04 May 2023
This post was written by Harvest USA Men’s Ministry intern Ben Pearce.
“Just one more drink,” the drunkard says.
“I’ll just look for a little while,” the porn-addict explains.
“It’s just a little sin,” Satan whispers in our ear.
The road to life-shattering sin is paved by little sins. Small, daily decisions shape our desires and habits. The apostle James notes, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15). James is not arguing that wrongful desire is not sin—it is. But he is stating that the lusts of our hearts do not remain in our hearts. These desires give birth to sinful acts. Christians who dwell upon sexual fantasy in their minds cannot excuse themselves by saying it’s only in their heads. Our thoughts ultimately lead to action. Each moment we dwell upon our wrongful desires, we train ourselves to see them as acceptable.
The road to life-shattering sin is paved by little sins. Small, daily decisions shape our desires and habits.
The first “little” sexual sin many of us indulge in is fantasy. This is hard to battle. As we reject one pernicious thought, another is right around the corner ready to entice our heart. Suddenly, the lies of the enemy become too sweet to reject. He who said, “You will not surely die” was a liar from the beginning (Gen. 3:3, John 8:44) and is still a liar now. Yet, although we’ve been warned, Satan’s whispering influence stirs our hearts. With full moral culpability, we all too often feast upon the banquet set before us.
As with all sin, fantasies gradually cease to satisfy, giving birth to larger sins (James 1:15). A man frequently begins by letting his gaze linger on women in public or on images in magazines and social media. His heart hardens and desire increases. Those lingering glances last just a little bit longer than they did at first. Before he knows it, he’s not satisfied with what he sees in these brief moments and seeks something more explicit. Though he may be married, he engages other women in inappropriate conversation or begins viewing explicit pornography. Conversations become flirtatious; pornography ceases to satisfy. Suddenly, a man realizes he’s committed adultery. Broken, he may cry “I never thought I would do this!” as loudly as he’d like, but he himself paved the way for his great sins.
So, what should we consider when we’re struggling with “little” sins?
- Christ Died for Small and Large Sins
John teaches us that Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). When we’re told that Christ died for our sins, we’re not told that he died for our greater sins only. God’s wrath burns hot against all sin, even the most minor. Even for just a bite of forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17) or a mouthful of forbidden honey (1 Sam. 14:43), God has warned that “the soul who sins shall die” (Ez. 18:20). While God does differentiate between small and great sins, his Son died for all sin without differentiation. Thus, as Christians, we must remember the weighty truth that every sin we commit, however small, is a sin for which our Lord Jesus Christ died.
This weighty truth cuts both ways. For the repentant Christian, his great hope and security is the reality that his sinful thoughts and desires are covered by the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ.
This hard and glorious truth should be a deterrent for us. The marred body of our Lord was wounded for even our most seemingly minor thoughts, words, and actions. The fantasies we indulged for even a fleeting moment had to be paid for by the suffering of our Lord. No sin comes without suffering.
- Take a Long View
The ongoing, unrepentant pursuit of small sins will ultimately consume us. Neither Satan nor our own flesh are satisfied with little sins; “negligible” sins are just the top of an increasingly steep slope. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes characterizes the foolish sinner in this way: “The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness” (Eccles. 10:13). Unresisted sin gains a gradual foothold upon the soul. These advances are not easy to discern—we give in, just a little here and a little there. Before we realize it, we’ve habituated our soul to sin. Every advance weakens the will to fight until, finally, we eagerly fall to what was before unimaginable. Christian: Be alert! “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
For the repentant Christian, his great hope and security is the reality that his sinful thoughts and desires are covered by the forgiving blood of Jesus Christ.
Sin is never isolated. Our Lord says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19). Every thought and action we do not surrender to Christ today trains us for disobedience tomorrow. Every small sin we commit takes us further down the slope to the cliff of larger sins. We must prepare ourselves to resist the temptations of Satan and our flesh—to recognize when our desires deceive us, making us compromise “just a little.” Are we willing to cut sin off at its root?
- You Are Secure in Christ
If you’re trusting Jesus, sin will not win. A repentant sinner is secure, despite all his struggles with sin, because his obedience is rooted in Jesus’s obedience. Paul, who cried, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” also declared “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 7:24, 8:1). Christian, let your eternal security in Christ compel your fight against sin. Resist the slippery slope of small sins by looking to Jesus—he is our solid ground.
Friend, are you caught in a sticky relational concoction? Intoxication, entrapment, love, hate, fear, romance, addiction—it’s a garbled mess that once felt wonderful, like life itself. But now this friendship, “bromance,” or “you’re my person” connection isn’t feeling so great. You’re neck-deep, attached, and dependent on someone’s affection, attention, touch, and need for you. You want out, yet you can’t let go. Maybe this relationship started with Jesus in the mix, but he’s not the one filling, fueling, or guiding it anymore.
Jesus knows what’s happening and isn’t backing off or going anywhere, though I would guess he may seem distant right now. That’s one of the costly consequences of displacing him with something else; our desires slowly orient toward and are reshaped by the object of our hope. You know, deep down, that this relationship isn’t right, yet you’re scared to surrender it. Your heart has been hijacked from devotion to Jesus.
