You have probably heard the adage, "Idle hands are the devil’s workshop." This is generally true for all of us, but it is especially pertinent for older teenage and young unmarried believers. The leading pursuit of this age group is fun. As our culture has moved farther away from God’s Word and hardened in its rebellion, "fun" is typically equated with sexual experimentation and entertainment, both of which are symptoms of a distracted, purposeless, and misdirected life. When you are not seriously committed to the most important things in life, you will seek meaning in whatever comes along, however destructive or ultimately dissatisfying it may be.
You probably have friends who lead this sort of life: constantly searching for the new girl- or boyfriend, going to the latest movies and concerts, and looking for the "next big thing." Tragically, the next big thing rarely lasts for more than a few days or weeks and leaves one as empty and frustrated as he was before it came along. There are two reasons for this. First, pop culture reflects the mass mentality of immediate gratification through very fleeting pleasure. Pop culture must constantly change because its target market is functionally illiterate with a three-second, flickering image attention span. This culture is not tied to an economic or racial class; it is tied to sin. Second, God has made us to be filled with him, and we will always feel empty when we seek to fill our lives with anything other than walking with him and enjoying him in the course of daily life.
There is the tendency among Christian young people to feel that unless one is in a romantic relationship, hopefully leading to marriage, life is not worth living. If this thought begins to dominate you, it will become an idol. You will bow down to it. Usually the obeisance this idol requires is compromise - of the standards established in the home and required by God’s Word, of purity and modesty, of obeying and serving God in your life. As a general rule, God will bring you a spouse when you need one. You need a spouse only when your life is so busy serving God or preparing to serve him that you need someone to help you. If you find a spouse in any other context, it will probably make you miserable, for marriage based upon sex or entered into only to remove feelings of loneliness inevitably produce bitterness and intensify the feelings of frustration. Marriage is a tool for service not a goal for life. God did not make you for sex; he certainly did not make you to find your life ultimately in any other person. If you seek to find your life’s purpose in another person, you will use them up - selfishly. You cannot relate to other people as God intends until you are relating to them in terms of his broader purposes for you and for them. He made you for himself, and your heart will be restless until it rests firmly and completely in him.
How then should you be filling your time? I call your attention to a statement made by the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: "He (or she) that is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord, how he (or she) may please the Lord" (1 Cor. 7:32). You see, God has left you single for the present so that you may give yourself more completely to serving him. In a rather remarkable and very honest statement in the same chapter, Paul warns that marriage and family responsibilities bring distractions into a person’s life. He is not speaking negatively of marriage or discouraging believers from seeking married, if that is their desire and gift from God. He is being realistic. There are ways a married person cannot serve the Lord, for he has other responsibilities and duties that consume a considerable part of his time. These are good and can further service to the Lord, but they can and usually do lead to divided interests.
Among other things, this should make you very realistic about marriage. It will not solve your problems; it may intensify them. It will not necessarily free you up to serve the Lord better; it usually brings with it more responsibilities that mean you have to work harder, stay up later, and juggle your time more wisely to fulfill even your basic responsibilities toward the Lord. And if you go into marriage selfishly, only to satisfy sexual desire, without an already-established pattern of dedication to God, I guarantee that you will eventually grow tired of your spouse. Be careful, then, about marriage, and embrace being single. It gives you far more freedom and flexibility to serve the Lord. God will bring a spouse to you, if he intends for you to be married: when you are diligently serving him and require the assistance of a like-minded believer to help you serve him more fully.
Until that time comes, the Lord calls you to serve him devotedly. In practical terms, this will probably mean college and at least a part-time job for most of you. If this is your life at present, serve the Lord faithfully in it. Think of college not as a means to find a high paying job so that you can buy the things you want, but as a means to serve God more effectively with the specific gifts he has given you. But there is more, a challenge, if you will, of being single. Ask yourself, "Am I doing everything I can to serve the Lord? Are there ways that I can serve in the church, or minister to another Christian family, or give myself more to the work of discipling the nations?" If you are single, you are not responsible for the financial, spiritual, and relational wellbeing of a family. You should set apart at least a portion of your time to serve the Lord more tangibly and with greater focus.
Allow me to make a few suggestions. Have you asked your pastor, parents, or elders where there are needs the church has that you can help meet? From nursery care, to grounds maintenance, to teaching small children, to organizing youth for service, to neighborhood evangelism, there are a host of meaningful activities within the local church that the married simply do not have sufficient time to perform. Your pastor and elders cannot and are not required to perform the entirety of the necessary work in the church. But you can provide some much-needed assistance, leadership, and relief through the performance of significant duties that will not only edify the body but also prepare you for the responsibilities of mature Christian discipleship. Each one of you should be seeking opportunities for service within the body. Service does not always seek you out; you must exert initiative to pursue it as an expression of your desire to serve the Lord with singleness of purpose.
Too many Christian young people become drifters during this period of life, and I pray you do fall prey to this tendency. You have been trained better; your parents have invested significant time, energy, and family resources in you. It is now time to assume the mantle of leadership for which you have been prepared. For some inexplicable reason, however, now that you are arriving at adulthood, the tendency is to enter the desert of bare existence, or to fill your life with social engagements, or to work out constantly, or to immerse yourself in relationships that lack a future. Many of your peers become spiritual statistics; they started out well, but the cares of the world, the wiles of the devil, and the failure to give themselves wholly to God create spiritual drift and weaken their faith. It sometimes takes years for them to recover fully. The Lord Jesus has something far better for you. He has himself for you, if you will seize the opportunity, if you will give yourself to service, to self-conscious life preparation, to his kingdom.
I pray that you will take the Apostle’s warning and directives seriously. What better way to prepare yourself for family life than to give yourself to body life? I encourage you to ask, "Am I caring for the things of the Lord, how to please him?" This is your calling. Fulfill it, and your future will unfold before you in God’s providence. You will be fulfilled by serving the Lord, for he has created and redeemed you for this purpose. By living in this fashion, you will close down the devil’s workshop in your life, for you will have purpose and joy in ministering to others, in undertaking something meaningful for the cause of Christ, in cheerfully serving him. And since each day is a gift, do not delay. Begin praying today for the Lord to open up a niche of ministry for you. Speak to your church leaders and parents soon. I look forward to hearing from you.