Live Like You’re Married

walking couple

“What?!” you might say.  “Isn’t it wrong to live with someone before you’re married to them?”

Yes, you’re right; it is wrong to shack up romantically with someone before you’re married!  However, there is much more to “living” like you’re married than cohabitating with them.  It’s developing a lifestyle now that you will carry into your marriage after you say, “I do.”  It’s based on conviction, good habits, and maturity that will go a long way to making a happy and God-centered relationship.

Let’s look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-19:

 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.  And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”

For the sake of time and space, I will recap the ending to this parable through verses 20-30.  The first two servants did well in investing their talents so that it caused increase for their master.  The third, however, hid his talent in the ground and returned it to his master without any increase of value at all!  The master reprimanded him, gave his talent to someone else, and sent him away as punishment.

The two wise stewards received a great reward in that they were given more responsibilities.  The master’s response to their faithfulness is found in verse 21: “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”

You have been given stewardship of your life, “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property” (Webster’s). How you choose to “take care” of your life determines what will be entrusted to you, including in marriage.  If you are handling your life selfishly and unwisely before you’re married, God is not able to honor you with the greater responsibility of marriage.  If you desire the man God has chosen for you, you must live your life ready for him.  Like in the parable of the talents, God will never bring you a blessing you’re not responsible enough to manage well.

This principle can also be found in 1 Corinthians 4:2: 

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

To be faithful means to be trustworthy.  God is looking for people that He can trust with something as important and honorable as marriage.  It’s a relationship based on a covenant that reflects the relationship between you and Jesus.  More than romantic feelings, marriage is a huge package of responsibility.

From experience, I know the level of responsibility needed to make a marriage and family work.  Had I not put effort into being a stable and responsible adult before I was married, I would have been far more stressed as I attempted to adjust to another person in my life!  The following are several areas I recommend all single people practice as good stewardship in preparation for Mr. or Mrs. Right and the life that comes with them!

  1. Strengthen your relationship with Jesus. Jesus should be the foundation for every marriage, as He is the one who created it and set the greatest example of covenant commitment.  Without Jesus in His rightful place of lordship in every area, life – whether married or unmarried – is incomplete, messy, and eternally hazardous.  Fall in love with Him first, and you’ll be able to pass on His love to someone else!

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

  1. Strengthen your understanding of family. If your relationship with your own family before you’re married is shaky, you will take that same instability into your own family after marriage.  Seek peace in your family relationships to the best of your ability.  And while you’re at it, study up on how God desires families to function.  Many good Christian books have been written about marriage and child training. Often conferences on family and marriage are open to single people as well.  It’s not too early to learn!

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

  1. Learn to love. This is probably one of the greatest assets – and commandments – you could bring into marriage.  Walking in love is necessary for every relationship, including marriage.  If you don’t learn to walk in love with others before you’re married, walking in love with your spouse will be very difficult.  It could even lead to divorce.  The God kind of love is not romantic emotions or extravagant gifts; it’s treating someone as God has treated you – with unconditional love not based on your actions.

Mark 12:30-31 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

  1. Maintain the lifestyle of attending and serving at church. Part of our walk with God is consistent church attendance. God has also called us to serve the Body of Christ by helping in various church ministries and outreaches.  This teaches us to be selfless and sows seed into our future that we will one day need to reap!  Marriages and families thrive with this connectivity, so making it a priority now will lead to making it a priority later.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

  1. Manage your money well. Money problems and miscommunications are one of the leading causes of divorce. Becoming a wise steward of finances now will enable you to manage it well when you’re married.  After marriage, there is often more finances coming in, but that also means more bills to pay and another person to coordinate with in financial decision-making.  Learning to spend within your means, tithing, and giving now will create a good habit of money management that will help keep the peace later!

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—

  1. Manage your time well. Once you’re married, more activities and responsibilities will be added to your life as you include another person and their interests and families.  If you are good steward of your time now, you’ll be able to handle organizing a busier schedule later.  Striving not to waste time but to use it productively will lead to a less stressful marriage!

