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My title that I chose last week at this time was “A Prudent Wife is From the Lord.” I’ve proved it twice. Tonight my theme is even more stimulating. In fact, if I could deliver on this I think I would be the most popular preacher in America. “How to Find the Right Mate.” I want to recapitulate briefly some of what I said last week. Much of what I said last week was personal testimony and I’m not going to repeat that. I opened by establishing some scriptural principles and I want to go back over those again and then go on from there with a kind of How-To message. How to find the right mate.
I began by establishing Jesus’ standard of marriage. We find that in Matthew 19, beginning at verse 3 and reading through verse 6. This is a conversation between the Pharisees and Jesus about the theme of marriage and divorce. I’m not interested so much in what the Pharisees asked but I’m interested in finding a principle which directed the teaching of Jesus on every aspect of marriage. Beginning at verse 3 in Matthew 19:
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
At this moment I’m not interested in the details for the question about divorce. My purpose in turning to that passage was to point out to you that when it came to marriage Jesus only had one standard. That was not the standard of the culture of his day, it was not the standard of Judaism but it was the standard that was set by God the Father when God created man and woman. The first major act of God after creating man was to provide him with a helpmate. So, we go back to the beginning of human history for the purpose and standard of God for marriage.
If we do go back there—and I’m not going to turn to those chapters of the Bible tonight—I believe we arrive at four principles which are illustrated in the case of Adam. I believe on the basis of what Jesus said that these principles did not go out of date with Adam or with the fall of man or with any other dispensation of history. I believe as far as God is concerned, these principles are permanent. They are the principles that decide what marriage should be and how it should come about. The world at large has not followed these principles but I believe God’s people recreated in Christ by the Holy Spirit should be following these principles. I don’t believe God has ever abandoned them.
I have to say that in a certain sense this is a revelation to me. Not some kind of vision or dream but just a new understanding of scripture. I had already been married for the second time before God really got through to me with these principles. When I use the word revelation I want you to understand this is not extra Biblical, it’s not outside the Bible; it’s simply an illumination of scriptural truth by the Holy Spirit. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s something that God is now going to deal with his people about.
In a closing prayer, I believe, last week Jim prayed something which exactly echoed my thinking. He quoted the words of Paul in Acts 17 to the men of Athens that times of this ignorance God winked at. God closed his eyes. But then it goes on in that passage—and I’m not sure that Jim quoted it—now God commanded all men everywhere to repent. I do believe that God is requiring his people to change their standard and their attitude in connection with marriage. I believe it’s different and higher than most of us have imagined or understood.
One of the great problems, I think, for us in Christians in ascertaining the will and the mind of God is getting emptied of religious traditions. I think that’s one of the hardest things. It’s not so hard to appreciate the truth, it’s hard to get rid of the error that in many cases you’ve grown up with or had imparted to you through a religious association. Getting rid of error, dumping out the old is a harder process than receiving the new.
Returning them to my theme and to God’s original purpose and act when he instituted marriage—and we do need to bear in mind it was God that instituted marriage. It solely was initiated by God according to scripture revelation. Man didn’t think it up, he didn’t work it out. All he was asked to do was accept what God had ordained.
I will now outline these four facts which I believe set a standard. They’re not just historical accidents that happened once in human history but they represent the mind of God for marriage. These are the four facts. First, God decided Adam was to have a wife. Adam didn’t decide it nor did his wife. Second, God formed Eve for Adam. Third, God brought Eve to Adam. And fourth, God determined the nature and purpose of their relationship. He established it before they ever got under way.
I believe suitably applied, those principles are still valid today for God’s children when they get married. We’re not talking about unbelievers who are not subject to the law of God for it says he that is in the flesh is not subject to the law of God and cannot be because his fleshly nature is at war with God. But, we’re talking to those that have been recreated in the likeness of God by the power of the Holy Spirit to bring forth God’s purposes, to restore God’s purposes in many cases.
