Growing In Godliness Blog
Bearing Fruit Series
Finding Contentment in Being Single
By Bethany Taylor
When you look around and see so many happily married couples but notice that you are becoming one of the few (and sometimes only) single person left in your friend group or church, the feeling of loneliness may creep in. And when you hear sermons on marriage and children and the beautiful plan God has there, you can start to ache for that stage and want to escape what could feel like the worthless state of “being single.” But I think if we evaluate this rationally, my dear Christian, we may find the opposite is true. There is so much value in the single life, and so many ways to bring glory to God that I hope you will be rejuvenated in your sense of value in the “opportunity” God has provided you in your singleness.
I think a first step in finding contentment with anything is seeing if there is any benefit. Paul seemed to think so as he states in 1 Cor. 7:8, "But I say to the unmarried and to widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.” Here he is most likely addressing Christians at a particularly heavy time of persecution. But he is pointing out that as a single person you are not encumbered with the cares and anxieties of a family, since when you are married life gets harder and more complicated (1 Cor. 7:32-35). There’s a blessing of freedom in being single with less responsibilities and a different set of opportunities. But with this benefit of more freedom and time, one must be careful how it is used, since each one will give an account of it. Matt. 5:14-16 tells us to “let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Are the ways you’re using your time and freedom as a single person to glorify God, or are they only for your personal enjoyment?
Contentment with being single can also be found by remembering to trust that the One who created you knows your heart. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need and hears our prayers. So, if your prayer to be married hasn’t happened, could it be because He has a plan for you and being married isn’t the plan at this time? We see throughout scripture righteous people praying to God for something and yet He has a better plan for them than what they prayed for. My favorite example of this is Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-7,13). We see they had prayed for so long to have a child, but God’s timing was not their timing. I wonder if waiting wouldn’t have been hard had they known their child would be John the Baptist,.
It is hard to feel content when you feel like a failure. As single, know that you are the opposite of that! You are worthy. We all know the “Worthy Woman” of Proverbs 31, one whom all Christian women admire. Prov. 31:10, “A worthy woman who can find? For her price is far above rubies.” Now look at Ruth 3:11, in this verse Boaz is talking to the unmarried Ruth: “And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou sayest; for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a worthy woman.” Both of these verses use the same Hebrew word for “Worthy women” which is “Eshet Chayil.” Just as Ruth was single and worthy, others can be as well. You have value and are worthy as a single person serving God - married or unmarried isn’t a criterion.
I will close with a challenge to those who are married. As you strive to support your brethren who are single, and want to help them find contentment and see their worth, do your words show that? Do your questions tell singles that being married is the most important thing… is their relationship status the *first* question you ask about when you talk? When they are in a relationship do you encourage them to take time to know the person they’re dating instead of inquiring if they’ve “made wedding plans?” Perhaps the next time you find yourself comforting someone after a break-up, instead of saying “one day the right person will come” how about instead saying, “God knows what you want and what you need. Live today pleasing to Him.” As married or single Christians we need to be Heaven focused not only in actions, but also in our questions and responses. In this way, we can help others see what is truly valuable and worthy and how to find contentment in any stage of life serving God.
A Shattered Foundation
By Kim Davis
Men I once considered wise and good,
Women I once watched as examples,
Christians who I held close to my heart,
It’s strange how people change and tear us apart.
A church once united, steadfast, and full of love;
One, surely God smiled upon from above.
Now I feel I can say with a great deal of ease,
That Satan is the one who is ever so pleased.
These words are an excerpt from a poem called “A Shattered Foundation,” written in September of 1988. I was nineteen years old when these words were penned as I was attempting to process the division that occurred earlier that year at the church where I worshipped with my family.
I frequently revisit memories of that church as I have continually tried to diagnose where things went so wrong. Based on the memories of my nineteen-year-old mind, the church was active and vibrant. Individuals were experiencing spiritual growth. The church was full of loving people across all age groups totaling about two hundred souls.
Talented and truthful preachers and teachers were present, the bible classes were full, the teenagers were active at services and outside of the building, and many families gathered regularly in one another’s homes to build and develop deeper relationships.
This was my tribe, my family. When I was in the building among the brothers and sisters, it was just like being at home, totally comfortable and unguarded. When the division hit, it forever changed me and every member there. Some rebounded and others regressed. Personally, I was devastated, shocked, lost, and spiritually and mentally paralyzed for a period of about fifteen years. My foundation was shattered and my world turned upside down at a formative time in my life.
