SINGLE MINDED SERIES
FINDING THE ULTI-MATE – VISION AND VALUES FOR DATING
JULY 31, 1994
When I was twelve years of age and was at a lake I saw a man doing something I had never seen before. He was fly fishing. What a beautiful sight, he had the fly and he was making these long back casts. It looked so artistic, so easy, so flowing. Plus he was catching large mouth bass on almost every cast. I reasoned to myself in my twelve-year-old brain, “Ed, you are going to become a fly fisherman.” So I saved my money, made the trek down to K Mart and purchased a fly rod. I take it home and put it together. I think it is easy to do. And without instruction, without any guidance or teaching, I coerced my younger brother to paddle me around in our small skiff so I could show him how to fly fish. After about ten minutes I had hooked my brother thirteen times in the back of the head. And to this day Ben still flinches when we go fishing because of that fly fishing happening.
Needless to say, the line became entangled. It was horrible, I got frustrated. I took the fly rod home and I said I will never fly fish again. Years rolled by, I am twenty-eight years of age, I meet a gentleman by the name of Ernie. And Ernie is a world class fly fisherman and Ernie was kind enough to invest three days of his life to show me the skill of fly fishing. I am still not a great fly fisherman, but I realize how much work and coaching and instruction it takes to really do it right. Believe it or not, selecting a spouse is a lot like fly fishing. Because most of us when we go out on our search for a mate, we don’t get any instruction, we forget coaching or anyone giving us guidance and we say, I can find the right spouse for me. No problem. If the hormones are flying and I hear that song, Baby, Baby, I’m Hooked On You. I know, I just know it’s right, kind of like the movies. What happens? You marry the wrong person, you get hooked into a relationship you had no business being in and your life becomes a tangled mess like my fly reel and you wonder what went wrong? What went wrong? I’ll tell you what went wrong. You didn’t receive any instruction. No instruction. You see selecting a spouse is the second most important decision we will ever make. First, is where we will spend eternity. It is where our Lord and Savior will be. Second, it is who we will spend our life with. And most of us don’t give very much thought to it and the church, in my opinion, has remained curiously silent. It has kind of put everything on the back burner instead of instructing and teaching people the skill of finding the ulti-mate.
So, since forty-two percent of our church is single and over half of the metroplex population is single, and because we have so many parents and would-be parents who will be shaping the decision-making processes of their children to find the ulti-mate, I thought what if we do a message entitled Visions And Values For Dating. Ninety percent, statistics say, ninety percent of Americans will get married at least once in their life. Because half of the first time marriages this year will end in divorce and over sixty percent of the second time marriages this year will end in divorce, we desperately need an ulti-mate checklist. That’s right, an ulti-mate checklist because God wants you to have the ulti-mate. And the Bible clearly states that He leads most people into marriage. And while He is doing that He wants you to use a little checklist. So take out your ulti-mate checklist and let’s jump right in.
No, guys and girls, I am not asking you to take this card out on your first date and say please fill it out, if you would. (laughter) On the bottom, put your social security number, please. (more laughter) But I want you to think about this. The first area, the first checkpoint, is the most important area and that is the spiritual domain. God insists on spiritual compatibility. And having said that, I want you to hold on to your theater seats, don’t freak out, don’t start crying or wailing or gnashing your teeth. I am preparing to read, yes, the most despised, the most unpopular scripture verses to those who are unmarried. I have read them about four times here in this church. This will be my fifth. Are you ready?
II Corinthians 6:14 & 15. “Oh no Ed, not that one.” The Bible says to believers “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” Now automatically some seekers here are saying, now wait a minute. God, He is being discriminatory. God is saying His children are too good, they are too high on the spiritual plane to relate and to bond with unbelievers. It doesn’t sound like God is really a loving God to me. I’ll continue. “What fellowship can light have with darkness? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?”
If you receive this verse, Christians, and apply it in a nanosecond, God has reduced the dating playing field from 100 yards to about the size of a postage stamp. Four-fifths of the possible candidates have been eliminated. Isn’t that something? Why would God do such a thing? It sounds kind of odd, it sounds like God is being cruel, capricious and discriminatory but instead, instead, I want you to see at the end of this message God is not being cruel, capricious or discriminatory, He instead is being loving, gracious and merciful. Because God loves you so much, single adult, He could not stand the thought of you being in a relationship to someone with whom you could not share the most important thing in your life. That is how much God loves you, that is how much God loves me. And briefly I want to give you some explanations on why God insists on spiritual compatibility.