I would say that where God has his way in the marriage of believers God should decide that the marriage is to take place. Secondly, God should form the woman for the man. Thirdly, God should bring or present the woman to the man. Fourthly, God determines the nature and purpose of their relationship.
The nature and purpose of their relationship is pretty thoroughly covered in my book The Marriage Covenantwhich is probably available here tonight. But, my book The Marriage Covenantonly deals with the situation after people have got married. As I was writing the book I penned those four sentences and I said to myself inwardly, “Listen, I’ve got to finish this book by Saturday night.” And that was about Thursday morning. I’ve just put that in my pending file but there’s something there that I never really understood before. I said last week but I want to repeat it, I don’t think we appreciate how totally marriage is of God. God initiated it, God started it, God ordained it, God planned it. Not merely did it begin human history but it’s going to end human history. The whole destiny of God’s people is headed toward one great, final, glorious marriage—the marriage supper of the Lamb. As Charles Simpson said when Ruth and I got married last October, “Human history begins and ends with a marriage.”
I wrote something here which I thought said it rather well so I’ll just read it. God started human history as a matchmaker. He’s still in the business today. Do you believe that? I believe that’s exactly the truth. God is still in the business today.
We look at two scriptures that I quoted last week. Proverbs 18:22 and Proverbs 19:14. Proverbs 18:22:
“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord.”
That indicates to me that you cannot find the right wife without the Lord’s favor. I think many of you here tonight probably did find the right wife and you may not have been conscious that it was the Lord’s favor. But, it was. I’d like to hear some male amens for that.
Now, Proverbs 19:14 says in the King James:
“House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord.”
I was impressed by the word prudent. It’s a rather unusual word, it’s the word that God uses for the kind of wife that he’ll provide for a man who finds his favor. Most of the modern translations retain the word prudent so it really is apparently exactly the right translation.
I’ll read you the Living Bible for Proverbs 19:14, it’s rather good.
“A father can give his sons houses and riches, but only the Lord can give them understanding wives.”
I think that really says it! Only the Lord can give them understanding wives. I believe that to be what scripture reveals consistently all through this.
Now then, having laid that foundation I want to build on it tonight so I’m going to ask and answer the question how can you if you’re not married find your God appointed mate. As I said, if I could hit the bulls eye every time with the answer to that question in every life I’d have a line of people at my door night and day. As a matter of fact, I’ve had a line from time to time but I got an unlisted phone number and the line melted away.
The first thing I want to do in answering that is establish a principle of guidance. There are basically two kinds of guidance for Christians. One is general and the other is special or individual. General guidance is the same for all of God’s people. It comes primarily from the Bible. Special guidance is individual for each of God’s children and as and when they need it. For instance, there’s nothing in the Bible that I know of that told me that I was to begin my ministry in Jerusalem. That was a special revelation to me from God. Or, if you believe that God settled you in Fort Lauderdale I don’t believe there’s anything in the Bible that says you’re to live in Fort Lauderdale. But, I believe very often God directs his people exactly where to live. That’s special guidance. But, the point I want to establish right at the beginning is you do not qualify for special guidance unless you’re obeying general guidance. General guidance is primary and for all. Special guidance is secondary and for the individual.
Now, I want to establish one point of general guidance about getting married. It’s one that I find is not very clearly stated in some sections of the Christian church in America. We’ll turn to 2Corinthians 6:14 and following. In this passage Paul uses the word “to be yoked.” I want to suggest to you that all through the Bible the primary application of that metaphor, the yoke, is to marriage. Other applications are secondary.
“Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers...”
The yoke is marriage. The picture is of two animals that don’t go together pulling the same plow. Like a horse and a donkey. Many times in the land of Israel I’ve actually seen that. The Old Covenant, the law of Moses, forbade it. Paul just takes it as a picture and says don’t you get under the yoke of marriage if you’re a horse with a donkey. You’ve got to be yoked with the same kind of animal—which means what? A fellow believer. That’s basic.
