Non Traditional Families; Making the Most of Being

Steve Viars May 5, 2007 1 Corinthians 7:25-31

 

- This spring we’re offering a Community Asset Series entitled Building Strong Families and Relationships...

- the phrase “community assets” is taken from a secular book by Dr. Peter L. Bensen entitled What Kids Need to Succeed...

- a number of people in our town have been discussing this book because it provides a common language to use as we consider various ways to make our community a better place...

- we believe we have a stewardship of the kind of environment we create for the young people in our town to grow up in...

- now, ultimately they have to decide what they are going to believe...and how they are going to live...

- but we want to be sure that we are doing all we can to put our kids in the best possible position to choose well, and to choose wisely...

- now, as many of us have discussed these concepts, it is a short walk to the Word of God...

- because so many of these assets are very consistent with what God has told us in His Word we should be doing for our young people...

­ - there is a sense in which the greatest asset we could give to our young people, or anybody in our community, is a growing relationship with God and His Word...

- so the purpose of this series is to explore different ways that is true...with the goal of encouraging our families to seek to provide these assets for their children, and to encourage our church to consider ways we could provide these assets to children and families in our community...

- we started with Bill Stanczykiewicz whose topic was “They’re Our Future; Seeing Our Children as a Community Asset”

- then we studied James 3 and addressed the question “Can We Talk; Learning to Communicate and Solve Problems”.

- last week Paul Tripp was a great blessing to us when he spoke on the topic “Help—There’s a Teenager in my House”.

- this morning we would like to go in a different direction by discussing “Non-Traditional Families; Making the Most of Being Single.”

- here’s a few thoughts to help us understand why this is such an important subject for us to consider...

Opening Salvos

1. A significant percentage of our American population is single.

- The U.S. Census reports that the:

- Total Population (18 and over):  219,699,000

- what percentage of our adult population do you think is single?

- Total Single Population (18 and over):  96,916,000 or 44.1%

- does that statistic surprise you?...it did me...and it surprised everyone I mentioned it to this week...incidentally, here’s how that breaks down...

- The Single Population (18 and over) Includes:

- Total Widowed Population:  13,907,000 or 6.3%

- Total Divorced Population:  22,758,000 or 10.4%

- Total Separated Population:  4,911,000 or 2.2%

- Total Population Never Married:  55,340,000 or 25.2%

- so the point is obvious---a significant percentage of our American population is single...

2. Each single person has a unique story.

- to help me prepare for this message this morning, I asked several ABF’s to take a few minutes and complete a brief survey...

1) What are some of the challenges you face as a Christian single?

2) What does our church do that is helpful to you as a single and how could we do better in the days ahead?

3) What questions do you have as a single person that you would like to hear addressed from Scripture?

4) Since Pastor Viars is addressing this topic on May 6th, what ideas, statements, or concepts would you want him to include to help our church family get to a better place in our ability to serve single persons well?

- I really appreciate all the responses---well over 100 persons took the time to complete them...

- I also realize that many single persons in our church attend ABF’s that have couples and singles and I didn’t take the time to broaden the survey that far...

- but I was fascinated as I read these...

- for a variety of reasons, including this one...while yes, there are similarities or common threads...

- what really stood out to me was how differently various single persons answered these questions...

- and actually, in a number of cases the answers were the polar opposite of one another...

- and that doesn’t mean that one person was right and one person was wrong...it simply means that we would be very misguided and potentially offensive if we treated this subject in a one size fits all fashion...

- sometimes sociological categories are helpful but sometimes they lead to stereotypes that really take us away from authentic ministry...

- now if you say, well that really puts us in a bind...no, it really helps us think more accurately and strategically and I think lovingly...when we remember that each person has a unique situation and a unique story...

- so what do we do with that?...

3. That is why relationships are so important in the body of Christ.

- I realize that if you are new to studying the Scripture, you might say, that is a strange metaphor, “the body of Christ”...

- that is actually one of the pictures the Bible uses to describe the church...

- it’s like a body...

- in fact I Corinthians 12 develops that in an almost humorous way where different people in the church are likened to different parts of the body...an eye or an ear or a nose...you can select which one you’d like to be...

