SINGLE MINDED SERIES
WITHOUT A HITCH – DEALING WITH DIVORCE
SUNDAY, AUGUST 7, 1994
Well most of us have played the card game called solitaire. Solitaire is a game that you play alone. You either win or you lose. Many here today who are divorced, find yourself playing solitaire every day of your life. And while you are playing this game, you express deep within your spirit some words that sound like this: “Hey, God, I have been dealt a bad hand. Lord, I am losing at this game. You see I’ve been divorced.” You are playing solitaire.
Today I have a wonderful announcement to make to those of you who are divorced. Just for a second I want you to interrupt your card game, place your cards down on the table and listen to this announcement. God wants you, God wants you, man or woman, to win at solitaire. Because as you are playing this game alone you are asking yourself questions like this: ” Have I committed the unpardonable sin? Is there life after divorce? What are my options? Where do I turn? Should I consider remarriage? What about it?”
Before I get into how to lose at solitaire and how to win at solitaire lets push the pause button and go all the way back to the beginning. I want you to look at God’s model for marriage. After we look at God’s model for marriage, we are next going to jump right into God’s concessions for divorce and then we will hit the home stretch and talk about how to lose at solitaire and then how to win at solitaire.
Let’s stop for a second and go back to Genesis 2:24, it is right there on your outline. God’s model for marriage. He summed it up in a neat little package, Genesis 2:24. It says, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united with his wife and they will become one flesh.” For this reason. Or in your translation it might read, for this cause a man shall leave his father and mother. You would think at first glance that the closest relationship on the planet would be a blood relationship, a parent-child relationship. But that is not the case because God says in His word something so powerful, something so magnetic, something so drawing will occur….when a man loves a woman (sung and greeted with laughter). But a man and a woman, check this out, they are going to leave these blood relationships, they are going to leave all of those precious memories and they are going to get together in something God calls marriage. And one flesh will occur. The Hebrew term for one flesh means to be melted together. It means you can’t get it apart, kind of like play dough, when you mix the green with the yellow, you can’t quite separate it anymore. That is what is going to happen when people come together in marriage. And God says there will be so much trust, so much love, so much vulnerability, so much commitment there that this relationship will be the greatest human relationship in the world. Marriage.
Now let’s take our minds back a little bit farther. To the garden. Adam and Eve. You talk about a great marriage. Before sin entered the world, they had it. You see Adam and Eve were sensitive to one another. They had those tender hearts. When God would say, “Adam, take care of the animals.” “Yes, Lord. I love you, Lord.” He was tender hearted, he was sensitive and he would take care of the animals. When God would say, “Adam, take care of Eve” and Eve, “Meet Adam’s needs”, everything was flowing perfectly in this relationship. But, something happened. Man was made as a creature in the image of God with a freedom of choice and man choose to rebel against God and the moment man said, “God, I’m going to pave my own path. “God, I am going to forge my own future.” “God, I will eat this piece of fruit.” The moment he did that he exchanged his tender heart for a concrete heart and from that moment on we are all born with that concrete-like heart, concrete-like spirit, in rebellion, in annihilation from a Holy God.
How many of you are married? Lift your right hand. OK. There are many, many married folks here. Do you remember when you dated your spouse? Think back, just for a second. This message so far is kind of like walking back through memory lane, isn’t it? When you dated your spouse, when you dated her, when you dated him, I know you were sensitive to one another. Lisa and I were very sensitive. We had these special nicknames. Lisa used to call me, Pumpkin. Isn’t that corny? I called her, Princess. Our favorite song was “Get Closer” by Seals and Croft. That’s a blast from the past, isn’t it. (laughter) When something would happen, just a little idle word, you would come together very quickly, “Oh baby, I’m sorry, did I hurt you?” You were tender hearted weren’t you? You didn’t want to upset the apple cart. Everything was flowing. And then, you get married.
And I’ll take just an average American couple for illustration purposes. They get married. After the honeymoon the months roll by, maybe the years and they begin to get into a little pattern. An insignificant thing happens and they get into a little argument, a fight, and they don’t really reconcile. And this keeps on happening until one day, it blows up. I am talking about, they have a major argument. And let’s call the husband, Cal Concrete and the wife, Kim Concrete. Because when there is this chasm between a husband and a wife, caused by an argument, a disagreement, a fight, whatever you want to call it, the Evil One works. Because the Evil One jumps into the cab of this giant cement truck, (sounds of a truck starting and taking off), and he backs the cement truck up to Concrete Cal and he deposits all of this cement into his spirit and this guy, this husband gets the concrete heart. I’m talking about a hard heart. It sounds (knocks on wood – smack) like that. And he crosses his arms defiantly and he says, “If she thinks I am going to come back to her even though the Bible says the husband should take the initiative and seek reconciliation, even though the Bible says that, I am not going to do it. That woman has another think coming.” That is what he says. At the precise moment this exchange is taking place, the Evil One pulls up that concrete cement truck and deposits all that cement into Kim’s spirit. She has that concrete heart. She says the same thing that her husband says. And after this happens for an extended period of time and the Holy Spirit is whispering, “Hey you forget Ephesians 4:32, Be ye kind, one to another. Tender hearted. Forgiving one another even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. Come on, come on.”
