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A Calm Anxiety

Paul had obviously been asked the question, “Is it better to be single or married?” as the backdrop for 1 Corinthians 7. It is no surprise because it is one of the most often asked questions we get in our ministry. Last weekend, we spoke at an event for a group of singles. It was a responsive group and I remember thinking about half way through the evening, there is a lot of potential in this room. What if every one of these folks decided to use one week of their vacation to serve alongside of a missionary? That could be very exciting. It was very revealing when we got to the question and answer time. The most popular question by far (half of all the inquiries) was, “Where can I meet a quality person?” The implication was clear. Most of the people in the room wanted to be married.
When Paul answered this question, he gave it an interesting twist. “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (v. 29-31) He in essence said that the marriage question is not the real question. The real question is, “How are you going to live in such a way that others figure out who Jesus is?” He was anxious for the salvation of others. He remembered his own wayward determination and he recognized time is short. If people don’t settle their salvation in this lifetime, there is no second chance. We need to be about representing the most important message on earth, whether we are married or single.
In light of this, Paul said there is a big advantage to being single. Unmarried people can be single focused. They can dream about how to use their free time to help others meet their Savior and grow in their faith. They can plan their schedule for maximum effectiveness in their influence. They can set goals that include aggressive involvement in ministry activities. The need for people to know Jesus had captivated his heart and he viewed everything in life through the lens of “how will my actions and decisions help others find their Savior?”
He was calm about his anxiety, however. He added to the discussion, “So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.” (v. 38) Again, he doesn’t see marriage as the issue. Being a positive influence for the cause of Christ is the issue. He even goes so far as to say everyone should adjust their lives for the sake of the gospel (back to v. 29-31)
• Married people should simplify their relationships
• Everyone should reign in their emotional needs to minimize self-focus (mourn and happy)
• Possessions should be kept to a practical minimum
• Worldly commitments (business, financial, political, etc.) should be strategically positioned to have eternal impact
Only someone who is captivated by a cause thinks like this. Athletes discipline their lives to compete. Musicians hone their talent in order to perform. Entrepreneurs risk everything in order to give birth to an idea. In the same way, Paul is calling all believers to live with abandon so that others can share in the eternal privilege we have.
Lord, give me this kind of calm anxiety. Make me intensely interested in helping others meet You as you make me calm about my own needs.

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