Over the last couple months I’ve been working through Ben Stuart’s book, Single, Dating, Engaged, Married, which has been added to my ever growing collection on the topic of relationships. I’d assume that the majority of people, myself included with them, have a desire to get married at some point in their lives. Statistically, a large majority of them will get married. So there is hope, however the rules and ways in which relationships develop have changed. The process of courtship has become something far more casual and far more murky. These changes in how we engage in relationships have resulted in the need to have a solid foundation before navigating through romantic relationships. This is especially compounded for the follower of Christ. So in the second of an indefinite number of writings on the topic we shall take a deeper examination of the purpose of singleness.
In my first writing, we established that the purpose of singleness is to devote ourselves to the will of God. In pursuing God and being intentional to devoting ourselves to Him we begin to have a well-centered, unshakable foundation in which we can navigate life. Ben Stuart highlights eight things in singleness by studying 2 Timothy 4:9-22 that we’ll break down and see how they apply in singleness and couplings. They are: Resolve to Never Stop, Invest in the Next Generations, Cultivate Deep Friendships, Keep Learning, Make Enemies, Forgive, Be Courageous, and Rest. Each of these have some intrinsic qualities that benefit in assisting our walks through life.
Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. -2 Timothy 4:9-22 ESV
Resolve to Never Stop:
The passage from 2 Timothy reveals a lot about Paul’s character. At the time of writing this letter to Timothy, Paul was in prison. He was literally unable to leave the confines of his imprisonment and yet he was actively engaged and coordinating a ministry across the world! Paul sent Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, Luke is with Paul, and asked Titus to get Mark on his way back to meet him. How amazing is that? That from a prison cell or a house arrest Paul was able to further the kingdom of God without letting the obstacle of immobility stand in his way! This shows us that throughout life we have a need to be continually active and engaged. There will always be some job needing completion, some deadline approaching, a chore needing doing, or a need being attended to. While there is a need for rest, which we will examine later, we will have to be intentionally engaged throughout life.
This also applies to when we begin dating, or for my old fashioned self in courtship, we cannot get so comfortable that we stop trying. I have seen idleness creep up into the lives of some of my peers growing up where their relationships begin to get strained because they’ve gotten so comfortable with their situation that they no longer put in effort that they did at the beginning. This can be seen in many situational comedies in which relational drama about long time romantic interests are tired of waiting for their significant others to step up and propose. Resolving to never stop is a practice that is vital to our participation in the work of Christ and in developing deeper relationships with our friends and significant others. Our relationships with one another, especially in ministry, are in need of constant cultivating. Like a garden, love and care must be put into our relationships. Becoming idle can lead to suffocation and with it comes the withering of the bonds of any relationship, plutonic or romantic.
Y’all, as we look through these eight things I hope that you begin to see where each of these carry over from our single life into our dating lives. The foundation we set now, while we’re single, will carry through to the next stage of life. For those who proclaim to be believers, this foundation is rooted in our devotion to God!
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. -Psalm 1:1-3 ESV
Invest in the Next Generation:
One benefit of being single is having time to use toward the kingdom! The generations that come after us will face the same challenges, if not more challenges, than your or my generation did! Some things will change, but others have remained the same since the time Christ walked on this earth. Paul served with his disciples to further the mission of Christ! Paul poured out wisdom upon these men, some of who were younger than himself, from his experience and understanding of God. We have a need to engage in generational discipleship! While we like to gather with people who are like ourselves or close to our stage of life, we need to wisdom of the generation above us just as the generation behind us could benefit from our wisdom. Why? Because they are navigating through life with the same struggles as we have.
I know that I have benefitted from the lessons my high school small group guy have presented me, even though they do not know that they are challenging me to be a better leader. I have also found endless joy in seeing God working in and through their lives! In my short time with them, I’ve seen God work to liberate them from sins, to grow them up as leaders, and to get them thinking about what the Christian life means and how to live it! In my first post, I shared a photo of my peer from a discipleship weekend spent with the next generation, and just how much joy seeing my peers pouring out brings me! Sure, this is anecdotal but there is fundamental truth in sharing in the work of Christ. God has blessed me immensely ever since I began serving with our student ministry nearly 3 years ago now. I do not know how much of an impact that I’ve had on the students, I do not need to know, but I am grateful for the opportunity to invest in the next generation. Stuart poses a nice question for us all, “When you think about your plans for the future, do they include the men and women you will invest in?”
I was given some perspective last year from my friend and mentor regarding this topic in connection with marriage. I know that God’s calling on my life is in ministry and that means that if I am to marry, then that person would need to be supportive of my ministry. This is not to suggest that my ministry is more important than her, but that we would be partners in ministry together. Serving the next generations together. While we are single, while we are dating, and while we are pursuing marriage, we have a plethora of opportunity to share in ministry. While we have more time while we are single, Christians have a command to pour out onto the next generations.
Cultivate Deep Friendships:
As single people, we are not without love and companionship. We are surrounded by people who love us and care for us. They are our friends and they also serve as council to us as we approach many different situations in life. Cultivating deep, meaningful friendships also serves to give us insight into our lives through the perspective of those who know us best. Taking the time while we are single to cultivate these kinds of friendships allows them to share in our dating lives. They see where we have blinders, they express concerns when our pursuits are not glorifying God, they celebrate the relationships that do glorify God, and they keep us accountable. Having friends who know our lives well assists in that foundation in which we can navigate life. Plus what joy is it to share life with those closest to us?