I don’t know whether I dare say this, I hope it will hurt nobody’s feelings. I encountered this problem in East Africa when I was a missionary and a teacher there. The African believers had never been taught this. Consequently, many of them were making disastrous marriages. So, in those days I was a teacher of teachers and I thought let me give a little demonstration of how you ought to teach. I got a living parable, I got a big flat sheet of plywood and I covered it with metal pins and I held a magnet underneath where they couldn’t see it. Most of those Africans had never seen a magnet, you understand. I said this is what it’s going to be like when the Lord comes. Then, showing them the pins on the board but not showing them the magnet I moved the magnet around underneath and it was powerful enough to move the pins on top. Those Africans couldn’t understand why the pins were moving. I said now I’ll show you a secret. This is what moves the pins. I got the magnet out. I said, “I want to show you what it’s going to be like when the Lord comes. He’s going to come down from heaven and the right kind of people are going to be caught up to meet him. But, those that aren’t the right kind won’t get caught up.” I brought the magnet down over the pins on the board and the real metal pins leapt up to meet the magnet. But I’d specially arranged to have some non ferrous pins there. They looked like pins but they weren’t made of metal. They didn’t move. I said, “What do you think those are?” This really had them on tenterhooks. They said, “You tell us.” I said, “Those are the hypocrites. Those are the people that look like the right thing but they’re not made of the right material. When the time comes they won’t rise to meet the Lord because there’s nothing in them that responds to the force that’s coming out of him.”
I also had some matches there. Of course, the matches didn’t move and no one expected them to move. I said, “You know what the matches are? They’re just plain unbelievers.” But, I also had one more thing which was some metal pins stuck into some matches. When the pins that were free moved the metal pins that were stuck into the matches just kind of stirred a little but they couldn’t move very much because of the matches that were stuck into them. When the magnet came down on top those pins that were stuck into matches couldn’t make it to reach the magnet. I said, “Do you know what that is?” I said, “That’s a believer who is married to an unbeliever.” It really was a pretty vivid lesson.
Now, I’m going to say something. This is addressed to those who are not married. My warning is don’t marry an unbeliever. You’re headed for trouble. Think of that metal pin stuck into that match every time you want to go that way. If you are already married I’m not saying anything against your present condition. Maybe you didn’t even know what it was to be a believer when you married another unbeliever. Or, maybe you made a mistake. Anybody here that’s never made a mistake just put your hand up! I saw one hand. Praise God, I’ll come and shake yours...
This is a very delicate subject and it can be very painful. You know what Jesus said about when they wanted to condemn the woman that was wrong in her marriage relationship? Remember what he said? He said, “He that is without sin cast the first stone.” There wasn’t one person there that could do that.
In some ways I’m reluctant to speak about what I’m speaking about tonight but I feels somebody needs to say it. I don’t think we need to go further with that passage in 2Corinthians 6. You can read it for yourself. There’s a whole series of warnings. How can light have fellowship with darkness? How can Christ have fellowship with the devil? It’s strong language. Bear it in mind.
I would say to any young man or young lady if the one you’re thinking of marrying only starts going to church when he or she gets interested in you, wait a little. Because, I’ve known not a few instances of a man or a woman who wanted to catch a Christian and just went through the act of being a Christian for a couple of months or a couple of years until the other one was safely hooked and then the mask fell off and there was no more Christianity. I wouldn’t make a rule but basically I’d wait till somebody has proved for at least two years he’s a committed Christian. That’s not a legalistic rule and God does make exceptions. Even in spite of preachers!
So, we’ve established the principle of general guidance. I do not believe normally the Holy Spirit will lead a believer to marry an unbeliever. I say normally because God has strange ways of doing some things. I’ve learned that. I remember a man in our congregation in London who was planning to marry a woman first of all, because he’d been previously married. I didn’t think he had the right to do it. Secondly, the woman wasn’t a believer. So, I flat out said don’t do it. He flat out did it. And, this is not fair. I mean, God has got no right to do this. The woman he married got saved after he was married and they became a very happy married couple. So, that taught me a lesson. Leave the final decisions with God. I’m talking about general principles, I’m not making absolute laws. I acknowledge that God has a right to make exceptions if he wants to.
