First and most importantly, we must begin with an attitude of contentment. Whether we are single or married, we must always be content with the situation in which God has presently placed us (I Cor. 7:8, 10-13, 17-20, 24, 27). Marriage and singleness is a gift which God gives as He thinks best (I Cor. 7:7). Therefore, we must be happy and thankful for whatever God gives us. Whatever the future may hold for us, we know that as an obedient Christian our present situation is not an accident or a mistake. It is part of God's careful plan for us.
We must not have a marriage focus. Marriage must never be a goal in our life. Marriage is for most people, but we do not determine this. God does. We must be occupied with growing in grace and bringing the Gospel as we can. Therefore, if we are single we must never have an attitude of desperation that leads to making wrong romantic choices. We or those who care for us, such as our parents, must never fear that we are going to lose out some how if we are not "going with" someone. Most importantly, we should never consider marriage as a possible solution to any problems we may currently have.
We must not have a singleness focus. Being single should never be a goal in our life. God determines our life, especially if we are His child. We must never have an attitude of independence which promotes the idea that we do not really need anybody. We must never feel anger or resentment about the requirement of being helped or helping someone which is part of the married life.
Secondly, we must understand the basis for the attitude of contentment. We must realize that marriage is an invention of a Sovereign God. He is the Almighty Creator who has a carefully conceived plan for those whom He has saved. God knows us thoroughly. Because he cares for us, we must trust that His plan for our lives is the very best thing for us.
Even if God's gift for us is marriage, not just any Christian will do. God brings together whom He plans to join (Matt. 19:6). God gave Rebekka to Isaac, Mary to Joseph, the Church to Christ, and a single life to Paul. Sometimes two people, who in all other respects are eligible to marry each other, still break their relationship. Afterward, they recognize that it was for the best. They recognize that God has a special person just right for them, and they are willing to wait for that person. We must recognize that the God who created the Universe is the same God who can handle our romantic lives. We must trust God that His way is best, and we must be patient with God that His timing is best.
Our focus must always be first upon God and His will, not just upon another person. Two people who walk toward each other can only walk so far. But two people who walk side by side toward a goal beyond themselves can walk together for a long time. When we focus upon God, we can expect that He will give us a lasting relationship with the person whom we marry.
Again, we must remember that marriage or singleness is a gift from a Sovereign God (I Cor. 7:7). He gives to different people those gifts which He knows will further His grand design for His people. We must rejoice to be part of that plan.
Thirdly, we must learn how to attain contentment. Basically, as we cultivate and nurture our own personal walk with God, the rest will follow (Matt. 6:33,34). Contentment comes out of learing what God has to say in the Bible and obeying what we find.
We must learn the standards and principles which God expects us to observe in a marriage (Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:12-19). Then we must learn if we are qualified to be married according to the Bible. We must learn the same thing about the person in whom we are interested as we learn about ourselves.
We can begin by asking questions such as, "Am I and the other person really Christians? Have either of us been married before? What about the age and culture differences between us? What about family consent or responsibilities? Have we first established spiritual plans or goals for our lives? Have we set up certain specific goals that will help us achieve spiritual maturity? Are we developing a gift that will help us further God's Kingdom and be a blessing to others? What about our private walk with God, independent of the person in whom we have a romantic interest?" The idea is that before we enter too deeply into a romantic relationship, we must determine as best as we can whether we and the person whom we like are seeking to apply the principles we find in the Bible to our lives. Do our lives show any evidence that the Bible is our joy and guide?
Fourthly, we must look for spiritual unity between us and the other person, which will promote and preserve contentment. The purpose of dating is to learn about the spiritual situation of the person in whom we are interested. All dates do not lead to marriage, but all marriages begin with a date. So we must be sure even before we date that there is a reasonable spiritual compatibility between us before we begin to date a person to whom we are attracted.
This means, of course, that we must only date Christians (II Cor. 6:14). If we are not sure at the start whether the other person is a Christian, then we should only be with them in a group, particularly in a Christian situation (at church, youth group, etc.). Even if a person goes to a church, regularly attends church activities, and is a member of a good Christian family, we must still find out about his personal commitment to Jesus Christ. What specific knowledge does he have about the Bible? What spiritual goals does he have for his life? Church attendance is not the same as spiritually and it usually takes a little time to discover the truth about a person with whom you may spend the rest of your life.
Additionally, we do not get acquainted by physical contact (I Cor. 7:1). We actually learn less about a person when we focus upon physical contact. Infatuation, stimulated by physical contact, is blinding. It interferes with objective learning. Genesis 6:1,2 illustrates the sin of wrongly dating, promoted by physical appeal. The following are some of the traps that strong physical attraction leads into.
When we date a person whom deep down in our heart we suspect may not be right for us, but with whom we have developed a strong physical attachment then we might stop asking important questions. We might start making excuses, such as, "He's such a nice guy! He's more of a gentleman than most of the guys at church! He's not a hypocrite, instead he's honest about not being a Christian! He said he would become a Christian if I asked him to! He got such a rotten deal in his last marriage! We have so much in common! He's so open minded!"
We may succumb to a desire to feel needed and be satisfied with superficial evidence of compatibility. We might say to ourselves and to others who question our relationship, "I feel so comfortable with him! I know he loves me because he tells me and is so affectionate! He needs me, and I know I can make him happy!"
We might start acting rebelliously. Perhaps we might sinfully stop listening to people who offer us Christian counsel, for fear that they will say things we do not want to hear. Or, we might foolishly demand our own way saying, "I want him even if it is against God's will. I'll ask for forgiveness later."
We might defraud the other person by encouraging desires in him that we are not willing to fulfill. We might think that we can handle any situation that physical contact will lead to. But we do not know what the other person is thinking.
We might bow to peer pressure, or pressure put upon us by our parents. Many friends and parents expect certain physical contact to be normal social behavior, and if we act any differently, they think we are strange. Parents will encourage their children because they want them to be popular or because they think it is cute.
However, the end of the matter in romantic relationships is that God knows us. He created us with the physical desires and drives which we have. It is not a sin to be physically attracted to another person. Nevertheless, since physical attraction is a powerful emotion that can run away with our normal common sense, it is best to decide right from the start not to encourage it with physical contact in order for us to know for sure if it is God's will for both of us. God wants the best for us, and He knows that we will be happier if we save ourselves for the marriage bond. If two people grow to learn about each other and find they are marriageable in all respects, and if they find themselves growing more and more physically attracted to each other, then the advice of the Bible is that they should marry. If there is no spiritual compatibility, then they should discontinue any social contact whatsoever.
The whole issue is bound up in this. A spiritual focus will lead to contentment in all areas of life, including affairs of the heart.
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