Using 2 Corinthians 12 as well as his own personal story, Matthias Overholt discusses the place of usefulness that singles can contribute to the church.
“Singles and Discipleship” begins at 14:55.
My mom and my father, they tried and they trained. They labored and they prayed. I struggled and struggled and I rebelled. I didn’t want what they wanted for me. I would be in the aisle of the grocery store, and my mom would be in the checkout line. I would stay way back because I didn’t want to be identified with her. She would be occupied and paying. I would sneak on by, and go for the car. But they trained and they trained and they kept praying and something goes on. I don’t know all the theology about this, but parents, don’t give up. Don’t give up on your son, or daughter. Keep praying.
My subject today is Singles and Discipleship. Is there something for the single today? Yes, the answer is unequivocally, yes. There is something for you today. There is something for everyone here today and single encompasses young teen and going up into middle age – You know – You are single, you are not married. There is that difference there.
There are unique opportunities abounding for singles. The laborers are few. We just heard about Greece. There are 5,000 that arrive there every day from the war torn nations. They need people.
Singles can attend the Lord without distraction. My wife said, I have not had a complete night’s sleep for over seven years with these children. So there is something about marriage, you don’t get your sleep. But singles, there is something for you today. You can attend upon the Lord without distraction. That is out of 1 Corinthians 7.
Mary and Martha, you know the story of those sisters. Martha comes to the Lord and says, Lord, Would you ask Mary to help. All she wants to do is sit at your feet and listen. She just wants to be with you. Would you tell her to help me? We’ve got soup to make and whatever is going on. Help me. Do you know what the Lord said – Mary has chosen the good part. One thing is needful and she has chosen the good part. It won’t be taken away from her.
I want to talk very briefly about the thorns in our lives. It is going to be 2 Corinthians 12. We are going to look at Paul’s thorn very briefly. Paul said,
7 Lest I should be exalted above measure there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought ( I asked, I begged) the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
I have been thinking about the life of a single and we are thinking about singles and discipleship today. We are thinking about losses in our lives. All of us have things that we have encountered along the way. Maybe you have been rejected. Maybe you are a sister here today: you were jilted. You were dropped after somebody dated you, and went on and married somebody else. You have not gotten over it. You wonder – What is there for me today? How am I supposed to advance the kingdom.
Maybe you are here as a young person, and you don’t like those unchangeables in your life. I will list them for you. You can’t change your parents. You can’t change your physical features. They are trying with plastic surgery, but basically you cannot change. Your gender, your brothers and sisters, your birth order, your ethnicity, place of origin, you can’t change your time in history. You are here. Your mental capacity and your aging and time of death aren’t changeable.
Can the clay say to the potter ‘Why have you made me this way?’ Then Isaiah said, O Lord, you are our father. We are the clay. You are the potter for all the work of your hand. Psalm 139: I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are thy works and my soul knoweth right well.
So you are here today. What are we going to do with these things in our lives? The brokenness, the choices that we have made – How can we serve? I want to know what is God’s will for my life? Well, we do know some things. God’s will is that you as a single, very definitely admonished by Paul in everything to give thanks. This is God’s will. We also know to abstain from fornication. Keep your body under. Ask the Lord to help us to keep a temple that is holy for Him. So we do know some of the things that are God’s will in our lives.
But are we actually taking pleasure in our infirmities? In reproaches? In necessities? Persecutions? What are we facing? What difficulties are we facing? Are we okay with where we are today? The brokenness that is in our life…
I will tell you a brief story. When I was between the ages of seven and nine, I was sexually abused by two different men that came into the community that my father was trying to reach out to and help. They came to our house because my dad always had an open door policy. They came there. My dad tried to minister to them. But through the process of all that, these folks would say, Yea, Jesus and they took advantage of me. So that was a real point of brokenness in my life.
When I was sixteen, I came very close to committing suicide, two times. I took my brother’s shot gun, loaded it, and put it up to my head. I took the safety off, and thank God it wasn’t a hair trigger. But all I had to do… So the confusion, the anguish, and the distress… why did this happen to me? And Lord, where are you in all of this?
Some of you have heard me share my story before. All of us have a story. That is the point I want to say. We are all broken in some way. Through the process of sanctification and healing, life goes on, and God sends people into your life that help you. They disciple you. We all have those stories where God comes, and takes those difficulties and brokenness and makes something very beautiful out of that. The point is: are we using our brokenness, our unchangeables in our lives, to reach out and disciple others?
