When I was single and in Bible College, I used to look around at all the Pastors I knew, and all the Bible College Lecturers and Missionaries, and they were all married. And so, I used to yearn for the day when I would be married. Because, in my mind, once I was married, then the rest of my life could really begin. Once I was married, then I could really start to get into ministry. And so, I ended up having a different crush every other week, because I thought that if I could get married, then I would be complete. I thought that marriage was going to be the key to allowing me to serve God fully.
I suspect that this is true of many young Christians in the world today. They look to their Pastors and Mentors and (for the most part) they are probably married. And so, young Christians are growing up with this idea that marriage is the pathway to maturity as a Christian. That in order to be a mature Christian (like their Pastor/Mentor), they need to get married. That, in order to serve God fully, they need to get married.
Or perhaps it isn’t marriage for you. I know people who are waiting until they finish high school or university, thinking that once they get out of the education system, then they will be able to serve God fully. Or perhaps you’re waiting for the kids to move out, thinking, “Okay, once they’re gone, then we’ll be able to serve God wholeheartedly”. Or perhaps you’re waiting to get out of the debt that you’re in, thinking that once that debt is gone, then you’ll be able to serve God fully.
We would never admit any of these thoughts, because we all agree that we are able to serve God anywhere. But, I suspect, that subconsciously these thoughts might not be far from accurate.
However, Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7, assures us that we need not change our circumstances in order to serve God rightly. He says, “Brothers and sisters, each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.” (v. 24, see also v. 20)
Paul says, if you’re single, unmarried or a widow, you don’t have to get married (vv. 8-9). If you’re married, you don’t have to get divorced (vv. 10-11). Even if you’re married to an unbeliever, even then, you don’t have to get divorced (vv. 12-16).
Moreover, this doesn’t only apply to marriage, Paul even says, if you’re circumcised, you don’t have to become uncircumcised (v. 18a). And if you’re uncircumcised, you don’t have to become circumcised (v. 18b) Even if you’re a slave, you might think there’s no way a slave could serve God, even then, you don’t have to become a free person (v. 21-24).
The point that Paul is trying to make is: You don’t need to change the circumstances of your life in order to serve and please God. The point is aptly summarised in verse 17: “Each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them.”
Often we put up all these excuses why we cannot give ourselves fully to serve the Lord. I’m busy studying at uni God, once I finish my degree and life settles down, then I’ll be able to… I’m busy working now God, once I get married and life settles down, then I’ll be able to… I’m busy with my kids now God, once the kids move out and life settles down, then I’ll be able to… I’m busy working God, trying to pay off the mortgage and put some money aside for my retirement, once I retire, then I’ll be able to… I’m busy trying to enjoy my retirement, visit my grandkids and see the world, once I’ve done some travelling, then I’ll be able to…
Fill in the blanks with whatever it is that applies to you: “___________ is nothing and _________ is nothing. (perhaps marriage is nothing and singleness is nothing or children is nothing and having an empty nest is nothing) Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” (v. 19)
Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed; whether you are barren, have young kids, teenagers or grandkids; whether you are unemployed or the CEO of a company; whether you are in debt or debt-free; whether you are circumcised or uncircumcised – these things are nothing. What counts is keeping God’s commands. Namely, the command to honour God with your body (1 Cor 6:20). Whatever situation you are in: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).