Actually, I’ll tell you. Every time preachers think they’ve got God in a box and he’s got to conform to those four walls that they’ve put around him, God just deliberately does something right out of the box!
Now, we’ve dealt with the general principle. One more that follows, I believe, from what I said about Adam and Eve, remember, the initiative is with God. Don’t wrest the initiative from the hand of God. This is true not merely in marriage, it’s true in everything. Every time you and I wrest initiative from the hand of God we run the risk of a disaster. Basically, that usually leads to an Ishmael. You remember, Abraham thought God had waited too long. None of you single persons ever thought that, I’m sure. So, he decided to help God out and made his own arrangements and the result was a disaster. So, wresting the initiative from the hand of God will probably cost you a very painful lesson.
Now, I’m going to give you my advice. Having laid those two foundations I’m going to give you some practical suggestions. Last time I wrote them out there were seven. This time there are eight. Probably if I stayed longer there would be more. Just let me emphasize at the beginning this is not a set of legalistic rules. I don’t have such a set. This is some suggestions. For those of you that don’t know me I’ve been a committed believer for almost 40 years and I’ve helped to raise 9 adopted girls. My second wife blessed me with two more girls and a son whom I’ve never seen. So, I am not speaking without experience. I mean, I may be wrong but I’ve had to make my theories work. I’d like to add honestly I’ve learned a whole lot from when they didn’t work. That’s why I’m sympathetic to people who make mistakes. I’ve made my share.
Here are the suggestions I have to offer. First of all, believe in God’s purpose for your life. Believe God has a plan for your life. I’ll give you scriptures but probably not turn to them. Romans 1:17.
“The righteous shall live by faith.”
If you don’t have faith you don’t know what it is to live. Faith is the basis of our whole life as Christians. Hebrews 11:6:
“But without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that God exists, and that he rewards those who diligently seek him.”
Understand? The basis of everything is your faith relationship with God. If you don’t have that the advice I’m going to offer you will be of no use to you. God has a plan for you. God has no ordinary children. God has no second class children. Every child of God is special. If you’re a child of God you’re a special person.
Secondly, commit your life totally to the Lord. Some of you have done that, some of you may not. The advice I’m offering is not valid for those who are not committed to God. I think we should look at the scripture here, Romans 12:1–2.
“I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Hand yourself over to God lock, stock and barrel. Body and all it contains. Put it on the altar and let God take charge of it.
“Be not conformed to this world...”
Don’t think the way this world thinks. This world thinks basically in terms of dating. I’m not going to carry on a campaign against dating but I don’t think it should be the normal way for a Christian couple to find one another. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I just know that in many cases it leads to a lot of unnecessary heartaches.
It’s interesting to me in the Basham family—and most of you know the Bashams—the two elder Basham girls went through so many heartaches and frustrations with dating that they prayed their younger sisters would never have to go that way. For Lisa it sure worked out, as you know. She got the right young man first time, no fumbling, no reaching around, God did it. I believe that’s what God wants to do.
Let me say something else about Don and Alice Basham while I’m on it. From the day their children were born they were praying as parents for their children to find the right mate. So, it pays to pray.
“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind [learn to think differently], that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
You cannot find God’s will for your life until you’re renewed in your mind. As long as you think the way the world thinks you’ll get what the world gets. God won’t renew your mind until you present your body. God doesn’t invest in rented property. No sensible person would. But, when you give him ownership then he’ll do something.
Thirdly, be prepared for death and resurrection. Almost anything that really is from God has to undergo a death and a resurrection. This is a principle. I’ll give you one scripture for it. In other words, you’re going to listen to me tonight and say isn’t that wonderful, I’m going to go out and do what Brother Prince said and somewhere down the road—and maybe not too far down the road—the whole thing is going to go wrong. Absolutely. It’s going to blow up in your face and you’re going to be left hopeless. That’s death. As Bob Mumford would say, hang in there. When you’ve given up there will come a resurrection. When God resurrects something it’s different from what it was when it died. It’s on a new level.