Outside of my experience, the impact of division was far-reaching for all ages. New converts quickly became like the seed on thorny ground. Young teenagers lost their friends as families scattered. Mature, middle-aged couples who seemingly had a solid faith fell into denominational doctrines. Sons and daughters witnessed men slinging accusations toward their parents, and their perceptions of “Christian” ways were forever tarnished to the point where they no longer wanted to be affiliated with such a group.
Families were uprooted as they traveled around the area looking for another congregation where they could recover, re-engage and re-establish a support system rooted in Christ’s teachings. The recovery period for such a traumatic event can be lengthy especially when the relationships are ten, twenty or thirty plus years deep. It’s difficult to basically start over. It takes years to build new relationships and develop the same level of trust, especially after feeling betrayed by other Christians.
You may be wondering why I’m sharing this with you. The positive attributes of the church described above may sound familiar in many aspects. There is some paranoia present in me that wants to fire off an alert for my brothers and sisters to continue to safeguard and preserve the unity in their church family by remembering three simple things.
First, unfortunately church division is not a unique scenario. There may be new brothers and sisters sitting in the pews among you who have shattered foundations. They should be welcomed with open hearts and an offering of grace and comfort as they find their place within their new church family. Perhaps it’s also helpful for them to know there are others among them with a similar experience who understand the anguish in the decisions that led to the necessity of finding a new place to worship.
Secondly, it’s important to remember that even when a local church is flourishing, we can never forget that Satan is always lurking among us, looking for ways to destroy churches. It only takes one disagreement handled improperly to start a division that will have a lasting impact.
Lastly, adults need to understand the downstream impacts that division can have on the entire congregation. It can change the trajectory on someone’s life. While we are all accountable for our own choices and actions, we are also influencing our fellow brothers and sisters in ways we do not always realize.
I’ll close with some thoughts from Romans 12:9-18 “Let love be genuine…love one another with brotherly affection...outdo one another in showing honor...rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality…bless those who persecute you…live in harmony with one another...repay no one evil for evil...give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…live peaceably with all.”
The Cross and Me
By: Olivia Shearer
The story of the cross is familiar to Christians. Sometimes this familiarity with the text keeps us from seeing how cruel this event was. I remember a few years back watching The Passion of The Christ (2004) and being overwhelmed by that palatable hatred that surrounded the figure of Jesus. A man the Jews had praised and honored days before was now the center of mocking, shame, and unimaginable pain. I couldn’t fathom hating anyone that much, let alone someone who hadn’t personally done anything to me, but recently I realized that my actions toward God when I sin aren’t so different from the actions of the people who put Christ to death. When you look deeper at the crucifixion story and our own past or perhaps present mentalities toward God the resemblance is unsettling. The cross and the actions taken there are the physical symbol of my sin and what it does to God.
Let’s start early on in the garden. Even before the pain and destruction of the cross I can see similarities between what I do and what Jesus’ disciples did in the garden. In Luke 22:27-48 we see Judas come and kiss Jesus on the cheek. Jesus immediately sees through this supposed friendly act, and God still sees through our acts of supposed friendliness. Are we so different from Judas when we sit in a pew singing and praising God all the while knowing that when we return home or when the next day comes, we plan on sinning? Not all sin is premeditated, but when it is and we pretend like that sin isn’t on our hearts and minds are we any better than Judas kissing the son of God and delivering him over to the Pharisees. Even if we aren’t deliberately betraying Jesus, if we know a
trial or temptation is about to arise in our lives, but we refuse to prepare for it are we any better than the disciples in verse 45 of Luke 22 who Jesus finds sleeping when he asked them to pray. I wish I could say this was the only resemblance I saw, but my similarities and I suspect many others’ similarities with the people and events of the crucifixion don’t end there.
Matthew 26:56 tells us that the disciples fled and abandoned Jesus. I think this is exactly what we do when we sin. We have a friend in Jesus, a companion, a rock, a guide, and a hope, but when we sin, we abandon all of that. We run to another refuge whether that be ourself, riches, or other people, we abandon Christ. We leave him alone as the world looks on and questions and ridicules him (often because of our sinful behaviors while calling ourselves his representatives on earth). We leave him without our support. I think Jesus stands there hurt by our betrayal knowing he will be okay because he has God, but worried for our souls and our next decisions.
