Living As A Single Believer
By Kim Butts
Let’s begin by examining what God’s Word has to say, since it should always be our primary source of information. Marriage has always been God’s plan for His children, for the purposes of raising godly offspring in a loving and spiritual home: "Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are His. And why one? Because He was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth" (Malachi 2:15). However, as God’s plan unfolds, we see that in heaven, our true home, there will be no marriage, for in heaven, there is no purpose for it. Jesus said, "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven" (Matthew 22:30).
Nowhere in Scripture is a command that everyone must marry. In First Corinthians, Paul has much to say about the effectiveness of a single life. He could speak from experience, because he had made a decision not to marry, but to serve Christ wholeheartedly as a single man. "Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry" (1 Corinthians 7:1). "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. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion" (1 Corinthians 7:7-9).
Paul was very realistic about the fact that for some, the single life is not a productive one, because they can become too distracted with their need to have a spouse, or because they can not control their passions. Therefore, he encouraged these people to marry. Paul wished to spare believers from trouble. He has much to say to Christians about marriage and remaining single. Take time to carefully read First Corinthians 7:25-39.
Paul’s feelings are quite clear. Singleness and the married state are both acceptable to the Lord. However, it is not difficult to see from Scripture that he felt that if one could control his or her passions, and focus wholeheartedly upon the affairs of the Lord, remaining single is the preferred state. Each man or woman must determine the desire of his or her heart. It is clear that the Lord wants us to raise up generations of those who love Him, and that must be done in the context of marriage. It is also clear that there are those who are gifted in such a way that they can forsake and control their desires in order to give their undivided attention and passion to the Lord (Matthew 19:12). God uses each of us in whatever state we find ourselves during the course of our lives.
Choosing to Be Single
My husband and I have two very dear male friends who have chosen to devote their lives wholeheartedly to the work of the Lord. Periodically they come to our home for dinner, and we have never seen anything but the radiant joy of the Lord in them. They have given their lives to serve others in the name of Christ. On any given evening after work, these two godly men can be found working at their church in whatever way is needed, or helping those in need. They are both gifted in many areas from electrical wiring and phone systems to construction to computer work. They have been called upon to do a myriad of jobs for widows, the elderly, single parents, and others who have a need. Their joy and fulfillment is in giving of their time and talents, as unto the Lord. With pride, they have called themselves the "Bachelors to the Rapture," and they have served the Lord sacrificially. They will be the first to tell you how they have been blessed as they have been a blessing to others. "…An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs – how he can please the Lord…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" (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).
Waiting for the Lord’s Timing
Our culture is often uncomfortable with single people. Have you ever noticed how quick people are to try to match up the singles with one another rather than encouraging them in their singleness, and letting the Lord determine their marital status? My wonderful husband experienced this for several years as a single pastor. He had "blind dates" set up by various members of his congregation; however, the Lord had never really given him a passion to be married at that point. It wasn’t until he was almost forty years old that the Lord brought our lives together, nearly two thousand miles from his home. Yes, two individuals introduced us to one another; however, we believe strongly that it was the Lord who "arranged" our meeting and marriage that followed only four months later. As Dave was flying to a Christian convention in Southern California, he felt the urge to pray, "Lord, if You have someone for me, let me meet her at this convention." The Lord, who hears and answers prayer, had already set out to give him the desire of his heart even before he asked. But it was in God’s timing and plan that our meeting and our marriage took place.
The Lord prepared me to meet Dave through the encouragement of a godly woman in my church, who instructed me to make a comprehensive list of all the attributes, qualities, etc. that I desired in a Christian husband. She also told me to do this in prayer, and to continue to pray diligently for this desire of my heart. I took this as a counsel the Lord had sent to me, and did as she instructed. Dave and I firmly believe that His way is perfect, and that He knew what we didn’t – that His plan for us was to begin a ministry of prayer together, which over the years has grown beyond anything we could have thought or imagined. Because Dave was faithful to wait for the Lord’s hand and timing in his life rather than succumbing to the pressure of others who were uncomfortable with his singleness, and because he was faithful to pray when the Father’s timing was revealed to him, Harvest Prayer Ministries was allowed to come into existence. How awesome is the Lord our God, and how gracious!
While You Are Waiting
If your desire is to marry, here are some practical things to do while you are waiting for the Lord’s perfect timing:
• Determine to live passionately for the Lord – Do not allow yourself or others to make you feel incomplete because you are not yet married. Seek to know Christ in all His fullness, and to be obedient to Him (1 Peter 1:13-16).
• Do not be tempted to begin a relationship with an unbeliever – If you are seeking a spouse, do not develop relationships with unbelievers thinking you will be the instrument of change to bring them to a saving relationship with Jesus. "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). Your life’s partner should be a Christian, or you will have much heartache, and you will definitely be outside of the Lord’s will for your life. If you are engaged in a relationship with an unbeliever, you will not be free to exercise full obedience to the Lord. Please flee from such temptation, or seek wise counsel if you are already in such a relationship. Do not be deceived by the enemy. The Lord will never direct you into an unequally yoked situation.
• Resist sexual temptation – The enemy can do great damage to believers and to their witness if they do not engage in chaste, pure relationships with the opposite sex (1 Corinthians 10:13, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, James 4:7).
• Have faith that He will give you the desire of your heart – Do not be in too big of a hurry to marry if the Lord has not yet laid it clearly upon your heart. Perhaps He has much to accomplish in and through you as He prepares just the right person and circumstance for you (Psalm 37:4). If you have lost a spouse, this is also true for you, should you wish to remarry (Isaiah 54:5). Perhaps the Lord will lead you to make a list of qualities you desire in a Christian spouse so that you can pray specifically.
If You Have Chosen to Remain Single
• Learn to express this to others effectively – Share Matthew 19:12c, which describes those who have renounced marriage to give themselves more fully to the work of the Lord. Let them know you would appreciate their acceptance of your choice to remain single.
• Be completely concerned about the Lord’s affairs – so that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32,35). Serve Him wholeheartedly, being encouraged that you are doing so in a state of completeness.
• Resist sexual temptation – see above.
• Be aware that the Lord might change your heart at some point – If in the Lord’s timing, He begins to kindle a desire for marriage, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit rather than risking disobedience.
Accountability and Prayer
Regardless of your decision to remain single, or your desire to marry, find other believers who will partner with you in two ways: accountability and prayer. Ask at least one other person to hold you accountable. Give this person permission to ask you how you are doing in your walk with the Lord and to continually challenge you to go deeper with God. Gather a trusted group of intercessors to pray for you. Give them specific ways that they can pray about your desire to remain single, or your desire to find a spouse. Ask them to pray that you will keep Christ as your first and primary relationship, and that you will be protected when you are tempted. If you have accountability and prayer partners in place, you will know that you have done everything you can to stand firm and to be faithful. Always remember that God has a perfect plan and purpose for your life – whether your singleness is for a season, or for a lifetime.