Today we begin a brand new series called Relationship Status.
Loving one another is one of the most challenging and difficult things we do every day. Therefore, we need to talk about it. Scripture says a ton about relationships, so we need to talk about. We are going to do so for the next four weeks in this series called Relationship Status.
Now I know for some in the room, when you hear relationship in the title, you are ready to shut down. For all kinds of different reasons, the discussion of relationships evokes different kinds of emotional responses. Some are frustrated because they want to be in a relationship but aren’t. Some are frustrated, because the relationship they are in, is not what they had hoped for. Others had a relationship that came to an end and it has left a bitter taste or a broken heart.
Either way, I would argue this morning that no matter where we find ourselves in our lives today, relationships are unavoidable. They are in the backdrop of all aspects of our day-to-day lives. After all, God did create us for relationships. We are wired for connection with others. The question is, what is our relationship status now, and how do you live in a way that honors God and honors others in light of that standing?
In this series, I will be talking a lot about romantic relationships, whether you’re single, dating, married or it’s just flat out complicated. But I promise you, if you want to, you will get so much out of each week of this series for all kinds of relationships – friends, co-workers, other family members. The idea behind the series all stems from our relationship with God, loving Him first above all else.
Full disclosure. I have been married for about 4 ½ years now, and I have truly enjoyed the time God has given Matt and I together. However, the truth is that I have spent way more of my adult years as a single person then as a married person. In fact, I can honestly say that the time I spent as a single person was some of the most important time of my life. It was during that time that I was able to develop my relationship with God without a lot of distraction. It was during that time that God even prepared me to have a healthy relationship with my future husband.
From commercials featuring married couples, to romantic comedies or to seeing your friends through social media on their latest date, the focus seems too often placed on the need for love. In a culture where relationships are often seen as validation of our worth, it is tempting to view singleness as a punishment or waste. Though this may be the message of our culture, it is certainly not the message of the Bible.
The Bible speaks of singleness in a much more positive manner. In fact, singleness is not considered just a time before you finally meet “the one”, but rather a special gift that may be a season or even a lifetime. If you are single or even single-again today, I want you to know that this is no reason to feel like you are socially deficient. Instead, God wants to meet you in a significant way.
1 Corinthians 7:32-34
32 I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. 33 But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. 34 His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband.
Paul is writing to the early church in Corinth addressing practical matters to help them learn how to live in such a way that they honor God and honor others. In the first seven chapters, he has covered a lot of ground, then in chapter seven he turns his attention to the Church’s relationship status. The reason is because Paul knows there is no other aspect of our lives that is more important than how we relate to one another, because our relationships with others is a reflection of our relationship with God.
In these few verses, Paul lifts up the benefits of the single life.
POINT #1 – A FOCUS ON PLEASING GOD
An unmarried man or an unmarried woman, according to Paul, can be deeply focused on doing things that please the Lord.
Now I was a single mom most of my single adulthood, so yes much of my time was certainly split with my child. However, I can tell you that there was a big difference in my relationship with God when I was dating to when I was not dating someone.
When I was not dating, I had more margin for disciplines like working out, reading the Bible, and spending time in prayer. When my son would be at his dad’s or a sports practice, I would spend quality time with the Lord. I remember having a Christian CD of new artist at the time named Sarah Kelly. I would play her CD, sitting on my living room floor listening and reading through the lyrics. Using it for time in prayer with God. Sometimes it led me to cry, but overall it led me to feel so much closer to God. Much of my single time was a time of focus, and I was able to use it to please God.
I was able to use it to work for Him. Over those years, I was Children’s Director, Youth Leader for a time, I was a Lay Speaker filling in for the pastor when He was out. I remember coming home from a Christian music festival with our youth, and I was so on fire for the Lord. I got up every morning a half hour earlier to just read His Word. I was single that whole next year and it’s an understatement to say I was on fire. In fact, it was during that year that I became a Lay Speaker, someone who didn’t want to get up in front of people and talk, and I got up and preached from the pulpit. But when I started to date someone, it changed. It wasn’t necessary bad, just different, but I remember missing my extra time with God.
We were created for relationship. We were created for connection. We were created to love and be loved, but we were created first and foremost to love God and be loved by Him. There is no greater focus we could possibly have for our lives.
In 1647, about 130 years after the Reformation, the Westminster Catechism, which was a summary of doctrine used to teach new Christians, was put together by English and Scottish theologians and laymen intending to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland. As a type of summary of the entire writing, this was wrote about the true meaning of existence:
The Westminster Catechism states:
“The chief end of man (woman) is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”
The most important part of our lives is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. During a season of singleness or a lifetime of singleness, we are able, unlike any other time in our lives, to be singularly focused on glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
If you are single today, it would be wise to think of where your focus is. Are you more interested in dominating Fortnite, or are you more interested in pleasing God? Are you more interested in building a big bank account or are you more interested in pleasing God? Are you more interested in traveling, and sightseeing, or are you more interested in pleasing God?
Paul sees being single as a gift that many do not have. And like any gift, we must be good stewards with it and use it wisely. Rather than spending time hoping and wishing for some kind of relationship in the future, spend time now focusing on being the kind of person, through service, study, and prayer that pleases God and would please that potential significant other in the future.
