The Gift of Singleness
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JP PokludaJonathan “JP” Pokluda is the Lead Pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, TX. He was formerly the leader of The Porch in Dallas, TX which grew to be the largest weekly young adult gathering of its kind in the country. JP didn’t come to understand the grace of the Gospel until his early twenties after being involved in different denominational churches his entire life. This ignited a desire in him to inspire young adults to radically follow Jesus Christ and unleash them to change the...more
Using our God-given gifts is important, and on today’s program, JP Pokluda encourages us to not take the gift of singleness and put it on a shelf.
The Gift of Singleness
Dave: Okay, honey, here is a question.
Ann: I’m ready.
Dave: See if you remember;—
Dave: —I know you do. When I wanted to ask you out—
Dave: —what did your dad say?
Ann: “No; absolutely not. You will never date Dave Wilson.”
Dave: Why is that?
Ann: Because you had a horrible reputation—terrible.
Dave: Yes; but guess what?
Ann: You married me. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; he lost.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: I mean, I’ll never forget that. Her dad barred me from the house. He was my baseball coach, and he knew—
Ann: He knew too much.
Dave: —a little too much.
JP: You got the girl, though.
Dave: But I got the girl, and we dated not long enough.
In fact, today, we’re going to talk about dating with JP Pokluda. He wrote a great book called Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed. JP, great to have you with you us.
JP: Thanks for having me. This is so much fun to be with you two. I’m just glad that we can do this, man; I have fun when we are together, truly.
Ann: We do, too; I feel like we’re learning from JP a lot.
Dave: Yes, I’m glad we’re not dating anymore. I mean, we are dating as a married couple.
Ann: Yes, we still date.
Dave: We have some hot dates.
Ann: Yes, we do.
Dave: She didn’t respond very good to that; that means they are not that hot. She looked at me like, “You think those are hot?”
JP: No; she said, “Yes, we do.”
Ann: Was it not enthusiastic enough?
Ann: Oh, YES, we do!
Dave: Yes, whatever—
Ann: How is that?
Dave: Now, you’re lying on radio. [Laughter]
JP, now, you’re a pastor of Harris Creek Baptist in Waco.
Dave: What’s that like?
JP: It’s awesome; man, it’s great. God is doing a work in Waco. There is a unique—I would tell you—a unique spiritual battle being fought there. It’s fun to get to preach the gospel, to preach the Word, and to watch lives being changed every week. It’s incredible.
Dave: That’s great. We’ve already talked about a little bit about your book, as you’ve just said. For years, you were at The Porch at the Watermark Church in Dallas and thousands of singles. You watched dating sort of go wrong,—
Dave: —or you have so many questions, that you said, “I’ve got to write something to help couples/singles.”
JP: So much of ministry is pattern recognition. So yes; you are sitting on the front row, watching disaster happen in the way that people date.
Also, being a pastor, I’ve done dozens of marriages and people, who come together. You genuinely/you stand before their family and friends; and you’re like, “I think God brought these two together. This is awesome; this is going to be great. If marriages were stock, I’m going long here. This is an amazing…” But then you see so many tragedies as well. You just start recognizing the patterns. What it does is it gives legitimacy to the Word of God. You see how brilliant He is and how much He loves us to give us the instruction that He has given us.
Dave: Well, as you know, the Bible isn’t a dating book. It’s not really even mentioned because dating wasn’t something that was taking place at the time of biblical times.
JP: That’s right.
Dave: But it does talk about singleness.
Dave: So before we even get into this topic, talk to us a little bit about single; because I know, often in churches, being a pastor—you’re a pastor—you look out there. Here is what I think is going on: you see single people sitting there; and they are looking at the married couples, going,—
Ann: “I wish I could…”
Dave: —“Oh, if I could just be married.”
Ann: Then you have the married people, looking at the single people, thinking, “Man, I wish I had that freedom.”
JP: We can’t learn; yes. The greatest marriage verse and singleness verse is: “Godliness with contentment is great gain,”—[Laughter]—which has nothing to do with marriage or singleness—but everything to do with finding contentment.
I think the church has missed it here, friends. I think we’ve elevated marriage to be the varsity to the JV singleness, which is an unbiblical idea that’s just not what the Scripture teaches. In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 7, verse 7, the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, says that, “Singleness is a gift.” Paul says, “I wish you were as I am, but some have that gift; others have this one.” He calls it a gift.
