The ‘S’ word: some thoughts on singleness

The ‘S’ word: some thoughts on singleness

| 30 July, 2012

Recently, a good friend who is a pastor asked me to jot down reflections on my experience of being single so that he could use them to help struggling single women in his church. One of my first thoughts was: why should singleness be an issue, or an aspect of life that I am asked to frame myself in?

I am a child of God, a friend, a teacher, a woman, a daughter, a sister, a mentor, a book-lover, and the list goes on—so many important aspects of my identity that nobody ever asks me to write my thoughts on. But my false and faintly feminist response is missing the point, and it is not even how I feel. The fact that it came into my mind is proof that singleness is a particularly fraught area. If I’m honest with myself, being single is a major shaping influence in my life, and my singleness is something that I more often have to reckon with than my sister-ness. Singleness is not just a state of life one finds oneself in (unlike daughter-ness), and the mixed messages we get from the church and our surrounding cultures about singleness are exactly what make singleness something that Christians need to talk about.

 

Social and cultural weight

Growing up in a culture that idealizes romantic love, not many of us start our adult lives desiring singleness. No, our desires fly the other way—towards passionate love, towards marriage, towards the serendipity of finally meeting The One. Books, movies, celebrity news, our peers, the unspoken assumptions of those around us, familial expectations, culture, and even our churches, make us feel like we are incomplete, like our lives are lacking some ultimate joy and satisfaction, if we are single. As we grow older, singleness starts to feel more and more like a burden, or a badge that marks us out as the rejects, the ones left on the shelf. We start to wonder what is wrong with us; we have niggling or sometimes screaming worries that we are missing out on something; we struggle to rejoice in our singleness. And we resent the married people who try to encourage us to be contentedly single: what right do they have to lecture us, these privileged ones who have what we want, and what we maybe need? When the blessedly single counsel us to delight in our singleness, we wonder to ourselves if they are ones who chose to become eunuchs for the kingdom of God, while we are ones who have eunuch-hood forced upon us—and we chafe under it. Singleness starts to feel like a disability which all the nubile athletes keep telling us to be content with.

I think that the social and cultural weight that is placed on singleness, the mixed messages and reinforcement of harmful attitudes that we receive, conspire to make singleness one of the most challenging areas of daily life to honour Jesus in. In my own life, I have wrestled with singleness—and my singleness in particular—and God has brought me to a place from which I can say that singleness is indeed a blessing, not a curse. But no blessing east of Eden will ever be experienced wholly as joy, and especially not singleness, which can feel very much like the eminently practical, useful gift that we just didn’t want.

 

Unquestioned idolatry

Many things make singleness challenging. I have already alluded to the assumptions and expectations that we grow up absorbing, all of which point to marriage as the ultimate dream. Despite our post-modern culture’s supposed rejection of committed marital relationships, a happily-ever-after marriage still remains the secret or explicit dream of many, even of those of us who deny that it is our dream because we are afraid we will never get it. Marriage, in short, is no longer a social or financial necessity in modern Western society, but it is a powerful and often unquestioned idol. Who in popular culture really questions marriage’s goodness, besides the odd socialist misfit whom we manifestly do not want to be like? Almost everything around us conveys or assumes the “Find your true love and live happily ever after” subtext. When, from every angle, you are beset by the belief that only in finding your one true love can you really be fulfilled and genuinely start living, being contentedly single can be challenging.

And the worst part of this is when the Christian community joins this ‘marriage or bust’ camp, too. I have had married couples from more than one culture try to matchmake me with single men they know. Once, I even had a family from church invite me to dinner with them and seven eligible (read: unmarried, though two were engaged) young American men, and pepper me with questions afterward about which one I liked, whom I found good-looking, whom I would want to marry—this notwithstanding the fact that those same young men were  to fly home to the States the very next morning. I appreciate my married friends’ love for me which makes them want to see me share the same state of bliss they enjoy in their marriages (it isn’t the unhappily married who play matchmaker, after all), but at the same time, there is something unhelpful about their eagerness to see me find a partner. Isn’t the underlying message, after all, that I am incomplete without a husband? The last thing I need is to be encouraged to live as if marriage is the only possible happily ever after of my life.

