why he says, "From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none…" His point is "Do not try to find all of your satisfaction and fulfillment in being married, because that's not where it's to be found, because even marriage is on the clock." He goes on and says, "…and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing…"
He's not talking about just being stoic. He's saying, "Life has highs and lows, and be careful not to let any of the highs or any of the lows define your entire existence." You shouldn't completely despair when the storms of life come, and when life is at its peak, you shouldn't try to freeze-frame that moment and just live in that moment forever, because this life, this world, is fleeting.
He says, "…and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it." He's saying, "Don't find all of your satisfaction in material possessions or in significance through your work." Why? "For the present form of this world is passing away." It's on the clock.
You think about a race. We talked about it last week at the end of my message. When you're in the straightaway of a race, when you see the finish line, it should change the way you run. When you're in the final stretch, that's not the time to stop for a water break. That's not when you get out your phone to change your playlist. That's when you fix your eyes on the finish line, lift your knees, and pump your arms.
Paul's point is "Set your gaze on eternity, eternal life with Jesus, and sprint toward the finish. Don't get distracted with all of these different things. Don't stop off completely at one thing or another that will take you away from what is truly eternal." That's why I'm telling you, whether you are single or married, seek your greatest satisfaction in Jesus, because life with Jesus is the thing that is eternal. That is what is eternal.
I want you to think about Psalm 16:11. It's one of my favorite verses in the Scriptures. I shared it with you last week or the week before. It says, "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Do you hear what David is saying? He's saying, "In your presence is where fullness of joy is. At your right hand…" Who sits at the right hand of the Father? Jesus. So, in Jesus are pleasures forevermore.
Our tendency is to live like that verse will be true one day, but what if you began to believe that verse can be true today; if you began to believe that to live in the presence of God every day is where the fullness of joy is found? To seek Jesus for ultimate satisfaction. It is in Jesus that there are pleasures forevermore. That's what Paul is trying to get at. He's saying, "Don't think that marriage is the answer."
Isn't it interesting that in this room there are single people longing to be married and married people longing to be single? Do you know what that shows? It shows that neither is the answer. If you're single, marriage isn't what will truly satisfy you, no matter how great your marriage is. You can still be lonely in marriage. If you're married and you think your answer is being single, it's not. Jesus is where satisfaction is found.
So, what does it look like for you to increase your satisfaction in Jesus Christ? Well, it's the difference between glancing at Jesus and gazing at Jesus. We've talked about this before, but our tendency in the world we live in is we try to live off of glances with Jesus, and we wonder why we're not really in love with Jesus.
Let me ask you this: Did you and your spouse fall in love just by saying "Hello" to each other on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays when you passed each other on your college campus? No. You fell in love because you sat down with one another, you gazed at one another, and you got to know one another.
We just want to live off of five minutes with Jesus here, 10 minutes with Jesus here. Jesus loves us too much to give us all of himself in just glances. Satisfaction is found in gazing at Jesus. So, let me just encourage you. Whether you're single or married, seek your greatest satisfaction in Jesus. Sit with Jesus until you begin to see Jesus. Sit with him until you begin to taste and see that he is good.
Let's just be clear. Paul does not think marriage is sinful. If he thought it was sinful, then he would have never written Ephesians, chapter 5, which is one of the longest passages on marriage that we have in the Bible. Marriage is one of God's gifts to us. Paul is just trying to be clear with those who are not married yet. He's saying, "Let me tell you why you need to be careful with the time you have while you are single."
The best way to think about it is that race analogy. Paul's ambition is to call his friends to fix their gaze on eternity with Jesus and to run at a sprint toward him. Paul is basically saying, "Hey, when you get married, marriage is a good thing, but it changes the way you race." I'll invite my wife Kat up here to help me illustrate something. This is Kat. We've been married for about 15-1/2 years.
When you get married, Genesis, chapter 2, says a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. When you race, you now have to race as one. I don't know if you've ever done a three-legged race, but it changes the way you run. When you're running by yourself, you can just run full sprint toward the finish, but when you're doing a three-legged race, you have to worry about how your partner is racing. It's a combination of looking at your partner and looking at the finish line.
