Friday, March 31, 2006

 

Session 2...

Session 2: Trusting God With A Hope Deferred

Carolyn McCulley

It is humbling to receive encouragement from people who knew you from the very beginning. God does make us trophies of his grace.

This comes from the sub-title of my book, but in some ways I wish it had been the main title. When I first became a Christian, I had no idea that I would still be waiting to get married, I would not have anticipated that to be God’s plan, God’s best for me, when I was 30. So, in some ways writing this book was an outworking of what it means to say that what God gives is for my good and for His glory. Why would singleness be for my good when I want to be married? There are two points I want to make:

I. It is God Who Assigns The Gifts
II. We’re called to Cultivate the same Character

Well, all of us, married or single are tempted to ask why? Why is this what you chose to give me? Do I still continue to ask for what I want? Is this your best. We single women can come into a church and experiecne a culture shock, entering a place where unlike society, marriage is exalted. We walk in a tension between what

We hear all kinds of counsel about how old you are, what you need to look like, what kind of character you need to have in order to be married, but it comes down to what God says in scripture about his character is true. We see ourselves as being SINGLE women, rather than single WOMEN. I think when we look at scripture we see a lot more about being a woman than about our marital status of life. So what does being a woman look like in whatever season of life God gives us?

I look at Scripture and I see that Paul talks about various gifts but he uses the same word charisma. This particular word, it doesn’t mean what we often think of in the sense of “do I like this gift?” do I want to exchange it. Ait’s better to look at is as a gracious endowment where the emphasis is on the grace given by the supplier.

The gifts of leading, teaching, serving are not questioned, they are merely practiced. But I beileve the gifts of marriage and singleness should be viewed in the same way.

Marriage exists to be a portrait of Christ and his church. Singleness is a season of sowing what we have been given into the church. It’s not about us, but it’s the only gift we tend to evaluate subjectively. We say I’m single, what’s wrong with me.

Now some would like to know if their gifts of singleness will be lifelong. I don’t know the answer. The only one who knows our future is the one who exists outside our future. He stands outside of time. He provides sustaining grace for every season.

1 Cor. 7:6-9
Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I

Here we have Paul calling singleness both good and a gift.

1 Cor. 12:4-11
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are diversities of ministrations, and the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but the same God, who worketh all things in all. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discernings of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will.


The Bible’s emphasis is on our Godly femininity, no matter our material status. However, Scripture refers both to marriage and singleness as a gift.

That last sentence is very important. We see two important things about spiritual gifts. God is the one who gives, and he gives according to His will. We are tempted to think that it has to do with us. It’s not about who we are in meriting a gift. As soon as we start, we are overriding the concept of grace. As tempting as it is to see that singleness is looming over you and that everything in your life is on hold until you find that mate. Let me share a quote with you that CJ said:

Your greatest need is not a spouse, your greatest need is to be delivered from the wrath of God, and he has made a way for that.

A side note about contentment. Many will say to singles, you need to be content in your singleness and then God will provide a spouse. We need to protect ourselves from a performance that flows out of a desire to earn God’s favor. However, if people are speaking to your lack of contentment.

We see that being single is not being on hold that we have a purpose for investing that gift in the local church. Well, we have a role model in the Proverbs 31 woman, oddly enough. One day I was studying this and I realized these are the words of the mother to her son are actually an accrostic for the Hebrew alphabet. She is instillin in him early on what to look for in a woman who would therefore be an excellent wife. Therefore, these qualities are to be practiced by single women as well as married women.

A worthy woman who can find? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, And he shall have no lack of gain. She doeth him good and not evil All the days of her life. She seeketh wool and flax, And worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchant-ships; She bringeth her bread from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, And giveth food to her household, And their task to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it; With the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, And maketh strong her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is profitable: Her lamp goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the distaff, And her hands hold the spindle. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; Yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household; For all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh for herself carpets of tapestry; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh linen garments and selleth them, And delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing; And she laugheth at the time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And the law of kindness is on her tongue. She looketh well to the ways of her household, And eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children rise up, and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying: Many daughters have done worthily, But thou excellest them all. Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; But a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; And let her works praise her in the gates.
Prov. 31:10-31

She is a wonderful cook, she is a savy business woman, she has the heart of her husband. What is her worth? The word in Hebrew actually means that her character has an imestimable value. As we look at that in light of this passage, we see there are oppurtunities to look at the big picture, how we serve, why we serve. She was always thinking long term, for the benefit of her family and household. I don’t have time to go through the entire chapter but I do want to highlight the first verse, which begins, “A wife of noble character, who can find? ”
We see that we are to have the type of character that draws people to Christ from this example and command. Suffering is one way God brings about character. Though some would not experience singleness as a type of suffering, perhaps infertility, illness, or even a besetting sin that we struggle with for many years is how suffering manifests in your life. We are all brought to a place of trusting God with this hope that He will change our lives.