If I may just step off track for a moment and speak to especially our young folk. We date to find a spouse. Not to satisfy any other desires we may have. You shouldn’t just for companion, or just to fit in or just to say you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Dating is to find a spouse and a spouse only. If you are not ready to find a spouse, a spouse for the rest of your life, then stay single. That is my pastor/mother/human being who messed that up advice to you. Please take it for what it’s worth.
Paul continues in his message to those who are single in Corinth by giving another benefit of singleness.
1 Corinthians 7:35
35 I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.
Paul is not trying to put pressure on his listeners or to restrict them from pursuing relationships, rather, he is wanting to set them up to live a full life. And when someone is single, that is the best chance to do the work required. Plus, he says there is a benefit.
POINT #2 – AN UNDIVIDED LIFE
When someone is single or single-again, whether for a season or for a lifetime, they are able to live with undivided devotion to God. What Paul means is that there are no romantic relationships competing for one’s attention and emotion. Every person only has so much of themselves they are able to give. We are limited on time, energy, attention, and affection. Therefore, Paul says, when we are single it can all go to God. When we are not single, it must be divided.
Let me show you what I mean. Let’s pretend for a moment your life is represented by this full pizza. How many slices are in a pizza? There are 8 slices in a pizza, so you only have 8 slices to give.
So, as a single person you are able to give this entire pizza to God…your whole life can be offered to Him. You can be devoted to Him and Him alone. You are undivided. However, as your relationship status changes, so do the demands on your life.
As you enter a dating relationship, now you have to give a slice, maybe two, to your girlfriend or boyfriend. They want to go on dates. They want you to call and text. You become divided. Not a bad thing but it is true.
What if you are married? Believe me, the pizza gets divided even more. Now your wife or husband needs a lot from you. Sharing chores, budgeting, in-laws, etc. Your life is no longer only shared with God, now it is shared in a committed marriage. It is a beautiful thing, but your life is divided. Your devotion is divided.
Now, let’s say you are married and you have kids. Well in that case the pizza is gone. Everyone wants a slice. I am kidding, but it is actually true.
The more your relationship status changes, the more ways your life will be divided. And the more you really have to fight to be devoted to God. The gift of the single life though is an undivided life. If you are single today, you have the opportunity to decide now how your devotion is divided up.
Though there are benefits that Paul speaks to in his letter to the Corinthians, there is also caution that must be taken when we are living the single life. The book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom and offers good advice to the single person to ensure that they navigate a life of singleness well, and to ensure, if they are called, to prepare well for a future relationship.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
The writer says “above all else”. What they introduce here is very, very important. This is the writer’s way of saying “pay attention”. The Hebrew word for heart is the word Lev. The Hebrew understanding of the heart was not an organ that pumped blood or a shape for candies to indicate affection. They believed the heart to be the very center of one’s being. It was where all of one’s actions, thoughts, and life flowed from. And it must be guarded because it affects everything.
POINT #3 – BE ON GUARD
The world offers a single person so many things that can negatively affect the heart and cripple the gift of singleness that God has given. A single person must be careful what they allow in. There are a few big things that must be guarded against.
Guard against greed – The greedy heart turns on itself. It is difficult for a single person to think of anyone else when they are only thinking of themselves. When we become so focused on what we want, we forget what God wants for us.
Guard against lust – The lustful heart looks for ways to satisfy sexual desires outside of God’s designed plan. God’s intention from the very beginning is for the full expression of sexuality to take place in a committed marriage between a husband and a wife. When one is single, the temptation is to forego patience and find shortcuts. For instance, pornography becomes an easy way out that has devastating consequences. God wants to protect us, and so He has put boundaries in place.
Guard against bitterness – The bitter heart is unable to be content in its current season in life. At times, singles may look for people to blame for their single state and become bitter toward them. Other times, singles can blame God and bitterness takes root. Rather than being bitter, take this time to become better by allowing God to have full access to your heart and life. Give Him the whole pizza! Be content where God has you right now.
When we guard our hearts, we are best prepared to live in full devotion to God and to become the person God wants for us to be.
If you are single here today, I want you to know that you are in good Biblical company. Jesus spent his 33 years here on earth as a single person.
Paul, the one who wrote the majority of the New Testament, never was married.
Ruth was a widow and lived a good portion of her life as a single woman, and yet her life was marked by faithfulness and sacrificial love.
John the Baptist lived a single life and was the forerunner to the coming of the Messiah… I guess it makes sense since the guy did eat locusts and wear camel skin.
But regardless, these individuals demonstrated for us that the single life is a gift that God longs to use to form us and shape us for the life that lays ahead.
God desires that all people would be primarily focused on their relationship with Him. Whether we find yourself called to singleness, in a season of singleness, dating, or married, our connection with God should be our highest priority. We’ll talk more about how you dating and married people can do that well in the coming weeks.
But we must be careful what we allow into our hearts because what we allow in can derail us from what God wants to do within us. When you allow your interests to pull you away from God, you’re putting yourself in danger.
God wants you to love Him above all else. So think about how you handle your relationships. How you do, will show your real relationship with God. So live in such a way that will enhance your relationship with God.
I want to lead you in a time of prayer today. I want to invite you to refocus your life on God, to consider where you are divided and to ask for God’s help in guarding your heart today.