Still, he loves you. Your Savior is on a rescue mission through your dissatisfaction with the creation you’ve displaced him with.
I’ve been here before and have journeyed with others who are where you are today. I hope these words will guide you to pause, cry out to God, and take a step toward true freedom, healing, and wholeness. Please, don’t stay stuck by refusing his rescue. There’s a lot at stake!
A Prayer to Help You Face a New Direction
Father in heaven, I pray for my sister or brother reading this who knows deeply that this describes them. The bestie, the dating relationship, the coworker, counselor, counselee. . . someone has become like the air they breathe; how do you live without air? But God, this person isn’t essential. That’s a lie, yet it feels so real. So, Lord, I want to start by asking you to bring your comfort and hope to their heart through your Spirit. Flood their mind with the merciful assurance that they aren’t the first person to be in a relationship that enslaved rather than nurtured wholeness, joy, security, and holiness. It’s good to know that even sinful relational addictions are common to all of us and your truth really can set us free.
Your Savior is on a rescue mission through your dissatisfaction with the creation you’ve displaced him with.
Lord Jesus, it helps to know that, in our weakness, you are praying for us. You always live to intercede for your beloved children! Cause my sister to know that what seems to be a ‘mini-marriage’ with her girlfriend isn’t marriage nor a true friendship. Help my brother to know that you’re sympathetic to his desire for someone with whom to go deep, to have a safe emotional connection—but no mentor can be a replacement for you, our Good Shepherd, who has a unique and irreplaceable voice. Please, Lord, counsel the spouse who’s terrified of being found out; they didn’t mean to get tangled up in this emotional affair. Convince her, persuade him, that this relationship will lead to devastation rippling out in many directions. Obedience through letting go will be costly, but our repentance awakens our hearts afresh to your love and goodness.
I cry out to you, God, on behalf of those resonating with my prayer that your Spirit will convict unbelief and energize faith today. Forgive us for recreating love into something of our own making. You know that to disentangle from a sinful relationship will hurt and is frightening. And yet also, Lord God, you know it’s supremely worth it because you’ve not created us to be addicted to creation. You want us to love and be loved in human relationships as we look to you as our true Friend—you are Love incarnate. Please be a sun, shining light on the next step, and a shield to protect from the enemy who would deceive and destroy. Give courage, humility, and a will to want your holy pleasure. I pray through Jesus for my brother and sister who need your help. Amen.
Three Steps in the Right Direction
Recognizing you’re in a relational mess is humbling, yet it’s a sign of God’s love. He is rescuing you through self-awareness. But awareness isn’t enough; there are steps to take.
- You can’t do this alone. And that does not mean you should text or meet up with the person you’re involved with! That mistake is like two people caught in quicksand grabbing at each other, only to sink deeper. Wise humility leads you to reach out to another mature Christ-follower.
- Intentionally put space between yourself and the person you’re involved with. This distance may need to be permanent and comprehensive. Your helper will guide you in this but, like most addictions, unholy and unhealthy dependency needs to be starved out. This is what it means to love and follow Jesus: letting go through faith and repentance of any sinful attachment. It will hurt and the grief will be deep, but Jesus is an expert in healing broken hearts. He uses the pain of repentance for beautiful purposes.
- Seek out a discipleship or counseling relationship that can help you understand how you got into the mess and help you grow in the richness of God’s beautiful way of doing relationships. This is our inheritance in Christ as resurrection people! Jesus didn’t call you to himself only to give you bland, superficial, disconnected relationships with people. Of course, we’ll have relational conflicts, disappointments, and losses in this lifetime. But when you absorb the commands and promises of God’s Word, it’s evident that our Father has created his family to love one another deeply.
This is what it means to love and follow Jesus: letting go through faith and repentance of any sinful attachment.
Brother, sister, friend: you’re not alone. Jesus knows what you need. He is not pointing a shaming finger at you but invites you to come to him, step away from this person, and collapse before him for the help you need. Then, take the next step!
Ellen’s 31-day devotional book, Toxic Relationships: Taking Refuge in Christ, will guide you in relational growth centered on Jesus.
Discipleship is essential to the Christian life. Jesus made this clear in the Great Commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations. . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19–20). I’d like to focus on the state of single evangelical women—and more specifically, young women—in the church today.
The National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) is an initiative from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that began in 1973. It’s one of the largest comprehensive data sources on the behavior of Americans in areas of marriage and cohabitation, infertility, use of contraception, family life, and general and reproductive health. The data can be separated out by religious affiliation, frequency of church attendance, and even by denomination. There’s also a growing body of data and research being done on female pornography use and other web-based sexual activity. I’d like to highlight some of the data from the most recent data set (2017–2019) of the NSFG, as well as other current research on women and the prevalence of their online sexual behavior.
Among evangelical women aged 15–44 who attend church weekly, one-in-ten have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior.
Among evangelical women aged 15–19, 11% have engaged in same-sex sexual behavior. That number jumps to 21% and 20% respectively for ages 23–27 and 28–32.