When I’ve sinned and sometimes before I’ve sinned, I find that I put God on trial just as the Pharisees did. I come with a motive and agenda already in mind just as the council in Mark 14:55 sis. I come without an open mind and open his word searching for something that will make what I want to do or what I’ve already done okay. I pull scriptures out of context and twist words just as the Pharisees pulled together false witnesses and took Jesus words out of context. I question God and ask him if he really has my best interest at heart, and when I find that God is innocent, I recreate my memories and point out times when I couldn’t see his design for my life or when I felt that he was being unfair, and then I question his deity by sinning and putting myself in a spot of higher prominence and authority.
After I’ve effectively won my case, with the loaded jury in my own mind, I mock his deity further with my sin. I sin and effectively spit on him and his blessings. I thrust a crown of thrones on his head and throw a purple robe over his beaten body like the soldiers in Mark 15:18 and tell him he’s not the king of anything in my life. I make myself a king. I sin and I strike his back and leave pain behind as I use his own love for me against him.
After I’ve mocked and beaten my savior, I hand him the weight of accusations, hatred, pride, and rebellion and say carry it, just as the Jews handed Jesus his cross. Then I try to nail him down to those accusations to keep myself from seeing how I’ve failed and what I’ve become. Meanwhile my fellow Christians stand by and see my life of sin and the pain it causes God just as Mary saw her son hanging on a cross in John 19:25, but I am unmoved by their pain for God and for me.
Then I wait. I watch as my savior struggles under the pressure of my sins, my pride, and my willful ignorance. Christ sits there interceding for me asking God to forgive me and the others who have nailed him there, but one spot in which I differ from the Jews is that unlike the people in Luke 23:34, I do know what I’ve done. I knew it was wrong, but I don’t want to face it.
Then God allows me to have my way. He delivers my world into darkness as his son take his last breath and my world is split into two. It is only there in my darkest moments when I’ve hit rock bottom that I turn back to him and like the centurion in Mark 15:39 declare him to be the innocent Son of God.
It’s frightening to see the parallels between the story of the crucifixion and my own life. Something that once seemed unfathomably evil, now seems all too familiar, and I feel a bit like David in 2 Samuel12:7 as Nathan tells him “You are the Man!” Not all of our sins follow this exact course, but I do find that almost all sins have some variation or combination of the events above in them. I think this calls us all to evaluate our attitudes towards the Jews of Jesus’ day (who may be more like us than we like to admit), towards God when we sin, and towards the deity and sovereignty of God which we call into question anytime we sin.
Mary- A Modern Day Mentor
By Kim Davis
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is worshipped by some religions. There are churches, statues, and prayers dedicated to her. While none of this is supported in the Bible, one cannot deny that Mary was a remarkable woman that we can look to as an example for us today.
Luke 1:30 tells us that Mary had favor with God. Out of all the women living during her time, God handpicked her to be the mother of His perfect, only begotten Son. This alone says a lot about Mary. The Lord knew He would need a strong woman who could bear the burdens that came with being the mother of the Lord. We all like to think our kids are perfect even though we know better. But Mary truly had a perfect child. Can you imagine how wonderful that would have been? No breaking curfew, no backtalk, but complete obedience. But on the other hand, imagine the heartache she felt watching her son be prepared for the cross, and hanging there in front of her in pain, as sweat and blood dripped down His body as He was being tortured. Sometimes we watch a child face the consequences of his/her actions and even though it hurts to watch, we know that facing those consequences will help build their character and hopefully teach them a lesson. But Mary’s child was suffering because of our sins. Have you ever seen a child punished unjustly for something that another child had done? It makes us angry as parents. It’s not fair and we want things to be handled justly. I can’t help but wonder if Mary experienced those same feelings, even though she knew it was God’s plan and she trusted in God.
Luke 1:34 tells us that Mary was a virgin. We know she was engaged to Joseph but yet she had kept herself pure for her husband. So let’s be honest here, is it possible to remain a virgin until marriage? Yes. Is it easy? No, it takes a great deal of determination and resolve. Many Christians have failed here but Mary did not. Sometimes we forget that people in the first century struggled with the same sins that we deal with today. All the way back to the Old Testament, the Bible is riddled with infidelity, multiple wives, and concubines. Controlling ourselves in the midst of physical passion is not harder today than it was for Mary and Joseph. We don’t always equip our young ladies with the tools and confidence they need to preserve their purity for their husbands. But Mary stayed strong and preserved herself for her husband and the Lord was pleased with this.