- 1 Corinthians 12:17 - If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

- one of the take-aways from this message will be that all of us should work at getting to know people who are different than us...

- couples should make a goal of building a relationship with a person who is single and vise versa...

- and if the relationships are in place, then knowing how to best serve that particular individual will be a natural outgrowth of a meaningful relationship---otherwise all the programming and teaching in the world will be clumsy and maybe even offensive instead of helpful...

4. That is why the sufficiency of Scripture is such an important truth.

- Peter said that God has given us in His word...

- 2 Peter 1:3 - seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

- another observation from these surveys is that the situations can become fairly tangled and the questions become very complex...

- but thank God for His sufficient word which can untangle every situation and answer every question...nobody is left out...

5. This is why the ministry of the Holy Spirit is so important.

- 1 Corinthians 6:19 - ...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God...

- as I’ve thought about these questions and comments, I’ve prayed, Lord please help me to be sensitive to how this could be taken by someone in a situation I haven’t even thought of...

- I think there is such a thing as pulpit sensitivity...but at some point it is going to take somebody a whole smarter than me to think through all the possible issues and applications...

- and thank the Lord that Person happens to be in attendance today...the Holy Spirit of God...

- one other introductory idea and then we’ll jump into our text...

6. This is a tremendous opportunity to be a blessing to our community.

- with the influence of Purdue University, I would suspect that the percentage of people 18 years of age or older in our community is actually much higher than 44%...

- and I am sure that many children in our community are growing up in single parent homes...

- if that is the case, and we can get that, and care about that...and think about how we can most compassionately minister to, and include, and reach out to each single person in our town...what a tremendous asset that would be...

- I hope for a variety of reasons that fires you up for the topic before us today...

- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to I Corinthians chapter 7?...[page 133 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- while you’re turning there, let me just mention a few ideas about the context...

- the book of I Corinthians is a great book of the Bible...

- it was written to a very immature church, so it contains a tremendous amount of truth about how to go about living the Christian life...

- it also actually answers questions that the church had posed in a previous letter to the apostle Paul so it provides insight into the kinds of questions the people in the early church had...

- and interestingly enough...several of them had to do with the subject of the single life...

- Paul is going to begin by saying...on this topic I don’t have a command from the Lord but I will render my opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy...

- it’s not like we don’t have to listen to that with the same level of authority...it is that Paul understand that as an apostle, God was leading Him to write words that would have equal weight to the recorded words of Christ...

- he also begins by saying...regarding “virgins”...that is his way of referring to people who are not married, and obviously in this case, have never been married...

- we’re going to find some principles here that are true of single persons who even in some cases have been married before...

- read I Corinthians 7:25-31...

- let me just stop there...we’ll read a little further in a moment...

- you might say – what is Paul talking about regarding the “present distress” or the “time being shortened...”

- there’s different views of that...some believe Paul was talking about the persecution of Christians that was heating up in the Roman Empire...

- others believe it was some localized persecution of Christians that is unspecified here...

- others think Paul is referring to the return of Christ, which believers are always to view as imminent though nobody knows the day or time...

- we’ll say more about this at the end of our time today...but the bottom line is that the principles here are important because of the brevity of life, and the challenges of having a family in an anti-God culture...where we’re talking about Rome then or America today...

- read I Corinthians 7:32-35...

- now, from these verses let’s look for three principles to help us understand God’s perspective on the single life.

I. Being Single Can Be A Tremendous Blessing.

- that is clearly one of the central arguments of this passage...

- now, what is interesting in this culture is, many people act as if Paul is absolutely wrong in his analysis...and the way they view the concept of being single is dramatically different than God’s view...

- others would agree with Paul...but for an entirely different reason...

- but let’s just start with the main point...this principle is...

A. Against those who view it as a second class condition.

- a number of people who responded on their surveys said they wished the people in their life would not take the position that there is something wrong with being single...

- one person said “most of us only feel bad about being single when certain topics make us feel like something is wrong with us.”

- one person spoke about this from the perspective of being recently divorced...”When a person becomes single it can almost feel like you are a leper.”