According to the most recent data from one of the world’s largest pornography sites, the fastest growing demographic in mobile device pornography traffic on the web is women.
According to Barna, more than half of women under 25 have sought out porn at some point (56% versus 27% among women over 25), and one-third of women under 25 seek out porn at least monthly (33% versus just 12% among older men). I would venture to guess that this statistic has only risen in the seven years since this data came out in 2016.
Single evangelical women are potentially the demographic most rapidly abandoning a biblical sexual ethic in churches today.
To state it plainly: if you’re a ministry leader or pastor, roughly one-in-ten to one-in-five of your female teen and young adult weekly attendees have pursued same-sex sexual activity. Single evangelical women are potentially the demographic most rapidly abandoning a biblical sexual ethic in churches today. This crisis demands a response from pastors, ministry leaders, and those who minister specifically to women.
Lament and Action
In a recent lecture, Carl Trueman asserts that those in exile should practice lament—but that the people of God should not stop there. Cultural crises should also result in a call to action among God’s people.
I believe Trueman is touching on a prevalent trend in the church today. When you survey comments about sexual ethics, how would you describe the theme? I’m disheartened to regularly hear an adversarial, “us vs. them” tone, often based on fear. I long to hear more of the humility that Scripture presents when talking about the makeup of the Church: “And such were some of you. But you were washed. . .” (1 Cor. 6:11). We should have a posture of deep humility when examining the changing terrain of the culture because we ourselves have been washed, sanctified, and justified by the Lord Jesus.
What if, as Trueman suggests, we didn’t just stop at lament but also took these sobering statistics as a call to action to engage in hearty, full-life discipleship in our local churches? Churches routinely talk about discipleship in the spiritual disciplines, stewardship of time and finances, and so on—but what about sexuality and gender? How can we respond to the changing terrain among single women in our churches?
Four Ways NOT to Respond:
- Assume “Not in My Church!” and Do Nothing
This is a deadly mistake. Women in today’s church are indeed grappling with issues related to sexuality, gender, and relational wholeness. Being the pastor’s daughter or serving in children’s ministry does not preclude her from these struggles. Your denomination or expository preaching does not shield women from particular sin struggles.
We all need discipleship in sexuality, particularly when our world is utterly saturated in lies. Church leader or pastor: it’s not if, but when a young woman confesses a struggle in this area—how will you respond? For every confession, there are many other women who have not come forward because of the shame involved in confessing to a male pastor or church leader. Assume sexual struggles are more common than those you’re aware of. In the words of a former colleague at Harvest USA, “seek to be ‘un-shock-able’ when confessions of sexual sin come to your doorstep.”
- Adopt an “Us vs. Them,” Culture War Perspective
This is not “an issue.” This is about Christian women struggling in your church right now. God’s daughters are bound up in sin. They’re in dire need of shepherding from the local church. If we view this as primarily a culture war, we may fail to see the women right in front of us. The issue is no longer “out there” in the world—it’s right here, sitting in your pews.
If we view this as primarily a culture war, we may fail to see the women right in front of us. The issue is no longer “out there” in the world—it’s right here, sitting in your pews.
A practical suggestion is to evaluate how you talk about sin in your own life and how you talk about sexuality and gender in the news and culture. I’ve heard many stories of women feeling that their church was not a safe place to receive care because the comments they consistently heard from church leaders were disparaging or harsh regarding “those people.” Is the way you talk about sexual sin one of derision and mockery? If so, the women in your church are listening, and the message they hear is shame and further isolation. Remember: “But such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). The gospel leaves no room for looking down on any sinner as if we’re above that sin or that confusion. Following the example of our Savior, our words ought to be truthful and tenderly compassionate.
- Assume This Is for Someone Else to Address
Maybe the pastor can cover this? Surely there’s an older woman in the church who can address all these things? If we’re honest, most people feel intimidated by helping sexual strugglers. That’s okay! Let me share something with you: I’ve seen that “expert advice” isn’t what helps most women struggling with sexual sin. Rather, the godly humility and character of brothers and sisters in the church invites them into the light.
To be sure, not everyone will directly disciple single women bound up in sexual and relational struggles. It’s appropriate for women to disciple women (Titus 2:3–4). But men, don’t underestimate the impact you can have as a brother in Christ. When a man pursues integrity in his interactions with single women or a brother demonstrates sacrificial love, the body of Christ is built up in love. Brothers, don’t underestimate the impact of your godly character on the whole church.
- Paralysis and Fear
You may feel like the tidal wave of the sexual revolution has already crashed on you and your church and it’s too late. Maybe you’re scared you won’t say the right thing or feel completely out of your depth. The humbling truth is that these things are too big for you and your church. You need the strong help of God’s Spirit. Hear Paul’s words: “Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:16–19). It’s not your weakness that makes you ineffective, it’s your delusions of strength. Rest in the strength that Christ supplies to serve the women of God among you.
Four Ways to Respond
- By Faith
Take heart, Christian, Jesus himself commissions you with tenderness. After the command to “make disciples of all nations. . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” Jesus assures us, “And behold! I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19–20).
