Shoulder To Shoulder
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Genesis 2:7, 15, 18-25; Matthew 19:4-7
Sunday 26th May 2013
We come to the final part of Family Convention 2013, Shoulder to Shoulder today. Last week, we looked at the importance of empowering the next generation, challenging us all to take responsibility for equipping them for the race that is set before them and ensure that our children do not face the same struggles that the previous generation encountered. We looked at 1 Chronicles 28: 6-20 and the five things that David did to equip the next generation: (i) He received the mandate from God; (ii) He encouraged the next generation to seek after God; (iii) He provided a detailed blueprint and a plan to move on in life; (iv) He provided resources for the next generation; and (v) He encouraged them to do the work and finish it. Finally, we understood three distinct legacies that we can leave to the next generation by way of knowledge, vision and provision.
Having looked at various aspects of the family, today I would like to address the singles in a celebration of singleness. In fact, it is not only those whom are single whom I would address but also those who are married and have involvement with those who are not married and desire to be. It is often the case that there is a misunderstanding of what singleness is and a result, single people can become subjected to an unnecessary degree of pressure to get married when they are not ready. Let me establish a fundamental truth: singleness is not a disease. It is not a stigma, a second-class status or undesirable state of being.
The bible reveals two distinct categories of singleness: those whom God has called to be single and those whom are currently single and desire to be married. It is the second category of single people whom I will focus on today although this has relevance for all singles.
In order to have a comprehensive understanding of what singleness is about, it is important to go back to the beginning. The Law of First Mention is a biblical concept which enables us to extract understanding of a principle from the context of the first time that it is mentioned in the bible. With this in mind therefore, the account of the creation in Genesis is of significance in looking at singleness and preparation for marriage. Here, we see that man was made in the image and likeness of God and formed from the dust of the earth and that God breathed the breath of life into him and he became a living being. We understand that he was placed in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it and that he was tasked with naming all the animals that God created. We are told that no helper was found for him and that God, having declared that it was not good for man to be alone, proceeded to put man to sleep and formed the woman out of his side. In short, God created man and gave him an assignment and then he created woman.
Both the man and the woman in Genesis were prototypes or sample models, much in the way that when a car is created, a prototype is designed and then put into production. In the book of Matthew, Jesus says in chapter 19 that in the beginning, God created man and woman to become one flesh in marriage and that divorce was not designed to feature in their lives. Everything that God created was good; it is only the circumstance of Adam being without a helper that God declared was not good. If it is the case that God’s design was for man and woman to remain together in marriage, we must look for clues as to what prepared them and enabled them to be successful in marriage. An understanding of the original arrangements that God put in place will provide instruction for those who desire to marry as to what to focus upon while they wait on God. This is because success in marriage is determined to a large degree by success in singleness. The quality of your life in singleness will determine the quality of your life once you are married much in the same way that the quality of an egg determines the quality of an omelette. Every successful marriage is the product of a successful singleness and therefore if a single person cannot live successfully and happily with themselves, they cannot possibly be ready to live successfully and happily with someone else. It is therefore very important for every single person to pay attention to and attach value to themselves. If you are valuable to yourself you will bring those qualities into a marriage relationship. You cannot afford to look to others to make you feel good about yourself.
The bible says that two are better than one, but that is predicated on them being whole. Singleness therefore is the most important state of human development. There are 6.7 billion people in the world today; the state of this world is a reflection of the state of those individual human beings. The quality of family life is a reflection of the quality of individual lives. God started the human family with one individual rather than with a couple. The individual in their state of singleness is therefore of paramount importance as if there are defects, these will be carried into the marriage; unless the singleness is right, divorce becomes almost inevitable.
Marriage, whilst a good thing, is not a solution in itself; it will not solve the problems of life. It is not a remedy for loneliness as it is possible to be lonelier in marriage than when single; it is possible to be close physically and yet emotionally, be poles apart. If single people and those around them understood the pain of divorce, there would be far less haste in getting married. Whilst mentioning divorce, it is my prayer that those who have suffered divorce will receive healing and be able to press on with their lives. It remains the truth that if you enter marriage with unresolved issues, they will appear in your marriage. The way that two people are as they stand at the altar is how they will be in marriage; there is no miraculous transformation of character and mind-set that occurs when the man and the woman exchange their vows.