Suddenly the man notices an attractive girl at work and he thinks to himself, “You know, I bet she is sensitive. You know she looks better than my wife, and I can tell she is sweet.” And then emotions happen, and the physical relationship, adultery, the affair. A weak attempt at reconciliation and another statistic. And oftentimes the same thing occurs with Kim, over here. She sees a man, she gets attached to him, adultery, divorce. And the Evil One feeds these two folks lies, “Hey, go for that relationship. You will really be satisfied over there. Come on, do it. You will be able to see your children more. Come on.” The Holy Spirit is saying, “Remember the relationship between the husband and a wife is a microcosm of Christ’s relationship to the church. It is commitment, it is there for life.” And this is going back and forth, back and forth. It sounds familiar, it sounds biting, it sounds so real because it is. You see God knows that we don’t live in a spiritual utopia. He knows we don’t live in a perfect world. He knows that we have this concrete-like heart going on and He knows that we are going to mess up and we will make marital mistakes.
God’s model is one man, one woman together forever in marriage. And God proclaimed boldly in Malachi 2:16, I hate divorce. But, because of our sinful nature He has given us some concessions for divorce. The model is one man, one woman. But God’s concessions – I am going to share with you three Biblical grounds for divorce. And these three grounds I give to you after hours and hours of discussions with theologians, pastors, leaders, scholars over the last thirteen years of ministry. Three Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. I want to warn you. Some people look at these three grounds as a way out, an escape clause, the fine print. Oh boy. But God says you need to look for a way through instead of a way out. And that is the problem in our world today. So many people throw commitment to the wind, they throw trust, they throw love and they are asking what is in it for me and they jump from this relationship to the next relationship.
Let’s look at three grounds for Biblical divorce. God’s first concession is found in II Corinthians 5:17. In this verse, it basically says, if a divorce has occurred prior, that is the word to fill in, prior to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The Bible says in II Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (with the exception of divorce).” Is that what it says? “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone (that means divorce, that means peddling drugs, that means illicit behavior, that means any sin we could possibly think of) he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come.” And the word new here in the original language means new in form and quality. So if I have gotten a divorce prior to my salvation, prior to my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Bible says I am free to marry again. The first concession that God makes for divorce and remarriage.
The second concession He makes is found in Matthew 19:9, sexual immorality. The Bible mentions adultery, homosexuality. Matthew 19:9, Jesus speaking. “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife…”, and here is the context, people were divorcing their wives for ridiculous reasons during that day, if her hair was too long, she had morning breath, overweight, they were getting divorces, left and right, left and right, left and right. And Jesus cuts to the quick, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for marital unfaithfulness, (and we get our word pornography from this term unfaithfulness), and marries another woman, commits adultery.” Jesus is not saying nor is He implying a one night stand is a cause for divorce. Because I know many, many marriages that have survived adulterous storms that are flourishing today because of the grace, the mercy, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ. But, if there is a continual pattern, ground for divorce and remarriage.
The third concession is desertion by an unbeliever. Desertion. I will let the scripture do the talking. I Corinthians 7:15, “But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so.” A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances. God has called us to live in peace. If a believer is married to an unbeliever, and we have talked about the role of a believer in this marriage, he or she is to live out their faith in a quiet and reverent and holy manner, but if the unbeliever deserts the believer, the believer is free to remarry. How many of you ever heard of a man by the name of W. C. Fields? With that distinct voice. W. C. was a wild man. I don’t know if you know very much about him. He was very immoral. One night his closest friend walks into his dressing room and there is W. C. propped back in his chair kind of looking at the make-up mirror, and reading the Bible. Thumbing through the pages, page after page after page. His friend was shocked. He said, W. C. what has happened? Why are you, of all people, reading the Bible? Do you know what he said? Classic response, in that voice. “I’m just looking for loopholes. Looking for loopholes.”
Too many of us, again, we read the Bible and we look for loopholes. Oh there is a way out, great, I can divorce her, I can divorce him and go along the primrose path. We have got to look for a way through, not just the easy out. But you’re divorced. You say, “Ed, I am divorced, I made a mistake.” Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, ladies and gentlemen, it is not. What now, what should I do?
Let’s go back to the game called solitaire, because you are forced to play this game. It is lonely. All of the hassles, the legal complexities. You feel so separated. And too many will walk out to their cars alone after this service and see families pile into their mini-vans and it will bring up all those painful wounds. How do you lose at this game? How do you lose at solitaire?