The first. See the word share. Take your pens and pencils out and be ready to write. God wants us to be able to share the most important thing in our lives with the most important person in our lives. That is the first reason, God’s explanation regarding being bound together with a believer. We have got to be able to share the most important thing to us with the most important person. The marital relationship takes precedent over all other human relationships. Think about it. Someone becomes a Christian, we have had that happen hundreds and hundreds of times here over the last four years of our church’s history. They come to a point in their lives where they receive Jesus Christ, where they realize that Christianity is that personal encounter with the living Lord, Jesus becomes their Savior. He becomes number one, He becomes their friend, then He becomes the most important thing in their life. And He begs to be shared with friends, with family and especially those people that we date. Especially those people that we date. God insists on spiritual compatibility. How tragic it would be to have someone in a marriage and you couldn’t share the most important thing with them. Don’t you see God’s love in this directive?
It is also important to marry someone and to date someone who shares the same depth and desire that you share spiritually. You are going to run into problems if one spouse is in the baby pool with floaties on, spiritually, and the other with the Cousteau dive team exploring the ice caverns of antarctica, spiritually. What is going to happen when God leads the strong one maybe to sacrifice some resources, some time to the church, or maybe to make a career change, to obey a prompting. “One will say let’s go for it, I know it is right.” The other person, who is in the shallows, who is in the baby pool spiritually, will say, “Well, let’s be practical. Everything is stable right here. Let’s don’t make waves. I like these floaties.” I thank God for my wife because she shares the same depth and desire that I do spiritually. I look back on our courtship and our marriage. I left a very secure position, a full scholarship at Florida State University to move back to Houston to work full time for meager wages and to go to school full time, to live in a tiny apartment. She left all of the security from Tallahassee, Florida, and moved to Houston. She helped put me through seminary, both of us were working. Then I became one of the associate pastors of a very large church. Everything looked great. And God led me up here four years ago to a church without a typewriter, no staff members and the budget, my salary, was projected. Lisa, all along the way, was right there with me saying, “I feel it, Ed, let’s go for it, I know God is leading us.” We could not have done it. Our marriage would not have survived if she would have been strong and I would have been weak or I had been strong and she would have been weak spiritually. So think about that gauge. Think about that spiritual compatibility component.
But there is another reason why God insists on spiritual compatibility, He wants you to have common values in raising children. You talk about a difficult time to raise children, it’s now. And we have four of them. And I think about the drugs, the violence, the illicit sex that bombards children day after day after day. It’s not time, parents, to set little Johnny out adrift on the seas of relativism while Mommy and Daddy are still trying to make their minds up on what kind of parental values should be adhered to. In too many circumstances your son hears Mom say, “Yes, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life”, but five minutes later he hears Dad take Jesus’ name in vain in the work shed. God insists on it. We’ve got to be reading off the same page.
Another reason He insists on spiritual compatibility is that He wants us to be able to tap into a common resource, see it there, a common resource when adversity comes. And I want to tell you something, your marriage will be tested. Your parenting skills will be tested. The winds will blow, how will you react? How will you act? I have complete confidence in knowing that Lisa, my wife, can tap into the same power source that I can. And she has supernatural resiliency because she knows Jesus Christ personally. I have seen her rebound from a miscarriage, from the doctors telling us our two year old son has neurofibromatosis. And it goes on and on and on. You have got to have it, if you don’t your marriage will end up in a backlash like my fly reel did when I was twelve years of age.