It seems like it just takes all of life to just get healed yourself. It seems like you come through a dysfunctional home life, or what ever it is, and you are wanting to get married. Where do you start? Two broken people come together, and we’ve really got to trust the Lord.
You have heard the story of John Newton. He was a very ungodly man. He was a slave trader going to the coast of Africa and bringing slaves back in those days. His men hated him because he was just a real character. He went overboard in a storm one time so the men were just going to let him go. And they had mercy on him. They shot a harpoon and got him in the leg and reeled him back on the boat. John Newton said later that every limp was a reminder of the grace of God.
So today, what are we going to do about our losses? We grieve them. Singles, just think about all this work that has to be done in the kingdom. God is using broken people to accomplish this. There you sit and the years go by. You think… man, I just wish God would really make it… I bet I would know it was Him… and God is speaking all the time trying to get your attention. He is saying, Trust me. Let me use the limp that you have. Let me use the brokenness that you have. Like we heard from Brother Dean, don’t wait till you have it all together. By then you are ready to die. So step out in faith and let God use the brokenness and the limp that you have.
The losses, thank God for them. We must thank God for them. More character is developed through sorrow than through success. Another quote, Adversity introduces a man to himself. If by your loss you have been instructed, you have lost well.
I like how Brother Clair Shnupp, up there in the north land says this. “Nothing is lost in God’s economy if our response to failure is godly.” That has been such an encouragement to me. So do we take pleasure in our infirmities today? So that Christ might be realized. That His strength might be made perfect in our weakness.
Are we waiting around, singles, when the field is white to harvest? The call is coming in real loudly, but we are waiting till we can get our act together a little bit more? God is providing lots of opportunities to minister, and we are still mad because of what we have been given in the hand that we have been dealt or are still angry about that?
In closing, I want to encourage us. When you go back to your congregations, walk humbly. Don’t judge the folks that aren’t as fired up as you are about the work of the kingdom. Be an encourager. I have been in and out of my camp so many times angry. I’d leave and say you guys are so spiritual. You have got to get with the program and start loving Jesus.
They just kept loving me, and kept saying come on back. You know you will get offended in brotherhood. It is guaranteed. He said, you will. You are going to get offended in family. So what are we going to do with that?
Let’s not judge the holiness of others. One of our ministry, a dear brother, is teaching me a blacksmithing class right now. I went to him one day and I said, You are not very friendly. You are a minister. You should be more friendly. You should be reaching out to some of us people. He just pondered that and afterwards, I thought, man…He just kept loving me. I said, Your wife is not friendly either. God has such patience with us.
When you go back to your congregation after this meeting, be gentle, stay humble, learn to serve. Where can I serve here? Don’t judge where they are walking.
I want to read something God has touched me with. This is by G. D. Watson. This is a tract called, “Others May–You Cannot.”
“If God has called you to be really like Christ in all your spirit, He will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility and put on you such demands of obedience, that He will not allow you to follow other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.
“Others can brag on themselves, and their work, on their success, on their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
“The Lord will let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hid away in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His glory, which can be produced only in the shade.
“Others will be allowed to succeed in making money, but it is likely God will keep you poor because he wants you to have something far better than gold and that is a helpless dependence on Him; that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day – out of an unseen treasury.
“God will let others be great, but He will keep you small. He will let others do a great work for Him and get credit for it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work you have done, and this will make your reward ten times greater when He comes.
“The Holy Spirit will put strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over.
“So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do what He pleases with His own, and He will not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealing with you. He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and let other people say and do many things that you cannot do or say.
“Settle it forever, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that others are not dealt with.
“Now, when you are so possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this particular personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven.”
If ye then be risen with Christ, set your affection on things above not on things of the earth. For you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3.
And lest I should be exalted above measure there was given unto me a thorn in the flesh. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice that it might depart from me and he said to me. My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. II Corinthians.
Paul learned more from the thorn than from the third heaven. Whatever it is in our lives today… You are single and you are wondering, Lord what would you have me to do? Lord, why did this happen to me? Lord, what is the next step in my journey? We can be thankful for the thorn, for the difficulties, for the challenges, for where we have been. God will open up the door for the next step. God bless you.