If you’ve weighed struggles related to sexuality so heavily above other sins, you may be hindered in approaching strugglers with humility. All sin is an issue of the heart.
If you’re a church leader, pastor, or member, Jesus promises to be with you. He will enable you to disciple his people, just as he commanded. And there have never been so many biblically sound resources for discipling women in sexuality and gender. By God’s grace, more and more will emerge in the coming years! Check out our resource page and blog for more on this.
- Through Prayer
Join with others in your church and pray! Ask God to show you how you can step into discipleship and care of women in your context of ministry and local church life.
- Asking Questions
Don’t assume that women in your church aren’t struggling in areas of sexuality. Get to know them!
I was so encouraged by a woman I know who, after one conversation with a woman who confessed struggles in this area, printed out one of Harvest USA’s free e-curricula and started discipling that young woman the very next week. She felt overwhelmed and under-equipped, but she had a posture of seeking to know and serve women, and God gave her opportunity. Discipleship is a relationship—one of knowing the other and pointing them to Christ. Seek to know the women in your own context. Do this by asking genuine questions.
- In Humility
Remember the heart is the source of all kinds of evil—that includes your heart! It can feel daunting to help someone bound up in sin when you feel their struggle is foreign to your own. Same-sex attraction and related temptations have been referred to as an abomination, but, lest we forget, another sin God calls an abomination in Proverbs 6 is “haughty eyes” (Prov. 6:16–17). If you’ve weighed struggles related to sexuality so heavily above other sins, you may be hindered in approaching strugglers with humility. All sin is an issue of the heart (Matt. 15:19.) Check out Harvest USA’s tree model for a helpful framework on how all sin struggles emerge from the heart.
May the church of Jesus Christ grow in her awareness of the need for robust discipleship in sexuality and gender for women. No, we may not win the culture war here and now. But is that what we’re called to pursue? Jesus’s words when he left his earthly ministry were very clear: make disciples. Ultimately, God calls us to be found faithful to Christ. Brother or sister in the local church, seek to be faithful where God has you. God’s daughters are in great need.
 Out of a desire to avoid promoting the website mentioned, I have not provided the source link for this data.
13 Apr 2023
This post was written by Harvest USA Men’s Ministry intern Nate Fowler.
My blood pressure seriously drops at the sight of blood. My four-year-old son once tripped and split his forehead on the corner of the table. Thankfully, I remained clear-headed enough to pull him into the bathroom and evaluate the matter until my wife brought our first aid supplies and took over.
Then, feeling the shock set in, I went to the kitchen for a splash of cold water in the face and an electrolyte-heavy drink. Within a minute or two, I was able to return with my wits about me and assist my wife. My son was safe; the fall just broke his skin. But I’m certain that if I’d remained in that bathroom any longer, the shock would’ve sent me to the ground, doubling my wife’s tasks.
Sexual Temptation Is Like Shock
Sexual temptation can be just as surprising as a medical emergency. Whether it’s a pop-up ad, a phishing email, a graphic movie scene, a visit to the beach—one minute we feel impervious, and the next we’re in a spiritual ambulance grasping for anything useful. What can we do in the moment of temptation? How can we address the shock before falling to sin? Which Scriptures or tools can help us respond effectively?
This is why I formulated a “first aid kit” for sexual temptation. This practical tool is meant to give direct assistance in the hour of need. I pray you’ll find it useful.
What’s in the Kit?
My kit is an envelope filled with extracted pages of journaled prayers, 3×5 cards with Scripture verses, letters from loved ones, and photographs. I place this envelope in my work bag and, when tempted, pause all obligations to open the envelope and prayerfully survey its contents. After a sufficient period of time, I’m reoriented and ready to fight the day’s temptations with vigilance.
Here are some principles to help you develop your own first aid kit for sexual temptation.
A first aid kit must be prepared to address several possible scenarios. Preparation and variety are vital for effectively addressing temptation (see 1 Pet. 5:8–9; Eph. 6:10–15; Phil. 4:8).
Here are some items I recommend:
- Psalms and Scripture verses. I have a single notebook page labeled “When Tempted, Pray…” followed by Psalms and personal prayers. I also have a list of Scriptural truths like, “My body belongs to God (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Cor. 6:19–20)” or “My sanctification is more important to God than my ease (1 Thes. 4:3–8; Rom. 5:1–5; James 1:2–4).”
- A list of goals. For example: “To love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength,” “to love my wife as Christ loves his Bride,” and “to be a role model for my kids in this area.”
- A list of spiritual consequences for falling—things God’s Word tells us we can expect as a result of sin. For example, “quenching the Spirit and feeling God’s heavy hand (1 Thes. 5:19; Ps. 32)” or “unable to bear my brothers’ burdens (Gal. 6:2).”
- A list of spiritual rewards for fighting. For example, “joy and peace in the Lord,” “more time to focus on relationships, tasks, and hobbies,” or “feeling clean, pure, and free from shame.”
- Self-written prayers. Call on the Lord to fulfill his promises in Scripture (Acts 4:23–31). Feed your future self words you know you’ll need to hear.
