I DON’T: SINGLES
October 13, 2002
[A drama is played out before the message is given. In the drama, a man comes out to sing. As he is singing, his voice begins to crack, he misses notes, and forgets words. He becomes embarrassed and runs off stage, nearly in tears. The congregation is unaware that this is a drama and truly thinks that this man has embarrassed himself. Uncomfortably, they give him a standing ovation in order to support him. Troy Page, Pastor of Spiritual Development, then walks on stage.]
It was a joke. The whole thing was a joke. You came to Fellowship Church and you expected to hear incredible music. Then this guy came out and sounded like an American Idol reject. He’s really cool, though, and that was all a joke. But, how did it make you feel? Some of you thought it was good and some of you didn’t. It made you feel uncomfortable, maybe a little disappointed.
Maybe you thought, “Man, what is going on here? It’s gotten chaotic. Maybe they didn’t practice or something.”
This week, I have been thinking a lot about expectations. I have been talking to a lot of people about expectations, especially when it comes to relationships. I’ve been getting a lot of expectations suggested to me this week. When it comes to relationships and marriage, we have a lot of expectations.
Guys, you go into relationships and marriage thinking that every day you are going to wake up, look over at your bride, and she is going to look as beautiful and as radiant as the day she walked down that isle.
Guys also think that she is going to do everything just the way Mom used to do it. Guys think that they’ll have perfect home-cooked meals every night that taste just like Mom used to make. All you have to do is jiggle your glass and she’ll come running with more tea.
Guys, you think that the only meaning PMS is going to have in your relationship is “Perfect Marital Situation.”
Probably the greatest expectation of all for guys is that marriage is going to bring them a free pass — sex anytime they want. I don’t know, because I’m not married, but I have heard that is not the case.
Ladies, you have some expectations as well. Women often go into this thing thinking the same thing, “He’ll do everything just the way Daddy used to do it. He’ll take care of everything.” You think that all you have to do is say, “Honey, do,” and he will. You think, “Nothing will go unattended to. Nothing will be left undone. He’ll take care of everything perfectly.”
Ladies, you also may go into a relationship or marriage thinking he will be willing to sacrifice anything for you. It’s all about you — he’ll be willing to sacrifice the World Series, the Superbowl, and even Monday Night Football.
You imagine him saying, “Here, honey, you take the remote. Let’s watch something on Lifetime tonight, television for women.”
Probably the greatest expectation, ladies, you may have is that this guy will have some supernatural ability to read your mind. By reading your mind, he will always have the perfect thing to say — things like, “Honey, tonight let me take care of the kids. Later, let’s don’t have sex. Let’s just hold each other and talk.”
We have a lot of expectations. Many times, we go into these relationships and go into marriage thinking that it is going to be the “fix-all.” We think that it’s going to cure all our worries and woes.
Like I said, I have been talking to a lot of people. I have a unique perspective being a single person, but also, being a single pastor. I know what is out there and what the expectation of the single adult is. Being a pastor in a church like this, I hear a little of everything that is going on. Probably the greatest place that I learn is sitting around listening to these other married pastors talk.
In staff meetings, when we are talking about these types of series, and everybody is throwing in their two bits, Ed often says, “You know, Troy is never going to get married. He just knows too much.” It’s probably true, especially when I hear stories like I heard this week.
Another staff member told me that she and her husband were celebrating their first wedding anniversary. She decided that she was going to fix this romantic dinner. She went to all the trouble to make this gourmet meal, decorated the dining room table, had placemats with their vows written on it, and her veil was draped lovingly across the center of the table and the candles. Everything was good to go.
When things were ready, she said, “Honey, it’s time to eat.”
He came in to eat dinner in this romantic setting wearing his boxers, no shirt and flip-flops. Obviously, her expectation was not met. I don’t know what she was expecting. [Sarcastically, Troy says …] It wasn’t like they were in a restaurant or anything.
I have learned that these expectations are really not what they are cracked up to be and that marriage may not be the “fix-all” for our worries and woes.
[During this entire message, there has been a boat on stage with Troy]
Let me see if I can illustrate it this way. Let’s say this boat represents your life. This is who you are. The water is the sea of relationships. Every wave represents an expectation you have when it comes to relationships. Deeper, beneath those waves, in the depths of that sea, we have deeper emotional needs. We have needs for intimacy, acceptance, value, and esteem. We all have these deeper emotional needs.
