Single-Minded for Christ

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Matthew 6:31-34

INTRODUCTION: We are in the fourth week of our message series on Christian Home Fixer Upper. In this series we are exploring what God teaches us in the Bible about marriage and family, couples and singles, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, children and parents.

Today’s message focuses on singles. Not everyone gets married, but everyone is single at some point in their life. And even many of us who are married today will be single again sometime in the future. Marriage is a lifelong commitment, but it is not a permanent state. Unless you and your spouse die at precisely the same time, one of you will be single in this life again. Life is uncertain; none of us knows what the future holds; any one of us could find ourselves single tomorrow. That’s not to make us gloomy or fearful, but we should be prepared for anything in life and never take our loved ones for granted.

Some people would say, “Why include a message on singles in a series on Christian home and family?” And I would answer, just talk to some singles, and you will understand why. Singles often feel left out by the church and wonder what God has in store for them. Some singles feel called to be single. Others long for marriage and family. But according to the Bible, singles have a special place in the body of Christ and special opportunities in the body of Christ, and that’s what I want to talk about today. We will be looking at a number of Scripture passages in our message this morning, but our key passage is right here in Matthew 6:31-34. [Read and pray.]

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What does it mean to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness as a single person in the body of Christ? To begin with, we should realize that that there is not just one type of single person. Too often when we talk about singles, people immediately think “twenty-something and looking.” But that is a stereotype and a generalization. Singles span the age range all the way from teenagers to the elderly.

So when we talk about singles, we are talking about a wide variety of situations. I am talking to teens who, obviously, are single and perhaps beginning to think about dating. I am talking to college-age young adults who, more often than not, are either already dating or want to be dating. I am talking to singles of all ages who have never married. And I am talking to singles who have been married in the past, but now find themselves single again either through divorce or the death of a spouse. I am talking to those singles who are happy being single or may even feel called to be single. And I am talking to those singles who are miserable being single and desperately long to be with someone.

There is no one type of single person in the church. But if there is one consistent message I have heard from single people in the church over the years, it is that they often feel overlooked, undervalued and neglected. And that is one of the reasons why I have prepared this message today. Because I firmly believe that singles are one of God’s great gifts to the church. As a single person you have some wonderful opportunities to minister and serve and make a valuable contribution to God’s kingdom while you are single. This is true whether you feel called to be single or whether you may only be single for a season. I also believe that singles have unique needs as persons and that the church body is uniquely qualified to minister to those needs.

Now our text from Matthew this morning is not specifically directed to singles. We are all called to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. And so if you are not single this morning, don’t tune out on the message. You will find plenty of principles that apply directly to you as well. But I think there is a special word for singles in this passage. Let me re-read it to you again, and as I do I am going to paraphrase a little and make specific application to singles.

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall I eat?’ or ‘What shall I drink?’ or ‘Whom shall I date?’ or ‘Who will take care of me?’ or ‘Will I ever get married?’ For non-believers run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows what you need. But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and God will give you all that you need. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

What does it mean to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness as a single person in the body of Christ? I want to give you four guidelines from Scripture to help you answer that question. And once again, although I am speaking specifically to singles this morning, these principles from Scripture apply to all of us in the body of Christ as we seek God’s kingdom first in our lives.

I. Serve Christ wholeheartedly while you are single. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

The first principle is this: serve Christ wholeheartedly while you are single. One of the great advantages to being single is that the single person is free from the concerns of married life and therefore they are able to give their undivided attention to ministry for the Lord.

The apostle Paul writes directly to singles about this in 1 Corinthians 7:

“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. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world – how he can please his wife – 34 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. 35 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.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)

Now as much as I enjoy being married, Paul is absolutely right here. There are some definite advantages to being single as far as ministry is concerned. Once you marry, much of your ministry in life is directed towards your family. Not that there is anything wrong with that. You just have a different set of responsibilities. As much as I love you all and as much as I love this church, my primary responsibility is still to my family. I must minister to Rosi and my boys first if I am to be faithful to God and a faithful minister in his church. And I would encourage all of you who are married to see your families as the main ministry that God has entrusted to your care.

Earlier in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul wrote about the gift of being single. We read in verse 7: “I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” (1 Corinthians 7:7) Some people have what we sometimes call “the gift of celibacy” or “the gift of singleness.” Jesus spoke about this gift in Matthew 19. Jesus had just been speaking about the lifelong nature of marriage. The disciples, who apparently had bought into some of the easy divorce teaching of their day, responded: “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (Matthew 19:10-12)

So what are we to make of this gift of singleness? Some singles would say: “If singleness is a gift, then where do I return it? Where’s my gift receipt?” But if you are not happy with being single, that is probably a good indication that God has not given you the gift of singleness. You just happen to be single. But either way – whether singleness is a life-calling, or if you just happen to be single at this time in your life, God is still in control, and that means that God has called you to be single at least for this season. And that means that you have some unique opportunities to serve Christ while you are single. And those unique opportunities can best be summed up with this phrase: “free from other responsibilities.”