Paul's point is, "When you get married, it becomes more complex." When Kat and I got married… I don't have complete freedom to be like, "You know what? I think I want to go to Watermark Community Church. That's where I want to worship." Or "You know what? I want to check out this Community Group over here. That's where I want to be." "A last-minute mission trip sounds great." It's not the way it is. It's more complex.
Even moving here to Dallas… We moved back in January. When Watermark called and asked me to consider joining the teaching team, the question wasn't, "Is God calling me to Watermark?" The question became, "Is God calling us? Is God calling our family to move to Dallas to be a part of Watermark?"
Questions I had to wrestle through were, "What's that going to be like for Kat to be uprooted from her great community in College Station? What will Watermark be like for Kat and my kids with me on staff? Where are we going to live, because where we live will determine where my kids go to school?" Then I found myself lying awake at night, thinking, "What is the lunchroom on the first day going to be like for my sixth grader?" I was sitting there imagining him having no one to sit with. Those are things I had to process through.
Now, here's the thing. I love being married to Kat. Kat is God's second greatest gift to me, next to salvation, and we have a lot of fun in our marriage. We laugh a ton. It is such a joy to journey through life with her, to seek the Lord together. I love being married. Marriage is a really great thing, but it's more complex. Like, moving to Dallas was more complex. My attention is divided…not in a bad way; that's just reality in marriage.
Even preparing for this talk… I was preparing to teach the Bible, and in the middle of preparing in my home office, the door swings open, and my 4-year-old is buck naked. He had just come from the pool, and he was waiting for his turn to the shower. He was just jumping around naked. My attention was divided even in that moment. Life is just more complex.
The text speaks to Kat. Look at what it says. Verse 33: "But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided." Then it says in verse 34, "And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit." That is a reference to simply your entire being being devoted to pleasing God. "But the married woman…" That's Kat. "…is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband."
So, just as I have to think about Kat, Kat has to think about me. There's joy in doing that. God giving Kat to me is one of God's greatest gifts, but life is just more complex. Here is Paul's point to those who are single. Don't miss verse 35. "I say this [the reason I'm even telling you this] for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you…" In the Greek, that is literally, "I'm not telling you this to put a noose around your neck." That's what the Greek says.
He's saying, "I'm not telling you to hold off on getting married because I'm trying to make you miserable." He's saying, "[I'm telling you this] to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." His point is, for whatever season you are single, you have an opportunity. You might not like being single, you might not want to be single, but if you are single, don't miss what I'm telling you. Do not miss the opportunity you have during this season of your life to secure an undivided devotion to the Lord. Do not just fill your time; steward your time.
What does it mean to steward something? It means to realize it doesn't belong to you; it belongs to someone else, so you want to be really responsible for what you have been entrusted with. If you are single, God has entrusted you with a period of time where you are able to have an undivided devotion to the Lord. Do not squander the time he has given you to do that.
I want to finish reading the passage so that we hit on it, and then I'm going to come back around at the end and tell you what it looks like to steward your time well. Just look really quickly. Paul says this in verse 36. He's basically repeating what he has already said. "If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin."
If you want to get married, then, if God brings someone into your life, get married.Verse 37: "But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well." He's basically saying, "If you have a personal conviction that arises in your soul that you are content remaining single, then remain single. That is a gift from God."
Verse 38: "So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better." It's just Paul's opinion. Verse 39. He now sums up the entire chapter, so, this week and then two weeks ago. "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives." So, don't get divorced. That's what he's saying. "But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord." Make sure you marry a believer.
"Yet in my judgment…" Here's Paul's exclamation point. "In my opinion, just if I'm sharing from the heart, she's happier if she remains as she is." Isn't that interesting? Paul is like, "Even someone who has been given the gift of marriage, after having it, it might even be better, and she might even be happier, if she just remained single." Why? Because she's able to secure an undivided devotion.
He ends by saying, "And I think that I too have the Spirit of God." That's just him saying, "Look. Some of y'all think you're really spiritual because you're depriving yourselves of marriage, but I'm speaking with the Spirit of God at work in me." So, what does it look like to secure an undivided devotion to the Lord? What does it look like to steward your time well? If you're single, let me encourage you with a few things.
