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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why a Married Guy is Talking about Living Single in a Married World

I'm talking about this because I love people who are single, plain and simple. This Sunday at Bethany Place I am preaching a message titled, Living Single in a Married World. I am approaching carefully. I’ve never really been single in the way we understand that word. Kat and I were married before we left college, having met and begun dating just a few weeks after arriving at college in 1980. Before that, I admit with some embarrassment I simply refused to be alone. Throughout high school I went from one relationship to another; some lasted many months, some just a few weeks, but I rarely passed a weekend without persuading a girl to go out with me (the girls didn’t have much to choose from, it was a small town!). I didn’t grossly misbehave in those relationships but I say with regret that I never gave God much of an opportunity to meet the craving in my soul that kept driving me toward those relationships, though I was a rather serious follower of Christ already at that time.

And so in approaching the challenge of speaking on this topic, I'm remind of the commercials that quip something like, “I’m not a surgeon, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” Except that I’ve prepared more diligently than just getting a good night’s sleep. I’m not single, but I have listened to many single adults over the years talk about the experience. I’ve read much in the past weeks to prepare to discuss this topic. Plus we are going to explore a text of scripture written by a rather famous single person, the Apostle Paul. The text does not explicitly address the experience of being unmarried, but there are tremendous applications in the text for single persons of all varieties: never married, divorced, or widowed.

I also want to make you aware of an excellent resource. The link points to a talk given before a group of singles by Tim and Kathy Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan. There are some things that need to be shared on this topic, but would make most everyone in any church uncomfortable, especially parents with young children in the service. So rather than wandering into those topics without warning for those who will attend BP on Sunday, I want to pass along the link to this resource that I think will be of tremendous help.

You can see the scripture from which I will preach, along with the outline, questions and prayer suggestions below.

Living Single in a Married World

1.   Develop a passion outside yourself

Philippians 1:12–18a (ESV)
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

2.   Experience that Jesus + nothing = everything

Philippians 1:18b–26 (ESV)
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

3.   Pursue this passion in unity with a strong group believers

Philippians 1:27–30 (ESV)
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Questions for discussion or reflection
·      What other examples from scripture do you know of where God took something that was difficult and used it for good? Can you think of examples in your own life?
·      Perhaps not many would claim that they could always say with Paul, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” But if that’s not so, that means that some other person or thing goes in the blank where Christ’s name goes: “For me to live is _________.” If not Christ, what honestly goes in the blank for you? Can that person or thing bear the weight of being your ultimate reason for living?
·      Why could it be important to be richly connected to strong group of believers?
·      Do you find that you are tempted to avoid getting deeply engaged with a church? Why or why not? If you could speak to married believers in the church what would you say?

Suggestions for praying through this text
Pray for God to help you to see how he is redeeming difficult circumstances in your life for good.
Ask God to give you a desire to honor him with your body regardless of the circumstances of your life.
Ask God to open your eyes to those whom he has called you to pour your life into.
Ask God to grant to you a band of brothers and sisters with whom to pursue his purposes for you in the world. 

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