In Matthew 6:34 when Jesus says, “Do not worry,” he uses the Greek word “merimnao” which means “to be anxious or worried because you are taking care or responsibility for something.” It is the same word used in Luke 10:41 when Martha was distracted by all the preparations for dinner. Jesus told her: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.” (Luke 10:41-42) Now if you go back to 1 Corinthians 7, this is also the same word that is translated “concerned” here in verse 32: “concerned” in the sense that in marriage you have certain God-given responsibilities that rightly take up your time and thoughts. Paul says the single person has a freedom in this area that married people do not.

In verse 35 Paul goes on to say: “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.” Paul is saying that you should use this time of singleness in your life to serve Christ in ways that you may not be able to once you are married. College students and young adults – this can be one of the best times of your life for ministry. You have so much time and energy that you can pour into ministry while you are single. You can take off and serve God in ways that you never could with the responsibilities of a spouse or family.

Some Christian singles are able to give more time to active ministry, others to world-changing prayer. Some are able to go off on short-term mission trips, or take on more risky or uncomfortable assignments because they are single. When I was single, I served as youth pastor at a church in Burbank, California. They couldn’t really pay me so I left the apartment where I was living and moved into the church. I slept in a Sunday School room, cooked in the church kitchen, ate in the fellowship hall, and showered in the janitor’s closet! Those were great years of ministry! But I couldn’t do that now that I am married. I have responsibilities to my family. And I don’t think Rosi really wants to shower in the janitor’s closet!

The Bible does not say that being single is better than being married, or that being married is better than being single. They are just different. They are different callings with different sets of responsibilities and opportunities. All I am saying is this: whether you feel called to be single for the long-term or not, realize that you have some unique opportunities for ministry while you are single. So ask God what he would have you to do. Once again, these could be some of the best years of ministry in your life. What’s our first guideline this morning? Serve Christ wholeheartedly while you are single.

II. Commit yourself to uncompromising moral purity. (1 Thessalonian 4:3-8)

Our second guideline is this. Commit yourself to uncompromising moral purity. Back to the gospel of Matthew, Matthew 6:33 says: “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.” Nothing will sidetrack your relationship with God faster than compromising in the area of moral purity. Nothing will hinder your ability to know and follow God’s will for your life like giving in to moral impurity. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 says this:

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable … For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

“God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” Once again this is a word for all of us. As Christians we are all called to righteousness and moral purity. Marriage is not a free ticket out of temptation’s way. Married people struggle with issues of purity as well. But marriage can certainly be a guard against immorality. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:2: “Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.” Paul is eminently practical, and he recognizes that those who are single can be especially tempted in this whole area of sexual immorality and moral impurity.

Teenagers, this is the best time in your life to make an absolute commitment in this area, before you make a lot of mistakes that you will regret later. Young adult singles, the world keeps telling you there is nothing wrong with sexual activity before marriage. In fact the world expects you to be sleeping around. Some people stay single because they want to be sleeping around. Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its mold. Commit yourself to uncompromising moral purity in your life, so that God can direct you to the right persons and the right situations at the right times. Make a solid commitment now not to be sexually involved with anyone outside of marriage. Also make a commitment not to live together outside of marriage, but that you will do things right and follow God’s way.

We sometimes think that this is just a problem for our younger singles, but let me address the older singles here as well – whether you have never been married or whether you find yourself single after having previously been married. Being older does not make you invulnerable to sexual temptations. In fact older people can sometimes fall more easily into compromise or sexual sin than many younger people who have taken a strong stand to wait until marriage.

So no matter what your age or season of life this morning, commit yourself to uncompromising moral purity in your life. There is a wonderful promise that Jesus gives along with the command in Matthew 6:33. Jesus says, “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well.” That means that God will provide what you need, provided you seek his kingdom and his righteousness first. Don’t cheat yourself out of God’s best for you by compromising your purity.

III. Pursue God-honoring relationships with other believers. (2 Timothy 2:22)

Our third guideline is this. Pursue God-honoring relationships with other believers. 2 Timothy 2:22 is the best verse on dating that I know of in the whole Bible. Listen to what it says. “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) “Flee the evil desires of youth” – there is the call to uncompromising purity again, seeking God’s righteousness first. But then listen to what it says next: “Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” I love this verse for a number of reasons.