We talk about—in church/if you’ve been in church long, you heard of the gift of singleness—this is important for you parents; okay?—so lean in, because some of you/you’re praying parents. You’ve prayed for your children’s spouse since they were born, but have you ever prayed for their singleness? Have you ever prayed they’d be faithful in their singleness?—like if God doesn’t have a spouse for them in this fallen world that we live in, even if they desire one—right?—that they would honor Him in their singleness.
Ann: —and to be okay with that and not to feel like that’s less than.
JP: Yes, every Thanksgiving and Christmas: “Oh, you’re alone again; huh?”—that’s not helpful, parents/not helpful. [Laughter]
Paul calls it a gift, so we should look at it like it is a gift. Paul’s really just expounding on the teachings of Jesus; in a lesser-known verse in Matthew 19, Jesus says, “There are some who are celibate for the sake of the kingdom.” He says, “Not everyone can accept this, but those who can should.” Jesus, Himself, puts singleness on this pedestal as something that’s really awesome to be sought after.
Let me just say this: both Paul and Jesus were single; Jesus, the most complete human being who has ever walked the planet earth. They say, “Well, marriage…you complete me,”—Jerry Maguire or whatever. Jesus was the most complete human being that has ever lived. He was a 33-year-old man, who had never been on a date; okay? That’s who we follow.
Ann: —which in that culture was unusual too.
JP: Absolutely; so I think that that’s the part that we haven’t taught on very well. It’s like: “Hey, singleness is good; it’s a gift.” I think the single listeners—they are like, “What if I have the gift? What do I do?” I know how to tell you if you have the gift. It’s a one-survey question; I can ask you one question, and I’ve never been wrong—I have 100 percent accuracy on this—if you answer this question affirmative, you have the gift of singleness. Here it is/here is the question: “Did you wake up this morning single? [Laughter] If you did, you have the gift of singleness.”
Now, we think about that gift as like chronic or terminal, or it’s going to be there forever; we don’t know that! He just says it’s a gift. When you have it, it’s a gift; so we should see it as a gift.
Ann: But why don’t people see it as a gift? Like I think somebody just listened to that—especially a woman heard that—and thought, “Oh, I hope that’s not my gift.”
Ann: Why is that?
JP: Well, several reasons. I do think/there is nothing wrong with the desire to be married. The Scripture does say, “Whoever finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor of the Lord.” It’s good; marriage is a good thing. It teaches us about God: it teaches us about the Trinity; it teaches us about how the Father, and the Son, the Holy Spirit complement one another; right?
But singleness teaches us about the supremacy and sufficiency of Jesus. Singleness teaches us that He is enough. The reason that we don’t believe that is, for some of us, He’s not enough; right?
I want you to know, single friends, none of you/not one of you are going to get to heaven and say, “Hey, God, what’s up? How come You withheld that from me?”—right? Nobody does that; that’s the conversation that has never happened: “God, why did You keep me single?”
The truth is, for most of you, if you desire marriage, you’ll find it; but as my friend said earlier, most married people want to be single; and most single people want to be married. We just can’t ever find contentment. I think we have to learn contentment/gratitude, knowing that God gives us good gifts: “Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of heavenly lights.” So appreciate it.
The way that you appreciate a gift: you don’t keep it wrapped; you don’t put it on the shelf. You use the gift. The Apostle Paul used his gift of singleness very well: he wrote most of the New Testament; he built the kingdom. Jesus used His gift of singleness very well: He laid His life down for our sins. So you should think, “How can I use this gift in an uninhibited way?” as 1 Corinthians 7 says.
Dave: Yes; and it really is interesting—what you said—“Is Jesus enough?” That question has to be answered by single people and married people.
JP: That’s right.
Dave: I mean, we sort of joke about it; but singles are thinking, “Married people don’t need to answer that; they have found contentment in a spouse. So certainly, Jesus is enough.”
We’re all sitting here—we’re all married—we’re like, “Oh, no, that is a big question for us, married.” It’s the same thing for a single person.
Dave: So it really is the question of life: “Am I content in Christ alone?”
Ann: Well, I have found myself, as a married woman lying in bed beside Dave, thinking,—
Dave: —“The most amazing man in the universe.”
Ann: —thinking, “I am so lonely.”
Ann: I think a lot of married people can feel a real sense of loneliness.