“Verily, verily I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”
If you want fellowship, companionship, marriage; if you want to be united with somebody whether it’s in the body of Christ or in marriage, that hard outer husk which you started with has got to be dealt with. You can keep that little corn of wheat: hard, shiny, self sufficient and isolated, and it will stay that way forever. You want it to change you’ve got to drop it. Let go of it, give up control of it. Let it go down below the surface of the ground. Somebody said if you laid your life down somebody is sure to walk on it with spiked shoes. That’s right. It’ll happen. But, if your suitably buried you won’t even know the shoes are there. Under the ground in the darkness and the dampness that hard outer husk dissolves. When it’s dissolved a new life can come out of it.
You see, it’s possible to be lonely in a crowd. How many of you know that? Unless a corn of wheat falls into the ground and loses that outer shell it abides alone. That’s absolutely an indisputable fact. It’s the same with our lives. As long as we hold on to them, control them, manage them, direct them—we’ve got that little corn of wheat in our hand; it’s all yours. You can do what you like with it but there will never be any fruit out of it. It will always stay alone. So, be prepared for death and resurrection.
The fourth suggestion, walk in the light of God’s word. We’ve already said that really, that’s the general guidance for everybody. How many of you know what Psalm 119:105 says?
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
You never need to walk in darkness if you walk by the word of God. You may not be able to see far ahead but you can see just enough to know where to put the next step. My advice is not valid for those who do not walk by the word of God. God’s word is a lamp for our feet, a light for our path.
Fifth recommendation, cultivate fellowship with God’s people. If you want to marry one of them, make them your friends. See, what I’ve seen happen many times in the lives of young people is they’re keeping somewhat undesirable company. Maybe it’s not sinful but they’re not believers, they’re not committed Christians. A young man or a young woman gets mixed up with that group and then their emotions begin to come into play and they lose control of their emotions. They fall in love usually with somebody right there. Once you’re in love how many of you know it’s hard to see straight after that? What was the mistake? The mistake was being around with those people when your emotions got out of control. If you keep the right company and fall in love you’ll fall in love with somebody who’s a member of the right company. You’re asking for trouble as a young person to keep company with the wicked and the worldly. Probably there’s a 50 percent chance you’ll end up by marrying the wrong person.
Sixth recommendation, realize your value as a child of God. I think this is probably the biggest problem. God’s children don’t value themselves high enough. They don’t realize what they’re worth. Somebody has already quoted here tonight in the course of the meeting Ephesians 2:10:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The Greek word translated workmanship, ?poema? gives us the English word poem. It suggests a creative masterpiece. We’re not just something that God turned out in a casual moment, we are the culmination of all his creative genius and ability. That’s what we are as his people. We’re created for good works that God has before ordained for us to walk in them. If we realize that we’re a masterpiece I believe we’ll find the good works. But, if we don’t value ourselves highly enough then we’re liable to throw ourselves away on second of third best.
I’ve seen this happen. There are some of you here that could remember with me situations in which it has happened. I think I could almost say like the apostle Paul I have continual grief and sorrow of heart. In many cases, once you’ve done it wrong there is no remedy. You’ve got to live with it the rest of your life. If I say this with feeling it’s because I’ve seen the results.
You don’t value yourself highly because you’re so intellectual or beautiful or well educated or because you’re a Baptist or a Presbyterian. But, because you’re a child of God. Think of it this way. If there had been no other sinner in the world that would get saved, Jesus would still have died for you. Jesus says one human soul is worth more than the entire universe. Don’t be afraid, you’re more valuable than a whole lot of sparrows and God goes even to the sparrow’s funeral. How much more does he value you? The hairs of your head are numbered. Listen, if God knows the number of hairs on your head it’s inconceivable that he doesn’t have a plan for your marriage.
