Steven Furtick — Marry or Burn
Turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 7. We're studying this great chapter of scripture over the course of five weeks, and we're just trying to see what God has to say about our sexuality, about our relationships. I think it'd be a good idea to get God's viewpoint on these issues, and I like to do a series like this every so often in the church.
And before I get into the new stuff... We're only gonna cover two verses this week, which does not mean you'll get out any earlier. But we wanna bring out some leftovers. How many know sometimes the leftovers taste better than when you ate 'em the first time? And... at least if you're married to a genius in the kitchen like I am. Holly is creative with leftovers. And I wanna take what we talked about last week and just read the verses.
Not review it, but remix it. Because I know, as much as you would love to meditate on the sermon from last week all week, you have a real live. And so I know that you didn't check into a monastery after I preached last Sunday and spend time fasting over the notes that you took.
So I just wanna kind of bring us back into the flow now... whatever has been going on in your life this week and just point out a few things from that, and then I'll read two new verses. But here's what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:1. He's addressing some issues in the church at Corinth, and he says now for the matters you wrote about, it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.
That is the least popular verse in all of the Bible for men. And he's actually addressing a situation. If you take that out of context, you get the wrong idea. But we talked about that, and we'll review it in a moment. He says but since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.
The wife does not have authority over her own body, but yields it to her husband. I love the Word of God. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except for perhaps by mutual consent and for a time so you may devote yourselves to prayer. But then you could get right back after it so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not a command. I wish that all of you were as I am, but each of you has your own gift from God. One has this gift, another has that. Say amen somebody.
So here, real briefly, is a little bit of what we said last week. I'll say it a little bit differently. If you wanna write these down, it'll make a good review just to engage your brain.
Number one, we talked about how God has answers. God has answers. He will not always answer the questions we asked. Sometimes He will bypass the questions that we asked to give us the answers that we need. And sometimes when it comes to relationship, what we're looking for is more control over other people, and what God wants is for us to yield more control to Him over our own lives. And so God has answers.
The Corinthian church has given Paul a list of questions about sex, and marriage, and relationships. And I'll give them credit. They didn't necessarily ask the right questions, but at least they went to the right source for their answers, and at least they wanted to know what God had to say about their situation. Which I would say about you. No matter what situation you're facing in church today, at least you came to get answers from God. That's a good start. God has answers.
Secondly, we kind of talked about how boundaries are blessings. This is not the way that people paint religion. They want to present God as an autocrat who only exists to spoil your good time. But we learned that when God places a boundary in place, it's for our good, and that He does not put boundaries, and He does not tell you what not to do to punish you, but to protect you like any good parent would. Like any good parent would teach the child not to play in the road, there are some certain things sexually and relationally that God says if you do this, it will hurt you. And those boundaries are a blessing. Amen.
And so we need to understand that foundationally. Third, we learned that duty is sexy. The scripture doesn't say it exactly like that, but that's what he means. He uses this term. He says fulfill your duty. He says, you know, relationships can be started by desire, but can only be sustained through a sense of duty.
So if you find a man with a six-pack, that's fine. But what's sexier than a six-pack is that he can hold down a job consistently. That's gonna be a whole lot sexier in the long run. And duty is sexy. It's sexy when somebody's steady. That's attractive in the long-term. But we could also flip it and say that sex is duty because that's what Paul says. He says that you owe it to one another.
If you're married, you are the single source of legitimate satisfaction sexually for your spouse. And so when we get into playing games with one another emotionally, physically, that becomes very destructive. And so he says that duty is sexy. Sex is duty.
In fact, one of our staff wives apparently tweeted this week hashtag, meant to be, hashtag duty call. And I don't wanna know all the implications of what was happening in that household, but I thought it was pretty creative. Tell somebody it's a call of duty And what we find as men is when we're fulfilling our emotional duties as husbands, then our wives are more likely to fulfill duties... prayer, and speaking in tongues, and things that are spiritual duties like that.
And so we find out that it's a whole lot better when you come to a relationship knowing I'm called to give something here, not just to get something. And it works a lot better that way, and there's a whole lot less disappointment that way. So do not deprive. Do not deprive one another, Paul says. It's a command. Stop withholding out of manipulation.
And finally, and probably most importantly, we reassured ourselves that God gives grace for whatever season you're in. There's a grace for every season. There's a grace for every mountain. There's a grace for every lonely heart. There is a grace for every marital challenge. God gives grace. And whether you have the gift of marriage in this season of your life, or whether you have the gift of singleness, which may not always seem like a gift, or maybe it feels like a gag gift, but... come on, God. Give me the real one. But they're both gifts, yet it takes grace for either gift to operate. Amen.
That's what we talked about last week. This week I wanna talk on the subject for just a few moments. I wanna talk about marry or burn. Marry or burn. And I'll lift these two verses — verse 8 and 9 — where Paul gives some specific advice to single people in the church at Corinth.
He says now to the unmarried and the widows, I say it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. Paul is addressing two different types of people, but with the same life situation. He says whether you are unmarried and you've never been married, or whether you were married and, through some incident, you're no longer married, the widows or widowers.
And we know that Paul was one of these two types of people. He was not married. He's speaking not from theory, but from personal experience. And I think it's better sometimes to hear from somebody from their personal experience than it is from their theory. Because if you theorize about my problem, you'll tell me what you think it's like, but if you can speak from a place of experience, it tends to be a little bit more compassionate.