Dave: Did you have to be that honest? [Laughter]
JP: That went somewhere different; that went somewhere different than you thought, [Laughter] like, “Wow!”
Dave: I didn’t think that was what it was going to be. [Instead, I thought she’d say]: “Man, I am so fulfilled with this man beside me.”
Ann: And that is the point; you really are amazing,—
Dave: Now, she’s trying to bail herself out. [Laughter]
JP: Back pedal, back pedal, back pedal.
Ann: —but Jesus—it used to make me think, “Dave is not enough; he is not doing his part. He’s not living up to his role or expectations that I have of him”; but now, I think, “Have I taken my eyes off of Jesus and put them on Dave, wanting him to fill my needs?” I think married people can do that, and single people can do that.
Dave: I love how you broke the book up—because you got lies/lies we sort of believe—and then what the truth is. One of your lies is written this way: “The Lie: Being single is a waiting period for something better,”—
Dave: —that’s the lie—“The truth: That better is available now.” How is singleness better now?
JP: Yes, let me start speaking experientially; and then I’ll wrap up with what the Scripture says. Before I was a Christian, as a single person—because I was a non-Christian single person and then a Christian single person—and you are always talking about doing something great: “Man, one day, we are going to backpack through Europe,” “One day, we’re going to go do this…” What you end up doing, as a pagan, like I was, is the same things over, and over, and over. Sin really robs you of creativity; you just kind of get stuck in these ruts.
When I became a Christian—uninhibited by marriage; right?—I found myself on a trip to Africa, where we were training the government on conflict resolution; and then went on this safari. I’m overseas—went on a boat for six days in Brazil—and got off in the jungle and telling people about Jesus and did that trip like four times. Then, I went to Haiti, and then went to rural Haiti, and then kind of tribal Haiti in the mountains—and with all of these different people—getting to talk about Jesus. I was like, “Man, this is a full life. I am really, really living; and I’ve experienced the full life that Christ offers.”
Well, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7/he talks about the married man is concerned for the affairs of his household or his wife and that the single person is uninhibited in that way—they are concerned about the things of the kingdom—that I was concerned about the things of the kingdom. I got married, and then I didn’t go on any of those trips; alright? We had kids shortly thereafter, and I went on one trip to Haiti; but I had to cut it short, because I had to come back for a soccer tournament. [Laughter]
In that short little story is that example of what I have experienced firsthand. You see how that shifted. So for my single friends out there, I would just say, “What it looks like to live in singleness, as a gift as God has described it in the Scriptures, is to live it for the kingdom of heaven,”—that is what Jesus says in Matthew 19—that you would focus on building the kingdom. He says it in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added.”
What does it look like to wake up on mission? Now, I’m not saying—because don’t write me off as some unaware pastor that you just have nothing but time because you are single—I know you are busy; right? But be busy doing the right things, watching the right things, hanging out with the right people, living on mission. I hope you have the friend group that—if you look around; and you’re like,—“Wow, the five of us/if we just picked anything; we said, ‘Hey, we want to do away with pornography,’” like you could do it; you know, you could make that happen. “‘We want to end sex trafficking,’”—like you could do it—give your life to that. Find a cause, and then give your life to that.
It’s not to say that you won’t be married; you probably will be. If you want to be, you probably will be; but don’t think that marriage is more ultimate than singleness. That is a mistake; it’s an unbiblical/it’s an anti-biblical idea.
Ann: So if you are single, and you really don’t want to be, what are our steps? What do we do?
JP: Yes; this is the beauty of being a part of Jesus’s body; that is, the church. If you have all these people around you—to single friends, who desire marriage and feel like they have no prospects—I would go to your married friends and tell them, like, “Hey, I really want to be married. Do you know of anybody?” Begin/that’s this whole concept of arranged marriage, if you will.
Ann: So that doesn’t feel needy or desperate?
JP: No; we love it! I mean, you guys know. I would be encouraged if single friends came and sat down at the table with Monica and me and said, “Hey, guys, I just want you to know I know that I’m single—I don’t want to be— want to be married. Do you know of anybody? Is there anyone out there that you think that I would be a good wife for?” or “…a good husband for?” Begin to think that way. I would say, “Go where those people are.”
If you’ve been in church long, as a single person, you’ve probably heard this: “Just like go to the well, if you will, where the servants are,”—like people who serve Christ. Go be/make sure you are hanging out where they are, and not as a desperate person or anything, but just like: “Hey, this…we’re looking. You’re looking; I’m looking.” This isn’t a meat market, as the world wants to say. No; we’re just: “This is God’s people, who desire to be married; and we’re hanging out in this place.”