"For it is like a man going on a trip who called his servants and turned his money over to them. To one man he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, based on their ability. Then he went on his trip. "The one who received five talents went out at once and invested them and earned five more. In the same way, the one who had two talents earned two more. But the one who received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master's money. "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you gave me five talents. See, I've earned five more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy servant! Since you have been trustworthy with a small amount, I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and share your master's joy!' "The one with two talents also came forward and said, 'Master, you gave me two talents. See, I've earned two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and trustworthy servant! Since you have been trustworthy with a small amount, I will put you in charge of a large amount. Come and share your master's joy!' "Then the one who had received one talent came forward and said, 'Master, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you haven't planted and gathering where you haven't scattered any seed. Being afraid, I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here, take what is yours!' "His master answered him, 'You evil and lazy servant! So you knew that I harvested where I haven't planted and gathered where I haven't scattered any seed? Then you should have invested my money with the bankers. When I returned, I would have received my money back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has something, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the person who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away from him.
Matt. 25:14-29


When we see Jesus address this in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. The Bible notes that he gave to each according to his ability. But the master was generous even in this, because a talent is actually worth about 20 years of wages. We see that the third servant did not think highly of his master, he went and buried it and was not a good steward. As singles, we can view our singleness as this one talent. We can bury it and wait around for a husband. We sit back and think our life will take off when we have a husbandand children. We have to see that whatever God has given us, we will be called to give an account for it. We have to say, here is what I have done with what you have given us. I believe that when we see God, our hearts will change. We will become thankful and joyful with the gifts He has given us. We will be able to see all the things God has done through us as a result of this gift of singleness. That is if we trust Him and if we continue to persevere and God will provide the grace for that.

So when you are in that season waiting and experiencing nobbled by your emotions and circumstances, how do we respond? I think we respond with worship. Hab 3: 17-18 says in my own paraphrase:

Though His friendship does not blossom,
nor love be in His heart,
Though he chooses to pursue someone else,
and my prayers seem to go unanswered,
though others walk down the wedding aisle,
and I remain behind,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

The Bible is full of accounts of our faithlessness and God’s faithfulness. We need to go to these passages of Scripture in times of struggle. There are two passages where God demonstrated his faithfulness to single women. In the book of Ruth, I want to consider Naomi. She endured much struggle, and decided that God was set against her. She returned home after losing her sons, and her friends greeted her. She asked them not to call her pleasant (Naomi), but instead bitter (Mara). As she stands there, Ruth is beside her, the living promise of God’s future favor and blessing on her. They returned at the time of the barley harvest. The very fields that held Ruth’s future, fields that Naomi did not plant, and yet God would use them to bless her. If only Naomi could have known that surrounding her were the promises of a faithful God, she might have held her tongue. But that is a test that I have not yet passed myself. Had she only known that one day she would be listed in the Scripture in the geneology of our Lord and Savior. She had surveyed her own circumstances and had asked to be called bitter. We are not omniscient, we can’t see the sum total of our circumstances of our lives. God is always at work. The second passage is found in John 11, the account of Mary Martha and Lazarus. They were already disciples of Jesus, and Lazarus had fallen ill. They sent words to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Jesus saw their circumstances differently. He saw the situation as one to be used for God’s glory. But they did not understand why Jesus didn’t come. Why he instead stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Jesus then returns to the scene, and in verse 32 he arrives, “ (vs. 32)”
Jesus doesn’t see our circumstances and remain unmoved. He enters into our greif, even though He knew what he was about to do. He still wept. When we don’t understand what God is doing it is so easy to accuse him as the Jews did. But he had already said that this situation would not end as they thought it would. God had another plan. And now the sweet result of waiting on God. Many came to know the Lord in these circumstances. They had asked him only for a healing, but he had so much more in store. He came to demonstrate his power over death, to restore the relationship of brother and sister, as well as to reach outsiders to see the glory of God. There are so many levels to trusting God with our hopes. I would like to close with a quote from Charles Spurgeon, because no Sovereign grace message is complete without mentioning Spurgeon.

“God has not promised to rescue us according to our time schedule. If it appears that your prayers are unanswered, do not dishonour the Lord with unbelief. Waiting in faith is a high form of worship. In some respects, it excels the adoration of the shining ones above. God delivers His servants in ways that exercise their faith. He would not have them lacking in faith, for faith is the wealth of heavenly life. He desires that the trial of faith continues until faith grows strong and comes to full assurance. The sycamore fig never ripens into sweetness unless it is bruised; the same is true of faith. Tested believer, God will bring you through, but do not expect Him to bring you through in the way that human reason suggests, for that would not develop your faith…Obey Him and that will be far more in accord with your position as a finite creature than the vain attempt to map out a course for your Creator.”

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