Let’s say you are in your boat and are traveling along in this relationship. Suddenly, you hit some rough water. Maybe he was a little inconsiderate and he didn’t call. Maybe, she didn’t quite fix the meal the way you wanted it to be. Something went wrong. You think, “Okay, we can deal with this. We’ll get to smoother water in a little bit.”
You get to smoother water, but you begin to look down and say, “Oh no! We’re taking on water here. There’s water coming into the boat!”
You begin to realize that your boat is taking on water. Whether the water around you is smooth or choppy, the waters of discontent, fear, rejection, and other emotional needs that aren’t being met begin to come into your boat. You look around and realize that there is a hole in the boat.
Now, every boat is equipped with a drain hole. It’s there so that when you take the boat out of the water, you can drain any water that has come into the boat.
So, you realize the water is coming in and you have to do something about it, because you are going to sink if you don’t plug that hole. You begin looking around trying to figure out what you can do to stuff that hole.
You use a tackle box, maybe. You say, “Okay, I’ll tackle it this way. I’ll negotiate it. I’ll try to change this person. I’ll try to fight it to the death. I’ll just make them conform to all my expectations.”
It doesn’t work. There is still water coming in. That obviously doesn’t fit in the hole. So, you look around, trying to find something else. You grab a flotation device and say, “If I just go to a church, listen to a series or get therapy; that will cure my worries and woes. Maybe then my expectations will be made.”
Then, the flotation device is gone, but water is still coming in the boat. Finally, you think, “Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m just not pretty enough, not good-looking enough, or successful enough. Maybe it’s my problem.”
So we try to stuff it and plug up that hole ourselves. Yet, nothing we can do fills up that hole. Water continues to rise in your boat. The last thing that you can do is to look outside your boat for help.
You begin to look for debris, something that is floating around that you might stuff in that hole — things like an extramarital affair, sex outside of marriage. Maybe you try false intimacy through pornography or substance abuse. Maybe you just try to be a better parent and invest all your time in your kids. We try all these things to try to plug that hole; yet, nothing works. Nothing fits that hole. We are still taking on water.
Finally, we are left with two choices: We can hold on tight, give up, hold our breath and hope we don’t drown as we sink to rock-bottom. Or, we jump ship. We break up. We separate. We get a divorce. We begin to swim around in these relational waters trying to find someone or something that can satisfy that hole in our lives.
Do you know what the interesting thing in all of this is? If we want to keep that boat from sinking, all it’s going to take is this little rubber plug. [Troy holds up a rubber boat plug] Look at this thing. You can barely see it. It’s something that seems so simple and so insignificant. If I saw this sitting on the shelf in my garage, I wouldn’t even look at it twice. It just seems so worthless, until your boat is sinking. Then this thing is worth a million bucks.
We have all been created with a hole in our lives. The Bible tells us exactly what that hole is really all about.
Proverbs 19:22 says, “What a man desires is unfailing love.”
If you look at the original text, the original language that this book was written in, you will see what unfailing love really means. It means, “A God love, a perfect, untainted, and unconditional love.” We are not capable of loving one another unconditionally. We can try, but we are flawed. We’re human. There is no one or no thing that can love me unconditionally and fill that hole in my life.
But, isn’t it true that we often treat God’s love kind of like this little plug? We say, “It sounds nice, yes, God loves me.” We sing our songs, “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.” We think, “I expect to hear that at church.” But what we don’t realize is the power and the purpose of God’s unconditional love for our lives.
Tonight, I hope to expand your knowledge, expand your idea of what God’s love is really all about.
There are a couple of things we need to understand. Number one — we need to understand that God’s love initiates and demonstrates unconditional love.
Let me show you another verse, 1 John 4:19, says, “We love because he first loved us.”
God loved us first. We have the capability of loving and having great loving relationships because he loved us. God initiated that love. He sent his Son into this world. He extended his unconditional love through his son. He held out that love to you and me, waiting for us to accept that love.
I don’t know about you, but it feels good to be pursued, doesn’t it? It feels good when someone in your life, whether it is your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or that person you have got a little interest in, initiates some type of act of love. I like it when the girl I am dating chooses to fix me dinner or, better yet, pay for dinner. That’s a real good one!
Ladies, you like it when your husband or boyfriend shows up with flowers or surprises you by taking you out for a night on the town. It feels good to be pursued.
