“Now for those who are not married and for the widows I say this: It is good for them to stay unmarried as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry. It is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire. ”---I Corinthians 7:8-9 (NCV)
Control: to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate; command; to hold in check; curb; to eliminate or prevent the flourishing or spread of; the situation of being under the regulation, domination, or command of another; check or restraint
Better: of superior quality or excellence; morally superior; more virtuous; of superior suitability, advisability, desirability, acceptableness, etc.; preferable; larger; greater; improved in health; healthier than before; in a more appropriate or acceptable way or manner; to a greater degree; more completely or thoroughly; to increase the good qualities of; make better; improve
Burn: to consume; to cause sharp pain or a stinging sensation; to consume rapidly, esp. to squander; to suffer losses or be disillusioned in business or social relationships; to cheat or rob; to be or become angry; to be very eager; to suffer punishment or death by or as if by fire; to be destroyed, injured, damaged, or changed by or as if by fire; an act, process, or result of burning; a sensation of intense heat or stinging pain
And, here we go: Perhaps, one of the most “taken out of context” scriptures ever used when it comes to transitioning out of single living and into marriage preparation.
Some people would probably consider me to be a “marriage/wedding hater” because I am notoriously known for not showing up to a ceremony if my spirit doesn't sit well with it. Now mind you, that doesn't mean God didn't call the two together; that is certainly God's call (Ecclesiastes 12:14). But, one of my favorite pastors has said at every wedding that I have attended (that he has officiated) that when you go to a wedding, you are standing in agreement...you are bearing witness...you are basically saying that you are excited about the union.
Uh-huh...well, God gave me a gift of discernment (all of us actually-Ecclesiastes 8:5) and he instructed me to judge with righteous (characterized by uprightness or morality) judgment (John 7:24) and so therefore:
If he doesn't have a job (and his own place).
If she's still messing with her ex.
If he's confused (and/or acting upon that confusion) about his sexuality.
If she's still working out her past (if she lives like a victim more than a survivor).
If the two of you have only known each other for three months (that means met and mated).
If I never hear “purpose” come up in the motivation.
If their heart for God is not mentioned as a reason why you love him/her.
If there is not a plan in place (that you can articulate) for the marriage beyond the wedding.
If it's only because she's pregnant.
If you mention your age/biological clock.
If the only thing you can tell me is how sick of abstinence you are.
I AM NOT COMING. As a matter of fact, as a believer, it is a responsibility of mine (Proverbs 27:6) to not attend something so sacred as a union between two of God's children if they are ill-prepared. It's not that I don't have faith...it's just that I read ALL of the Word and it says that “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-17) If you believe that someone is your mate, then ask God to put a plan into place to prepare the both of you. If you really think they are “the one” (sooooo preaching to the choir, here), then what's the rush, right? Timing is the Father's business (Acts 1:7-Message) and I don't know about you, but what's the point in reading all of this information that the Godhead is providing if we are not going to use it? A part of “working out our faith” is believing that God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16), instructions and timing are true; that they must be applied unanimously and harmoniously for them to be truly effective in our lives.
Which is why I wish more premarital counselors/pastors were responsible in how they use the lead scripture for this tip. How ironic that it would be #13, because the truth is (John 8:32), if you don't get this one---and I mean, really get it---it could be a really “unlucky” and unfortunate thing for you.
Around the time that God gave me the “Make Him Weak in the Knees” series, as it related to this “better to marry than to burn” PERSONAL pearl of wisdom that Paul provided (umm, you did catch this part in I Corinthians 7, right? “But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment.”---I Corinthians 7:6), I remember the Spirit saying to me, “Because fornication is a sin (Ephesians 5:3), it IS better to marry than to burn, but I want more for you than BETTER. If you are homeless, it's BETTER to live in a shelter than on the streets, but wouldn't it be BEST to live in a house? In marriage, you deserve my BEST.”
As God's children (I John 3:1), we all do. To rush to the altar just because you cannot exhibit self-control...well, not only is the not a good enough reason, but it ups your chances for divorce court (and sexual frustration because if emotions will motivate choices now, it probably will later, too) by at least 45-50%. Recently, I was telling a male friend of mine who was talking about how sick he was of abstinence (and I certainly can relate) that there are no guarantees that if you allow lust to motivate you that you will get what you want in the end. Lust is an illusion. As a matter of fact, since lust is love's counterfeit (Galatians 5:16-17); since it's a flesh-rather-than spirit-driven emotion; since it is something that wars against the soul (I Peter 2:11) and in the end brings forth death (James 1:15), to use that as your reason for entering a sacred union instituted by God (Matthew 19:6)...well...good luck with that. You're gonna need it.
