About 7 years ago, I attended a conference that I believe rocked my world, awakened my heart and opened my eyes in a way that would change how I view life forever. It wasn’t as dramatic as I am making it seem – it was a simple, normal church conference on singleness and marriage. What made it extraordinary for me, besides the fact that it was my first time to attend a conference of that nature (I was a new Christian), was the scriptures and the truth on singleness that I learnt that day.
Besides salvation, this was probably the next most significant transformation that I had ever gone through – my heart has never the same after that experience. I committed to something that by the grace of God, managed to be faithful to. Because of the message I heard on singleness from Matthew 19:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 7, I decided to be intentionally single for the following years of my life until I was ready for marriage. I know what you are thinking, intentionally single what does that even mean?!
To give you more context, here I was 16 years old, in my second year of university with at least two more years of university and legal age of marriage. On every level, marriage was not a possibility for me at that stage in life, the only logical thing to do was to not pursue marriage until then. By pursuing marriage, I mean date, shortly after the conference I would go back into the real world and face my peers who thought this was absurd, extreme and radical. To some probably it was being “BA wapa ngong’o” (slang for a Born Again Christian who takes things too seriously, like overboard).
The reason for this seemingly radical decision to stay single was not because I wasn’t ready for marriage, but rather because I had seen from the scriptures what God intends for singleness to be like. I could not believe it when I saw it, and by his grace I wanted to live like that, it completely changed how I had seen singleness in the past. In fact, I don’t think I thought much about singleness at all. I am convinced that most people don’t think about being single, circumstances just throw them in there (break up, readiness, age etc). That is why a conscious decision to be single would later seem a little too extreme to most and dating and experimenting with relationships would be the norm as it is during university years.
Let’s take it back to that day when Mr Brown shared on what it means to be single for the glory of God and it completely rocked my world. He started his teaching from Matthew 19:11-12, which is the passage that talks about eunuchs (a man who has been castrated), this was the first time I saw that someone can actually choose to be single for the kingdom of God.
“Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
Later on, he went to 1 Corinthians 7 where he addresses the different categories of people in the church; the married, unmarried but engaged, the single and widows. Paul refers to his marital status as a gift, he says each one has their own gift from God. Your singleness is a gift from God, you are not single right now because its an accident by God’s sovereignty, providence, wisdom and goodness, He gave you this gift. In Verse 25-39, he goes on to address the single people and to them he says; if you are single the only business you have to worry about is the Lord’s business (paraphrase), and that is what it means to be single for the glory of God . These passages helped me see that my years of singleness are not to be wasted, but are something that God has GIVEN me as a GIFT to use for his glory. My commitment to having intentional years of singleness was because of these truths; singleness is a gift God has given me for a purpose and that is for his glory. This was my game changer and years later it still remains one.
It’s now been slightly over 7 years since I heard that life-changing message, so much has changed and so much growth has happened. I am not a teenager in university anymore, this means I’m in a different season of singleness than I was then. As my friend Yapi recently pointed out as I was talking about this post “you aren’t single because you are a child, you are single for real now” LOL! But what she meant in the context of our conversation was, back then it was easier to be single because technically (for most Christians in our circle) I had no reason to be in a relationship. It becomes a whole different ball game however, when you are in a season where you don’t particularly have a reason to be single. I started getting asked left, right and centre about marriage, often times getting asked more about my relationship status than my walk with Jesus. My non-Christian friends would ask me “why I am still single” because being in relationships always seems like the regular thing to do. On the other hand, it seemed like my Christian friends would ask me the same question (phrased in a more Christian way of course) because marriage was something more esteemed than singleness. Or at least that’s how it felt like.
I personally find this disturbing because I open my Bible and see how it speaks about singleness and am like are we talking about the same thing?! What I mean is this, most people, even well-meaning Christian make singleness seem like this dreadful waiting bay where you just want to leave and get to the better destination. It’s the season that no one wants; I am sure if some people could skip it they would. You see it in how we speak about “Paul’s anointing/gift,” most people admire all that he achieved for the Kingdom, but rarely commend, let alone desire his gift of singleness.
How do you view singleness? If you are single right now, how do you view this season of your life? Is it something you just want to get rid of and exit as soon as possible? Is it like that annoying itch or flu that you just want to get rid of? If you are married, how do you view the single people around you? Are you constantly checking on them to see if they’re using their singleness for the glory of God? Are you checking to see if they are being content in their singleness? Are you encouraging a healthy desire for marriage? Do you view single Christians as less than (“junior varsity Christians” as Marshall Segal would put it)?
If you are single right now, nothing will change your life more than viewing singleness not as a burden or itch to get read of, but as a GIFT from a good and loving father for YOUR GOOD and HIS GLORY. There is a reason why you are single right now if God wanted that you be married you would, but he has purposefully, according to the counsel of his good will made you single right now. He looks at your life plan sees it fit for your sanctification and growth that you are single, but God doesn’t want you to miserably be single but rather embrace this as a gift from him and use it for his purposes.
“If you are single right now, nothing will change your life more than viewing singleness not as a burden or itch to get read of, but as a GIFT from a good and loving father for YOUR GOOD and HIS GLORY.”
