Complete Devotion

Marriage can be a distraction

We all long to be fully loved by those who know us completely. Such love provides us with affirmation, confidence, and freedom to be ourselves. If we are known but not loved we feel devastated. If we are loved but not known we feel insecure. But if we are known and loved we are naturally compelled to return that love with all of our being!

The wonderful truth is that each one of us are completely known and fully loved. God loves us with that kind of love and – unlike any human who may both know and love us – will fulfill every promise He has made to us. He will never leave our side, even to go to work or the grocery store. And He is completely devoted to us!

When we grasp the depth and quality of God’s love for us, we are overwhelmed with amazement and joy. A deep love and devotion for Him fills our hearts. The Apostle John said it best when he wrote, “We love because He first loved us.”[1]

The Apostle Paul had a concern for the Corinthian Christians that they would lose their deep love and devotion to Christ – a danger for every Christian in any time or place. He wrote to them, “For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ.”[2]

One of the ways that “serpent” Satan seduces us away from a pure devotion to Christ is by distracting us with good and noble pursuits. Marriage is sometimes one of them. We can become so focused on the good aspects of getting married and having a family that we allow that desire and pursuit to distract us from focusing on and serving Jesus. We become more enamored by human love than by the love of our Bridegroom, Jesus.

Complete Devotion to Jesus

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul encouraged those who weren’t married to not marry. His compelling reason was that unmarried men and women are free from the distractions of a spouse to focus only on what pleases the Lord.[3] Singles aren’t the only ones who can become more enamored with human love than with Christ’s love. Paul gave a clear warning that being married can distract from devotion to Jesus: “A married man is concerned about the things of the world—how he may please his wife— and his interests are divided”[4] and “a married woman is concerned about the things of the world—how she may please her husband.”[5]

Paul made it clear he wasn’t prohibiting anyone from marrying, but rather asking them to carefully consider the benefits of remaining single: “Now I am saying this for your own benefit, not to put a restraint on you, but because of what is proper and so that you may be devoted to the Lord without distraction.”[6]

Obviously God doesn’t call everyone to remain single. He most definitely has a purpose and plan for marriage, and there are many couples who form strong partnerships that are fully and effectively devoted to Christ. I was blessed to be raised by one of them!

But it is often a struggle. Spouses come with their own baggage and may not always be at the same place spiritually. People grow at different rates and in different ways. One spouse must sometimes wait on the other to be ready to move forward in what God is calling them to do. And when children enter the picture, the needs of a family loom larger than life sometimes. God still calls those who are married to be completely devoted to Him, even though the distractions and obstacles are often greater.

I’m not here to tell those who are single never to marry. God has a purpose and plan just for you, and He will show you in due time if you are to marry, and whom. But while you are single – whether that be for a season or life-long – He has told us through the Apostle Paul that you have a significant advantage by having fewer distractions in your complete devotion to Him. My simple reminder to you (and to me) is, don’t waste it!

 

[1] 1 John 4:19

[2] 2 Corinthians 11:2-3

[3] 1 Corinthians 7:32, 34

[4] 1 Corinthians 7:33-34a

[5] 1 Corinthians 7:34b

[6] 1 Corinthians 7:35

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I Love My Freedom, But Now What?

Love my freedom

In the survey I conducted before relaunching Purposeful Singleness, the vast majority of you indicated the aspect you like most about being single is your freedom. I would concur with that.

The independence, the ability to be flexible and spontaneous, to not have to fit into a spouse’s agenda, are certainly wonderful perks to being single. Of course it’s not just a spouse who can restrict those things — some of you have the responsibility of children or elderly parents, for instance, which create similar limitations. But in this one aspect of our lives, at least, we have a freedom that married people don’t.

So what do we do with this freedom? Is it truly a good thing? Singles are often painted with the broad-brush description of “selfish” by those who are a bit jealous of our freedom. In reality, being selfish with our blessings is a tendency every human wrestles with, not just singles. It is true, though, that for singles it is largely our freedom we need to be on guard against using only for our own interests.

Freedom to serve

I appreciate that the vast majority of you indicated you enjoy your freedom because of the ability it gives you to focus on God and to serve others. Whether that means relocating to care for a family member, spending your Saturdays to serve in a local homeless shelter, or dropping everything to spend time with a friend in a crisis, you recognize the fulfillment that comes from using your freedom in totally unselfish ways.

One of our single role models from the Bible, the Apostle Paul, wrote this to the Galatian Christians: “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14)

 The freedom Paul was referring to here, of course, was the freedom from the Old Testament Levitical Law. It seems the Galatians had forgotten Jesus had fulfilled the Law and all its requirements and they no longer needed to submit to such practices as circumcision. Apparently someone had convinced them otherwise. You can just hear Paul’s frustration as he writes to them! He wrote, “Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

God-given freedom

 In similar ways, we singles need to be on guard against feeling guilty for the freedoms God has given us. The perks of our circumstances are gifts and blessings from God, “who richly provides us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17 HCSB). Savoring the freedom to spend your day off in your PJs, to watch your favorite team play its latest game, or to go out for coffee with a friend on the spur of the moment — is no more selfish than those who enjoy a date night with their spouse or a family night at the park. They all serve similar purposes of providing needed rest, rejuvenation, and connection with others.

So enjoy your freedom. Be grateful for it. Savor it and bask in it. It is God’s gift to you! Use it to cultivate a close companionship with Him, meaningful relationships with others, and to serve those you couldn’t otherwise. But also use it as you would any gift — for your enjoyment. Note this does not mean to use it to indulge in sin, as Paul warned, but in wholesome, beneficial enjoyment.

Above all — as in every aspect of life — continually seek God for how He wants you to utilize your freedom in any given moment.

