|Vol. 12 No. 10 October 2010||
There is only one way that any of us can know the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5; 2 Timothy 2:15; Jeremiah 23:18), whereby we can know what Jesus’ plan is for me in this life. Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit have not left us without instruction, but we have the New Testament of Jesus Christ to guide us throughout our earthly pilgrimage (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3). Nothing that fallible mankind has written is equal to or better than divine instruction – no matter what collegiate letters my follow a person’s name. The wisdom of God is always superior to human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). As Christians, we must appeal to divine instruction first and foremost, and anything that man has written is either supportive and explanatory of divine instruction or it is not worthy of notice (Jude 3; Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22-18-19).
What is Jesus’ plan for my family life?
Jesus Christ has a plan for you, whether you are a young person, a single adult, a spouse or a senior saint. That plan appears upon the pages of the New Testament, and that plan adapts itself to the stages through which a person matures throughout life. In addition, the Old Testament contains numerous biblical principles that complement New Testament instruction about God-approved family life (Romans 15:4). It is comforting to know that there is an infallible guide to which we can appeal outside of our personal experiences and the experiences of others, and of course, that guide is God’s Word – the Bible.
The apostle Paul instructed the young man Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). In order for people not to criticize a young person for misbehavior, he or she must be free from an unrestrained and sinful life. Furthermore, besides refraining from “youthful lust” (2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:12), especially a young child of God ought to learn Christian virtues (2 Peter 1:5-8), think on lofty things (Philippians 4:8) and actively work for the Lord (James 2:26; Matthew 7:21). All Christians, but particularly young people, need to adorn themselves with the Gospel armor (Ephesians 6:10-18) to withstand Satan’s temptations to indulge in “the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). Specifically, children need to revere and obey their parents (Ephesians 6:1; Luke 2:51), and all Christians, including youths, must conform to the oversight of godly and benevolent elders who rule over their congregation (Hebrews 13:17; Acts 20:28).
Everything that the young Christian thinks or does should be tempered with the knowledge that those thoughts and actions are subject to review by Jesus Christ Himself (Colossians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:10). This means that as a Christian young person I am going to respect Jesus’ plan for me when it comes to subjection to my parents, demonstrating biblical morality in courtship, godly compatible entertainment (Matthew 5:28; Galatians 5:19-21), clean speech (Ephesians 4:29), truthfulness (Colossians 3:8-10), honesty (Ephesians 4:28) and admirable work ethic (Colossians 3:22-23).
Single Adult Christians
Now, the forgoing concerning the Christian young person precedes and is the foundation on which rests anything we might observe from God’s Word for the single adult. Noting that one’s life consists of a number of stages through which he or she progresses, the adult single merely extends and expands the successes and groundwork already attained as a Christian youth. With greater maturity comes greater Christian responsibility – perhaps in some respects even greater challenges. For instance, the adult single also must regard properly his parents (Matthew 15:4-6), demonstrate biblical morality in dating (1 Corinthians 6:9-11), pursue godly entertainment (Romans 1:32), use clean speech, be truthful, be honest and practice the Christian work ethic. However, opportunities to partake of sinful pleasures are multiplied for and encouraged upon adults (e.g., legal drinking age, greater mobility, less accountability and increased vocational responsibility). Besides all of this, though many single adults are interested in matrimony, which is an honorable pursuit (Hebrews 13:4), one may well remain single if he or she can do so without lusting (1 Corinthians 7:1-2).
Yet, the single Christian has opportunities and corresponding responsibilities that exceed those of Christian youth and married Christians (1 Corinthians 7:32-33). Rather than wasting God-allotted time (Colossians 4:5) in the endless pursuit of self-gratification (i.e., fun and games), you have a wider window of opportunity to serve the Lord than those in either the stage of life preceding you or the stages of life that come later. You better than others can work with youth as Barnabas did with John Mark (Acts 15:38-39). Having less family responsibilities, devote some of your evenings to home Bible studies or other aspects of local evangelism (1 Corinthians 9:5; 15:10), see to the benevolent needs of Christians and non-Christians on behalf of the church (Acts 6:1-6; Galatians 6:10), make foreign mission trips (Acts 13:2-4) or more conveniently prepare yourself for greater Christian service (2 Timothy 2:2).