As with most idols, marriage itself is a good gift from God, and it is not inherently sinful to want to get married. But marriage becomes an idol because of the inordinate desire that many singles have to get married and the redemptive expectations that many of us place on marriage. Discontentment with singleness because they want so much to get married is the main struggle for many single people I know. This excessive desire for marriage makes them move marriage from the ‘want’ category to the ‘need’ category, accompanied by self-pity and grumbling (poor unmarried me), doubts of God’s love and goodness (if you really loved me, you would have given me the desire of my heart: a spouse), resentment and envy (why does she get to have the husband and the kids while I get the job and the dog), and other sinful responses. I have friends who have wanted marriage so much that they have settled for relationships with non-Christian men: it’s easy to justify anything when marriage becomes the all-consuming, unmet goal of our lives.

Many singles also subconsciously think marriage alone will bring fulfilment, joy, and satisfaction—that marriage (and/or parenting) will somehow save us from loneliness, aimlessness, or discontent. This view of marriage as redemption—or at least as the best tool God can use to shape, grow and use us (for those inclined to put a spiritual veneer on our idolatry of marriage)—is often encouraged by our Christian community, rather than gently challenged. For example, the pastor of a church I used to attend once preached on 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. Now, if one is ever going to commend and rejoice in singleness as a gift from God, it would surely be when preaching on this passage. But to a congregation full of single people, a fair number of whom were older, divorced, or currently unmarriageable (say, the numerous eleven year olds), this pastor’s application point was: God grows us the most through marriage and marriage is a wonderful thing, so you should all get married. (Fine print: spouse not included with this generous offer.) Such an attitude from the pulpit makes it a challenge for singles like me to remember that singleness is not, in fact, a waiting room where the ‘incomplete’ wait for the total redemption that marriage brings.

Of course, the best response when we see idolatry in our own lives or the lives of others is not to thunder condemnation and judgement. If we singles are guilty of idolizing marriage, it is God’s job to judge us, and our responsibility to search our own hearts, repent, and choose to trust God instead of marriage to fulfil and save us. But there are many things the Christian community can and should be doing to succour single people.

 

Valuing singleness

Changing the culture of our churches is a start. If pastors and married people in the church tacitly assume or explicitly state that marriage is what it’s all about, the clear corollary for single people is that we are short-changed, second-rate people. Loneliness can be a big problem for single people. Those who are married can help us by including us in your lives, not just socializing with other married people. Some single women like me, who love children, might struggle with the childlessness that accompanies singleness. Christian families can really help us by welcoming us into your families, letting us play active roles in your kids’ lives, even inviting us on your family holidays. As a single woman living and teaching overseas for the past few years, my singleness has been made much more joyous by the warm welcome of families, particularly an Australian family whose children I came to regard almost as my own. Married couples can also help singles not to idealize marriage by being honest about your struggles even as married people, thus making it more difficult for us to romanticize marriage as a universal panacea. Remind us that there are thorns even in your bed of roses.

And then there’s affirmation. As a single woman, I find that the older I grow, the more prone to moments of ‘identity panic’ I get, the more times I find myself thinking, especially after yet another close friend gets engaged, Why am I still not married? Is there something wrong with me? Am I too demanding, too hardcore, too hard to get along with, not pretty or interesting enough, not good enough? While these questions reflect heart issues that I and other single people need to deal with, one helpful thing friends can do is keep affirming us. Encourage us, compliment us, enjoy spending time with us and make your delight in us clear. Especially, affirm us as single people: remind us of the blessings that we have and are as single people. Don’t give us backhanded affirmation that reinforces idolatry,
e.g. “you’re such a wonderful, beautiful woman of God that I don’t know why no guy has spotted it yet”. The affirmation in such a statement gets lost in the tail end of it, which is likely to make us think: “maybe no guy has fallen madly in love with me because I’m actually not wonderful or beautiful enough”. Encourage us without reference to marriage or to your surprise that such a catch as we are could remain unnoticed.

Pastors affirming singleness as a gift, both from the pulpit and in more pastoral contexts, is also helpful. Even as someone convinced that singleness is a blessing, I feel unvalued, hurt, and like I’m an incomplete Christian when I hear Christian leaders passionately extolling the worth and joys of marriage while giving mere, cold lip service to the blessing singleness can be for the single person, his or her community, and the body of Christ. The Catholic tradition of celibacy has long honoured the worth of single people, and perhaps Protestants have something to learn from them about the role of both single and married people in the body as complementary prefigurings of the ultimate marriage between Jesus and his bride, the church.