- Letters written by loved ones. My wife has written verses and encouraging notes to remind me she’s in the trenches with me. I also keep general letters from family and friends.
- Photos of loved ones you’re fighting for.
- Poems or song lyrics that speak to the issue in a unique, compelling way.
- A list of people to contact in the moment of trial (ideally your accountability partners or one of the loved ones you’re fighting for).
- Voice or video recordings of loved ones if you can’t call.
You must be equipped with proper training. How do Navy SEALs learn to execute strategies effectively, or ice skaters learn to seamlessly perform daring stunts? How do EMTs know which tools and operations to use in a crisis? Muscle memory. They practice over and over until the motions are ingrained into their minds and bodies.
Deuteronomy 6:6–9 tells us that God’s commands become ingrained into our hearts as we teach them, talk about them (when sitting, walking, lying down, and rising), and as we bind them as signs on our hands, doors, gates, and even our eyelids.
These are some ways I practically apply this step:
- Place your kit with another frequently-used item. I keep my envelope in a folder in my backpack so, when I open that folder, I see it and have an opportunity to review the contents.
- Use your kit on days of minimal temptation. Even when my temptation level is around 15%, I try to pull out the kit for a couple of minutes and review my goals for fighting.
- Make it a part of your repentance plan. If I fall into sin, I follow this process of repentance: 1) Confess to God contritely. 2) Confess to my wife and accountability partners. 3) Spend as much time fighting sin as I spent succumbing to it. I use step three to bolster my first aid kit with Scriptures, prayers, and other resources that soften my heart.
Ease of Access
Lastly, A first aid kit must be accessible. Hikers don’t hope for a shack to miraculously appear in the middle of the woods; they carry the essentials on their backs. Neither can you embark on your daily spiritual journey without the proper supplies on hand. As a matter of preference, a hiker may decide to use GoogleMaps over a compass. Similarly, you might choose to:
- Develop your collection in an envelope, like me.
- File a digital collection on your smart device or in an online folder (if it’s not more tempting).
- Pack your kit into a collection of 3×5 cards.
Your decision should be based on what’s most useful and accessible to you. Either way, the most successful hikers are those who keep the essentials close at hand.
Bonus Expansion Pack
This tool is versatile. While my first aid kit for sexual temptation is fully developed, I’m working on a first aid kit for anger and have thought about creating one for gluttony. Whatever your area of sin, a collection of prepared materials, a plan for regular review, and easy access to the kit will strengthen your fight and help you look to Christ.
May the Lord bless you and keep you as you fight for him.
06 Apr 2023
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:16–18)
Our heavenly Father uses all things for his children’s good (Rom. 8:28). Even hard things from God are better than anything we might wish for. But he’s generous with his feel-good gifts, too. Loving relationships, delicious food, even the glimmer of gifts as simple as birdsong and budding trees point to the unchanging goodness of our “Father of lights.”
I’ve noticed a common attribute in some of my most spiritually mature friends: they pursue joy. One dear friend has been watching her only sister, a mother of two young children, fight recurring stage-four cancer. My friend’s gutsy determination to enjoy the good things that still exist even while her heart aches with sorrow is strikingly beautiful. It’s a resistance against evil, an active rebellion against the forces of darkness that feel so mighty here and now. It’s gratitude, armed and fighting.
This sturdy gratitude—the dogged decision to enjoy what’s good in life—is itself a gift of God’s grace. And it’s a key weapon in the fight against sin, including sexual sins. Behaviors like viewing pornography, sex outside marriage, or fantasizing about someone are all fed by discontentment.
Gratitude and Joy
Gratitude, on the other hand, nurtures joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).
James doesn’t say “snap out of it, guys—feel happy!” but “count it all joy.” It’s a reasoned response grounded in God’s power. Trials test faith and, for one who is united to Christ, tested faith gets stronger. We can count trials as joy because God’s Spirit is refining us through them (vv. 3–4).
Believer, God is at work in your life. Gratitude involves mining for the jewels of his work.
Believer, God is at work in your life. Gratitude involves mining for the jewels of his work. Did God’s promises comfort you today? Did you respond to sorrow or stress by crying out to the Lord instead of turning to pornography? Did you repent immediately instead of waiting to confess sin? May the Lord give us eyes to see his work in us and grateful hearts to celebrate it.
Gratitude and Temptation
Our Father’s gifts compared to sin are like a blazing campfire next to a weak flashlight. God’s gifts bring us warmth, joy, and light where sin leads us into a dark forest—cold, lost, tripping over roots, stumbling off cliffs. Yet temptation would have us grip the flashlight instead of resting in the campfire’s comforting glow.
It’s striking to me that when James talks about trials, he includes temptation (1:12–15). Temptation is tied to deception and feeds on discontent. “Do not be deceived,” James says (v. 16). Our wandering hearts believe the lie that we don’t have what we need in Christ. But sin is a dim imitation of joy and ultimately leads to death. Remaining steadfast under trial has to do with remembering God’s character: “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (v. 17). He is essentially, eternally good; he is goodness.
