Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How Godly Contentment Makes Us Better Daters

Before I begin this post, I would like to include a few disclaimers:

1.) When I use the term “dating” or “date” I am actually referring to courtship. Courtship is how believers “date” essentially. So as I say date or court, I am using the terms interchangeably. I choose not to get hung up on terminology in this regard simply because after reading so much Christian literature on courtship and dating from sound and good Christian authorities, I have decided that it is a battle that none of us can win. Depending on who you talk to, the term “dating” can mean anything. In this regard, just trust that I mean courtship and I will define it in this post.

2.) This post is for all those who are both currently pursuing courtship and especially those who are not currently pursuing courtship but would like some pointers once God opens doors in that area. If God has specifically deemed it not the time for you to pursue courtship, please still feel free to use this material among other references (firstly the Word of God) for when He presents you with the opportunity to court. Otherwise I would insist that you check out my post on Godly contentment instead that I will link later. Thanks!

3.) If you are struggling to find contentment in Christ, I would personally not recommend pursuing courtship at this time. As you read this post, you will see why I say so. Now, this is only my recommendation simply because I know that God always works even in spite of our unwise decisions (but not without additional problems that lead to more pruning we could have avoided altogether). Ultimately, it is your choice. But starting off content in Christ makes for a healthier and HOLIER dating experience for both individuals. 

What Do The Scriptures Say About Courtship?
Now before we move on to my thoughts on anything, the most important take is that of the scriptures. So, here is what the scriptures say divided into points:

1.       We should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 2:7)
a.       First let’s define “yoked” so we can understand how this type of relationship falls into this category.

                                                               i.      So firstly, a yoke is a piece of equipment that some farmers put over the necks of a pair of animals to get some difficult work done together. It is used because one animal could not do the job alone. When the job gets tough, the farmer needs to make sure that the animals don’t run away from each other to leave the other to finish the job. That yoke makes sure that they are pulling the load together until the work is done and the farmer decides to free them from the yoke.

                                                             ii.      To be yoked together means to be fastened, joined, hitched and coupled.

b.      I’m sure you see the marital implications all over those definitions. Clearly marriage falls into the category of relationships that involve being “yoked” together for the specific mission of a God-glorifying marriage. The beauty in this is that when both partners are equally yoked, they can both grow together. When they are not equally yoked and one is weaker/smaller than the other or one is much stronger/larger than the other, it makes for a very uncomfortable and tormenting process/journey.

c.       I want to add, if you are open to courtship with someone who is not submitted to God this may be an indication that you are not submitted to God. Your equal yoke may very well be with someone who does not submit to the authority of God too. You may want to check yourself there. You are not ready for the responsibilities of a Godly marriage, so in the words of one of my favorite rappers… “Sit yo’ tail down somewhere and grow up!” Love you though.

2.       The end result of courtship should be marriage.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:31)
a.       This is why a young man leaves his father and mother. Not for a “bae” or “boo”, but for a wife. Once a godly man has a wife, he is obligated to the family he creates with her – no longer his parents. He has his own household. Girlfriends and fianc├ęs do not get these benefits.

b.      If you do not want to be married and desire courtship with another believer this indicates that you may have a selfish need to be fulfilled. Have your needs fulfilled by Christ first and not by using and abusing another believer – more on this further on.
“So I say to those who aren’t married and to the widows – it’s better to stay unmarried, just as I am. But if they can’t control themselves, they should go ahead and marry. It’s better to marry than to burn with lust.” (1 Corinthians 7:8-9)
c.       I will add that St. Paul, the writer, writes directly before this that each of us has been blessed to either have the gift of singleness or marriage. God gives each of us either gift, so neither is better than the other since every gift from God is good and perfect for each of us. He is speaking from a personal space from which he has found better living. Based on your ability to follow what he is advising, I believe this will indicate whether your gift is to singleness or to marriage. At the end of it, if a man desires a godly woman he is also advising that the man marry her to avoid sin. Additionally, the man’s desire for the woman in this way (hopefully along with measuring her character next to the scriptures) indicates that his gift is indeed marriage, especially when that is the end result of his pursuit with her. Let’s not make anything complicated where it shouldn’t be.

d.      If you are currently single, seek to honor God. If you desire marriage, God will open that door for you in His perfect time. Learn to find contentment in Him in everything until then, because you will need it afterwards too.