Here’s the one you don’t want to hear. Be prepared to wait. Most of the great men of God in the Bible were tested by waiting. I’m not saying you’ll have to wait as long as Moses but he waited 40 years for his time to come. My first wife used to say to her daughters, “Girls, be prepared to wait. I waited and look what I got!” They said, “But Mama, you waited such a long time.” Well, I’m not saying how long you’ll have to wait but you’ve got to be prepared to wait. I tell you one thing. When you’re really prepared to wait the waiting time may be over. God may be waiting for you to be prepared to wait. So, the longer you put it off the longer you have to wait.
I could give you scriptures for that. Ecclesiastes 3:1–8, there’s a time for everything. A time to embrace, a time not to embrace, so on and so forth. God has the time.
My eighth piece of advice which is the last on my list right now—it probably won’t be for long—be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Again, this is a principle that affects every area of the Christian life. Romans 8:14:
“As many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are God’s sons.”
The word used there is not little children but grown up sons. The proof of maturity is that you are led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is like a dove. A dove is not a pushy bird, it’s a very timid bird. It’s easy to frighten a dove away. I think I’ll tell you this story. Anna may remember it, I don’t know whether she does. She was there when it happened. Some of you who have been privileged to go on those conducted tours of Fellowship Travel have seen the famous house on ?Abba backer? Road which we fled from as a family in the middle of the night. As a matter of fact, it’s become a kind of stop for every bus that goes now. Even the Jewish guides want to go past and hear the story. I’m not going to tell you the story tonight. But, anyhow, some time before that we had a children’s church there with about maybe 40 children between the ages of about 6 and probably 15 who came on Sunday morning. We had it on the second floor in a big kind of entrance hall or living room. The children sat in rows facing out to the door that opened onto the verandah which opened on to the main road. There were double doors. I would stand behind whatever it was I preached from, preach at the children and they would sit in rows looking at me and beyond me through the open door to the verandah. In this particular time we had a circular table on the verandah and as a tablecloth we used one of those black silk shawls that Arab women put on their head. It beautifully covered the table. So, there was this black, circular covered table.
I was teaching the children about the Holy Spirit being like a dove. I was emphasizing that you’ve got to be careful that you don’t scare the dove away. As I was teaching I noticed that the children became very, very quiet and didn’t move. Their eyes grew bigger and bigger. I only discovered later that God had kind of backed me up because in the middle of my talk a beautiful white dove descended and settled right in the middle of that black circular table. All the children saw how important it was not to scare the dove away.
Well, that’s a principle that’s true. We’ve got to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit.
Now, a word to parents, myself included. Again, I have to say frankly if I could do things over again I’d do them different. I hope, in a way, that I can help some of you parents who don’t have grown children yet to avoid some of the pitfalls. Basically, in the Bible it’s the responsibility of parents to choose mates for their children. You could easily react that’s old fashioned, nobody does that today in America. I only offer you one comment. It certainly worked a whole lot better than the contemporary American system. No system has ever worked so badly as the present system in America. There’s nothing in the history of the human race which gives such an appalling percentage of disastrous and broken marriages as contemporary American culture.
So, I wouldn’t be afraid to change from that way. In fact, I’d be afraid not to. I’m not unreasonable nor am I legalistic. I’m just developing a principle. As a matter of fact, I think it was in the bicentennial year, l976, I was preaching at a conference organized by Charles Simpson in Biloxi, Mississippi. I wasn’t talking about marriage but in the middle of it I just came out with this comment. In my opinion it’s not really fair in our contemporary society to thrust a young woman out and say, Find a husband for yourself. I thought did I say that? It was a significant remark. There was one brother there who is known to many of you. His daughter who was about 19 years old came up to him and said, “Father, did you hear that? I’m holding you responsible.” And, she still is. I thought to myself what did I do about that? Joska came to me maybe a year later. She said, “Do you have a word for me?” I said, “I’m praying.”
