1) Remember both marriage and singleness portray elements of the gospel.
Christ’s sacrificial love for the church portrays a person’s love for their spouse. The church’s submissive love to Christ portrays a person’s submissive love for their spouse (Ephesians 5).
But God also designed singleness to reflect the gospel. Keep in mind the following points: Singleness portrays the Christian’s ultimate identity in Christ. (1 Corinthians 6:17). While culture may try to persuade you that romantic and sexual attention are needed to complete you, the gospel subverts this message. In Christ, we are fully complete, regardless of marital status. Furthermore, singleness portrays the Christian’s eternal identification with the church. Genesis 2:18 says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” However, the picture of the entire church should reveal that no man or woman is ever alone. We are a family together surrounded by brothers and sisters (John 1:12-13).
2) Learn to find contentment in Jesus.
Paul’s primary message in 1 Corinthians 7 appears to be about contentment. He advises the Christian to “live as you are called.” This basically means that the single person is not incomplete nor lacking in the eyes of God. In other words, neither marriage nor singleness is above the other. It’s about where God has you. There is immense value in both stages.
Also, we must learn to be at peace even in the waiting season. Waiting is the basic posture of the Christian, who waits for Christ’s return. This is true of the big and small things—waiting to graduate, waiting to get married, waiting to find a job, etc. Contentment is a heart attitude that transforms us across the entire season of our lives. Learning to love Christ in the midst of waiting is something you’ll always have do, and the phase of singleness is a great time to start.
3) Embrace singleness and discover how to live in the present.
Paul’s words to remain as we are is an outright challenge to us (1 Corinthians 7:24). There are at least three different stages of singleness: 1) Single for all seasons, 2) Single for a season, or 3) Single again. Are you single today? If so, then this is your present calling. Regardless of where you find yourself, Paul encourages us to live as we are for today.
What this means is that we don’t need to sit around to try to figure out whether or not we have the “life-long gift of singleness” or a “season of singleness.” God will reveal these to you in the proper time. But in the meantime, get busy living in the present.
4) Live into your identity in Jesus Christ.
Culture will try to convince you of several lies concerning your identity as a single person. Here are just a few:
- I’m not fully complete unless I’m dating or married. You are made complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).
- I need to be dating or married to feel God’s ultimate love. No human being can love you perfectly. We must rely on God’s perfect, unconditional and everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3)
- I need to be dating or married in order for my life to have significance. Only as you more deeply grasp God’s purpose for your life, and embrace it, will your character be conformed to the character of Christ where you will experience significance and find fulfillment (Isaiah 43:6-7).
- I need to date/marry someone in order to feel secure. Security cannot be found in a person. The only lasting security is found in an intimate relationship with the Lord, who will never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).
5) Singleness has its advantages for kingdom ministry.
Returning again to 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says that the goodness of singleness should make you see that your life goal is not marriage, but the kingdom of God, which includes joining the Spirit of God in the holy work of making everything on this earth new until it becomes the fitting place for Jesus to dwell.
The great commandments are not to get married, settle down, and have a family, but to love God and to love people (Luke 10:27). The calling of singleness allows you to live for the Kingdom of God in ways that married people cannot.
6) Sometimes remaining single is better for your context.
“Because of the present distress, I think it is best to remain as you are” (1 Corinthians 7:26). During the time that Paul was writing the Corinthians, clusters of persecution broke out against the church in several cities in the Roman empire. Paul says that if you are unmarried, because of this present distress then it would be better to remain single so that your anxiety won’t increase.
In our context today, there are reasons why one should wait on dating or marriage due to circumstances such as:
- If you have been relationship “shopping” or “hopping” your whole life.
- If there is a lack of common spiritual ground.
- If your calling really needs a single person to do it.
- If your values or goals are being compromised.
- If you are addicted to something like sex, pornography, alcohol, etc.
7) Know the temptations of singleness.
There are several temptations in singleness related to idolatry of the heart, and they might surprise you. First, there is the temptation to idolize independence. Instead of taking Paul’s words and seeing that the unmarried man is free to be concerned with the needs of the Lord, we idolize our independence and indulge in living for ourselves. The danger is thinking that you can do whatever you want with your time, your money, or your body. But obedience knows no age. The calling of singleness gives you enormous freedoms, but that freedom is never self-indulgence. It is a freedom to live in holy community for the sake of the world.
There is also the parallel temptation to idolize marriage. When you judge God’s faithfulness based on your relationship status, it’s easy to become jealous or bitter if you’re not getting what you want. But the goodness of God does not mean he gives us the life we want in every detail, or in the timing we expect everything. He does however promise the abundant life that can reform and reshape your desires toward the sacred (John 10:10).
8) Know the difficulties of singleness.
Singleness can be a hard time on the ego. But we must stop trying to determine with exactness the cause of our singleness. You are not single because of your image or your self-worth (Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 43:4). Instead of succumbing to unhealthy introspection or self-absorption, imagine the incredible opportunities that this season brings with it.
9) Singleness can be a season of true delight.
The truth is that singleness can be a time to bask in the beauty of God and all his creation (Psalm 19:1). It permits us the chance to be un-distracted in our affection to God and undivided in our devotion. But it also gives us time to explore the world in ways that are otherwise unavailable to those with family responsibilities.
So learn how to encounter God in your local community as you work among people. Explore your regional culture and invest in giving yourself to your neighbors. Travel to see as much of the world as your budget permits. Invest in lasting relationships that will span the reach of time.
10) Both singleness and marriage are to be used for God’s glory.
Ultimately, wherever God has us, we are to live for his glory (Ephesians 1:5-6). This means ordering our affections and our lives according to the holy vision God has for the church. This does not become easier on either side of the relational divide—both have unique challenges. Wherever God has you is an equal opportunity to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.