Tonight, God is pursuing you. Many of you are here tonight because you have heard God’s calling. You don’t know why you are here, but I can tell you that He is calling your name.
He is saying, “Won’t you let me love you? Won’t you let me satisfy that hole in your life?”
The question is, “Are you going to listen?”
For me, when it comes to using something in my life, I don’t buy it, take it on, or use it unless I am completely convinced that this thing is going to do what it says it is going to do. I need a little demonstration to prove its worth. Maybe you are the same way.
Think of this. We have all seen those scenarios on television; those rescue attempts, where the Coastguard is flying in on their helicopters to rescue a drowning person in the sea. The Coastguard guy, brave and strong, drops down from that helicopter on a cable line, willing to sacrifice his life for the person who is drowning.
What would it be like if this guy is suspended from the helicopter and he just gets down to that person to reach out his hand and goes, “Wait a minute. Do you realize that outfit you have on in the water is not ‘happening.’ That is so 1980’s. The last person I rescued had a much better look than you do. Based on your look, I bet you have lied. I bet you have cheated in your life. I bet you have slept with someone outside of marriage or abused some drugs. You know what else? You don’t look very successful. How much money do you have in the bank?”
Then he decides, “You know what? I can find someone else a little more worthy to save.” And, up he goes, back to the helicopter without the victim.
Not only would that be a very sad and tragic happening, but it would not be a very good demonstration of an unconditional rescue.
Let me show you another verse about our God — Romans 5:8. It says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Christ came to this earth, suspended from heaven. He hung on a line, not a cable line, but a wooden line. He hung on a cross. As he was hanging on this cross, he had your name, your face on his mind and in his heart.
As he looked down, he didn’t say, “I don’t want to rescue you because of the way you look or how successful you are.”
He said, “I don’t care who you are. I don’t care what you have done. I don’t care what you look like. I just love you and I want to have a relationship with you.”
With that, he gave his life to rescue us from the sin that was keeping us from God’s unconditional love. The true measure of love in our lives is how much someone is willing to sacrifice for us. Christ went the distance. He held nothing back and left us with no question that his love was capable of filling that hole in our lives.
God initiated and demonstrated his love. We can accept Christ’s love and invite Christ into our lives. Just as I was in the boat, with the plug in my pocket all along, we can have Christ in our lives. But what good does that unconditional love do for us if we don’t take that plug and apply it to the hole. We need to put the plug, Christ, into the hole in our lives.
We also have to realize another aspect of God’s love. God’s love provides and guides. I want to read two more great verses and give a commentary as we go. The verses are Ephesians 3:19-20.
“And to know this love that surpasses knowledge.”
Now, when you see this word, “know,” that doesn’t just mean being mentally aware of things. It means that you would know it both in your head and in your circumstances, that you would experience this love. It surpasses mental knowledge. We often humanize God’s love. We don’t think God can love us because we expect him to love us the way we have experienced love in this world. But, God’s love surpasses anything we can imagine.
If we read on, it says, “That you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
The amount of love that is available to you and me is the sum total of who God is. When I think about this “being filled to the fullness of God,” I think about complete satisfaction. That, to me, is having that hole plugged in my life.
When we read on, it says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
Who better to meet those inner needs, deep emotional needs, needs for acceptance, needs for satisfaction, needs for security, needs for value that we have, than the spirit of God who lives inside our inner person? God’s love provides and it guides.
I recently received an email from someone here in our church. I want to read it to you as an example of how God’s love can provide in someone’s life.
She writes, “I grew up in a family where my mother made us go to church every Sunday. My mother could never figure out what was wrong with me, though, or why I wasn’t happy. She used to tell me that, every night, she prayed that I would find happiness. I barely even graduated from high school because my grades were so bad. I had no self-confidence. I was overweight and I was so shy, that I couldn’t do anything alone because I was scared of what people would say or think.
“When I got into college, I had my first serious relationship with a guy. We were together for three years and had talked about getting married. When we broke up, I was devastated. I thought I had finally found someone to fill that void in my life, only to be let down. From that point on, I had several relationships that didn’t work out because I was so desperate to get married. I thought that as long as I had a man in my life, I would be happy.