Let’s look therefore at the man and the woman as God created them as in the beginning, particularly focussing on the qualities to be developed in the season of singleness; let’s start with the man:
(i) The Man Must Have a Healthy Self-Image: The man was created in the image and likeness of God and his identity was based on this. A woman should not follow a man who does not have a healthy self-image as if she does, he will fight her as he deals with his confusion about his identity.
(ii) The Man Must Have a Love For God's presence: Eden, which is where the man was placed by God after his creation, means God’s presence. A man must love God’s presence or he will be unable to love a woman. 2 Corinthians 6: 14 instructs us not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers. It is impossible to change someone and therefore this is something that a woman must not compromise on.
(iii) The Man Must Have a Mandate from God: Adam was instructed by God to have dominion and be fruitful. A man must be able identify his mandate. If he does not have a mandate, his destination and direction will be unidentifiable. A woman should not follow a man who has no direction.
(iv) The Man Must Have Work: Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to keep it. Marriage relationships struggle to breaking point due to a lack of resources and under such pressure character flaws emerge. If a man does not have work then he is not ready to be married.
(v) The Man Must be Able To Cultivate: God gave Adam the opportunity to cultivate the garden; he was instructed to tend the garden. This means to cultivate. A man must be able to bring out the best ina woman. If a man makes a woman feel small and insignificant, then he is not ready to be married. A man must be able to increase a woman’s value.
And now let’s look at the woman in the beginning:
(i) The Woman at the beginning was created to help: The woman was not created to be an initiator but a help. Although fully loaded with wisdom and ability, she was designed not to provide the vision for the family unit, but to submit to and support the vision. She is not supposed to take over. She is not supposed to compete with her husband but to complete him. There can only be one vision in a family unit or division will set in. The woman therefore must study the man and support him rather than irritate or nag him. The bible says that living on an open rooftop is better than living in the house with a contentious woman. If a woman is not ready to be a help, she is not ready for marriage.
When a man and a woman are operating in the manner that God designed in the beginning, the man nurturing and the woman helping, then they will get the results that God intended.
It is clear that the time of singleness does not amount to a time of empty waiting; it is important that the opportunities are maximised and the time utilised properly. It is an opportunity for men and women to build themselves up and develop themselves to become as God intended them to be in the beginning. Singleness is an opportunity to add value to your life and make yourself ready for where God is taking you to. Preparation is never wasted and the distinct dimensions of body, soul and spirit provide the basis of development and preparation. Let’s look at each of these in turn:
(1) Body: Pay attention to yourself and look after yourself. Eat well and look well. Groom yourself and dress appropriately. Ladies, what is precious is not common and therefore avoid revealing and suggestive clothing.
Build a healthy self-image and avoid any environment which undermines that; never use your body as bait. A man whom seeks to persuade a woman to indulge in sex before marriage does not value her; any attempt to persuade on the basis that he needs to try before he buys should be met with a firm, “I’m not for sale!” Do not allow desperation to chill your sense of reasoning.
Use this season to improve the quality of your career, and build on your academic or vocational qualifications. Go on holiday and enjoy yourself socially. Buy your house and develop your resources.
(2) Soul: Take charge of your thoughts, your will and your emotions as these determine the quality of your life. What you think about is what you become. Therefore feed your mind with God’s promises and anchor your soul to the word of God; this way you will govern your life.
You need to be careful to avoid the things that have the capacity to draw you away from God. Lust and seduction begin with suggestion. Suggestion leads to thoughts which lead to lust, which leads to evil desire and which leads to temptation which will draw you away from God’s will and result in spiritual separation and death. In order to deal properly with temptation you must go to the root cause and cut off the supply of whatever has been feeding it. In the book of James, the word ‘conceive’ is used to describe lust; whatever is conceived is capable of being born. Lust is conceived and from this, sinful actions are born which in turn, leads to spiritual death and separation from God.
What you are giving your attention to affects your life at the most fundamental level. It is therefore necessary to be careful as to what you allow in to your mind. You can interrupt the ripple effect by renewing your mind with the word of God. In this way, lust will be kept in check.
(3) Spirit: Feed your spirit with the word of God. Be available to enthusiastically serve God’s purpose and will. Develop your relationship with Him and serve Him wholly.
In summary therefore, singleness is to be celebrated. It is not to be scorned. It really is a gift. For those whom desire to be married, it is a unique opportunity to build yourself and develop yourself in preparation for what you desire God to bring you into. It is my prayer that you utilise this season and the wealth of opportunities that it provides fully.
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