Luke 1:39 tells us that Mary confided in an older woman, Elizabeth. Imagine Mary’s state of shock after the angel dissipates, perhaps pacing the floor or staring out into space processing this visit she just experienced. Then, jumping up and looking for her shoes and grabbing her purse, jumping on a donkey and heading toward the hills of Judah. Her mind was probably going 90 miles an hour as she was trying to process everything the angel had just told her. Can you imagine the anxiety that she must have felt? She had been chosen to give birth to the Lord, the Messiah, and the Son of God. Have you ever received great, unexpected news and the first thing you wanted to do was share it with someone? She needed to talk to someone, to share in her excitement. I think it’s fair to say she was excited from reading Luke 1:46-55. She reached out to share the news with her trusted friend and relative, knowing her reputation could be at stake.
Luke 1:38 tells us that Mary trusted in God. We know she was afraid because Luke 1:30 tells us that Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid. However she didn’t let her fear stop her from trusting in God. She believed what the angel said and she didn’t try to run away like Jonah or convince God otherwise like Moses. How many times do we let our lack of faith get in the way of doing what God tells us to do? Even though Mary’s reputation was at stake and she didn’t understand all the details, she knew enough and trusted in the Lord and her faith got her through the rest.
The Lord selected two women from the same family to bear the Lord and his forerunner, John the Baptist. There were likely some very special predecessors guiding them in the ways of God as they endured hardships and experiences which cultivated self-discipline, kindness, love, and deep seated faith for God.
Are we preparing our self (and our children) so that God will find favor in us? Are we teaching the importance of purity, the blessing of friendship and the peace that comes with trusting in God? If we are looking for a modern day mentor, Mary is a great example.
Our Spiritual Heritage
By Kim Davis
Where are you from?
It is a common question we ask one another when making new acquaintances. The answer provides a little insight into one’s past. Maybe the question is asked because one is looking for a commonality, or wants to understand the background behind another’s dialect, or perhaps it is pure curiosity.
I research genealogy as a hobby. I am captivated by it and can spend hours in front of the computer looking at census records, immigration records, ship passenger lists, and other ancestral information. I often think about the time I spend reflecting upon the past. Does it really matter who my ancestors were? Of course, our salvation does not hinge upon it. But in many respects, our individuality is a direct reflection of our ancestor’s and their decisions.
Our ancestors decided whether or not to believe in God. If so, how and where would they worship God? They made decisions about what type of values they would instill in their children. They determined how hard they would work at their marriage. They decided how to teach their children to respect and serve others.
Each generation processes what they have or have not learned from their parents, grandparents, or other important figures, while also considering additional outside influences to then face the same decisions.
Generation after generation of imperfect Christians will face struggles, heartaches, disappointments, and discouragement. Each generation will stumble along the way but they must continue to follow Christ to the best of their ability. Each generation has a responsibility to learn, to grow in knowledge and faith, and to teach others about Christ. This is the only way the perfect law can be spread to the next generation. Deut. 6:5-7 says “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
We cannot let Satan derail us. I do not want to be the person in my family tree who decides to stop following Christ. I want to do everything in my power to continue this tradition of worshipping God and serving him faithfully and influencing my children to do the same. We often hear “it does not matter where you came from, what matters is where you are going?” Where we come from determines our starting point in life but what truly matters is the point where we end. Are we ready to meet our Redeemer when our time comes?
At Douglass Hills, we teach our children about their spiritual heritage. When you think back to Abraham and the unbroken lineage that brought us our Savior, it is a marvelous wonder that certainly was planned.
“Our children are a heritage from the Lord,” Psalm 127:3. I believe the Lord shares John’s sentiment written in III John 1:4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
How are we individually contributing to our own children’s spiritual heritage, or to the spiritual heritage of other children at Douglass Hills? It is the single most important thing in their life and demands our full attention. Providing for our families is important. Leisure activities are important. Family time is important. Let us all make sure we are not letting the important things crowd out the most important, which is Christ. Knowing Him. Teaching Him. Loving like Him. Trying our best to be like Him.