“Three years ago, I thought I had finally found that person. We were together for almost six months and I was in love, or at least I thought I was. I am still single so, obviously, that one didn’t work out either. After this breakup, I sank into a horrible depression for two months. I had to force myself to get up and go to work each morning. My HomeTeam friends were there for me when I was going through my depression. God certainly blessed me there. They sincerely cared and worried about me. They called me everyday and even came and dragged me out of the house, just to get me out. Eventually, they talked me into seeing a Christian Counselor. Talking to the counselor brought out a secret I had kept to myself for over 20 years.
“I was molested by my dad when I was ten years old. No wonder I wasn’t happy! After bringing this out in the open with the counselor, I was an emotional basket case. I would break down and cry if someone just looked at me wrong. About the time I went to the counselor, Ed was doing the series on the Ten Commandments. Ed did the sermon on, ‘Honor thy father and thy mother.’ I think I cried through the whole service. I felt like Ed was talking to me directly when he was talking about those who had been abused by their parents and how they need to forgive and love them, regardless. I decided to let go and forgive my dad. It felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. But, the tough part was still to come. I needed to actually tell him.
“With God by my side, and the encouragement of my friends, I called my dad and had the courage to talk with him. When we met, it ended up that I didn’t have to say much. I asked Dad if he remembered what he did to me and that was all it took. That was only the second time in my life I had ever seen him cry. He said he had asked God every day for 20 years to forgive him for what he had done and he prayed that I could forgive him as well. I hugged him for the first time in 20 years and told him from the bottom of my heart that I forgive him and love him. Today, my dad and I have a better relationship than ever. We talk a couple of times a week and can actually say, ’I love you,’ to one another. Not only did this whole thing bring me closer to my dad, it brought me closer to my Father — God.”
What an incredible story of how God’s love provided! We see that when this person began to redirect themselves, to seek the unconditional love of God first and foremost in her life, she found the strength that she needed. She found the encouragement, and she found the answers. God began to provide by giving her people in her life. He gave her a foundation to stand upon. Through all this, he gave her the guidance she needed and the path she needed to take in order to change the situation. She began to restore and heal and bail out some of that water of disappointment that had come into her life as she was restored to her father.
God’s love provides and guides. We know it, because he initiated it and demonstrated it.
Some of you out there are probably thinking, “Troy, you are just talking to single people right now.”
Others are probably thinking, “You are just talking to married people right now. I haven’t had those types of circumstances. My whole life is different than all of that.”
It doesn’t matter if you are married, single, in a relationship or not. The principles that I have talked to you about hold true. We need to realize the purpose and power of God’s love and apply it to the hole in our lives.
I have had to figure this out in my life as well. Most of my life, I grew up thinking that I would be satisfied, that all of my emotional needs would be met if I could just be successful. I thought satisfaction would come if I could just be good at everything I did — if I could be great at school, great in my career, earn the right income, great in ministry, great at speaking and teaching, and great at relationships. I thought that if I could just be successful in these things, I would be satisfied.
Do you know what that meant for me? In order to be successful in all these things, I felt like I had to be perfect. I had to just work, control, calculate and figure out just how good I could be. If I did that, then I would gain acceptance from people. Then, I would get God’s pleasure. I thought I had to be good at work, career and relationships — especially relationships. Try being a single Singles Pastor and dating. Everybody expects you to be the perfect date. You’re supposed to know it all. But I was afraid to let anybody know that I was struggling with some things, that I wasn’t perfect.
Do you know what happened? I got stressed out, worn out, and burned out of trying to find that fulfillment on my own. I’ll never forget just doing a Bible study on my own in my house. I was reading, praying and journaling a little bit.
God began to impress on me, “Troy, it’s not about what you can do. It’s not about how good you can be, or how great you can perform in front of everybody. It’s about who I am and what I can do through you.” He wanted me to satisfy myself in his unconditional love. When I am loved perfectly, everything else is okay. So, I have begun to learn in the past two years, as I walk through my life, my job, my career, and my relationships, to sit back and allow God’s love to satisfy me. Do you know what it all comes down to? Do you know how we apply that plug into the hole in our lives?
It comes down to one word — surrender. It’s all about surrender. We have got to surrender all those expectations and all those needs that we feel in our lives. We have got to allow God to fill them and meet them in our lives.
We’ve been in a series over the last several weeks called “I Don’t.” We have looked at the things that we don’t do before we say, “I do.” You will remember that it is basically that we don’t ignore the signs. Tonight, we are looking at something we don’t do before and after we say, “I do.”
It’s this — don’t expect someone or something to meet the needs that only God can fulfill. Let’s pray.