Let’s now move to the second checkpoint. Some of you are thinking this, you are thinking, “OK spiritual, share the most important thing, common values, OK, tap into the same resource, everything is cool we can end the message now because if someone is right with God it means they will be right with me.” That is not true. That is not true. You can have a miserable marriage with someone who knows Jesus Christ personally. You can have a miserable marriage with someone who is at the same depth and has the same desire as you spiritually. There are other things out there that you have to test. There are other checkpoints. And the second one is called the character checkpoint. You have got to check the character. “How, Ed, do you assess someone’s character when you are dating?” Ask two questions. Here is the first question. Is he or is she honest? That is the first question you had better ask. And you had better be thinking about it when you are dating, is he or is she honest? Deception, dishonesty is public enemy number one in a relationship, no question about it. Let me illustrate. I am going to mention two couples and when I mention these names, if you know them, just whisper the word to your neighbor. What comes to mind when I mention this couple? David and Bathsheba. Whisper it. Adultery. Sampson, the Biblical body builder, and Delilah. Deceitfulness. You see, dishonesty. Is this person hiding something from you, did they exaggerate, tell white lies, kind of stretch the truth. I talked to someone a couple of weeks ago who said, “You know in the dating phase, Ed, I saw my husband kind of stretching everything and lying but he said it is just the way everyone does. It is kind of a man thing. And now I am married and am finding out so many areas where he just lied to me.” How sad, how sad.
There is another question we have to ask ourselves. Is he or she responsible? Is he or she responsible? It’s kind of funny, I heard one guy say about six months before the wedding, “You know Ed, I love her because she is so spontaneous, happy go lucky, sweet, she will do anything, I just love that.” Then about a year later after they were married, he goes, “She is so spacey. She is so off-the-wall, this woman is driving me nuts.” (Laughter) Responsibility. Think about relationships, I am not talking about just your relationship but look past your relationship to their relationships. Do they have kind of short relationships? Do you see when the heat kind of turns up, when they go through adversity, that they kind of end relationships in an explosion, with a fight? That is a warning sign, friends. But if you see long, sustained friendships by the person you are thinking about, who could be the ulti-mate, that is a good sign. Relationally, are they responsible?
How about financially? Are they really responsible financially? Do they go off on spending sprees, do they have kind of hidden accounts? You have got to marry someone who is going to be content if they are driving a Ford or a Ferrari, wearing a Timex or a Rolex, live in a trailer or in the Taj Mahal, whether they eat neck rib or prime rib. You have got to. That reminds me of a story I heard a couple of years ago, this guy was talking to his girlfriend. And, man, this guy loved his girlfriend and he said, “Baby, (you like that?) baby, you know I might not own a yacht or have a summer home in Palm Beach or drive a Lambergetti, like this Jack Hodges guy, but you know I love you from the bottom of my heart.” And she said, “I love you too and while we are talking could you tell me some more about Jack Hodges.” Sound familiar, you know? About the materialism and about getting married for the wrong reason. Financial responsibility.
Also something else as far as character. You have got to check the boring component. (Laughter) Dating is so unrealistic, you wear the best clothes, the best cologne, the best perfume, if you are a girl, and then you go to great restaurants and you have wonderful times, the parties, the engagement, the wedding, the exotic honeymoon. You get back from the honeymoon, vengeance, reality, the mundane, cooking, sewing, lawn mowing, work, routine sex and if you are not careful, if you are not careful, you will look at this person and say, “I’ve married a boring man”, or “I’ve married a boring woman.”
I went to high school with a friend of mine who had a vital character quality but he made a major mistake. He married, yes, a Christian but this girl, you are talking about boring, she has robbed the guy and now he is content to live his life on the plains of boredom. (Illustration of riding a horse on the plains and singing, “I’m here on the plains of boredom, yeah.”) (Laughter) And I am saying, what’s wrong with you. And then I think about who he married. So what am I saying. You have got to have depth of character to keep the relationship out there on the edge, to be visionary, to be changing, to be doing fun things together. Does this person you are thinking about have that depth of character? He or she better.