I have a strong family of friend who have poured out into my life for nearly four years now. Having started as a small bible study at the home of our now student pastor, we have and continue to share in one another’s ministries. We seek wisdom and council from one another, and we celebrate each other’s wins, and the work God is doing in our lives. They are also not afraid to have the difficult conversations when we’re going astray or being stupid or sitting in sin. Because they know us well, they’re not afraid to call us out. Paul had a friend in Luke who shared in his ministry and in his life. The book of Acts recounts the time Luke and Paul shared on their missionary journey around the Near East. They understood the purpose in sharing in one another’s lives. Deep friendships offer something that our coworkers and acquaintances cannot and that is insight into our lives that stems from a proper heart. God’s heart. We know who those people are in our lives, and, if you are like myself, you cherish the unquantifiable value they are on your life.
This is not saying that we need to be antagonistic or purposeful in making enemies. Rather, by living our the commandments of God and sharing the good news with all we come across. By living faithfully, according to the commands of God, we will make enemies. We will run into people who are hostile to the things of God and will be hostile to us. Paul mentions a wrongdoing Alexander the coppersmith paid him, and how God would justly deal with Alexander. Paul did not take vengeance against Alexander, but rather placed the duty of carrying our justice on God. Throughout life, we will face opposition at nearly every turn. People who are against us personally, who are against our relationships, our ministries, our work. We cannot control those people, but we can live faithfully according to God’s will. So do not seek out to make enemies, but live faithfully.
We all have something to learn. Even the biggest biblical scholars have something to learn about God. Just as we ought to strive to not be idle, we should seek to always be learning something new! Head knowledge is good and social skills are beneficial. Scripture has an amazing tendency to spur us toward being well rounded people. While we can know a lot about God, we can also know God very little. As a seminary student, I can attest first hand to the dangers of knowing a lot about God without having a personal relationship with Him. Fortunately, God has presented opportunities to share my knowledge of history, scripture, and God in appropriate ways without being a know-it-all or a pedantic encyclopedia. Continuing to learn about God only helps to further strengthen and widen our foundations. Being rooted and founded with God places us in a position where we can weather any turmoil that comes our way We can be secure in the winds of change.
We also should strive to learn more about the people around us. Tying into cultivating deep friendships (hint, hint). In learning about others, we learn about their needs and where they need truth and life. We can be a source of life to those people. We may not know what needs they have, but in pursuing to learn more about people we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to them. The pursuit of learning can be exhausting, especially as we move through the college age where fatigue can set in quickly. However, we may find immense joy in continued growth in knowledge and wisdom.
We will face opposition in life, this has been made clear. We must stand firm. Paul was alone when he faced trial for his missionary work. No one came to his defense, and yet, as he stood firm in full assurance in God’s sovereignty, he was brought through it stronger. Let this be an encouragement to us! Trust God in all things! Have faith that God will bring you through whatever situation you face. Have faith that God will speak through your words as you share the gospel with those who need it. Have faith that God will work through you to bring other’s into His kingdom. Do no be afraid to pursue the mission of Christ! Be bold! Be courageous! Be encouraged throughout your life that God has a plan for you and your life! Do not hesitate when God tells you to go or when to stay! Step into any situation in full assurance that God will use you and take care of your needs!
This is perhaps the largest and most difficult thing of these points. Forgiveness. We’ve all experienced pain and hurt from people. We’ve all been slighted or torn down. The reality is that hurt people hurt people. Frankly, I’ve been that person. Holding onto the pains suffered at the hands of others keeps us down. It keeps us from fully embracing the love and freedom in God. Frankly, for followers of Christ, forgiving people is not optional! It’s also not an easy process either. If we’re unwilling to forgive those who have hurt us, what does that say about our perspective on Christ? What does that say about our claim to faith? In denying forgiveness to those who have wounded us, scarred us, and beaten us down, we are in essence denying the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. He died for the sins of you and me and He did so without question! Are you holding onto a grudge? Do you resent someone for causing you deep pain?
The willingness to forgive is entirely necessary in the Christian life. As we step into dating and marriage we must be willing to forgive our partners. There will be arguments, there will be misunderstandings, there will be misgivings, but for the believer in a relationship we must be willing to forgive and not hold grudges. Being petty is not glorifying to God nor does it bear fruit. Petty grudges and stubbornness breeds discontentment and it kills love. We must check ourselves at the door when we come to conflict of any kind. There is a need for humility and dying to ourselves at every part of our lives. Grace and mercy have been shown to us time and time again thanks to the sacrifice of Christ and the blood that he shed! Who are we do deny someone grace when we have experienced grace?
Sometimes, in order to forgive, we must first approach God before engaging with someone who has hurt us. Entering with a level head also allows for us to be good stewards of the life we claim in Christ. Again, this comes back to being a source of life to those we come into contact with. While forgiving someone may not be easy, we may be Christ to those who need Him most!
Finally, we come to rest and the need for pause. Life is busy, Y’all! We need down time to recuperate and reset ourselves. Taking time to rest also enables us to get back into the will of God. In our American society, we can forget the need for rest as we work three jobs to make it through college. We can also fill every moment of our days with things that serve as distractions rather than recuperation. Take some time to rest and center yourself with the will of God! Life only gets busier and as we move toward relationships that only compounds as you’re working to schedule two people’s schedules in places of your own. So my friends, do not forget to rest!
Friends, I hope that you see where these things will appear in your relationships. I hope you see where they are beneficial in having a foundation in which to navigate through life. While this is just a small portion of the Christian life, I pray that they are beneficial to you! So as you go through the remainder of this week and into next week, go out in peace!
Grace and Peace,