Ephesians 5:16 . . .redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

  1. Learn to communicate well. Words can bring strife or bring unity.  It all depends on how things are said and with what heart motivation.  Effective communication, done with pure heart, can snuff out opportunities for hard feelings and bring resolution to any situation.  The tone of voice, attitude, and body language sends messages to others.  If things are communicated selflessly and with a gentle tone, even challenging topics can be better received.  The key is grace!

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

  1. Practice an excellent work ethic. Some marriages include two working people.  Regardless of whether you’re the main bread-winner or not, an excellent work ethic leads to raises, favor, and job promotions.  With a family depending on you at home or at work, working as if you’re working for Jesus is key to being a responsible spouse and parent.

Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

With these strengths as a lifestyle, whoever gets you is going to get a gem!  No, you will not be perfect, and marriage will still take work.  But you will be relieved of a lot of stress that many others slave through.  Regardless of whether you intend to get married, living the life of a responsible disciple of Jesus is worth it to you and others around you!

 

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The Apple Tree, Part 2

appletree

The Amazing Apple

 Miss Amazing is human just like you and me.  She’s not perfect by any means, but instead of focusing her life on something as shallow as charm and beauty, she has something going for her that will ensure her success every time.  Her value in life is described in the last half of Proverbs 31:30:  but a woman who fears the Lord, she will be praised. 

A trap for even Miss Amazing is to believe she must be loud and aggressive to attract a man to her life.  They crave the same “praise” that Miss Easy is looking for and cry, “I’ll never get noticed if I don’t show off!”  I know how it is.  As much as I want to be an amazing apple, I’ve been guilty of trying to impress men with my abilities and the things I’ve done in life.  I’ve even thrown in a little flirting!  Sadly, that game always ended up sour.  I didn’t act myself and walk away with no man on my arm—even though I tried so hard.  I can sense God shaking His head sadly, knowing I’d missed the point of being Christa—daughter of the King.  I remember clearly when He told me, “You don’t show yourself off; I will show you off.”   He wants nothing more than to show off His greatest possession, and He didn’t need my help.

My brother wisely put it this way, “If you have to do all that [immodesty, flirting, etc.] to get attention, then you must think that your character isn’t enough to attract someone.  Or you don’t have much character at all.”  That can be a painful statement, but it’s true.  It’s natural to want to feel accepted, to have a man’s attention, and it’s not wrong to tell people about ourselves and what you do.

You show honor to God when you take care of the body He has given you, but honorable, satisfying favor and attention doesn’t come from aggressively seeking it. Proverbs 27:2 says, Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.  Your human flesh wants to do the exact opposite!  You want to push yourself ahead because you want that relationship now!  That wish will never be blessed by God.  He has another plan – total and complete trust that He will honor you for who you are and for the way you live.

“Fearing the Lord” means putting Him first in your life and developing a lifestyle that honors Him. Unlike Miss Easy, your entire focus in life is on giving Him your all, rather than promoting the Big Apple—also known as me, myself, and I.  Since you know you’re representing God, you should have no desire for selfish flattery or immodest dressing.  Purity in your hearts, minds, and bodies is your greatest aim.  When a man looks at you, you want him to see your beauty—your real beauty. A godly difference stands out and makes a godly man take notice.

Sincerity of Heart

Since flirting and flattery are shallow and selfish, Miss Amazing will choose to be gracious in her interaction with men.  Instead of aggressively pulling their attention toward herself, she quietly demands their attention by being a woman of honor.  When I say demands, I don’t mean with words or actions.  Miss Amazing will call for a man’s respect because she’s different from all the other girls.  This is the kind of woman Mr. Brave is looking for.