Besides, self-control IS a Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and that doesn't stop after singleness. As a matter of fact, Paul said that one of the reasons why he recommended that we remain single is that unmarried people are free to care about the things of the Lord (I Corinthians 7:32). Now, if as a single person you have a hard time controlling yourself when all you really have to concern yourself with is you and your relationship with God (the one who told you that if you draw near to him, he will cleanse your hands and purify your hearts-James 4:8), I'm curious to know how you think you will be able to pull off self-control in a “till death do you part” situation with another flawed human being. If you can't get a grip and “control of one's emotions, desires, or actions by one's own will” NOW, you are fooling yourself if you think that you can do it...then. The Enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, right? (John 10:10) What he has done to far too many marriages is steal the love that they could have shared as a couple by stealing the self-control that they should have exhibited as singles. Don't let him kill the knowledge and destroy the wisdom that God is trying to give you, in this God-appointed season, concerning this matter. IT IS BY NO COINCIDENCE THAT YOU ARE READING THIS. Marriage has purpose. If you are desiring to be married at this time, ask God to reveal to you what the purpose is for your desire. He only cosigns on what will bring glory to his kingdom FIRST; not what will appease your flesh. Which is why I believe that a lot of us are still single. Don't believe me?
“You want things, but you do not have them. So you are ready to kill and are jealous of other people, but you still cannot get what you want. So you argue and fight. You do not get what you want, because you do not ask God. Or when you ask, you do not receive because the reason you ask is wrong. You want things so you can use them for your own pleasures.”---James 4:2-3 (NCV)
OK, I know what some of you are thinking: There are a whole lot of people who are married right now who did it for “sensual” reasons. I feel you, but here's the thing. I know what it's like to TAKE something that God has not GIVEN me. YOU DON'T WANT TO GO THAT ROUTE. Taking something without asking is not only rude (I Corinthians 13:5), but stealing (Exodus 20:15). I was just reading about an NBA player whose ex and baby were murdered by an attorney that apparently the woman was having an affair with. Just because God allowed that crazy man to take the life of a nine-month-old and her mother, that doesn't mean he willed it---or that his blessing is upon it. Don't you confuse the two issues. YOU DON'T WANT SOMETHING THAT HE ALLOWED. YOU WANT SOMETHING THAT HE WILLED...that you asked (to put a question to; inquire of; to request information about; solicit) for and he gave you permission to have because with that comes his blessing...his favor...his protection...his provision...his joy for/in/around what you are doing.
Do you know something that hit me like a ton of bricks while researching in the Word for this lesson?
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”---John 15:16 (NKJV)
Again, one of the Fruit of the Spirit is self-control, right? If you desire a GODLY UNION, then you need to bear (to produce by natural growth) fruit and allow that fruit to remain (to continue in the same state; continue to be as specified) before coming to the Father...YOUR FATHER about wanting to be married. There needs to be a season in which your spiritual fruit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) is not only ripe, but evident for all to see. (Matthew 12:33) AND, if you do have your eyes set on someone, or if you are in a current relationship with who you think may be “the one”, there needs to be a season in which you see some fruit within them as well. Two cannot walk together without agreement, right? (Amos 3:3) A part of that agreement is that you want to do things in the Spirit and not in the flesh (which should be indicative by what they say AND what they do). Again, God is a God of order (I Corinthians 14:40) and so once that happens:
“Also, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about something and pray for it, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.”---Matthew 18:19 (NCV)
Did you see that? You need to both agree and pray for it. WHEW!!! A good sign of a relationship on the right track is that both people are in agreement (that they should not just love one another, but honor God, exhibit spiritual fruit and have a desire to find their mate) and that they are both praying. Family, YOU DON'T WANT TO BE LINKED UP TO SOMEONE WHO AIN'T A PRAYING PERSON; and not just praying, but listening. One of my favorite scriptures of all time is Proverbs 28:9 (Message):
“God has no use for the prayers of the people who won't listen to him.”
Prayer is how we petition God about the directions that he has for our lives. (Proverbs 3:6) When it comes to seeking God about the partner for life that he has in mind for you, you definitely want him to be leading...and you want the person who will be leading/following you to want God to be leading. If you are praying about someone who is currently not a praying person and if you don't see evidence of spiritual fruit GROWING in their lives, at least for now, you already have your answer on if they are the one for you...the answer would be “no”. (Tell him, “Thank Ya!”)