However we feel in the moment of temptation, if we have him, we have everything. Noticing his good gifts reminds us of God’s character. It feeds gratitude and exposes sin’s emptiness. Only God lavishes goodness upon us; he alone satisfies.
This is true at every level. Consider the wholesome, mundane gifts God gives: biting into a perfect apple. Late afternoon light slanting through a window. Hugging a loved one, laughing with a friend, watching daffodils opening like concentrated sunshine. These are merely common grace good things! Believers get special grace, too—the honey of God’s Word, fellowship with believers in the bond of the Spirit, prayer. We get communion with our Savior. In union with Christ, we get God himself.
Gratitude and Jesus
When fighting temptation, we can make too much of the thing we’re fighting. It looms over everything, casting the shadow of condemnation. Our struggle with sin can appear bigger than our Savior’s victory.
Noticing his good gifts reminds us of God’s character. It feeds gratitude and exposes sin’s emptiness.
It’s right to grieve sin; godly sorrow leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:8–11). But repentance means looking away from ourselves to Jesus, trusting that his death is enough. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1). He is the pure sacrifice who atones for our sin—the obedient son who clothes us in his righteousness. He gives us his Spirit to empower our fight and helps us in our need (Heb. 4:14–16). It’s particularly in our sin that we have cause for gratitude!
Still, I forget God’s mercy and miss many opportunities to rejoice over the things that punctuate life with beauty, warmth, or humor. You, too? But our hope is in Christ, who always delights in his Father.
We can run freely to Christ in daily repentance because he never needed to repent. And through him, the Father lavishes his unfailing love upon us in small and large ways, every day. What better motivation to thankfulness can there be than the unmerited mercy that’s ours in Christ?
The greatest of earthly good gifts, though, are only little tastes of our Father’s goodness. Even our experience of spiritual blessings is limited by our sin—we see in a glass dimly (1 Cor. 13:12). The greatest gifts now are small bites, just big enough to whet our appetite for the coming feast. Praise God—in Christ, we have an eternity of sinless, satisfying joy to anticipate.
23 Mar 2023
This post was written by Angela Suh, a Women’s Ministry intern at Harvest USA.
As a Harvest USA intern, some of my time has been dedicated to serving sexually betrayed wives through our biblical support group. I quickly learned that sexual betrayal in marriage has complicated, painful consequences and observed the tension these wives experience through feeling hopelessly stuck in their marriages.
A sexually betrayed wife faces her husband’s violation of the marriage covenant. When children are present, she may have to consider boundaries and relational dynamics within the home. She may be burdened with the family’s finances if the sexual betrayal caused his unemployment. Wives are sometimes unseen by their church leadership and left to suffer alone. Regardless of their circumstances, these betrayed wives are “bent over” (Luke 13:10–17), desperate (like Hannah, 1 Sam. 1), and longing to be seen (Gen. 16).
As I grieved with these women, I turned to God’s words to Hagar—a woman shunned, moving toward a dead end, and longing to be seen.
Echoes of the Fall
Hagar was Sarai’s Egyptian servant. Because Sarai was frustrated by her infertility, she commanded her husband, Abram, to “go in to” Hagar so Sarai might obtain children through her. He listened, and when Hagar conceived, she looked at Sarai with contempt. Therefore, Sarai dealt harshly with Hagar and Hagar fled (Gen. 16:1–6).
Sin drives this entire narrative. Sarai sinfully doubted God’s promise to provide a son, leading her to take matters into her own hands. Abram’s sinful desires caused him to listen to his wife’s voice and sleep with Hagar rather than protect Sarai (and Hagar) with God’s promises.
Does this ring a bell? Sarai and Abram’s behavior mirrors the fall in the Garden of Eden. Rather than clinging to God’s commands and promises, Eve doubted his words. She pursued knowledge with her very own hands— “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” —like Sarai, who “took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife” (Gen. 3:6 and 16:3, my emphasis). Adam ate the fruit, without any question or objection, and Abram took a second wife.
Although the degree and impact of our sin may differ, it’s humbling to acknowledge that we have more similarities than differences when it comes to sinning against God.
Then the story in Genesis 16 reveals another layer of sin: Hagar responded to the wrong committed against her by being sinfully contemptuous of Sarai and running away (Gen. 16:4).
Sin begets sin and comes from the heart (Luke 6:45). The complex consequences of sexual unfaithfulness are not random or isolated from the person or circumstances. But they are birthed from the desires of the heart (James 1:14). Wives can see their husbands’ sin for what it is even as, by God’s grace, they soberly recognize and confess their own sinfulness. This is not to shift the blame or put responsibility for the husband’s unfaithfulness onto the wife. But we live in a sinful world as sinful individuals. Although the degree and impact of our sin may differ, it’s humbling to acknowledge that we have more similarities than differences when it comes to sinning against God.
The God Who Sees
In Hagar’s flight, she meets the angel of the Lord “by a spring of water in the wilderness.” He asked, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Gen. 16:7–8). The angel of the Lord identified Hagar for who she was and met her where she was. Among all the titles and names he could’ve used, the angel identified her as “servant of Sarai.” He looked at her with sober and realistic eyes.