Ann: Have you connected some people?
JP: Oh, yes, for sure—
Ann: Me too!
JP: —for sure.
Ann: It feels good; I love doing that.
JP: Absolutely; like that’s fun. That is fun for your married friends.
Then I would say, “Initiate.” Sometimes, different people are at different places on that spectrum. If you look at your life and you realize, “Man, I’ve just been really passive here,” I would just say, “Initiate.”
I just think love must be sincere, and we’ve really complicated this with playing games. Right now, they feel like guys aren’t asking girls out. Guys feel like girls are always saying, “No”; because their standards are so high; and then they are playing games—there is ghosting [ignoring texts]; sliding into DM’s [doesn’t matter/don’t mind]—you’re hiding behind technology. Romans 12 says: “Love must be sincere”; so just communicate how you feel. You don’t have to complicate it, like: “Oh, well, can I…” “What do the rules say about this?” and “What do I do?” and “How do I…”
Ann: “If I say this, will it scare him away?”
JP: It’s just okay to say, “Man, I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately; and I would love to spend more time together. Let me know if you’re ever interested in something like that.”
Ann: Okay; should a woman say that to a man, and should she ask a guy out?
JP: Yes; so that is the thing I was talking about that’s a little bit controversial. I just look at the Scripture, and I don’t see anything forbidden in there. I like that language; I will give it to you again: “I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, and I really enjoy when we spend time together. If that’s something that you are ever interested in, let me know.” That’s not asking a guy out; that’s just communicating clearly how you feel.
Here is the deal with asking guys out. I don’t see it forbidden in the Scripture, but you are choosing your problems. A big issue today in marriages is male passivity and apathy. You just want to be aware that—if he likes you, but he is afraid to initiate—you may be choosing passivity. That is something/that would be a red flag; that’s something that I would be watching out for.
Dave: I do remember, on one of our early dates—talking about being honest, and authentic, and vulnerable—I said to Ann, in your driveway at your parents’ house; do you remember?
Dave: I said, “Boy, I’m really starting to fall for you. I feel like I’m falling in love with you, and I do not want to. I just came out of a four-year relationship; I don’t want to/I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to date anybody, really; I just want to be friends. But I’ve got to be honest; I’m really liking you, and I want to take this farther. I don’t know what to do.”
I remember looking at her—again, she is 18—I should be the mature one here. She just looks at me and goes, “Why don’t we just trust Jesus with this?” I go, “What do you mean?” She goes, “We don’t know what He wants to do. Let’s just give it to Him and see where He takes it. Let’s get all the—‘I feel this…’ ‘I’m thinking this...’ ‘What do you think?’—let’s throw all that out the window and trust Him. In fact, I think we should date other people. You want to date other people?—go for it!
Dave: “Why are we trying to confine this thing? Let’s see what God does.” I’m like, “Yes, that’s a good answer. Let’s pray!”
JP: I would have been like, “Date other people?! How did we get there? How did that happen? [Laughter] That’s not where that was going!” [Laughter]
Ann: But I think there was a freedom in feeling like, “We just want to do what Jesus wants us to do”; and we prayed that prayer every time we were together—
Ann: —because we were fearful. We didn’t know what the future looked like.
Dave: —and we didn’t date anybody else.
JP: I just think the prayer is so important. That’s the way we started this time together, right now. This idea that Jesus is driving—I know that’s really ethereal for a lot of the listeners right now, like, “Oh gosh! How do I make that abstract idea real?”—first and foremost, He needs to be the biggest thing in your life; right? He needs to be where you draw contentment from—that no person/no other person than Christ is going to complete you or fulfill you—and so you want to be fulfilled in your relationship with Jesus Christ, pursuing Him. Then, really, you are inviting someone into that.
The way that I look at marriages/the weddings that I’ve done is/I’m like, “This is a ministry strengthening enforce, because it’s two ministries coming together. Both of these people are individually involved in ministry, and now they are coming together to partner in ministry for the rest of their lives.”