Wow...all that and we haven't even fully gotten into the verse yet. God is so good...and so thorough. We will take the male/female fork in the marriage prep road here:
Men: OK, I am speaking to Bible-believers here, but you DO recall what the Word says, right? If you can't control yourself sexually, you would be better off getting married. IF YOU CAN'T STOP DEFILING YOUR TEMPLE AND THE TEMPLE OF GOD'S DAUGHTERS (I Corinthians 6:19) THEN YOU NEED TO BE MARRIED. It's more virtuous, it's more morally superior, it's more appropriate and (hello) HEALTHIER to marry. I even have an article to prove it: http://www.hope.edu/academic/psychology/335/webrep/healthmarriage.htm
Have you ever abused a girl and had her father find out about it? It's not a good look. When you are being sexually-active with a woman who does not belong to you (that means who is not your wife), you are “abnormally using” her. And you see, here's the thing: What boggles my mind about you doing that is that in God's Word, there is a solution. You want sex (any kind of sex), GET MARRIED. If you don't want to get married...if you're not ready to get married, then you're not ready for sex. You know how the Word says that the Sabbath was made for man; not man for the Sabbath? (Mark 2:27-28) Marriage was not made for sex. Sex was made for marriage. (SPEAK HOLY SPIRIT!!!) It wasn't like sex existed and God was like, “Oh, let me make it legit and create marriage.” Sex is what solidifies the union of marriage. MARRIAGE COMES FIRST. It is the horse before the cart; the chicken before the egg (I'm pretty confident that God made the chicken, first!) You are trespassing on God's property (a woman) when you are sexually intimate with her without a covenant in place. And don't think that just because you have been “getting away with it” that you...well...are getting away with it.
“And that's it. Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it's good or evil.”---Ecclesiastes 12:14 (Message)
So many men want to be respected by women for being a man. For godly women, that is easier to do when you are doing what God created you, as a man, to do: when you are taking dominion over the earth (and yourself-Genesis 1:26-29) and when you are protecting us. Do you know one of the reasons why I am going to try my darnest not to have sex (ANY KIND OF SEX) with my husband before my wedding night? Because I want trust to be the foundation of our union. Being that I know that fornication is wrong and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), I can't fully trust someone who would put my spiritual well-being in jeopardy. You “love” me, but you don't mind doing something with me that God abhors? What kind of love is that?
Now, that doesn't mean that I don't need to take responsibility for my own actions. But, what that does mean is that if I am going to follow, I need to trust when you are going to lead (Ephesians 5:22). God is love (I John 4:16) and in my single state, by finally surrendering to him, I see where that is getting me. I am not going to settle for less now. Fellas, love has to lead you ALL OF THE TIME; not lust---EVER.
If you are just “burning up” with passion, how about you spend that energy on getting your queen than chasing the, umm, girls who don't realize (yet) that they are queens. God has no problem giving you sex...under the right circumstances: MARRIAGE.
Women: While I will, for the most part, cosign on Paul's concession (a space or privilege within certain premises for a subsidiary business or service), I just have one brief word of caution to interject here: Passion is not just sexual. It is defined as, “any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate”. Colossians 3:5 (NKJV) tells us, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
If you've never seen “The Other Bolelyn Girl”, PLEASE check it out. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” Unbridled passion can do some very strange things to a person. He can't wait now, so you rush to the altar? What else can't he “wait” on? A man who says he loves you, but can't wait for/on you (FAITHFULLY)...he's suspect. I Corinthians 13:4, out the gate, describes love as “patient”. If he loves you, he will wait for that love to mature...until God says it's time to move forward.
At the same time, if you love him, you will encourage him to wait and support that decision in ALL that you do. As a woman who used to mark my worth ONLY by my physicality, I'm here to tell you that Delilah (Judges 16) ain't the only woman who can break a man down...but the truth is, at the end of the day, they don't honor you for it...they don't trust you because of it...they can't fully give themselves to you due to it.
Helper. That is the FIRST word that God used to describe the purpose of a wife in the Bible. (Genesis 2:18) I've seen the couples who gave it up on the front end vs. the ones who waited until “I pronounce you husband and wife.” There are some who are currently happy who took that risk, but the ones who didn't...their marriages are FAR LESS dramatic, and I believe it's because they built their union on a SOLID foundation. To gamble on sin is a sucker's bet. If you want to help a man out, if you want to give him “some”, give him some admirable assistance and spiritual support. Be a woman who “...contributes to the fulfillment of a need or furtherance of an effort or purpose”. A man's purpose is never to live a life of spiritual compromise.
Even on my weakest days, something that I try to keep in mind is that if my husband is going to lead me, then he has to be able to keep things under control. I can't encourage him to “lose control” now only to expect him gain it later....and then find myself resenting him because he struggles in doing so. Yes, it is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire. However, it is best to marry because I love someone. Love is patient...it takes time. I don't want to marry someone because I couldn't wait. I want to marry someone because God said that we were ready.
You can take this tip and make it “Unlucky 13” or break the curse of impatience in your human trinity (mind/body/spirit), and I suspect for many, your bloodline. The choice is totally up to you.
As for me, I know what I'm gonna do.
See you soon. (14...wow!)
©Shellie R. Warren/2009