PASTOR CHIPLEY THORNTON: The value of contentment (column)

Chip Thornton

Chip Thornton is pastor at First Baptist Church-Springville.

“Marriage is good, but singleness is better.” 

What do you think about that statement? You’d probably think I’ve gone mad. Yet, the Holy Spirit moved Paul to write into Scripture the following: “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Cor 7:8). 

The reason this statement sounds so radical is because Paul’s definition of a “follower of Christ” is so much different than society’s. His definition is informed by Jesus: Lay down your life, take up your cross, and follow Me — “undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:35). Society’s definition is informed by a pseudo-Christian culture of self-pleasure: Take up your life, lay down your cross, and follow Jesus — when-you-want-to — undivided devotion to self. 

Many enter into marriage for all the wrong reasons. Discontentment soon sets in, and then the comedian Groucho Marx doesn’t seem so far-fetched when he jokes, “Marriage is an institution. Who wants to live in an institution?”

Marriage is a wonderful institution of God. Marriage is altogether beautiful, biblical, and blessed of God. Yet, singleness is too, and if “undivided devotion” to Him is our life’s pursuit, then singleness can be “even better.” 

The issue is not marriage or singleness. The issue is contentment. Whether you’re married,

remarried, divorced, widowed, or single ... God wants you to be content in Him.

Listen to a high-schooler’s wisdom:

It was Spring. But it was Summer I wanted.

The warm days and the great outdoors.

It was Summer. But it was Fall I wanted.

The colorful leaves and the cool, dry air.

It was Fall. But it was Winter I wanted.

The beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.

It was Winter. But it was Spring I wanted.

The warmth and the blossoming of nature.

I was a child. But it was adulthood I wanted.

The freedom and the respect.

I was 20. But it was 30 I wanted:

to be mature and sophisticated.

I was middle-aged. But it was 20 I wanted:

the youth and the free spirit.

I was retired. But it was middle-age I wanted:

the presence of mind without limitations.

My life was over, but I never got what I wanted.

Why do singles long to be married and marrieds long to be single? It is a contentment issue. If you’re looking for contentment, search these three places.

1. Look in, not out. Christ’s righteousness is “in” you. Stop comparing yourself to others. Being married (or single) doesn’t define who you are. Christ “in” you does. Stop looking at your neighbor’s iphone or clothes or car or status or spouse ... and thinking: “If I had that, I’d be happy.” No, you won’t. Those things only add to the discontentment that provoked you to chase after them.

2. Look there, not here. We get fixed on the here-and-now. My college accounting exams were all CPA exam questions. I remember worrying about those exams constantly. Finally, I thought, “In eternity, will God love me any more or less if I fail this exam?” That put the here-and-now in a there-and-then perspective. Thomas Edison, fired from Western Union, went on to invent the motion picture camera, found General Electric, and perfect the light bulb. He failed in 1,000 light bulb prototypes. He said, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Look beyond the present tense.

3. Look up, not around. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. God turns kings’ hearts like channels of flowing water. That same God calls you the apple of His eye. Stop looking around. Look up. Find contentment in Him.

Chip Thornton is the pastor at Springville First Baptist Church.