 

Turning the spotlight around

But there is no end to the advice I could give someone else about how to help me honour God more. The harder thing is to turn the spotlight onto myself. As a single woman, I have come to see that the moments when I am discontented with being single arise from habits of my heart that are just plain wrong. I feel incomplete when I forget that God is able to meet all my needs, even if he uses his prerogative not to fulfil all my wants. I worry about whether there’s something wrong with me when I forget that my identity is in Jesus, who has made me exactly the way I am for his purposes. I envy engaged or married people when I stop trusting that God is working all things in my (single) life for good and that he is giving me what is best (for me and for those in whose lives he is using me) in my singleness. I feel lonely when I get so caught up in the here and now of my material existence that I neglect to pursue intimacy with God and friends. I get angry with God for not giving me a husband because I have a fallacious assumption that God owes me a husband just because he gave my neighbour one, as if God is a genie in a bottle who hasn’t delivered on a promise he never actually made. I envision years of increasingly dreary singleness, growing old, wrinkly, and rheumatic while friends have sex and babies and fun, because I do not at heart trust that God loves me and is sovereign enough to provide exactly what I need to glorify Him and to rejoice in every season of life, no matter what. I refuse to accept singleness because I have chosen to dwell on and hanker for what I don’t have (a husband, kids) rather than what I do have as a single person.

Over the years, God has gently revealed some of these habits of my heart to me and kindled in me repentance, renewed satisfaction and deeper faith in him. I have also learned some helpful strategies for coping with the various challenges of singleness. I have learned not to skimp on the time with God that alone teaches me to rest in him when the clamour of the world pulls my heart toward the things I want and don’t have. I have learned the importance of establishing good, strong friendships and spending time with people in whose company I enjoy the companionship and intimacy that I crave. I have stopped watching the romantic comedies and reading the romances I loved as a teenager, because I realized that they often stirred up lust in me for exciting romance while reinforcing unrealistic expectations of both men and relationships. I have striven to be honest with myself, to search my own soul and work out what’s really going on when I struggle with being single—and then to pray and act to address the heart issue manifested in discontented singleness. I have prayed that God will help me to relate to and love guys I meet as brothers in Christ, instead of (mentally and emotionally) pouncing on them as potential husbands. Mindful of Solomon’s injunction not to stir up or awaken love until it pleases (Song of Songs 2:7), I have also tried to flee from reading, listening to, watching, thinking about, or doing anything that would arouse me or others sexually.

A book I read as a teenager inspired me to start praying for my future husband every day. So, every day for five years I prayed—for my future husband’s godliness and purity, that we would be a good match, that God would lead him to me—until one day it occurred to me that I was giving said future husband, if he exists, an inordinate share of my daily prayer time. It seems counter-intuitive that sometimes praying less about something can be more helpful than praying more, but I realized that praying about something actually brings it to mind and stirs up emotions and desires, so if I didn’t want to obsess over ‘finding a husband’, I needed to stop praying so much about it. So I did, and now only very occasionally pray for my future husband, always adding a ‘should he exist’ clause. I’ve even mentally added ‘and if he doesn’t exist, would you please transfer all those years of prayers to my sister’s future husband or someone else, so they won’t be wasted’. I’m sure God has a sense of humour, and I am also sure that he isn’t a forgetful father who needs to be reminded every day that I would like a godly future husband. He’s on it, so I can get on with life. Linked to this, at times when I’ve found being single particularly challenging because of circumstances, hormones, tiredness, cute babies, weddings, or no good reason, I’ve cultivated the fine art of Thought Replacement Therapy, whereby I start thinking about something else (say, praying for a non-Christian friend) every time I find myself thinking about wanting a husband or kids.

I’ve also taken myself off the hook and shrugged off the unbearable burden of guilt and frustration that comes from expecting that contented singleness means having faith enough to rejoice in the prospect of endless eons of singleness. God gives us grace and faith enough for each step—he gives us each day our daily bread, not bread for the rest of our lives. I am not called to envision a lifetime of singleness and force myself to look forward to that, but rather to rejoice in this season of singleness, however long it lasts, and trust God to provide for all my needs. And I have found that keeping busy not with mundane, escapist trivialities but with work and ministry that enable me to invest my life in the lives of others has helped me to stop bemoaning not being married and start revelling in the best things about being single.