Pray for a future spouse, but don't wait on a future spouse. Here's what I mean by that. Don't sit in a holding pattern when God is wanting to do a work in and through you now. I think about my friend JD. He's married now, but when he was single, he maximized his time when he was single. He sought the Lord fervently. He was fully invested in his community, and he was fully invested in his church. His life was a life of mission, and he married a girl who was doing the same thing. Now that they are married, together they are pursuing the Lord with a life on mission.
Surrender your singleness daily to the Lord. Loosen your grip on your plans and dreams, and acknowledge that God's ways are perfect.
Cultivate robust rhythms of gazing at Jesus. Commit to studying and understanding the Bible more. Become someone who prays fervently. Learn what it looks like to be with the Lord and talk to him and hear from him. Go on prayer walks every day. Learn the satisfaction of fasting. Read a ton. Serve like crazy here at church. Go see what God is doing in other parts of the world where the gospel has not gone yet. Consider taking the gospel to those who have never heard before.
If you're longing to be a father or a mother, start by being a spiritual father or mother. That's what Paul was to Timothy. In 2 Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy "My beloved child," but Timothy was not his biological son; he was his spiritual son. It has been fun over the years to see men and women who have become spiritual fathers and mothers to the next generation.
Here at Watermark in the student ministry, it is the norm for leaders to commit to journeying with a group of middle school students in sixth grade, to walk with them all the way through graduation. I'm telling you, by the end of that time, you have a spiritual father or spiritual mother to the next generation. I've seen people actually be mothers and fathers to the next generation…young adults, singles, jumping into foster care, caring for those who are in between homes right now. It's a beautiful thing to watch.
Let me just say this, because it needs to be said. There are a bunch of godly single men at Watermark, and there are a bunch of godly single women at Watermark. Guys, ask a girl out. Girls, if you get asked out and you feel comfortable, you should say yes to a date. Let's not be weird about it. There is a huge difference between being intentional and being intense. Be intentional; don't be intense.
If you're lonely, it's by choice. You aren't lonely because you don't have a spouse; you're lonely because you're isolated, and the rhythms you've put into place in your life emphasize your isolation. There are married people in this room who are lonely. Marriage is not your answer. So, let me just encourage you. Fully invest in community. The church is meant to be a family. Find community here. Don't believe the lie that you can't hang out with married couples or families with kids because you aren't in the same stage of life.
I love it that I've had single individuals who have said, "Hey, I'd love to get to know your family." That's awesome. We have a girl we've known since her college days, and now she's 27 or 28. She regularly comes to our kids' soccer games. She comes not to babysit. She'll come and babysit sometimes, but she comes just to have dinner with us. It's because she is part of our family. So, let me encourage the families in the room: invite single adults into your family. Single adults, say yes. Enjoy being part of a family.
Let me finish by saying this. One of the reasons I was so bad at being single was that Jesus was a part of my life, but he wasn't the point of my life. In Colossians 1:16, Paul says all things have been created by Jesus and for Jesus. I was living under the assumption that I was made for marriage. I wasn't made for marriage; I was made for Jesus. I was made for relationship with Jesus, and so were you. Every single person in here… You just need to know marriage is a great thing, but it is not the ultimate thing. The point of your life is to know Jesus.
So, if you're here this morning and you don't have a relationship with him…if you've never come to the understanding that Jesus Christ died for your sins on the cross and rose from the dead to make a way for you to be made right with God…that's where it starts today. You weren't made ultimately for marriage; you were made for relationship with him. Whether you're single or married, may he be your greatest satisfaction. If you are here and you are single, my hope and prayer is that Watermark would be a place full of people who have secured an undivided devotion to him. Let's pray together.
Lord Jesus, I thank you for who you are and what you're doing in this place. I pray for my single friends in the room, Lord, for those who don't want to be single, and yet they are. Lord, my hope and prayer is that, even as they long to be married, they would know the joy of being in relationship with you. I pray, God, that this place would be full of many young adults and many older adults who are single who have an undivided devotion to you. We need you. We love you. In Jesus' name, amen.