As most of you know we have spent the last 6-7 weeks talking about relationships with a great emphasis being on the marriage relationship. It’s always interesting to hear feedback from people in the Church when it comes to having sermon series that are pointed towards a certain group of people, seemingly ignoring another group.
You might find this hard to believe, but some people simply don’t go to Church when they figure the “sermon” doesn’t “apply” to them. Other people don’t go to Church because the sermon does apply to them…one of those deals where you feel like you have a big bullseye on your chest and the preacher is shooting arrows in your direction.
Then there are the “grumblers.” We all know the grumblers. They show up for everything and just complain about everything. I used to be one of those grumblers whenever there was a sermon series on marriage. I was single for 34 years and hated going to Church when they did sermon series on marriage or parenting or some related topic that left me sitting in the pew feeling left out. I admit. I grumbled.
I was short sighted though. I was grumbling because I was selfish. I wanted the sermon to apply to me, to my life, and where I was, what I was doing, what I was living through. It didn’t occur to me at the time that perhaps I needed that message so that I could be better prepared to walk with someone who is in that situation in life.
So that is where I want to start today. I want you to be aware that this sermon may not address your specific place in life, but it does address someone in your life…a friend, a family member, a person you haven’t met yet that God is going to lead in your direction. If you are not single, divorced, or spiritually single, then you know someone who is. They may need your help and your presence, so don’t turn your ears off.
Today we have three short sermons to help bring some closure to the sermon series on marriage. For those of you that may not be married or may not be married to a believer or may not be married any longer, you need to know we are thinking about you, we are praying for you. We want God’s best for you in your life. There are no second class citizens in God’s Church.
No matter what your situation in life: single, a widow, divorced, married or in-between; please hear these words: You are not your marital status. You are not your marital status. Do not let your marital status define you. You are a child of God. You do not need a spouse, you do not need a spouse to define you, to complete you, to give you purpose and meaning and influence in life. You are not your marital status. You are a child of God.
Marriage can be great, but it’s not the complete actualization of adult life. If you are not married and you want to be married, there is a good chance that you think I am full of bunk. I was single for 34 years, so I know what it’s like to think “if I can just get married then my life will be complete. If I just get married, there will be no more lonely days. If I get married, then ‘all these’ other issues will go away. I will be able to have sex any time I want to; we can take long walks in the park; we will have the happiest stress free family vacations; people will stop asking me when I going to get married. I will finally be normal.”
That is sort of a humorous way to look at the truth of an emotional topic. It at least makes me feel better.
Marriage does not solve your insecurities as a single person: EVER! Marriage will NEVER solve your insecurities…because even though you think they are attached to being single, the fact is they are attached to you and they go through life with you regardless of what marital status you claim.
If you were married, and now have sadly been divorced, you know exactly what I am talking about here. Marriage doesn’t make you a better person; it just gives you an opportunity to do so. If your marriage does not become a partnership of service to one another, then it can at times be difficult, and at other times impossible. If you do not regularly seek to serve the needs of your spouse, marriage can be very difficult to navigate and in cases impossible to maintain, thus requiring a divorce.
Let me say this to you. I hate divorce. God hates divorce. If you have been divorced, you hate divorce. There was nothing pleasant about it. Getting to the point of divorce is painful enough; the actual divorce just further opens and aggravates a wound that takes months and years to fully heal. Divorce is not an easy way out. It can seem that way at times, but it’s not an easy way to get rid of trouble. Divorce simply swaps one set of problems for another set of problems.
Please hear this though: neither set of problems is greater than God. Whatever the conditions of your marriage, God can change you. He will either give you a different way of looking at it, or he will change it all together. God is not impotent just because of a hard heart. He can change our hard hearts. And, no matter what the apparent issue related to divorce, the Bible says divorce is the result of a hard heart. The Bible says divorce is sin. Regardless of who did what to whom, divorce is still sin and that God allows divorce in some situations.
The bad news is God hates divorce, regardless of the fault. And, no matter who did what, both husband and wife have participated in the sin of divorce. It might be 50-50, 70-30, or 90-10, both husband and wife contribute to the actions that lead to divorce and the divorce itself.