 

The best bits

So what are the best things about being single? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:34 that “the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit”. One of the best things for me about being single is that it does free up plenty of time and energy to seek first God and his kingdom, without having to worry about pleasing a husband (or, for that matter, children). I have more freedom, time, and energy for a wide range of people than most of the married people I know, simply because they are called by God to put serving and pleasing their spouses near the top of their priority lists, and this is bound to take time and energy (and rightly so). Of course, I could also squander my life and waste the freedom to serve God and others that singleness brings by allowing my thoughts, feelings, desires, and even prayer time, to be consumed by the desire for marriage. We are all naturally inclined to waste time and energy desiring what we don’t have. But why would I choose to do that when the alternative is so much better?

A concrete example: my singleness has given me freedom to live overseas as a missionary teacher in Central Asia for the last two and a half years, freedom to now head to seminary in Boston to be equipped for long-term cross-cultural service, and freedom to go wherever God leads me after my training. It has been easier and cheaper for me to live overseas and to move across continents and oceans than would have been the case had I been married and had a spouse and perhaps children to consider. As a teacher, being single gave me the emotional energy, the heart and mental space, and the time to invest in the lives of my students to an extent that no married teacher with a spouse to go home to can. I could have students over for dinner as often as I wanted, love my students as my own kids, go on camps and retreats, humiliate myself at karaoke outings with students in which we partied till the wee hours of the morning—all manner of things that being a single woman facilitated. I never had to ask a husband’s permission, negotiate how many social events I could go to per week, or feel guilty about neglecting a spouse while I was off gallivanting around in other people’s lives and houses. I am not saying that married people only have time for each other, but surely there is no doubt that being married represents a diversion of energy and time from non-spouse- people. Paul says so. This is a great use of time, of course, but it is just as great to be able to use my freedom as a single person to serve God and others.

My singleness has also been fertile ground for personal and spiritual growth for me. In addition to the deep, varied friendships and the mobility and ministry opportunities that I have enjoyed, I have also found that God has redeemed in my life the difficult aspects of singleness. He has taken the loneliness, doubt, yearnings, sorrow, and frustrations that can accompany adult singleness and worked that pain into good. He has done this through working in me to help me to actively choose my unchosen singleness. In one sense, I have not chosen to be single—if God were to provide a wonderful, Jesus-centred, compatible guy, I wouldn’t turn him down. But in another sense, I have chosen to be single, or rather, to learn to not just accept, but intentionally rejoice in my singleness as a season that God has ordained in my life for his glory and my good.

And this choice—a choice that sometimes has to be a daily, conscious decision to trust and celebrate—has been the starting point of growth. Sometimes contented singleness does feel very much like a test of faith, and I imagine my faith in God—my trust in his goodness, love, and sovereignty—being purified, refined and strengthened in the crucible of singleness. Learning to rejoice in this season of life for however long God ordains it has forced me to run —and sometimes stumble—closer to God, the rock in whom I trust even when the floods of loneliness and longing are rising. In the times when I have struggled to remember that singleness is not a waiting room and single people are not incomplete, other-half-lacking losers, God has burnt into my heart the truth that my identity, value, and belovedness are grounded in Jesus alone—just as they would be even if I were married. And I have learned the truth of God’s promise to never leave nor forsake us.

As I learn to frame my life in terms of singleness, God is teaching me that this frame has a beauty to it that is comparable to the more popular frame of marriage. This beauty might be fragile, but it is rewarding. I am—for now, for however long God ordains—a single Christian woman, and God looks at me and my life, and he says: it is very good. I pray that he will open the eyes of my heart to increasingly see the God-glorifying beauty of my singleness, as I choose to gladly live the life I may not have chosen. For I know, whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.

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(this may not be a biblical opinion) What love is not

Love is not what the movies and hit songs tell us it is.

Love doesn’t hurt. If it hurts it’s something else. Fear. Attachment. Idolatry. Addiction. Possessiveness.

Nobody’s heart aches out of love. In pop culture, love gets conflated with desire all the time. From childhood we learn you can like something, or you can love it, as if it’s only different degrees of the same thing.

Love is all selflessness. It’s the opposite of need and attachment. To an individual it’s a sensation of allowing, rather than seeking. Letting go, rather than grasping.

Love is subtle and silent and delicate, and in its beginnings it can be drowned out easily by attachment, lust and fear. Love must have space, and force is what crowds it out. Love is powerful but it isn’t forceful.

Desire is simple and often reckless. We need to manage it carefully to avoid causing harm. Desire is the intention to change something, to reject what it is in favor of what it could be — something better, more secure, more pleasing. Love is the intention to let that thing be for its own sake.