Five ways, I want you to write this down as I demonstrate. (Demonstration includes some on-stage work with a basketball, child’s pool, etc.) If you want to lose at solitaire, you are divorced, you might have been divorced a week, a month, ten years, here is a way to lose. And I am talking specifically now on this demonstration, if you’ve just been divorced. So, you get married and everything is looking good and you dribble around for a while and you take the marital shot and your marital shot misfires. You missed it. You got a divorce and you shot the ball and you missed it. And here is where the problem comes in. Here is the classic way to lose at solitaire. When the marital shot goes up, you miss it, you get married on the rebound. Wherever the ball lands, whosever hands it falls into, (here comes the bride hummed). I now pronounce you husband and wife in the presence of God and these assembled witnesses. All right, I have won the marital rebounding title. You did see how easy it was for me to miss that shot, didn’t you? (laughter) That’s why it never happened for me at Florida State. Most marriages on the rebound end in disaster. I’m sorry to tell you that, I’m sorry to rain on your marital rebound, Dennis Rodman parade. But it happens in most circumstances. Not in every circumstance, but in most circumstances. Watch out for being married on the rebound because you are lonely, you feel so bad, you seek companionship and you say, “Well wherever it lands, I’m getting into another relationship.”
Here is the second mistake we make. We do the Greg Luganis thing, we climb carefully up the ladder, higher and higher and higher and higher and we do a half-gainer into some area of our lives, we lose ourselves in the marketplace, in a recreational pursuit. We just kind of go off into something, throw ourselves into it and we just disappear. And people ask, where is Frank? Where is Susan? Oh, well they have kind of made a swan dive into the abyss of the marketplace. They have made a swan dive into being a tri-athlete or body building or cycling. Dangerous to fall into something like that because you think this can mask your pain. It doesn’t work, you’ve got to deal with it, you have got to face it. So the first way to lose at solitaire, the rebound effect. The second way to lose, diving in. But there is a third way.
This is a football. You are divorced and you are hacked. In fact, you are really mad and you want to get back at your ex-spouse and you will use anything possible as a weapon to put it in their face. You will trash talk, you will yell at them but you want to show them. So, you reason to yourself, if I can take this ball across the goal line, if I can score and the passer can pronounce me husband and wife, I, when I cross the goal line will turn in my spouse’s face and spike the ball. I told you I am still attractive, I told you I am still good looking, I told you I am worth something. Getting married because of revenge. Another way to lose. Another way to lose.
There is something else though. This is a giant shot. (stage prop of a hugh hypodermic needle) Oftentimes after divorce people look kind of wounded. I’m sick, I need a shot, if I get married, then that will cure me. That will make everything A OK. This person can heal me. If you are divorced, if you are playing solitaire, make sure you get whole and healthy before you get remarried. Don’t walk into a relationship with a limp. That doesn’t work.
The final way is a classic way. It is the cage approach. So we have got the rebound, we’ve got diving in, we’ve got spiking the ball, we’ve got the syringe, now we move to the cage. And a lot of people separate themselves from everything once a divorce happens, and it is so easy to do, because your world and life is turned upside down; family, friends, children. So, you boldly walk into this cell, slam the door, and you stay there alone. And you figure out alone, you can enroll in the University of Bitterness because they have some correspondence courses you can take from prison, and you can major in depression and negativism and all those other nice subjects. So you get uninvolved and you separate from friends, from family and especially you separate yourself from the community you need so desperately, the Body of Christ. When a divorce happens, this is when you need to open up and get involved with those meaningful brothers and sisters, get involved in the Body of Christ. Because you whither up and miss what God has for you if you stay in the cage. The Evil One, he wants you to get messed up and he wants to rob the present from you. And he robs the present from you by getting you into this little cell, by slamming the door shut, and he wants to say, “Hey, Mister Solitaire, hey, Miss Solitaire concentrate on the past, concentrate on how sorry your ex-spouse is, concentrate on all the mistakes you made in the past, in the past, in the past.” Look at the past, look at the past, look at the past and you miss the present. Or the Evil One says, “Look at the future, look at the second marriage, that will do it, that will solve it, that will do it, that will solve it.” He is robbing you from the present. Five ways to lose at solitaire.
Now. Let’s hear some good words. Because the gospel, in the original language the word gospel means good news. I want to tell you some wonderful news. You are divorced. You are welcome here. We serve a God of a second chance, a God who wants to remold you, remake you, renew you. Four ways, you see them on your outline, on how you can win at solitaire.