- isn’t that a powerful statement?...

- and here’s one of the take-aways---when we speak or act in a way that gives the impression that we think being single is second class in any way, shape or form...we are setting ourselves up against the Word of God...

- and I would suggest that we ought to be very careful about what we ask about, and what we tease about...

- people have to hear all sorts of crazy, insensitive questions out in the world, but there ought to be a sense of wisdom and sensitivity when it comes to household of God...

- people ought to be able to become part of the family without having to endure dumb questions by nosy people...

- its like giving a young couple a hard time about not having children...that couple may be struggling with infertility...the jokes are not funny...and the questions aren’t your business...

- the same is true when it comes to a person’s marital status...

- God says that being single can be a great thing...now, what is...

B. The reason?

- God doesn’t just make statements without backing them up...

- verse 32 says [read 342-24]...

- now, I realize that you may have a lot of ways in which that is not true...I got an earful of those reasons in the survey...

- but let’s let God speak first...

- marriage brings a new set of challenges...

- if you don’t believe that, ask my wife!...it’s not like being married solves all problems...

- marriage is delightful, it is a gift of God, it is a tremendous blessing...

- but it has attendant challenges....

- and this passage is clear...sometimes persons who are single have additional energy and resources to devote to serving the Lord...

- and we have seen that at our church over the years...some of the most effective servants at all levels of church life here have been people who are single...

- and this church has been tremendously blessed by that over the years...

- now, that is how the reasoning behind God’s view of the single life is different than many in our culture who actually would agree with the point...it would just be for a different reason...

- being single is great because there are no commitments...

- it’s great because I’m not tied down...

- I have more time for me, and my interests...

- that’s not at all what we’re talking about here...

- now, does that mean that single people sit around all day eating bon bons and lounging by the pool?...

- no...and I was reminded of some things of these surveys...

- single people who maintain a home pointed out...chores that are often divided between husband and wife fall entirely on the single person...paying the bills, cooking, cleaning, laundry, caring for the lawn, home maintenance...

- then of course there are single parents who are carrying tremendous responsibilities...

- but the point is still the point...anyone who automatically concludes that the single life is a second class condition has a significant disagreement with Scripture...

- now you might say...PV, I’ve got you on this one...you’ve backed yourself into a corner because...

C. But what about God’s statement to Adam?

- Genesis 2:18 – It is not good for the man to be alone...

- how much clearer could it be than that?...

- great question...and here’s the answer...It was not good for Adam to be alone in that particular situation...

- but had it been in Adam’s best spiritual interest at that particular time for him to be single, God would not have made Eve...period...

- and the truth of the matter is...if a person is single today...God can use that for that person’s spiritual good...

- so any of us who have been operating on the “being single is bad, second class, whatever” need to discard that wrong view in the waste can on the way out...

- now you might say, but PV, you haven’t even begun to hit all of the challenges that come with people who have never been married, people who are divorced, people who are widows...

- let’s think about that through the lens of another key point in this text...

II. Use Your Marital Status as an Opportunity to Grow in Your Relationship to the Lord.

- a key phrase here occurs at the end of verse 35...

- v. 35 – “...To promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

- one of the first steps in learning to become effective in your walk for the Lord is to come to the understanding that God’s chief goal is not to make your life easy...

- you’ve seen these commercials where if you shop at a particular office supply place, you have an easy button...and any time you have a need, you just hit the easy button...

- I hope we all understand...you’re not issued one of those when you become a follower of Jesus Christ...just hit the button and all your troubles go away...

- no, you get a “holy” button...you get a fruitfulness button...you get a “laying up treasures in heaven” button...

- and the truth is...Paul understood that...

A. The challenges of singleness can be a marvelous catalyst to drawing nearer to the Lord.

- and operating on assumption that drawing closer to Lord and being more conformed to His son’s image is very attractive to us...the truth is being single can really create an environment for walking with the Lord to be enhanced...

- let’s think about some specific ways...

1. As you develop thanksgiving.

-1 Thessalonians 5:18 - in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

- would that include not being in the marital status you might prefer?...of course...