A lot of us grow up thinking that to love is simply to want very badly. It’s hard to be sensitive to love when you’re overrun by desire. Love isn’t something that can be done badly, if it’s love at all. Desire can happen at the same time as love, but it’s not the same thing.

Jealousy isn’t love, nor is it evidence of love. Jealousy is fear. Love doesn’t drive people mad, it drives them sane. Desire, in its different forms, can drive people to do anything. Love never drives people to kill or steal or cheat or worry. 

Love reveals itself when you release your need to have the object of your affection, and see that there’s no reason to make it yours. That it exists at all is enough. To love something is to disappear in its favor — to die to your own interests so that it can be what it is.

In evolutionary time, love is new, and we’re still learning to used to it. It’s a much more sophisticated human capability than desire.

Desire’s been around forever. It’s a high-horsepower engine. It’s loud. It handles poorly. It only goes the way it’s pointing. It needs a sober driver, but it makes you drunk.

Desires are personal. They’re attached to you and they end where you end. They can be no bigger than you.

Love is bigger than you. To love someone is for their happiness to be the same as your own.

And so love is the dissolution of the borders between you and me and them. Those lines are conceptual and imaginary anyway, and love gives you vision clear enough to see the world without them.

Your love can’t be reserved for one person. If you only love one person you probably don’t love anyone. Love isn’t something you can aim. The truer your love is — in other words, the less you have it confused with something else — the more generalized it becomes. To love fully is to love all.

It takes practice to give up “good for me” in the name of “good.” In the grand scale of evolutionary time, human beings are only at the beginning of experimenting with this — working with something bigger and more important than personal desire.

But love is already everywhere, at least in the background. It’s too conspicuous to be marginalized, even among a population largely driven insane by mismanaged desire. We need to learn to navigate our desires better in order to love fully. We’re working on it.

It’s an interesting time to be alive. We’re graduating from a culture of desire-driven lives to one of love-driven lives. The solution to the world’s problems will look more and more obvious as more people begin to understand that and make that transformation. The first step is knowing the difference.

Defining it is impossible. You can throw words at it but never pin it down. Nothing is misidentified more often than love. But for now, we can know what it’s not. If it hurts, it’s not love.

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Eight Reasons Why You Can’t Get A Date/Married!

One of the biggest frustrations among singles is NOT being able to get a date, here are EIGHT reasons to consider why you may not be dating…

#1 – It’s not time!!!  Proverbs 24:27 says that we should make sure our lives are in order before we build a house!!!

#2 – You want to get married more than you want to walk with Jesus!  If this is true then a relationship/dating is an idol in your life, and for the Lord to give it to you would do nothing more than set you up for disappointment in the person you want to be with because they could never fulfill you!!!  (See I John 5:21)

#3 – You are bitter!  Either at your mother, father or an ex spouse!!!  And…one of the WORST things a person can do is carry bitterness from a past relationship (any relationship) into a current relationship (see Ephesians 4:31!)

#4 – You struggle with impurity!  I Thessalonians 4:3 says that IT IS GOD’S WILL that we avoid sexual immorality!  If you are wrestling with porn…or every relationship you are in moves quickly towards “going too far” then you REALLY need to get those issues worked out…because if that is the case you would not be someone who could strengthen someone else and their walk with Jesus, you would actually weaken them!

#5 – You are trying too hard!!!  If you are a dude then PLEASE get this…if you are always asking girls out then I promise you that you have a reputation among them (and not a good one!!!)  Yes, I believe the guy should be the one to pursue (Proverbs 18:22) BUT…there is a difference between pursuing and stalking…and no one has EVER fallen in love with a stalker!!!

#6 – You are finding your identity in who you date (or if you can get a date) more than you are in a relationship with Jesus!

#7 – You are willing to compromise in order to go out with someone!  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ then compromise can never be a consideration!!!

#8 – Especially if you are a dude…you are not responsible financially!!!  If you want to find a wife one of the BEST things you can do TODAY is NOT go on eharmony.com but rather do whatever it takes to GET OUT OF DEBT!!!  (Proverbs 22:7)

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18 Myths Singles Believe…And A Quick Note About Sunday

18 Myths Singles Believe…And A Quick Note About Sunday

  • Thursday, October 14, 2010
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  • Church Issues, Dating
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#1 – Being miserable is the result of being single…getting married will solve all my problems.