First be patient while you grieve. Be patient while you grieve. Experts say divorce and death, they are similar. And it takes, check this out, two years for our emotions to stabilize after both a death and a divorce. Last week, if you missed the sermon, please get that tape. Please buy a copy of that because I talked about dating. I don’t care where you are from, how spiritual you are, if you meet someone you have got to wait at least a year, in my opinion, before you consider remarriage. Buy the tape, I go into all the explanation. But make sure you are patient while you grieve, that you get healthy and whole, that you get that personal relationship with Jesus Christ right, that you have peace outside of marriage, and then, if God leads, you will have peace within marriage again. Are you patient while you grieve, or are you impatient?
There is a second thing we have to understand about playing this game called solitaire. We must maintain something. We must maintain an attitude of contentment. An attitude of contentment. Not buying into that marital myth that if I get married, then that is the secret to life. I’ll say for the third time, the most miserable people I know are not single people who wish they were married, it is married people who wish they were single. Contentment. The Apostle Paul, he was content. Jesus filled that void and the Apostle Paul was single and the most important person to ever walk on this earth was single. And God might have called you, once you are divorced, to be single for the rest of your days or He can lead you into another relationship. The Apostle Paul said, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. He said I have learned to be content in all situations. And Jesus, you see, can identify with you. Yes, you are playing solitaire, He can identify with you because He was tempted sexually and never sinned. Jesus was tempted to talk bad about people. Jesus was tempted in every way, even to a stronger degree than any of us ever will be tempted. He knows what unfaithfulness means, He knows what it feels like to have a person turn their back on Him. He can identify with you. Won’t you share your feelings, your anger, your thoughts with Him? It will help you in this contentment thing.
Another suggestion. Make sure that you remain sexually pure. Make sure you remain sexually pure. Some have told me, well if I am thirty-five, forty years of age there is no way I can hold back my passion until marriage, that is impossible for me. That is not true. That line of thought is false. And too many, even here, you are holding onto a shaky relationship because you would rather live your life with someone in sin, sexually, than live it alone. How can you expect God to ever bless your future if you are committing a sin, living sin before Him? It is difficult. It is one of the biggest struggles I believe singles face in this society – remaining sexually pure. But God will honor it. If you have failed, say right now in your spirit, “God, I agree with You, I have sinned sexually. I want to turn from it and be Your person.” Like we have seen in Washington, DC recently on the news, thousands of young people affirming chastity, true love waits. Sexually pure. What a great gift to be able to give your spouse when you get married. It is not to be abused.
And finally, you are playing solitaire? Get a grasp on God’s grace, His amazing grace. So deep, so rich, so true. God wants to forgive, He wants to cleanse, He wants to change you. But won’t you confess old life and turn from it? You know yesterday afternoon I did something that was a lot of fun. I took EJ who is two, LeeBeth who is seven and LeeBeth’s friend, Katrina, who is seven to the greatest show on earth, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus. We got there about thirty minutes early. We watched all of the vendors hawking their goods. I love those swords that light up, don’t you? Beautiful. Cost about $50 a piece. Anyway. They all said, “Daddy, I want this, buy that, please let me have that.” I said, “No, it is too expensive” until a vender cruised by selling cotton candy. They went nuts. “Oh, we’ve got to have cotton candy.” At Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus they know how to market this stuff and they had mounds of cotton candy in these buckets. And they said, hey, if you buy one, you get the bucket free. I said, “How much?” “Five dollars a bushel.” So, that’s right, your pastor, your friend, Ed Young spent $15 to buy one bushel for EJ, one bushel for LeeBeth, one bushel for Katrina. And it looked like a feeding frenzy up there. They began to eat…cotton candy everywhere, dripping out of the sides of their mouths, in EJ’s hair, on the seat. Thank the Lord though for the lady and the family sitting in front of us because she looked back and said, “Sir”, she saw the concerned look on my face, she said, “Sir, there is a wipe on the bottom of every bucket to clean up your hands and your face.” I said, “Ma’am, thank you so very much.” And then she said this to me. “Last year my family ate cotton and we sat through the whole three hour show miserable because we were messy and as we were leaving Reunion Arena, my little child looks up and said what’s this, and she goes, oh no, a wipe. And why in the world,” she went on, “they put it on the bottom I will never ever know.”
You are divorced. You are outside the family of God. You can relate to that story. You feel messy. You feel dirty. And you say, you mean I have to go through the rest of my life like this, with all of this stuff on me, and nothing will really work to clean it up. I’ve got great news for you, solitaire players. Jesus said, I want to wipe you clean and I am the only person who can do it. Won’t you let Him wipe away all of that stuff that is messing you up? You don’t have to spend the entire show called life, messy. Jesus said, I will wipe you clean with My blood.
So the choice is yours, solitaire player. You either lose. You go the opposite way of Jesus Christ. Or you win and allow Him to cleanse and wipe you clean so you can be a life changer in this generation.