- and by the way, for those of us who are married here today, do you realize that it is statistically likely that you will die single?...

- and I’m not trying to be morose...I’m simply pointing out the importance of learning the discipline of thanksgiving...

- because as long as we have the cross...as long as we have the empty tomb...as long as we have the promise of heaven...we have a lot for which to be thankful...

2. As you develop contentment.

- 1 Timothy 6:6 - But godliness with contentment is great gain.

- you may have noticed this cartoon in the paper the other day...

- [cartoon] – once upon a time, there was a person who waited for everything to be perfect.  The end.

- and if any of cannot find our satisfaction and joy in Christ...if we cannot develop contentment with what we have already been given...it will be the end before we ever find what we believe will make us happy...

- Philippians 4:11-13 - Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

3. As you develop patience.

- one thing I’ve certainly learned in counseling over the years is that there is at least one thing worse than being single if you really would prefer to be married...and that is, being married to the wrong person...

- and that’s not to say that God can’t help any two married people work out whatever problems exist between them...but a person who runs into the first relationship out there just to avoid being single will probably come to regret that decision...

- and I realize you might say...but PV...I am not naturally patient...

- that’s where the gospel fits into to all of this...God stands ready to help you grow in the very fruitfulness you need to live for Him well...

- Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience...

4. As you develop holiness.

- a number of people said on their surveys that they would like our church to help them as they battle with sexual temptation...

- that is very encouraging to a pastor to hear people express that kind of authenticity and concern...

- that is why Paul said...1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 - For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,

- and I think the response to any single person who would request prayer, or accountability, or help in this area is...

a. thank you for your honesty

b. this is not just a single person’s challenge, it is every persons challenge

c. until you can develop sexual purity as a single person; don’t expect sexual purity as a married person...

- one of the dumbest decisions a single young lady can make is saying...it is OK for my boyfriend and me to be sexually active now because the pressure of those temptations will go away after we’re married...

- if a person will sin sexually with you now, they’ll sin sexually with someone else later...

- now, there is another very important piece of this...

B. The challenges of singleness can be a marvelous opportunity to allow others to show love to you.

- you might say...PV, there are a lot of difficulties that come with this phase of life...

- please think of it like this...

- as you work on “letter A”, He stands ready to minister to you, often through “letter B”...

- here’s what we mean...please remember the context of this letter...

- it was written to a church family...

- it was written to a body of believers...that metaphor is actually used a few chapters later...

- and it is the privilege, and the responsibility of every person in our church to seek to learn about and meet any special needs that might exist in the lives of the singles in our church family, and to the degree that we can, in our community...

- I want to encourage you visit the ministry fair today...

- many of the ministries we are currently doing, or are planning to do, involve ministry to singles...

1) One item that was mentioned several times was how single young ladies appreciated times when we offer to change the oil in their car or do other routine maintenance...

2) Someone spoke about how nice it would be to have someone to call for advice about home repairs or car repairs...she said...it’s hard to know who to trust...

- and a lot of this doesn’t require a big program...it requires relationships...

3) If you are married with children, when you’re going on an outing...invite that single parent and his/her children...

4) I also want to thank you for your continued faithfulness for our community center...

- some of you have completed your financial commitment...some are still in the process...we’re sure everybody understands the importance of finishing out their commitments...

- but please think about some of the ways we are going to be able to be a blessing to single parents as a result of those resources....

- [develop – sports leagues, pre-school, infant care, after care, first Friday...]

- [could put the concepts together – some of our single “never been marrieds” will be able to especially help with the needs of single parents...]

III. Remember the Brevity of Life Compared to the Wonder of Eternity.

- we noticed throughout the passage a sense of urgency...

- and as I mentioned, the verses don’t absolutely identify what Paul had in mind so there is room for different opinions on that one...but we can draw at least 2 implications...

A. For those in challenging situations now, remember that the time is short compared to eternity.

[remember some folks, i.e. somebody recently divorced with small children...]

- 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 - Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,  while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

B. For those contemplating ministry opportunities, remember that the time we have to serve is limited.

John 9:4 - We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video