God’s Plan for Singles
(1 Corinthians 7:8-9; 32-35)
8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.
9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord.
33 But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife,
34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband.
35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
Over the past few weeks we have been discussing dating. We have spent much time discussing dating, but does God have a message for those who are single? God has a message for the single: While being single can be challenging, it provides an opportunity for undivided devotion to the Lord.
The Challenges of Being Single
God has provided marriage to be a blessing to men and women and to the entire world. While most people live a married life, all people at one time or another are unmarried and some other people remain unmarried their entire life. While a person is unmarried it is important to be aware of certain challenges that come with singleness: self-control, loneliness, and expectations.
A. The Challenge of Self-Control
The first challenge is the challenge of self-control and the primary area of self-control is in sexuality. God clearly states in the Bible that human sexual expression is only blessed in the confines of a marriage between one man and one woman. Being thus set forth by God Himself, all sexual expression by a single person is sinful. Therefore the challenge is for the unmarried to be completely abstinent in all forms of sexual expression.
Remember that while you may not have a spouse to cheat on, you always have a Lord to sin against. Keep watch over yourself.
This is why Paul writes that for people who “cannot exercise self-control”; “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9).
For those who remain unmarried, the answer to the challenge of self-control is to remember that “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…you are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19:20).
B. The Challenge of Loneliness
Another challenge is the challenge of loneliness. The Bible says, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). Most married couples find their spouse to be their friend who will help them fight against loneliness, but what about someone who is single? Whether it is a holiday or just an average night of the week, a single person may struggle with loneliness and the discouragement of not having someone close to them to help them fight against loneliness.
The answer to the challenge of loneliness is to first remember that
you are a child of God.
With the Holy Spirit residing within you, you always have a trusted friend and helper in Jesus.
It is also important to be connected to a local church where you will find loving people who can help you.
C. The Challenge of Expectations
Another challenge is the challenge of expectations. These expectations could come from yourself or expectations placed upon you by others. You might have had expectations of being married by a certain age and that has not happened yet. Maybe you have a parent or a friend who seeks to place on you unrealistic expectations that burdens you.
The answer to the challenge of expectations is to remember that, as a Christian,
you ultimately answer to God alone and not to anyone else.
God is the One who created you and gives you your identity.
You are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph 2:10).
God expects you to be His and “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
The only expectations that you should be concerned with are God’s.
2. The Blessing of Being Single
While being single can be challenging (self-control, loneliness, expectations), it provides an opportunity for undivided devotion to the Lord. What this means is that the primary advantage that a single person has over a married person is that they do not have the daily responsibilities of meeting the needs of a spouse and children which allows them more time to focus on their devotion and service to the Lord.
A. Freedom from Distraction
For many of you this raises a natural question: Can’t I be devoted to the Lord while married? Why do I have to be single? Notice Paul stated that God ordains singleness in order to secure an undistracted devotion to the Lord.
Dating is great. But dating is distracting.
Have you ever tried to listen to the Word of God preached while sitting next to a woman who smells fantastic? It’s not easy. So while dating can be fun, it is distracting. Thus God, in his mercy, has given us a gift called singleness. Why? Because he wants our attention. He wants to secure an undistracted devotion to the Lord. Colossians 1:16 explains that we’re made “through him and for him.” Augustine said, “We are restless until our hearts find their rest in Thee.” Time is short. Our relationship with God matters far more than anything else in this life. So God ordains singleness so that we might be able to focus entirely on the One we were made by and for.
B. Liberty from Anxiety
Yet some of you may say, “Well, Pastor, I don’t get it. Why do I have to be single to be devoted to God? My wife and I will seek the Lord together! We’ll dedicate our firstborn kid to him!”
Well, let’s return to 1 Corinthians 7. Paul said, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (vv. 32–34). Paul was advocating singleness because it gives you a liberty from the anxieties and stresses of marriage. The married man is concerned about pleasing his wife and his interests are divided. Now some of you hear that and think, Please my wife? Pastor, that’s exactly the kind of distraction I want to be involved in! Let me tell you something: there are going to be things that make your wife happy that have nothing to do with stuff you enjoy.