#2 – I’ve messed up in my past and do not deserve anyone good. (See I Corinthians 6:9-11, especially focus on verse 11!)

#3 – Ephesians 3:20 isn’t true for me and my future spouse…I need to settle.

#4 – This relationship that I am in isn’t what I would like my marriage to be like..but when we get married I can change this person.

#5 – Having sex will simplify things and cause the person I am dating and myself to have so much more in common.  (See I Corinthians 6:18-20)

#6 – This person is not God’s best for me…but if I rush through the process of dating and getting married then I have God backed into a corner and He has to bless me because He loves me, right?  (See Deuteronomy 6:16)

#7 – Marriage isn’t that big of a deal…if my first one does not work out then I can drop them and start over.  (See Malachi 2:13-16)

#8 – Getting married isn’t going to alter my lifestyle…I am still going to be able to live like I did when I was single, the only difference is I’m going to get to have more sex.

#9 – I am going to get to have sex anytime I want.

#10 – We are going to cuddle all of the time.

#11 – The things that really get all over my nerves about this person won’t bother me as much when we get married.

#12 – The fact that we do not agree on what we believe when it comes to Jesus and the church will not impact the way we raise our kids. (See II Corinthians 6:14 and Amos 3:3)

#13 – We should live together before we get married to give it a “trial run,” after all, you would not buy a car without test driving it first.  (See Hebrews 13:4)

#14 – I need to keep as many secrets about my past from this person as possible; after all, my past issues won’t impact this relationship at all.

#15 – All of my friends are married…I am not…something is obviously wrong with me.

#16 – The way I handle my money now will not impact my future marriage.

#17 – When I get married my spouse will meet all of my needs.

#18 – Dating is tough…marriage is easy!

Hey NewSpring Church, don’t forget…we begin our series THIS SUNDAY entitled, “Man Versus Wife” that will impact both single and married people alike.  Let’s go ALL OUT to get people to church…because what MOST people have is a JESUS problem…not a dating/marriage problem.  This is going to be one of the most powerful series we’ve EVER done…let’s do all we can to get as many people in the doors as possible.

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A Partner for Accountability

By Charles Stanley , Christian Post Contributor
September 20, 2012|2:47 am

Galatians 6:1-10

An accountability partner is able to perceive what we can’t see when blind spots and weaknesses block our vision. Such a person serves as a tool in God’s hand to promote spiritual growth, and he or she watches out for our best interest. When choosing this type of confidant, look for these characteristics:

1. Godly. A person who walks in the Spirit will offer genuine wisdom based on biblical principles rather than personal opinion.

2. Trustworthy. No matter what you share with this individual, you must be certain that he or she will keep everything in the strictest confidence.

3. Accepting. He or she must allow you to be yourself–frailties and all–and not try to remake you into someone “perfect.”

4. Courageous. A good accountability partner will lovingly confront you with the truth, even when it hurts (Eph. 4:15).

5. Forgiving. When you make mistakes, trust is built through mutual forgiveness.

6. Edifying. Don’t choose someone with an overly critical attitude that will make you feel worthless. Love edifies and builds up (Eph. 4:29). It never destroys.

7. Encouraging. You don’t want someone with a checklist, who judges or acts like a prophet. Instead, choose someone who takes great joy in encouraging you.

We all can benefit from someone who is able to say what we need to hear without making us feel threatened. Answerability provides checks and balances that promote spiritual growth and protect us from pitfalls. If you don’t already have an accountability partner, pray for that person today.

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Charles Stanley on How to Live an Extraordinary Life

Charles Stanley on How to Live an Extraordinary Life

A new book by ministry leader and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Charles Stanley, is to help people to live a godly, fulfilled, and ”extraordinary life.”

December 13, 2005|4:28 pm

A new book by ministry leader and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Charles Stanley, has been written to help people to live a godly, fulfilled, and “extraordinary life.”

In Living the Extraordinary Life: Nine Principles to Discover It (Nelson Books, October 2005), Stanley exposes the secret to “a life sustained by an inner peace and joy in the good times as well as the bad.”

“God wants us to experience permanent fulfillment,” says Stanley. “He created us for excellence, and from His perspective, our lives represent infinite possibilities. No matter how many wrong turns we take, God knows how to redirect our lives and set us back on the right track.”

In his book, Stanley presents nine timeless truths to help build the right relationship with God and live a complete life and through each one, teaches that completely surrendering, absolute obedience and trust in God, will only bring a complete life.