First of all, it tells you what to look for in a relationship. Have you ever wondered whether or not you were in a good relationship? This verse gives you four criteria by which you may evaluate your relationships. Simply ask yourself: is this relationship helping me to grow in righteousness, faith, love and peace? If so, then it is a good relationship. If not, then it is a bad relationship. That is pretty simple and straightforward, isn’t it?

First of all, righteousness: Is this relationship helping you to grow in righteousness, or is it causing you to compromise your moral purity? Next, faith: Is this relationship helping you to grow in your faith as a Christian or is it holding you back? Thirdly, love: Is this relationship helping you to grow in love or in selfishness? If it is a good relationship, then it will bring out the best in you, so that you are growing in love for God and for other people. Fourthly, peace: Is this relationship marked by peace – peace in your own heart with God, peace with your friends and family, peace with the other person? This one should be a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many people pursue relationships with people that are marked by conflict and stress. If there is no peace, then it is not a good relationship.

This verse not only tells you what to look for in a relationship; it also tells you who to look for: “those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Singles, I cannot tell you how much heartache and grief you will spare yourself if you will follow this one, simple rule in your life: “I will only date other persons who are true believers and who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” The number one criteria you should look for in any dating relationship is this: “Does this other person love the Lord with all their heart?” Dating a non-believer is not only foolish, it is disobedience to God.

I also like this verse because it is a reminder that we all need healthy relationships within the body of Christ. Singles – don’t just pursue dating relationships. Recognize the wealth of relationships that God provides for you within the body of Christ. Single women, you need lots of good Christian friendships, both male and female. Single men, you need lots of good Christian friendships, both male and female. Those of you struggling with same-sex attraction, you need lots of good Christian friendships, both male and female. Even those who are called to be single for life still need good friends of both sexes. God can fulfill so many of your needs for friendship, companionship, and support simply through fellowship in the body of Christ. If you concentrate only on dating relationships, you will miss out on the many wonderful friendships God has for you in the church.

Married couples and families, I encourage you to be sensitive to the needs of singles in these areas. Singles need good friends. They need to be welcomed into our homes and enjoy time interacting with couples and families. Ask God how he would have you reach out in friendship to the singles in your community and in your church. When I was a single adult in California, a family in the church adopted me along with the other single adults in the church. They took us out to dinner regularly and had us over to their home on holidays. It was a wonderful ministry to us during a time of need. Everyone needs good friendships. And the best friendships can be found within the body of Christ. So that’s guideline number three: Pursue God-honoring relationships with other believers.

IV. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

There is one final principle I would like to give you this morning and it is found in Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is the Old Testament counterpart to Matthew 6:33. Seek God first in your life, and he will give you all the other things that you need. But if you run after all the other things first, you will lose both them and God. Too often we are so busy pursuing our own happiness that we miss out on God’s best for us. Use this time of singleness in your life to grow in Christ, to find contentment in him and to delight yourself in him. Wait on the Lord. Trust in him, and he will give you the desires of your heart. That may mean that he will bring along that special person that you long for so much in your life, or he may fulfill your desire and need for companionship in other ways. But either way his promise is sure: delight yourself in him, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Let me just give a word specifically to some of our older singles here, too. If you are recently widowed or divorced, don’t automatically go looking for a new spouse or a new relationship. Don’t be in a hurry. Take some time, delight yourself in God, and see what he has for you in this season of singleness. There are times when it would not be right to remarry after a divorce, and there are times when it may be better to remain unmarried after the death of a spouse.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:39-40: “A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord. In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” Paul says there is nothing wrong with getting married again if your spouse has died – as long as you marry another believer. But, in his judgment, which is bolstered by the Spirit of God, you may be happier if you stay as you are. At least consider it. Pray about it. Talk about it with other Christians whom you trust and respect. See what God may be saying to you. Remember, once you are single you can stay single as long as you like. But when you choose to marry, no matter at what age, there is no turning back. Marriage is a life-long commitment.

CONCLUSION: So what does it mean to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness as a single person in the body of Christ? How do you do it?

   I. Serve Christ wholeheartedly while you are single. (1 Corinthians 7:32-35)
   II. Commit yourself to uncompromising moral purity. (1 Thessalonian 4:3-8)
   III. Pursue God-honoring relationships with other believers. (2 Timothy 2:22)
   IV. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

Singles, God wants to use you in a special way during this season of your life. Will you trust him for that? Will you seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first? Will you be single-minded for Christ?

© Ray Fowler

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