The dualistic inquiry, “Where have you come from and where are you going,” recognizes Hagar’s past and notices her destination. Often, a sexually betrayed wife is so consumed by her husband’s failure and sin that all she wants to do—if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually—is run away.
But God’s Word shows our Father stopping to ask his broken daughters where they’re coming from and where they’re going. God is all-knowing; he doesn’t need this information. It’s like God asking Adam, “Where are you?” after the fall (Gen. 3:9). Of course, God knows—he is the God who sees. If God already knows, why does he ask?
The God Who Saves
God calls out and approaches in judgment. Yet God’s pursuit of Adam and Eve reveals his mercy. In questioning Hagar, God reveals his kindness.
Friends, his inquiry is not to put us to shame but to meet us exactly where we are; he is never too far behind or ahead. Even when Hagar couldn’t see her destination, God carefully and firmly directed her. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).
After the angel of the Lord commanded Hagar to return to Sarai and declared God’s promises, she identified God as “a God of seeing.” She said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13). While broken and rejected, Hagar was seen and looked after by God, and that was enough for her.
While broken and rejected, Hagar was seen and looked after by God, and that was enough for her.
Hagar’s circumstances were not fixed. She still had to bear Abram’s child and return to her mistress. However, Hagar didn’t find comfort in her circumstances but in the God who cared for her. Out in the desert—lonely, scared, and running away from a terrible situation—the God of the universe pursued Hagar. He knew her, looked after her, and “listened to [her] affliction” (Gen. 16:11).
This is my hope and prayer for wives suffering from sexual betrayal: that they would lay their souls bare before God and be satisfied in him alone. I pray for reconciliation, for husbands to turn from their sins. But above all, I pray for wives to know and believe that God sees and looks after them. He gave his one and only Son, the perfect Husband, to take on his bride’s every sin and redeem all her suffering. He will bring us to our final dwelling place, where he will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Rev. 21:4). Until that day: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
I began ministry with Harvest USA in 2007 with little idea of all the adventures God had in store for me. My heart for missions never would have dreamed I’d be sent on five international trips. My childhood dream to be a writer came true, though little-girl-me would have been shocked to read the titles attached to the articles, books, and discipleship curricula I helped produce. Truly, in Christ, the faith journey is filled with unexpected grace! The good works prepared for me (Eph. 2:10) and the specific race lanes he marked out for me (Heb. 12:2) have been rich gifts for which I am thankful.
On July 1, 2023—my 16th anniversary as the Harvest USA Director of Women’s Ministry! —I will transition into a new leadership role: Director of Equipping for Ministry to Women.
This slight word change represents a significant shift. I will exit the trenches of our direct ministry to women to be fully devoted to our equipping mission: writing new resources, supporting our president, Mark Sanders, and his vision to expand our reach, and training others to do what I’ve been doing all these years.
“Aging Out” of Obedience?
I’ve sensed the winds of change blowing in my heart for the past few years. I wasn’t sure what the Lord had for me, so I prayed, waited, sought counsel, and dreamed. I wondered if God had something for me outside of Harvest USA and sought wisdom from trusted ministry leaders. One asked me pointedly, “Ellen, do you think you’ll age out of sexuality ministry?”
Her words humbled me and stirred some doubts. As I’ve grown older and as unbiblical ideology regarding sexuality has gained traction (including in the church), I’ve felt the challenge to stay on top of cultural trends while remaining committed to actively serving women who need help. Along with many other ministry leaders, I’ve been in the bullseye of the sexual and gender revolution that continues to sweep across a world increasingly detached from God’s Word and his design for humanity.
God’s Spirit met me in those wrestlings. I realized we never age out of obedience to Christ. We’ll never become too old to be ambassadors of hope, kindness, truth, and the beauty of God’s gospel. How I long to flourish through serving Jesus until my last breath, bearing fruit (see Ps. 92:12–15) and remaining steadfast in faith as I run the race in the lane marked out for me. We never age out of God’s will for our lives.
Discipling and Equipping the Next Generation
Over the years, I’ve trained and mentored over 25 women who’ve served as Harvest USA interns or staff and trained hundreds more for ministry through webinars, online mentoring groups, and equipping events. It’s been a joy and an honor.
My new position will allow me to invest more strategically in the next generation of leaders to engage the vital ministry of applying the gospel to women who need help living in relational and sexual integrity and the hurting wives of men struggling with the same. Harvest USA is committed to taking what we’ve learned as practitioners and training God’s people to help others. For me, it’s a way to live out Paul’s loving affirmation to the Thessalonians: “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).
In this way, I’ve shared my life and the gospel with Caitlin McCaffrey, whom God has raised up to be the next Director of Women’s Ministry.
A New Director of Women’s Ministry
I’ve known Caitlin for several years as a sister in Christ and, for the past year, as a Harvest USA colleague. She moved cross-country to join Harvest USA, motivated by love for Christ and a passion to help hurting women. Talk about surprises! Despite knowing that change was coming for me, Caitlin didn’t anticipate moving into the Director of Women’s Ministry role so soon. Yet, with affirmation from our team and trusted friends, she accepted the call.