What does it even mean to be single for the glory of God? What does it mean to live purposefully single? This is by no means comprehensive, but I think these are some basic ways in which God wants us to use singleness radically for his glory:
1. Use this time to KNOW HIM. One of the things mentioned that the conference was the obvious fact that no one is born married. I know it seems obvious but we never really think why God gave us these years of singleness. I think they are for us to know him (Acts 17:26). If you are already a Christian, it is for you to have an undivided devotion to the Lord. This is the time we should intentionally commit to growing our relationship with God. Who knows when will be the next time it’s just you are God?
2. Use this time to KNOW HIS WORD (Voice). Knowing God and knowing his word go hand in hand. God has revealed himself to us through his Holy Word, this is the time to cultivate and grow in how to study God’s word and be at His feet. This is the time for us to be like Mary in Luke 10 sitting and learning at the feet of Jesus.
3. Use this time to know and serve his people. The one impression I don’t want to give is that single time is “me-time”, I don’t think that is true for Christians. Our lives are meant to be lived in a community, the most important one being the local church. This is the time to give your life away to others in the body, using every gift, skills and ability you have to be a blessing to those whom God has placed in your life. There are ways that you are free to serve your local church and Christian community now as a single person that will most likely be difficult if you were in a different position. This is an opportunity for service, grab it with both hands.
4. Use this time to commit to personal growth. I think one of the ways in which singleness has been a great blessing to me has been in the area of personal growth. God has used this season to mature me as a Christian. I think it is something that naturally happens when one devotes themselves to the Lord. But you also have to intentionally place yourself in a place where you are able to grow, I think it’s part of working out our salvation. I think this is the time to commit to being mentored by someone, commit to accountability and Bible study groups with your peers. Commit to reading a lot of good Christian books, listen to a lot of sermons and all these amazing theologically resources we have at our fingertips. By all means necessary, commit to being a growing Christian.
5. Use this time to obey the great commission. This is what I meant when I said being single for the glory of God is like having a weapon of mass destruction in your hand. God’s plan for changing the world is through making disciples, that is the command he gave us to obey. For both married and non-married folk, being single for the glory of God means obeying the great commission. Especially in ways that are unique to this particular season, there are certain freedoms and commitments that you can take on with relation to advancing the gospel that would otherwise be difficult to do. There are people that you can serve really well as a single person right. Take those opportunities and utilize them by making disciples.
6. Use this time to cultivate Godly friendships. If there is one thing that has been a constant fuel to live a life that is pleasing and honouring to God, it’s been having Godly friends who stir me up to good works (Hebrews 10:24-25). Being single is hard, I think we can all agree, Christians get lonely too, sometimes valentines day sucks, and sometimes we sin and compromise. Godly friends will help you when you are weak and tempted but also pull you up when you fall. This is the time to develop such relationships. While we are here check out these great blogs onfriendship
7. Use this time to find what it means to be truly satisfied in God. As John Piper would say “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him”. If living single for the glory of God is/sounds miserable to you, you probably need to check if your heart has been satisfied with God lately. This is by no means a way of saying you mustn’t desire anything but singleness. I think the desire for marriage is a good and Godly thing, but when that desire overtakes our satisfaction and contentment in God it becomes idolatry. Being single in a way that glorifies God is to be satisfied in him alone, so much so that if it’s all that you get in this lifetime, you will be happy and content.
8. Pursue joy and enjoy His goodness. Being single for the glory of God is also about using this time to find joy in him and the good gifts he has bestowed. If you are single for the glory of God and are bored, you are most likely doing it wrong. This is the time we have to have coffee with friends, spend time with family, pick up new hobbies, read books and study and pursue dreams. Whatever God has put in your life as a gift from Him, this is the time to enjoy it, not that those gifts won’t be there in marriage (probably will, but I know nothing about marriage lol). Basically what I am saying is, have fun! Enjoy God, enjoy his gifts and pleasure and goodness.
Being single, a lot like being young is something that is looked down upon by society; we all can’t wait to graduate from it. It’s the gift nobody wants, but I honestly, sincerely believe that if we studied the scriptures and saw how God desires that we must live we would have a different picture. Being single isn’t about being in a waiting bay for something better, it’s about being with God, being satisfied in Him and living life according to His purpose for your life. That is what all of life is about actually, as the Westminster Catechism rightly put its “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”.
“Drink and eat, work and play, date and marry in ways that strive to win the world for Jesus. Invite them into the overwhelming, life-changing love you’ve found. Whatever you do, do it to say something about what God has done for you and about how much he means to you. Don’t do anything just to do it, just to fit in and follow the world’s script for your life. Let all of your life—your waiting, your dating, your wanting—be brought up into the purpose God had for you when he made you, weaving you together with love in your mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). Build your life on his love and make your purpose his glory.” Marshall Segal
My fellow Christian singles, my challenge to us is this: What if we truly lived with undivided attention to the Lord? How radical would that be? How blessed would our local churches be? How blessed would our committees be? Let us harness this gift God has given us, and use it to change the world by the power of the Gospel.
Grace and peace,