Freedom to cultivate relationship with God

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Removing the Hindrances from Singleness

Removing Hindrances

Many view singleness as a limitation rather than an advantage. I’d say it’s a fairly common perspective among Christians and non-Christians alike. It’s funny how we collectively forget that Jesus was single, and certainly nothing held Him back. And we forget that the second most prominent character of the New Testament was also single, the Apostle Paul, and it doesn’t appear singleness held him back. In fact, Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthains 7 that he found singleness preferable to marriage because it gave him the great opportunity to serve God without the distraction of a spouse.

This morning I was reading Paul’s travel plans in 1 Corinthians 16, which were obviously not set in stone:

I will come to you after I pass through Macedonia—for I will be traveling through Macedonia— and perhaps I will remain with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I go. I don’t want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord allows. But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me

Note his terminology which indicates extreme freedom and flexibility: “perhaps I will remain or even spend the winter,” “wherever I go,” and “If the Lord allows.” It’s doubtful he would have had such flexibility in travel, or even the opportunity to travel at all, if he’d had the responsibility of a family. Singleness allowed him to introduce Jesus to people far and wide. And because of Paul’s extensive travels to share Jesus, Christianity spread to the Gentiles, which includes most of us reading this right now.

Last year a good friend of mine was going through Beth Moore’s study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Children of the Day, and she shared with me an excerpt:

“What if, instead of fixating on taking the hurt out of our hindrance, we prayed for God to take the hindrance out of our hurt?”

And then she listed several equations where “hindrance” is removed from the various types of hurts individuals experience. I’ll list the ones that most pertain to those of us who are single:

Heartbreak – hindrance = depth

Breakup – hindrance = breakthrough

Singleness – hindrance = a gospel globetrotter

Celibacy – hindrance = sexual purity

Childlessness – hindrance = mother of many (Isaiah 54:1-2)

Disappointment – hindrance = faith

My pain – hindrance = my passion

My life – the hindrance of all my hindrances = my God-ordained destiny

 

Pretty awesome, isn’t it, to be able to see the most difficult aspects of our lives in a new and positive light once we remove the hindrance aspect? It’s pretty powerful!

Paul was certainly the epitomy of a “gospel globetrotter.” His open-ended travel plans show evidence he had removed whatever hindrance he may have felt from his single status to share Jesus far and wide.

We miss out on so much when we fail to remove hindrances from our perspective. We feel “stuck” because of our singleness, because of our lack of education or finances, because of our personality, because of our parents’ health, because of our own health, and so forth. We say to ourselves, “I can’t do that because … “ and then we fill in the blank with what we perceive is a hindrance.

What if we removed the hindrance aspect from our perspective? What if we saw our lack of education or finances as a means of relating to those who won’t be intimidated by our “lack”? What if we saw our personality as how God strategically designed and equipped us to fulfill His specific purpose for us? What if we saw our parents’ need for us as an opportunity to serve them and relate to their friends, thus enriching our lives and theirs? What if we saw our health issues as a means of identifying with others, or as opportunity to spend time in prayer and develop deeper insights? What if we saw our singleness as a freedom to accomplish great things for Christ’s Kingdom?

What if?

The possibilities are endless when we remove perceived hindrances. God is bigger than any hindrance we have. Not just slightly bigger. Not just barely able to handle our hindrances. Immensely bigger. He is Sovereign over all. Can we trust Him to overcome our perceived hindrances and accomplish all He has created us to do?

What perceived hindrance is holding you back? What if you remove “hindrance” from the equation? What powerful freedoms and opportunities for good would result?

I’d love to hear your answers either in the comments below or by email. And if you’d like to have someone come alongside you and help you figure out what is holding you back, don’t forget about the coaching services Shari Baer is making available to us, which you can read more about here.

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Complete as One

By Fern Horst

I had someone tell me, just the other day, that one is not complete without a spouse. It made me wonder: How do I, and other single adults, gain a sense of confidence and self-worth in a society that believes such a statement to be true?

Many people believe they cannot truly live until they find their significant other. They are unable to believe in themselves until they find partners who believe in them. Some people do not feel they have worth until they find someone to give them a sense of worth. And there are many who gain confidence from a dating or marriage relationship. But is this the only way, or, more importantly, the best way, to find oneself?

This type of belief systems indicates a dependency on something or someone other than God. Any time we look to anyone or anything other than God to give us meaning, to meet our needs, we are creating an idol. We are allowing something or someone to take God’s place in our lives. This is serious business to God. Idolization is adultery to Him; it hurts Him as much as we hurt when friends betray their loyalty to us. He wants to have that place in our lives. He will give us more meaning and worth and acceptance than any “significant other” ever could.

Both Christ and the Apostle Paul taught in the Bible that remaining dependent on God is easier when one is single. When one is married, it is easy to put one’s spouse in God’s place, to expect him or her to meet the needs that only God can fill. Marriage does not legitimize idolization. God still wants His rightful place in our hearts regardless of our marital status.

Should we avoid marriage then? Of course not! God calls some to serve Him in a marriage relationship. He chooses to meet some people’s needs through marriage. But not all. For some He chooses to meet needs through a variety of people. God wants some of us to be single so that we can serve Him in ways those who are married cannot.

But we can be sure that God will meet everyone’s needs, married or single. We can also be sure that God wants all of us to commit our lives to Him, married or single. Singleness is not an excuse to live our lives for ourselves, or to sit around waiting for life to happen. It is happening, and we are each responsible to take what opportunities God has given us and use them to their fullest advantage.

Yes, I’m complete. You’re complete. And it has nothing to do with whether or not we’re married. It has everything to do with the fact that Christ lives in us and with Him we are not only complete, we have everything we need to live the life of a fulfilled, successful adult.

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