1 Corinthians 7 (Part 3)

Yes, Lord! My life is in YOUR hands.

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THE GIFT OF SINGLENESS

“The gift of singleness,” a phrase often used to describe a person who has spent many years unmarried.  I’ve heard this terminology used at times as though this “gift” were some sort of repellant for natural desires and a booster shot for celibacy.  A few years ago, this idea was put aside in my thinking as I viewed a video of Elisabeth Elliott.

Elisabeth spoke of her life with the Lord, mentioning that, for many years, she recognized that she had been given the “gift of singleness” by the Lord.  When she met Jim Elliott, he too had been enjoying the same gift for quite some time.  During the course of their growing friendship, the Lord gave them both, what Elisabeth described as the “gift of marriage”–to one another.

Not long after the couple went to serve as missionaries to Indians in South America, Jim was killed by those he served.  Through her grieving, Elisabeth recognized and acknowledged that the Lord had given her the “gift of singleness” again.  She received that gift and continued to serve her Lord faithfully.

After some time, the Lord gave Elisabeth the “gift of marriage” again.  During her marriage to this man, he became ill and died.  Once again Elisabeth received the “gift of singleness” from her Lord.  More time passed and she was again handed the “gift of marriage” by the Lord.  The man she was married to at the time was introduced on the video.  Both he and Elisabeth continue to serve the Lord.

Hearing Elisabeth tell her story has shed a different light on the phrase “gift of singleness.” It is a gift–something given by one party to another; something that can be received or rejected by the party to whom it is given. If the gift is rejected and no other is offered, the intended recipient is left to frantically search for what s/he would rather have. In receiving the gift, one’s attitude is a key to the effect of the gift.  To receive the gift with discontent leaves one to mope and whine, because of not getting that for which one had hoped.  Receiving the gift with a thankful heart, however, allows it to be opened and enjoyed, used and shared.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17)  Our Father is the giver of all good things, supplying all our needs “according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)  One’s marital status is not an indicator of character or a measure of worth.  Single or married, either state is a gift from our Father, given to us for our enjoyment and for our use in glorifying Him.

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Father, how wondrous it is to know that YOU are the Giver of all good things, that You have our best in mind with each thing You bless us with. Thank You for this gift You’ve given me.  Supply Your grace to receive it and use it for Your glory and to lead others into an intimate relationship with You, as You continue to make me just like Jesus.  Ame

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1 Corinthians 7 (Part 2)

Yes, Lord! My life is in YOUR hands.

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An excerpt from The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliott:

With a heart at leisure…from itself, Isaiah could answer, “Here I am. Send me.”

I was pondering this matter when the Lord brought straight into my kitchen table yesterday a living example of such a heart. A bright young woman and I were eating lamb sandwiches. I asked her if she is lonely.

“Lonely? Why should I be?”

“You’re single. Most of the single people I know talk about being lonely.”

With a look of surprise and then a laugh she said, “Oh no. You see, I have a sense of expectancy every day. What does the Lord want to do with me today? I have no agenda of my own.”

No agenda of my own. There’s the key to Linda’s freedom. I continued to question her. Yes, she said, she knows what loneliness feels like–it’s isolation, when you think you can’t reach anybody, nobody reaches you, you’re cut off. You have your own agenda.

“What do you mean by an agenda?” I asked.

“Thinking there’s only one solution and God has to give you that or nothing. You have a closed mind. A closed mind is a closed heart and a closed door.”

Now I recognized the reason for the smile which seems always to light Linda’s face. I think it must come from her wholehearted acceptance of God’s “agenda.”

“I love solitude,” she said. “As I drove up here this morning [it was a dazzling winter morning of sunshine and blue sky and blue shadows on the snow] I didn’t have the radio on. I wasn’t listening to tapes. I was just quiet. I love times like that.”

The heart which has no agenda but God’s is the heart at leisure from itself.  Its emptiness is filled with the Love of God.  Its solitude can be turned into prayer.

Father, as I step aside and hand You the pen, You write out the agenda for my life. You be the one to determine where, when, how we go throughout each day.  Thank You for Your companionship along each path and throughout each activity.  Take my life and make it a vessel of blessing as We go.  Amen.

1 Corinthians 7 (Part 1)

Yes, Lord! My life is in YOUR hands.

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Excerpts from 1 Cor. 7 in The Message:

“Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me–a simpler life in many ways!  But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is.  God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.

“I do, though, tell the unmarried and widows that singleness might well be the best thing for them, as it has been for me.  But if they can’t manage their desires and emotions, they should by all means go ahead and get married.  The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single.

“…don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else.  Where you are right now is God’s place for you.  Live and obey and love and believe right there.  God, not your marital status, defines your life….

The really important thing is obeying God’s call, following His commands….Because of the current pressures on us from all sides, I think it would probably be best to stay just as you are.  Are you married?  Stay married.  Are you unmarried?  Don’t get married.  But there’s certainly no sin in getting married….All I am saying is that when you marry, you take on additional stress in an already stressful time, and I want to spare you if possible.

“I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence.  There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily.  Keep it simple–in marriage, grief, joy, whatever.  Even in ordinary things–your daily routines of shopping, and so on.  Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you.  This world as you see it is on its way out.

“I want you to live as free of complications as possible.  When you’re unmarried, you’re free to concentrate on simply pleasing the Master.  Marriage involves you in all the nuts and bolts of domestic life and in wanting to please your spouse, leading to so many more demands on your attention.  The time and energy that married people spend on caring for and nurturing each other, the unmarried can spend in becoming whole and holy instruments of God….All I want is for you to be able to develop a way of life in which you can spend plenty of time together with the Master without a lot of distractions.…Marriage is spiritually and morally right and not inferior to singleness in any way, although as I indicated earlier, because of the times we live in, I do have pastoral reasons for encouraging singleness.”

Father, may my heart and mind be wholly devoted to You above all else, above all other relationships in my life.  May YOU be at the center of those relationships, so that each one may glorify You!  Amen.