And so he says it is good for them... I'm saying to both groups of people, those who are either longing for love or who have lost love. And I wanna say it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. In other words, he's reaffirming the fact that singleness is not as strange as culture makes it out to be. He's referring to the fact that you don't need another person necessarily to fulfill your purpose on this earth.
And then by way of proof, he says look at me. I'm Paul. Paul. I wrote, you know, most of the New Testament, and I don't have a wife. So don't let anybody ever tell you that until you have another person, you can't fulfill your purpose, or that your life or purpose doesn't begin until another person enters your life. It's just not true. Paul put on his resume, you know, wrote the Bible. And he did it single.
So you can be successfully single. Amen. You can be successfully single. And he talks about that. He said hey, it's good if you can stay unmarried. There will be advantages to that. It's fine. It's good. It's fine. It's good. But then verse 9. He says BUT. How many of you like big buts in the Bible? Because they serve as transition points.
He said BUT let's be real about it. IF they cannot control themselves — big if, big but. If they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for (key statement) it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
Marry or burn. What we're talking about here is what do I do with the fire inside of me? Whether I'm single or married, what do I do with my passions that are hard to control? When I proposed to Holly, I kind of had to call an audible because I went to go see her dad, and I asked his permission to marry Holly. And he is a very straightforward person. So he said yeah, sure, whatever, you can marry her. I knew this was coming. He said a couple things.
Number one, you only have $3,000 to get married on. That's the budget. Which is a great budget in 1927. And then he said, you know, and here's a few other things about our family that I just want you to know and be aware of. And then he said and, finally, when are you doing it? I said in a couple weeks. I'm gonna propose in a couple of weeks. 'Cause I had this big plan.
I was gonna take her to Charleston because there was this certain place where they had filmed a scene of "The Patriot," which is a movie she really liked. And we were gonna go to Charleston, and I had it all planned out. But then he said, he goes you gonna wait a couple of weeks? What, do you not have the ring yet? I said no, man, I got the ring. I bought the ring awhile back. I've been saving it, and I actually brought it to show it to you.
And I showed him the ring. He said man, if I was carrying that thing around, it'd be burning a hole in my pocket. I wouldn't be able to wait a couple of weeks. And when he said that, something got in me, and the ring started burning a hole in my pocket.
So I'm gonna tell you what I did. And I'm not real proud of it, but I took her to Pizza Hut that night. This is the God's Heaven truth, man. And I took her to Pizza Hut that night. And then I took her and I'd written a little song for her that I sang her the song, and I gave her the ring. And the song was pretty cool, though. Yeah. Would you like to hear a little bit? I don't think so.
It's not hard to love you with my heart
'Cause you're amazing, you're amazing
I smile wide each time you're by my side
'cause you're amazing
Your smile turns my world around
Your tears turn me...
I sang her that song, and then I proposed to her. It was great. And it was preceded by Pizza Hut. It was preceded by Pizza Hut. And I been taking her all over the world since then in an effort to make it up to her. I thought about that phrase he said that ring would be burning a hole in my pocket if I were you.
And, you know, I think that's the way that certain unfulfilled passions and unmet desires feel inside of us, especially on this issue of singleness. It's like it's burning a hole in my heart. Burning a hole in my soul. It's like burning.
That's the illustration that Paul uses. He wants to talk about it, and he says it's like a fire. The passion is like a fire that it burns in you. It can be a sexual fire, it can be an emotional fire, and he sets out to say what do we do about this?
Let's talk about it from a couple of angles in the remainder of our time. First, let's talk about it from the angle of oversimplified struggles. Oversimplified struggles. Reading Paul, it sounds so straightforward. He says if you have passions that are hard to control, go ahead and get married, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
It's as if he's saying hey, if you're just burning with sexual passion, and it feels like a fire that you can't control, get married. That'll put it out. He makes a case. He says it's better to marry than to burn with passion.
But if I were single, I'd read that, and I'd go yeah, Paul, it may be better, but... that seems to me oversimplify the struggle. And often in an attempt to be encouraging to single people, married people will say some really stupid things. Meaning well. Preachers like me, we'll say some really stupid things, and we will oversimplify the struggle. And on the surface, it appears that's what Paul's doing, you know?
Hey, if you're just burning inside and you gotta have somebody, it's better to be married than to be tormented. Than to be frustrated. So go ahead and get married. Oh yeah, Paul. I'll just out to the husband tree, and I'll just get me a husband. Like he's telling you to go buy some milk, you know? Hey, if you're out of milk, go to the grocery store, get some milk. If you're burning with passion, go ahead and get married.
Yeah, Paul. I wish it were that easy. It's not quite that easy. Nothing like a single person trying to give somebody advice on how to get married. Hey, Paul, if it's so easy... and Paul says no, no, no. I'm called to be single. But if you're not, it's OK to be married. It's better to marry, in fact, than to burn with passion. But it's a struggle, isn't it? I mean, I would wanna speak to this... if I were speaking on behalf of somebody that I cared about who was single, I'd want somebody to say wait a minute.
It's not quite that simple. Because, see, we tell you if you're single, don't settle. So wait for the right one. Hold out, you know. Don't just compromise and just marry anybody. You gotta wait for the right one. Don't settle. And so, you know, we'll use all this biblical, we have all these things we say, like wait for your Boaz.
Now Boaz is a character in a book of the Bible called Ruth. And Ruth was in a crazy life situation, but God gave her a man. God gave her a man named Boaz, and Boaz was very blessed. So I've heard a lot of messages to single people about wait for your Boaz. And women who want a Boaz. And I came across this... I have shared it before in the church, but it's worth sharing again. This piece of advice on that same subject for single people.