Most everyone agrees that divorce is not God’s answer to marital conflict. It is among the most devastating experiences in life, and it usually causes more problems than it solves; but it is what it is. No one ever plans for divorce when they get married.
The good news is that God hates divorce but he doesn’t hate the person getting a divorce. God does not condemn a person for getting a divorce. Divorce is not an unpardonable sin. Having a bad marriage and going through divorce does not relegate you to a subservient position in life and it certainly does not relegate you to a subservient position in the kingdom of God or His Church.
No matter what your situation in life, you are not your marital status. You are not your marital status. Do not let your marital status define you. You are a child of God. Divorce is not the unforgiveable sin. A failed marriage does not make you a failure. God is not mad at you. Your divorce does not define you. God defines you. You are a child of God.
Finally, our third sermon this morning is for those who are spiritually single. You too have some special challenges in your marriage. You too have a greater responsibility. When your spouse fails to be a spiritual team player, picture yourself yoked with God— who lends you His power and hope.
I want to give you 7 short tidbits of information that I hope will be helpful o you.
1. Remember; although you may be required to answer questions about God single-handedly, you’re not alone When children ask, “Where is God when I hurt?” or “Why doesn’t God make Daddy believe in Him?” answers may not always seem that obvious. However, God promises in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” Connect with God immediately through prayer and listen to His gentle promptings in your heart and from his Word.
2. Respond honestly, briefly, and positively to questions about Mommy or Daddy. Even worse than fielding questions about God is answering questions such as, “Why doesn’t mommy go to church?” or “Why was mommy so mean tonight?” Since you can’t honestly answer for her, you might suggest: “Why don’t you pray about asking mom that question.”
When an immediate reply is necessary, then pray for guidance and then keep your response honest, brief, and respectful. For example, if your child asks you a question about a questionable CD your spouse purchased, you can express concern about the issue, while remaining nonjudgmental toward your spouse. This leads to the next point.
3. Speak the truth in love and teach your children to do the same when it comes to an unbelieving parent. Jesus spoke honestly with compassion. John 1:14 describes him as “full of grace and truth.” A wise pastor once said, “Jesus was not so gracious he was not truthful, nor so truthful he was not gracious.” Encourage your children to think, what would Jesus say and how would he say it?
4. Provide a spiritual heritage beyond your home. Make sure your child has a spiritual role model who is the same sex as the unbelieving spouse. Within our local church or community try to find someone or some family who can perform a spiritual adoption. It might be a grandparent, a neighbor, or a church member. You need to find someone who tries to live an authentic Christian live in front of your child, continually reinforcing the fact that Christianity is more than just “Mom’s religion” or “Dad’s religion.”
Ask God to provide friends who will be encouraging and pray regularly for your children (and you). If these special people attend our church, then there is the added incentive your child needs to get to church on Sunday morning!
5. Attend church regularly. This one will always need reinforcement. As Paul reminds us, “do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25). You and your children need teaching from God’s Word and fellowship, but going to church alone is tough. Find someone to go with…an accountability partner maybe.
There may be times when your spouse resents being left behind when you go to church each week? Because Jesus taught us to prioritize people over programs, occasionally you might enjoy a “family Sunday” away from church. However, use that time for family activity, not sleeping in.
6. Learn to recharge your spiritual batteries While you may not experience the physical exhaustion of single parenting, your spiritual battles still leave you emotionally wrung out. Remember the encouraging words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” When your spouse fails to be a spiritual team player, picture yourself yoked with God—who lends you His power and hope.
7. Get involved in regular Christian service with your kids Are your kids accomplishing God’s work? Consider Philippians 2:12-13, which tells us to work out our salvation. This means we need to flesh out, day by day, a relationship with God that serves others. Do some Christian service with your kids. Put your faith into action and that will give you joy, purpose, and unity as a family—especially if you can get your spouse to join you.
Perhaps right now you’re thinking, Whew! These seven strategies sound solid, but can I apply them all? Take a deep breath and ask God to show you one or two things he wants you to focus on at this moment. Maybe you start out by finding an accountability partner who can encourage you when life seems impossible.