Let’s now jump down to our final checkpoint. The time checkpoint, that’s right, old time. I have one word, it is a four letter word, it begins with an S, that I am going to give you as counsel. You might have missed every single thing I have said but don’t miss this. If you are dating someone and you are thinking about marrying them, don’t miss this one. S L O W. Say it with me – slow. One more time – slow. Like Mr. Rogers says, “That’s good, I knew you could.” Go slow. I am talking about time. Here is what I would say, this is Ed Young talking, here is what I would say about time. I don’t care how old you are, you need to wait at least, at least a year before you get married. And I would advise you to go a year and a half to two years. But we can’t wait, Ed, we’ve got to get married now. What are you afraid of? Love, true love, true attraction will stand the test of time. If you don’t believe me go home and read Genesis 29. The biblical patriarch, Jacob, was walking down a road in Palestine in his sandals, dust flying everywhere and suddenly the man is smitten. He sees beautiful Rachel, and you are talking about kissing on the first date, he runs up and he kisses her and then he starts crying, this is the woman for me, “Rachel, I have got to have you in marriage.” But he meets dear old dad, Rachel’s father and Rachel’s father makes our man Jacob work for fourteen years, fourteen years before he could have Rachel as his wife. So it gave time for infatuation to fade like a pair of 501s and attraction to grow. And that is the first thing I want you to fill in. Please fill in the blanks here. Time proves attraction is more than infatuation. That is what time does. Time proves that attraction is more than infatuation. Again, over the years of ministry, I have talked to someone, “Oh, Ed, she is the one, oh she is it, she is it and we want to get married.” This guy has been dating this girl for like two months. And then about a month later he comes to me and says, I don’t know what I was thinking about, I almost married that girl? Whoa. What was wrong? But attraction is not just sexual attraction, or chemistry. Attraction is the person as a whole, to love their passion for God, to respect their character, the way they rear children, their personality quirks, all of that. That is attraction. Because again, infatuation will fade like those 501s. Give it time to fade, give it time for the hormones to settle down, for the pulse rate to slow. And Old Father Time will do that for you.
Let’s now move to the second element of time, why you should wait. To develop confidence and security, to develop confidence and security in your relationship. You see, time is like a bird dog. I am not a hunter, but a bird dog will flush out birds, and time will flush out character traits, character strengths and weaknesses. Because you can fake it for awhile spiritually. You can do that. And someone will look at you and say, oh, this person is truly on fire for the Lord. But look what Jesus said. Jesus said it here in Matthew 13:5-6, “Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil.” It sprang up quickly, everyone said, whoa, this is going to be some kind of plant, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no roots. You have got to give a relationship enough time to see if the roots are really deep, to flush out that character stuff. If you really communicate those kind of things.
Another reason that we have to wait is we have to give enough time to have the affirmation, see that word affirmation, by friends and family. We have got to do that. And that is a tough thing to do. The Bible asks us in every area of life, and especially in the courtship phase, the Bible asks us to submit, to submit, to submit ourselves to those people who love us, to those people who will speak the truth in love. And that means Mom and Dad, that means my best friend, that means those who truly love me. And they will do the Siskal and Eber thing, thumbs up or thumbs down, you know. And if you see everyone with thumbs down, whoa, you had better think about ending the relationship. I am not saying to follow it blindly. Don’t leave here believing that I said to follow advice blindly, I didn’t say that. But I am saying make sure you run this person by those people who are closest to you a number of times, and they give you the thumbs up sign. Important.
But the final thing as far as time, the final thing, time widens your experience base. It widens your experience base. The reason so many marriages end in divorce or separation, the people haven’t gone through enough experiences together. They haven’t even seen the other person with a bad hair day, or when they are sick, or tired, or when they have had a financial setback, or maybe a windfall. How to they react? Check them out, study them, do the checklist. See, some married people here are saying, “Well, you know, Ed, hearing this message, I know I got married at the wrong time, for the wrong reason, for the wrong this, for the wrong that.” God can make those marriages beautiful. It is going to take serious endurance and work, but He can make those marriages beautiful. So I want us, up front, to know what it takes to find the ulti-mate.
Let me say something parenthetically before we conclude. The Bible also is straight as an arrow concerning sex before marriage. The Bible says that you are committing cosmic treason if you have sex before you are married. Sex is not just a physical thing, it is multidimensional. It is physical, emotional, spiritual, psychological, there is a bond there. If you are having sex right now outside of marriage it is time to stop today. It is time to stop. Because I heard someone say a long time ago, lust cannot wait, true love, we saw it this week on CNN, true love in Washington, DC, true love waits. It waits. So you need to work on those things in the courtship phase that make for great sex when you are married. And the things that make for great married sex in the courtship phase are nonsexual things. As far as the way most of us think about sex. It is talking, it is praying together, it is sharing, it is affirming one another and then when you get married, God will bless the sex area in a powerful way. And some of you are in relationships right now that will end up in marriage and soon divorce and you are afraid to break it off and the reason you can’t break it off is because of the power of sex. There is a power there. And it is tough to end that.
So it is my prayer that you take these truths, apply them. Make them real in your life, and God, if you have the desire, will bring to you, if you develop this skill, the ulti-mate.