3.       Purity must be maintained in order to honor God and each other.
“God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor – not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and His ways. Never harm or cheat a Christian brother in this matter by violating his wife [or “Never harm or cheat a brother in this matter”], for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8)
a.       I added the Greek translation in brackets to show you one of the things I believe the scripture is implying. When a man chooses to dishonor one of God’s handmaids (even though it may be consensual), he is also dishonoring the man who could possibly be this woman’s future. I am not saying that we should all entertain the thought that we are all someone’s husband or wife, especially since we do not know who will marry and who will not until that beautiful day of celebration for that unity. However, I think the specific part of the text also implies that if a woman ends up marrying a man who was not given her gift of virginity, the man who did receive that gift without marrying her has rightfully defrauded both her and her husband. Her husband would be right to be upset with the man because he is the one who earned the gift by ultimately making her his wife, the other man had not. When we think about it this way, I believe many of us would think twice before having sex (and continuing to have sex) outside of marriage.

b.      This goes for born-again virgins as well as Christians who have lost their virginity. Because of Christ, we can be forgiven of ALL sins. If you have repented, you are clean again as if nothing ever happened. Now continue to pursue sexual purity until you are given a ring.
“Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is part of Christ, and join it to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? For the scriptures say, ‘The two are united as one.’ But the person who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 7:15-20)
c.       As you can see, God can be defrauded too, as this scripture (along with many others) reflects the fact that He is our husband and is already “one” with us. The only time it is okay to have sex while being married to God is if/when we are joined together in marriage to another [believer]. But to join ourselves in physical intimacy with a person who just wants to have sex with us and not marry us (the prostitute) is defrauding God. Both godly men and women should either be practicing abstinence or celibacy in order to honor God unless we are joined with another [believer] in marriage.

4.       The marriage that results from courtship should constantly grow to mirror the relationship that Jesus Christ has with the church.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church and He is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.” (Ephesians 5:22-29)
a.       Are you ready for this type of responsibility? Women – to submit to an imperfect man just like you have already been submitting to God? Men – to be responsible and accountable to God and all others for a wife down to what she says, does, and even how she looks? To love her, lead her and never leave her NO MATTER WHAT? Y’all ain’t ready…

5.       Men are to pursue; Women are to be pursued. Never the other way around.
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord.”
a.       Simply, men do the chasing and women do the accepting/rejecting; both are important roles in courtship. This is another make-it-or-break-it point that indicates whether it is expedient for you to consider courtship. If as a godly woman or godly man you do not submit to this point, your pursuit in courtship will become perverted (twisted, distorted, corrupted) which can pervert your roles in a marriage later. And I don't think you want those problems.

Now that we have covered some scripture on courtship (there’s plenty more!), I would like to add one last disclaimer. I do recognize that some relationships did not follow this particular path and has, ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD, resulted in a truly God-honoring marriage. I am sure though that the couples involved did not reach that point until after much unnecessary hurt and heartbreak, which is promised to those who stray from the blueprint of the Word of God. God has to purify the thing one way or another in order to make it good for you and glorifying to Him. I would just hope that those who are reading this would opt for the less painful option. You may as well not add more pruning to your life than is necessary. Trust me when I tell you.

The Difference Between Courtship and Recreational Dating
I am NOT referring to recreational dating when I talk about Christian courtship. I am strongly and passionately against it and I will briefly explain why.