The book teaches that for an effective spiritual walk or ministry, intimacy with God is needed, and the point to begin that is to accept His grace, or free gift.

“For years, I was convinced that the distance I felt from God must be linked to some sin in my life. I prayed incessantly for forgiveness, even trying to find sins that weren’t there,” he says. “Many Christians live this way, harboring feelings of shame and self-doubt that have more to do with their fear of intimacy than with reality.”

“Sunday after Sunday they pray that the pastor will say something to help them bear the guilt they harbor,” he says, but “God wants all of us of rest in the liberty purchased by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.”

“Grace is a gift,” he adds. “If we add a single work requirement to salvation, then it is no longer a gift; it is payment for services rendered.”

In Stanley’s straight-from-the-heart style, the new book outlines how Christians should be patient, bear through sufferings, pray, and dwell in the Bible, which are the foundations for growing your faith and truly becoming alive with passion for being a son or daughter of God.

“Many people are not willing to wait on God for His timing, particularly when it involves the possibility of letting go of something they desire desperately,” he says.

“One of the primary reasons that believers step out of God’s will—and out of fellowship with the Lord—is that they step out on their own without His blessing or guidance. They are eager and impatient about achieving something they are convinced will please Him.”

“It is important for you to realize what it means to truly wait upon the Lord.”

Stanley is founder and president of InTouch Ministries, an organization whose television and radio programs have touched millions throughout the world. A bestselling New York Times author, Stanley has written more than 45 books, including Living in the Power of the Holy Spirit, When the Enemy Strikes, Finding Peace, How to Listen to God and Walking Wisely.

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Receiving Direction Without Doubt & Finding Clear Guidance

By Charles Stanley , Christian Post Contributor
December 7, 2012|9:04 am

Psalm 25:8-9

God wants us to make right decisions, which means choices that align with His will. He has promised to give us instruction and direction so we’ll know how to proceed (Ps. 32:8).

One way to discover the Lord’s will is by following the pattern we looked at yesterday. First, make sure you have a clean heart, clear mind, surrendered will, and patient spirit. Then, add these steps: praying persistently, trusting God’s promises, and receiving His peace.

Although we all want quick answers from the Lord, Scripture tells us to pray tirelessly, without giving up. I remember praying daily for six months before I received a response about one need. During this time, the Lord showed me that He’d tried to give direction earlier, but I hadn’t listened. Fear of failure had been my stumbling block. Once I surrendered my fear, He gave instructions and empowered me to obey. When we persist in prayer, God has the opportunity to draw us closer to Him and prepare us to hear His response.

Knowing and trusting in God’s promises will lift us above our doubts into a place of quiet rest. We may not have an answer yet, but as we wait on Him with hopeful expectation, we’ll experience His peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7).

Scripture urges us to be persistent in prayer, trust in God’s promises, and let Christ’s peace rule in our hearts (Col. 3:15). Doing so will help us find our way past confusion and receive His clear direction without doubting. Discovering Gods will is worth every effort we make and any time spent waiting.

 
By Charles Stanley , Christian Post Contributor
February 2, 2012|5:40 am

Psalm 25:12

How can you be sure you’re making the right decision? Sometimes it may seem as if God plays hide and seek when we’re trying to know His will, but that’s not the way He operates. He wants to give us clear direction. The real question is, What do you need to do to hear His voice?

Clear the pathway. We have two main obstacles that hinder our discernment: sin in our life and our own strong desires about the situation. To receive the Lord’s guidance, we must repent of all known sin and make our desires secondary to His.

Exercise patience. Sometimes it takes a great deal of strength to stand still when everything within you is shouting, “Hurry! Time is running out!” But if you rush ahead of God, you may miss His will.

Persist in prayer. The Bible clearly instructs us to keep coming to the Lord with our concerns. As we continue to pray, He will gradually weed out anything confusing until we come to His conclusion about the matter.

Search the Scriptures. The Word of God has an answer for every need, and the Holy Spirit knows just how to point us in the right direction. I remember times while I was reading the Bible that a verse jumped off the page and supplied the exact answer I needed to make an important decision.

So often when we’re faced with a critical choice, all we want from the Lord is a quick answer. But He delights to meet with us in order to deepen our relationship with Him. Don’t let the urgency of your need keep you from enjoying the intimacy of His presence as you seek His will.

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