I’ll tell you another occasion Joska came to me when Ruth and I were friendly but not officially engaged. Joska isn’t here tonight, I wouldn’t embarrass her maybe if she were. I was sitting in my study about 9 o’clock at night. Joska came in. She said, “Do you have a word for me?” I came out with the usual religious platitude, “I’m praying that God’s will will be done.” She said, “Howbeit if we pray?” Well, you know when a daughter says that to a father who is a preacher you can’t say no. I was busy but I said all right, let’s pray. I thought it’s my turn to start so I prayed a nice respectable prayer that didn’t mean very much. She said, “Now it’s my turn.” She said, “Would it be all right if I anointed you with oil?” I said okay, it’s in the drawer in the bathroom. She came back with the oil, I was sitting in my big chair. She stood beside me and she was like a Pentecostal preacher. She went (indicating) on my forehead, anointed me with oil and prophesied over me. She gave me one of the purest and most beautiful and most illuminating prophesies I’ve ever had in my life. It was about Ruth and me. So, I knew God was pleased before some of you knew.
But, I just say that because I realize many times we can just be religious and talk platitudes and miss the thing that really matters. So, ideally parents should be very directly involved in their children’s choice of mates.
This is the ideal. Unfortunately, I would say the majority of American parents have abdicated from their responsibility. The great majority. Not merely in this area but in most areas. If the parents are not doing their job—and in many cases have absolutely abdicated—then I would advise a young person whether man or woman to find his or her place in a committed Christian fellowship and look to the elders to take the place of parents. But, I want to emphasize this is never the ideal. That’s what so important. To those of you who are elders I want to say never deliberately take over the parent’s job. It’s not your job. It’s the parent’s job. Ideally the parents should do it. If they’re not doing it, second best you counsel the parents and not the children. Push the parents into their responsibility.
The third and the least ideal of all is the parents have abdicated, the elders will do it. But, I feel strongly and I happen to know that Ern Baxter agrees with me in this. The elders should not take over the job of parents unless the parents are totally unwilling or incompetent to do it.
See, I think so many times the church takes away from parents their divine responsibility. I don’t believe the Sunday School is responsible to teach believers’ children the truth of the Bible. Their parents are. Let the Sunday School be for the children of unbelievers. I certainly believe in children’s church because I know from experience—and I was talking about it a little earlier—that children can learn to worship, minister, to conduct themselves in the congregation of God’s people with as much responsibility as adults.
In fact, let me say this by the way. I believe there’s obviously both sex and age in the body. I believe there’s sex in the soul. A woman’s emotions are entirely unlike a man’s. But, when we come to the realm of the spirit I don’t believe there’s either sex or age. The spirit is timeless. Consequently, when children are in the spirit even if they’re only 2 years old they’re capable of getting as much from God as adults. When they move back into the realm of the body and the soul then it’s different, there has to be a maturing process. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen this demonstrated many times. I can’t give examples tonight, you’ve heard a beautiful example from Jim Croft. That shouldn’t really be the exception, parents. If you expect your children to be spiritual, set them an example, teach them the principles and you’ll be amazed how spiritual they’ll be.
The other thing I want to say in connection with the position of responsibility of parents is, to young people, I want you to know second to God’s blessing there is nothing more important in life than your father’s blessing. Even if your parents are unbelievers do everything you can to gain their favor and have them on your side. It’ll make all the difference for you through the rest of you life. I’ve seen scores of times the truth of the fourth commandment, “Honor thy father and mother that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth.” I want to tell you I am personally convinced from scripture and observation that if you do not honor your father and mother it never will be well with you. You can be saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit but there will be areas of God’s blessing shut off to you. So, do everything you can to get your parents on your side. Even to waiting, submitting yourself—that’s one of the examples where you may go through a death and a resurrection.
I cannot make laws but I can suggest to you principles. Oh my mind goes back to people who did it wrong and how they’ve suffered. So that’s a word about parents’ children. I hope I haven’t confused you. I’ve tried to paint the ideal and then show you what’s the next thing down. God bless you.