Everybody is looking for this person that they’re compatible with. There is really no compatibility between two sinners—if you think about it—like we just repel each other, so I wouldn’t look for someone that I’m compatible with. I would look for someone I’m complementary to—that if we come together—like I wanted/I thought Monica and my common interests were going to carry us through marriage; but really, those common interests faded fast. She’s very, very different than me; and I’ve learned to absolutely love that. I love the way that she is nurturing, and soft, and kind with our kids; right? I tend to be stronger and more direct and, sometimes, a jerk. She balances that in our parenting and in our ministry. That’s really what you are looking for is a partner—you know?—you are looking for a partner.
If you desire marriage—and it’s good to desire marriage; marriage is a good thing—but if you’re single, that’s also a good thing; so just know that; believe that; realize that. People say: “Well, how do I?” “What if I don’t?” Start with prayer: “Lord, would You help me see this as a good thing? Help me to live in my singleness in a way that honors You.”
Dave: JP, thanks. Your wisdom is astounding; it really is.
JP: It’s God’s wisdom. I’m plagiarizing the greatest book ever written.
Dave: Yes, it is; and—
Ann: —I can see a lot of us sending this book, Outdated, to our friends/to our kids. I think that this will really benefit so many people.
JP: Pray with me that it changes the landscape—
JP: —because there is so much division in our world today; and so much of that, the problems go to the family unit.
JP: I think that, if we can change the family unit at its genesis, which is really when a boy meets a girl, that it could change the greatest challenges in our land today. So just join me in that prayer.
Ann: Will you pray?
JP: Yes, I would love to.
Ann: Will you pray for the listeners?
JP: Absolutely, absolutely.
Father, thank You for the gift of relationships. Thank You that You said that it is not good for us to be alone, and that doesn’t mean that we have to be married. When You walked this earth, You weren’t married. You have said that singleness is good, and You said that marriage is good. So for anyone, who is listening to this/hears this right now—and they are single, and they feel discontent, and just despairing—Lord, would You fill their heart with hope, and peace, and joy?—and remind them that You have a plan for them and, even, a plan for them to use their gift today.
And for anyone, who is married, listening, Lord, I pray You would bless their marriage. I pray that they would help their single friends/that they would have hearts to help them find someone if they desire marriage.
Lord, I do ask that You would heal our land; heal the division that exists in our land. Would You start at the genesis?—when someone meets that they would honor You in the way that they pursue each other—that You would be at the foundation of any love that is born there—that they would, first and foremost, love You—and that they would have a relationship with Jesus.
If anyone is listening right now, and doesn’t know You, Lord, I pray You would release the hounds of heaven after their heart; and they would trust in the death and the resurrection of Your Son as a payment for their sins, Lord.
We love You; and we trust You. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Dave: Amen; thank you.
Bob: I think we just have to acknowledge that being single, in this culture in the
21st century, there are challenges; it is hard. Knowing how to navigate life, as a single in a way that honors God, is particularly challenging. That’s why Jonathan Pokluda has written the book, Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed. It’s really a book to help people think more carefully/more biblically when it comes to the issues of singleness and dating.
We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We’d love to send you a copy. You can order it from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to get your copy of the book. Again, it is called Outdated: Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed by Jonathan Pokluda. Order online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to order at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, think with me for just a minute, is there someone you know—maybe, in your office or in your neighborhood; maybe, somebody at church—who is a single mom, raising her kids and experiencing the challenges that come with being a single mom? Earlier this week, we talked with PeggySue Wells and Pam Farrel about the challenges that single moms face. They’ve written a book called The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make, and we want to make that book available to you so that you can give it to someone you know, who would benefit from reading it.
In fact, we’re making the book available this week to anyone who can support the ministry of FamilyLife with a donation. Your donation will help extend the reach of this program. And when you get the book, you can write a note to a friend, give them the book—and who knows?—that could open the door for ongoing conversations about your faith, about their life, about how you can help one another.
Again, we’d love to send you a copy of the book, The 10 Best Decisions a Single Mom Can Make. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. When you do, request your copy of the book; and we’re happy to send it out to you. We are so grateful for your investment, not just in this ministry, but your investment in the lives of other couples/other families, helping us effectively develop godly marriages and families. That’s what FamilyLife Today is all about, and we appreciate your partnership.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend; and I hope you can join us on Monday when our friend, Ron Hutchcraft, is going to be here. Ron lost his wife recently and has been through a season of trying to process the grief and the pain that comes with that. He’s written a book called Hope When Your Heart Is Breaking. We’ll talk about that with him on Monday. I hope you can join us.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I am Bob Lepine. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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