The apostle Paul advised Christians at Corinth that Jesus Christ requires inalienable devotion between a husband and his wife (1 Corinthians 7:10-11); this was merely a reiteration of what our Lord had taught during His ministry (Matthew 5:32). Therefore, this indicates an even greater sphere of responsibility upon the married Christian in addition to the responsibilities incurred upon youthful and single Christians.
Everything hitherto discussed above applies to a Christian spouse plus added responsibilities, too. Unlike the forgoing stages of life, married life comes with new sexual opportunities and responsibilities, which include God-sanctified, physical gratification for both marriage partners (1 Corinthians 7:3-5) as well as potential or realized parental responsibilities (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Neither of these new obligations ought to be taken lightly. For instance, 18 years of intense and expensive parenting (Proverbs 19:18; 29:15) are followed by decreasing but lifelong parental commitments (1 Samuel 3:13).
Whereas young Christians and single adults enjoy a degree of independence, spouses have new and complementary roles with corresponding biblical requirements toward each other. For instance, the husband must love his wife comparably to the love he has for himself (Ephesians 5:28-29), and God requires the wife to be submissive to her husband (Ephesians 5:22). As father, the husband is head of the household (Ephesians 5:23), and as mother, the wife is responsible for managing the home (Titus 2:4-5). Together, husband and wife plus children if they are present comprise a family (i.e., Adam and Eve versus Adam and Steve). All parenting, not to mention matrimony, is on-the-job-training, but fortunately, we have a divinely inspired Guidebook – the Bible.
Although with family responsibilities and having less discretionary time, you are the ones usually from among whom deacons and elders and their respective wives as well as preachers are selected, in accordance with biblical qualifications (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Timothy — Titus). Furthermore, most of the burden for financially supporting, edifying, protecting and growing the local church rest on the shoulders of Christians in this particular stage of life. Praise God that He did not leave us without the pages of inspiration to which we can refer in view of such awesome responsibilities for this stage of life. One last thing; like the single adult, once the children have graduated from the home to make their own ways in life, married couples can more easily participate together in home Bible studies, local evangelism, benevolence and foreign mission trips.
Retirement years do not mean retirement from Christian service; for instance, the prophet Samuel served God faithfully from childhood throughout his life and into old age. Senior saints have all the moral and ethical obligations of each of the life stages preceding theirs. Health permitting, the mature Christian has the opportunities of the preceding stages of life to immerse himself or herself in Christian service. Imagine the surprise of Moses in his senior years at the age of 80 when God drafted him to lead the nation of Israel out of captivity to the Promised Land; that difficult and exasperating job encompassed the next 40 years of his life.
Probably at no previous stage of life was the now senior saint any better prepared to both act wisely and impart wisdom to others (Psalm 71:18). The mature Christian is seasoned not only physically but also spiritually, because of life experiences and exercises in godliness (Hebrews 5:14). In this stage of life, the Christian has much to teach (Titus 2:3-4) and should be an able counselor and comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). By now, doubtlessly much of the Guidebook – the Bible – has molded him or her, so much so that the pages of inspiration now manifest themselves in the very presence of the senior saint (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:22-24).
The various stages of life from youth to single adult to married person to senior saint are all layers that not only lie upon each other in succession, but they build upon preceding layers; they are cumulative. However, when people become Christians later in life, perhaps beyond youth or single adulthood, they need to catch up; for instance, the moral obligations from youth onward must be adopted, and a late blooming Christian has more time to redeem – buy back (Ephesians 5:16) than other Christians. The same things are true regarding the wayward Christian who has returned to the Lord (James 5:19-20). Though God forgives sins for which we repent (1 John 1:9), the consequences of sin (e.g., illegitimate child, imprisonment) may have to be borne, but nevertheless, to what extent possible, every child of God has opportunities and responsibilities commensurate with those opportunities.
Every stage of life offers its own unique opportunities and responsibilities. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).