People may have many motives for why they choose to date recreationally; additionally some people do it and don’t even realize that this is what they are doing. In spite of all this, recreational dating all looks the same: dating different people ongoing without purpose or even the motive for long-lasting commitment. Christians fall into this hole at times when we try to satisfy feelings of loneliness or have not found true contentment in Christ as of yet, and so we end up doing this to each other to satisfy temporary needs or permanent needs that only Christ can satisfy.

This is a shame.

When we choose to pursue one another without first consulting with the Father and making sure that we go into the thing in soberness and with clear purpose to commit, we end up using and abusing one another just to satisfy our selfish needs. Christian men and women end up walking around so hurt and abused BY EACH OTHER that we end up completely losing focus on Kingdom business. This is a sometimes hidden and very divisive tactic satan uses among believers to disrupt the work of God and corrupt the body of Christ! Why are we taking part in it? Why do we want to aid satan in creating more hurt and distraction in each other? When we fall in love, we truly fall in love and when we are hurt by “love” (false/perverse love; real love does not produce this kind of hurt) we are truly hurt. Do you know the number of Christians walking around hurt and upset and unable to carry out the works of the Lord because of a nasty breakup? Or because of a man/woman that won’t commit?

It is such a terrible distraction!

This is the reason why I hate recreational dating. It breeds more hurt and distracted Christians and aids satan in disrupting the work of God in our lives and ultimately in the world. We must stop it and leave that selfish behavior to satan and the world!

Phew…let me get off of my soap-box now.

Courtship, on the other hand, has a clear and precise motive. When a man chooses to pursue a woman and already has the mind to commit to her, he creates a situation where God can be glorified whether it works out or not. Courtship is when a man chooses to carefully and cautiously pursue a woman with hopes of progressing to marriage. The best courtship is defined by the scriptures above and is coupled with a heart (from both individuals) that is completely and happily content in God.

So now what is contentment and how in the world does it make us better daters?

Contentment and Dating
First, let me quickly separate contentment from our love lives for a moment.

By definition, contentment is “the state of happiness and satisfaction.”

To find contentment in Christ is to have found complete fulfillment, satisfaction, gratification, pleasure and satisfaction in our Savior. And let me tell you, this is a good thing! This is a wonderful thing! This is a thing that should be pursued constantly; and the Lord is certainly able to fill these shoes in our lives if we let Him.

I believe that as we progress in this thing called life,especially through tests and trials, we grow more and more content in Christ. As we pass tests and go through trials, we learn just how much we can trust the Lord. This translates to us learning how much the Lord loves us which then translates to us learning that He truly never leaves us and never leaves us wanting! This complete and growing trust in God that we gain through various tests, trials and seasons of life is the basic core of contentment in Christ. So contentment in God is essentially a lifelong and beautiful journey that is continually matured in us.

Now, I won’t go into too much more detail on that because you can read more details on godly contentment in my other posts. But when God is truly the center of our lives and we trust Him in everything, this naturally affects our dating/courtship pursuit as well (along with every other area of our lives). It means essentially that we are secure and fulfilled in Him no matter what life brings and does not bring. This is the core of our Christian lifestyle as well. The following is what it looks like when we are dating and have learned to be (and are learning to be) content in God.

1.       Being content in God will influence how we date.

a.       Since God is the center of our lives, and we find complete satisfaction and fulfillment in His being we will desire to honor God by letting the Word of God (i.e. the scriptures above) direct our attitudes and actions when we either pursue a godly woman or accept the pursuit of a godly man.

b.      This also aids in us not having unrealistic expectations of our partners in courtship which means that we won’t make demands on them that they are not able to meet.  This is simply because God ALREADY meets ALL our impossible demands in a partner/mate (parent, teacher, friend; the list goes on). When we expect too much from our partners, especially things that are unrealistic for human beings to consistently fulfill for us, we don’t only drive them crazy but we can make them idols in our hearts, taking the place of our all-fulfilling God.

c.       When we don’t place unrealistic demands on our partners that God can only fulfill, this allows us to help each other grow as well. Not by expecting more from each other than we can give at a particular time, but by being compassionate and understanding with each other when we do fall short in the relationship. This subsequently produces real and lasting growth.

d.      Also, if things do not work out, for whatever the specific reason (and God will sometimes show you the reason immediately or much later), you will not create another broken and bruised woman/man of God because you honored God during the process and you both were already content in God to begin with and can go right back to that foundation if things do not progress to the intended goal of marriage. It will hurt, for sure, but you will be able to keep it moving because you have already found your fullness in Christ and can move forward.

