For a couple weeks I've devoted the Sunday morning sermon to giving counsel to parents. The past few years, the Lord has blessed MVBC with a significant number of new moms and dads. It seemed appropriate to devote a couple hours to some basic, biblical counsel on how to think through parenting.
One of the things that struck me the most as I talked to folks after the messages, is how thankful so many singles were for the teaching on parenting. Some of them carefully listened, storing up counsel for the day they may be parents. Others are struggling to have kids, and are carefully rethinking whether they should adopt. Still others were amazed to see how the body of Christ needs every member to speak into the life of kids--and that includes singles.
Still, as I pull away from this series on parenting, there are few things that I'd like to say directly to the singles at MVBC. I pray that these bits of encouragement are helpful to you as you think about how the Lord might use your singleness for his glory.
First, learn to be content.
We all need to learn this valuable lesson. It's not easy. It seems whatever season of life we are in, we are all tempted for the next season or, perhaps, for the last season. Singleness may be a season God gives you for a few more months or a few more years. But however long you are here, trust that the Lord is in it. He knows exactly what it takes to make you holy, and in His sovereign goodness this is His perfect plan for your life. Remember how Paul said, "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content" (Phil 4:11). It's a hard lesson, but somehow it's when we don't have what we want the most, that we learn to want God the most.
Second, learn to be productive.
These years of singleness may be some of the most productive years of your life for gospel ministry. Paul said the "unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord" (1 Cor 7:32). In other words, there is an unsual zeal with which a single person can live for Christ. It's not that the single life is holier than the married life, it's just that the single person is not preocuppied with meeting the needs of a spouse. In a very real sense he is free to devote himself single-mindedly to the Lord and his work.
A married person constantly factors in the desires, strength, gifts, and weaknesses of his or her spouse. Those factors must play into ministry decisions. The single person is unencumbered by such issues. The single person may set his hand to the plough of whatever ministry opportunity presents itself. Take advantage of this flexibility! Don't let your time be consumed with day-trips, video games, long work-nights, or endless workouts. Make the best use of the time God has given you. Disciple younger singles, mentor children, visit the homebound, and spend extra time in prayer.
Third, consider going overseas.
Just becasue you are single, doesn't mean you should devote your life to international missions. But if you are single, shouldn't you consider it? If you are a young professional, there may be skills you have that are unusually helpful for a missions team serving in a fairly-closed country. Have you explored the possiblity of going overseas?
A couple of years ago I met a single man who was starting his first week on the mission field. He spent his adult life working for state governments. He was a gifted administrator. He always had a passion for missions, and he decided to pursue a career overseas. He joined the International Mission Board and now is the executive director of a company that serves as a platform for missionaries reaching out to muslims.
This may not be the Lord's will for your life, but as a single person you are unusually free to consider whether you should use your skills where the gospel needs to be proclaimed in unreached parts of the world.
Fourth, pray that God would bring you a godly spouse.
Perhaps this seems at odds with the counsel about contentment. But I don't think it is. I've not met many singles who believe that they are called to be single. I know that many think they are so called, but most of the singles I meet would actually like to be married, they have simply not found the person they want to marry or, if they have, that person doesn't want to marry them! Either way, this is a hard position to be in.
My encouragement is to pray boldly for a godly spouse. God may answer that request with a resounding, "No." That's His business. If you are a man, your business is to pray for a godly woman: a woman adorned "in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control," a woman adorned "with good works" (1 Tim 2:9-11). You should care much less about her looks than you do about her heart. If you are a woman, pray for a godly man who loves Christ, loves the Word, loves the church, and will work hard to provide for a family. This is a man with whom you can serve the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord may decide not to give you a spouse. Again, that's His business. But you should feel free to pray that He would.
Fifth, adopt a family.
The year before I was married I adopted a couple families! Time with these husbands and fathers changed my life. These men taught me how to pray, taught me how to study the Bible, taught me how to speak to a wife, and taught me how to love kids. Their example left a life-long impression on my mind. You may not have come from a Christian home. If that's you, you may especially need the example of an older brother or sister in Christ. Pursue a family like this!
In a city like Atlanta, this can be hard. We live far apart, schedules are full, life is busy. But don't give up trying. Identify an older brother or sister in Christ and ask what it might look like to fold into that family for a season. Maybe it just means a meal every once in a while, or joining the family for game night, or raking leaves on a Saturday. This kind of time will be a blessing to you, and a blessing to that family as well.
My single friend, there is so much more I could say. But I want to leave you with one last word of encouragement: If God would have you be single for the rest of your life, don't lose heart and don't lose hope. Our Savior remained single. He devoted himself fully to his heavenly Father, and he lived a full and complete life without ever taking a romantic stroll through the park, kissing a woman, or enjoying sexual intimacy. Was he tempted in this way? Of course He was, but He didn't need a woman to be whole and you don't need a spouse to be whole. All you need is Christ.