For many of you, as soon as dating gets serious, she’s going to have some thoughts on your wardrobe choices. For some of you, this will be a welcome improvement. For others, you will suddenly begin to dress far cuter than you ever imagined. Not only that, but now each holiday that rolls around requires immense thought, creativity, and financial investment to find novel ways to tell her she matters to you.
Then when you get engaged, you enter endless days of choosing bedspreads, decoration, lighting, serving platters, flatware, cooking supplies, and place settings. And for hours your sweet bride-to-be is going to look at you and ask, “Do you prefer this design or this one? This plate or that plate? This one or that one? This or that?” And you will desperately try to stay focused mentally and emotionally, but a voice inside will be screaming, I don’t care! Someone help me!
Ladies, it’s the same for you! Paul went on to say, “The unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (v. 34). There are going to be all kinds of things that please your husband that are not things you’ve ever had to think about, worry about, or care about.
There will be things his mama did for him that he’s now going to assume you will do, like clean the house or cook breakfast. You’re going to think, Oh, no. We do that together. He’s probably going to be okay with a level of cleanliness that you find completely unacceptable. Go look at a guy’s apartment right now. You’re going to have to take care of the house and he’s just going to want to sit on the couch and play video games.
Which will make you question, “Can we just turn it off for a second to talk about the fact that my parents are coming this weekend? Are we going to make some plans?
Then when kids get in the mix you enter a new universe of obligation. Now you have to keep small humans alive! “ I could go to Starbucks right now if I wanted to. I didn’t have to ask somebody. I didn’t have to make plans. I could just go, spend some money, and drink a latte. At any moment. On a whim. Not so for the married. There are so many hoops to jump through, details to evaluate, people to consider. It’s exhausting and time-consuming.
As a husband and a father, I deal with these responsibilities every moment of the day.
Now if it sounds like I am down on the institution of marriage, let me assure you I am not. I love being married! I love being a dad! I would not trade the season of life I am in for anything. But I am stressing the responsibilities of marriage in order to save you from a danger that is easy for people in all different stages of life to fall into. There is a tendency in every one of us to downplay the benefits of their stage in life and amplify the benefits of another.
The single person pines away for the intimacy of the married season of life.
The married man or woman romanticizes the freedoms they enjoyed as a single person.
I do not want you to do that. I don’t want you to miss out on what you have access to in your single years that you will not have when you’re married. I don’t want you to miss the benefits of now, because you’re fixated on the benefits of then.
3. Pursuing Devotion
We have established that singleness offers time to pursue devotion to the Lord. But what does the pursuit of devotion look like? The word devotion in Greek is the combination of two concepts—the word “good”, or “well”, and the phrase “to be close beside.” It suggests both a passive element of sitting and listening to someone and an active element of tending to his or her desires. A great English word that captures this meaning is the word attentive.
Think of a good waiter at a restaurant. He is attentive in both of these respects. He is attentive to your words, listening carefully as you speak. He is also attending to your wishes, working hard to fulfill your desires.
We are meant to be attentive to the Lord in the same way. Devotion expresses itself in attentiveness to his Word and attending to his work. Study and service. The pursuit of intimacy with him and activity that pleases him.
A. Attentive to His Word
Have you set aside regular time to meditate on the Word of God? Take a moment and look over your weekly schedule. Ask God to show you where that time may be. Find a place you like to sit. Develop a plan that gives you a sense of progress each day.
B. Attentive to His Work
Devotion to the Lord is cultivated not only in study but also out in the field. We grow in our knowledge and love of God as we engage both his Word and his work. If you were living in the first century and you wanted to walk with Jesus, you would need to search for him among the poor. Jesus traveled among those in need. In the same way today, if you want to be devoted to the Lord, know that he will constantly call you toward those who are spiritually, emotionally, and physically in need.
Get involved in your local church.
If you are single and desire to be married, prayerfully submit that request to God and devote your life to Him in all things. If you are single and do not have inclinations to marry, consider the blessing of undivided devotion to your God and Savior Jesus Christ.