2.       Being content in God will influence when we date.

a.       Since God is already the center of our lives, and we have learned how to listen to Him and obey His leading, we will know exactly when it is right time for us to date and when it will pose as more of a distraction for us.

b.      Also, since God is already at the center of our lives and we have learned to be content in Him, we won’t be in such a rush for courtship because we have already learned to be fulfilled and satisfied in Him or are learning how to be. There won’t be a need unless God opens that door. (It is important to note here that we may NEED marriage to produce more growth in us as well; see scriptures above. So, I am certainly not suggesting that courtship and marriage is unnecessary. I like to think that God blesses some of us with the gift of marriage when we have grown as much as we can in singleness and He needs us to grow more.)

3.       Being content in God will influence who we choose to date.

a.       When God is at the center of our lives and we have learned to truly love and appreciate His beautiful character, naturally we will desire a potential mate that looks like Him too.

b.      Naturally, we are going to desire potential partners that are patient like He is, kind like He is, compassionate like He is, and loving like He is. We will desire partners who are responsible like He is and can be accountable for us like He is.

c.       Most importantly, we will desire partners who know and love Him the same way we do. No, they won't be perfect, but they will want to live for God and will have found fulfillment in Him just like we have.

Let’s Wrap This Thing Up
So, to summarize the key elements in this post, we know first that being content in God simply means that we have found and are learning to find complete satisfaction, gratification, fulfillment and happiness in God. That we are finding completeness and wholeness in Christ. This essentially means that we will naturally be open to whatever God’s will is for us and trust Him every step of the way.

Contentment, as I mentioned already, is a lifelong learning process. We could never experience the fullness of satisfaction and happiness in God just by one situation or season in our lives alone. It takes going through life and learning about ourselves in light of the goodness of God through various situations and experiences. Paul expresses this best when he makes the following declaration:
“Yes, everything is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him…I do not mean to say that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:8-9, 12-14)
If we are currently pursuing contentment in Christ, it makes for a great foundation for when God opens doors for us to date because: we will know to go about dating with God’s word in mind in order to honor Him and the other individual, we will know that it is the right time for us to be open to the pursuit of a godly man as a godly woman or when to pursue a godly woman as a godly man, and finally we will know to pursue a godly woman or man with traits mirroring the beautiful character of our God.

I briefly noted previously that marriage is also a vehicle God uses to produce more growth in us. Do not think that you have to be perfect for God to honor your pursuit in courtship. On the contrary, courtship that ends in marriage will produce more holy growth in you. The biggest point being made in this post is for us to honor God in our courtship pursuits and to make sure that we are starting off with a healthy mindset, which is contentment in Christ. When you are content in Christ already, you will honor God by following His leading and His word when it comes to pursuing that lovely woman of God or being pursued by that strapping man of God (ha!). This will save you a whole lot of time, energy and even heartbreak. 

Lastly, sometimes things will just not work out. However if/when this happens you won’t have to worry about creating more hurt and harm in the body of Christ. This is simply because you chose to honor God and your fellow brother/sister in Christ during the pursuit based on your submission to the Word of God. You will also be able to go right back to the foundation of contentment in Christ that you started with in order to move on in the healthiest way.

I hope this post has helped all those who read. I know it was much longer to read than most, but I wanted to make sure that I presented sound advice, especially through scripture, to aid in one of the most important pursuits that a Christian can have. Please seek God during your pursuit, and enjoy it as you honor God and each other.

Happy Dating (Courting)!

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