Godly Friendships

Miss Amazing knows that “bad company corrupts good habits” (I Corinthians 15:33).  She doesn’t want to fit in just anywhere.  She wants to mingle with people who have a lifestyle and standards like hers.  With those, she’ll find the strength and encouragement she needs to maintain her “Amazing Apple” status.  She doesn’t think she’s too good to reach out to the world around her; she just realizes that what she wants in a man can’t be found in the world’s popular crowd.   She’s looking for Mr. Brave, who has made his choice to mingle in the same crowds.

Internal Value

Although Miss Amazing desires a beautiful face and body like every other girl, she also knows that the most important part of her cannot be seen.  The real her, her born again spirit, is what’s most important.  She considers what God sees to determine her value (I Samuel 16:7).  As a result, she takes care of her outside by styling her hair, wearing make-up, and staying in tune with the latest fashions.  In the process, she makes sure that what she wears isn’t provocative and gaudy.  She’s not so insecure in herself that she must rely on the perfection of these things to find her worth.  After all, she wants to attract Mr. Brave, not Mr. Easy.

Self-confidence

Miss Amazing is a confident person.  She knows what God has created her to be and is strong – strong enough not to fall for every man who gives her a second glance.  She’s not exemplifying pride or a characteristic of an extroverted personality.  She does not show off self.   She shows an understanding of a value placed on her life by Someone bigger than herself.  Such knowledge spurs her to fly beyond the mediocre vanities of life and on to greatness, no matter what other people think.  Like all men, Mr. Brave is attracted to this characteristic.  Something is so beautiful about human character, especially when it’s filled with God’s character.

Focus on the Future

Miss Amazing knows her place in the Kingdom of God.  She knows her role as ambassador and desires more than anything to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) It may mean that she becomes a nurse, a secretary, or a missionary in her pursuit.  No matter what her call is, she makes this her focus.  It’s her priority . . . and she desires no other way than to meet Mr. Brave on the road to her destiny.

Integrity

Miss Amazing knows that the “integrity of the upright will guide her” (Proverbs 11:3).  She has chosen to honor Jesus with her lifestyle, which means living a life of character.  Even when she doesn’t feel like it, she chooses to live according to God’s Word.  As a result, she trusts that God will “guide” her to Mr. Brave in His timing.  Because Mr. Brave values a life of doing what’s right at all costs, he will soon find her.

Wisdom

Miss Amazing finds great value in the wisdom of God.  She craves His Word, and desires to be led only by the Holy Spirit.  She knows this is the only way she will be a success in life.  She wants to “redeem” her time while on the earth (Ephesians 5:16) rather than make poor decisions because she chose to be led by her own mind.  Whether it be choosing the right car in the lot, or choosing the right husband, wisdom is her guide.  In the meantime, Mr. Brave is led by wisdom himself.  That hunger for wisdom will draw them together like “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17).

***

 When you think of an “Easy Apple,” it’s easy to imagine a girl who waits tables at a bar at night, or who looks like a hooker strutting through the mall.  That’s not always the case, though.  Sometimes “Easy Apples” can be sweet Christian young women who don’t really know what they’re doing when they decide to flirt or throw on a mini skirt.  Often, they are ladies who simply want to feel accepted and appreciated.  They’re insecure about who they are and want someone to find them special and add value to their lives.

If this is you, don’t let the devil condemn you.  Everyone has given in to these temptations at one time or another.  The good news is that being Miss Easy doesn’t have to be permanent.  The simple act of repenting and changing the direction of your lifestyle is all that’s needed.  There’s a greater place to live than in the mud around the tree trunk.  There’s a branch with your name on it – a branch reserved for you, Miss Amazing Apple.

Even Miss Amazing doesn’t always think she’s worth pursuing.  They don’t see the value of having characteristics like these.  That’s usually why they give in to any man who comes along.  As a child of God, you should consider yourself worth pursuing—not easily caught!  You know you’re a lady, therefore, expect to be treated like one!  Like Proverbs says, see yourself as having worth far above rubies. Believe that you are a gem, and nothing – and no one – can take that value away!

Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. Proverbs 31:10