Caitlin brings a fresh voice that I sensed we needed. I’m eager to see how God will use her to reshape and grow our care for women bound up in sexual addictions, unholy relationships, and wives in painful marriage circumstances. Caitlin’s humility, theological depth, wisdom, and ability to bring God’s Word to practical application are just a few reasons why I esteem her so greatly. She is zealous for Christ’s glory and seeks Jesus in a sincere, daily way. And we laugh a good bit together, too!
Caitlin and I will develop new Christ-centered resources together, including books, discipleship curricula, and webinars to address topics like relational idolatry, overcoming habitual sin patterns, same-sex struggles, gender dissonance, and more.
Our goal is to provide resources for those who struggle and training to assist helpers and local churches engage in this gospel work. I mean—it’s exciting, right?!
Join Us or Send Us!
We’re hoping to see God raise up another full-time woman to join Caitlin in our direct ministry to women. Might that be you or someone you know? Click here for more information.
As always, Harvest USA never charges a fee for our discipleship ministry. We rely on a team of financial partners to support us in this essential kingdom work. Might God be leading you to invest resources to help us? Join Caitlin’s or Ellen’s Team.
09 Mar 2023
Name: Hi, all; my name is Keith Seary.
Hometown: I’m Jersey born and raised—from the shores of Brigantine to the blueberry farmlands of Hammonton, New Jersey.
Position: I’m beyond blessed to begin serving as part of the Men’s Ministry staff here at Harvest USA.
Description of work at Harvest USA: A quick Google search says there are 59 “one another” commands in Scripture. I hope it can be said that my work at Harvest USA is living out those commands. My heart is to love, support, teach, admonish, and sympathize with men struggling with sexual sin through one-on-one and group discipleship. I’m also working to equip believers to be ready to give an answer to what the world has to say about topics on sex through contributing to our website and many outreach events. Finally, I have the honor of developing foundational relationships God uses to keep his ministry through Harvest USA functioning. Praise God for prayer warriors, ministry advocates, and financial supporters!
How did you get to Harvest USA?
“Mom, I’m just not sure I’m smart enough for college,” I said right before my senior year of high school. “Pick!” my mom replied. “I talked with your dad, and we decided you’re going to take a dual-credit class to prove yourself wrong.” I scanned the list until my eyes settled on a class with a term I’d never heard before: “Intro to Biblical Counseling.” I’ll do this. It looks interesting, I thought.
Fast forward about two years into my bachelor’s degree in biblical counseling. My fellow young adult ministry co-leader and I came to our pastor seeking guidance about a transgender individual who joined our group. Our pastor gave us the book Hide or Seek, a Harvest USA resource.
A few more years passed, and the high school senior was now a college senior wondering how to serve God with my impending degree. I searched online for ministry jobs (in typical Gen Z fashion) and, after some scrolling in the late hours of the night, found an opening at Harvest USA. In that moment, I experienced a sense of déjà vu from my high school self: I’ll do this. It looks interesting. Through making a resume, submitting an application, being interviewed, and doing my own research on Harvest USA, my interest quickly became a passion to serve here. By God’s gracious sovereignty, here I am.
What is your favorite Scripture or Bible book?
This is a bit like asking my little sister which of our seven goats is her favorite. The more I study the Word in each season of life, new verses and books rise above the rest in how they minister to my heart. Romans 8 will always be dear to me. The believer is eternally, unfailingly, and without exception secure in salvation through the triune God—that is the core truth of this chapter. Paul mixes beauty, logic, and love together in his case for this truth. Romans 8 motivates, comforts, instills peace, and drives me to worship every time I read it.
What is your favorite thing about living in Philadelphia?
I live in New Jersey, but Philly is part of my heritage—my mother spent some of her childhood in the Philly area, and my grandfather served the city as a police officer for about two decades. So, I think I can get away with saying there’s a bit of brotherly love running through my veins. I’m also a proud Philadelphia Union fan. It’s encouraging and exciting to watch their competitive performance draw attention to Major League Soccer in the United States, a nation sadly confused about which football is superior.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?
If I could choose between living in a house or a tent, I would choose the tent. The outdoors is where I feel refreshed. There is nothing better than being under the stars while mesmerized by a fire. I could watch a nice campfire for hours. God expresses his goodness so clearly in his creation! Kayaking, hiking, jet skiing, rock climbing, fishing—you name it, if it involves the outdoors, it’s an activity for me.
02 Mar 2023
If you or anyone close to you has struggled with exclusive same-sex attraction, you know that this is a particularly heavy burden to bear. I’ve heard painful story after story of men and women who wrestled in silence during most of their adolescence with confusion, shame, guilt, and increasing despair over the unrelenting experience of attraction to the same sex. No matter how many prayers they offered up, not only did their same-sex desires not go away, but desires for someone of the opposite sex never came.
More than ever before, we’re wrestling with questions of identity, sexuality, and what repentance and faithful living looks like for our brothers and sisters who struggle with same-sex attraction. Many churches and denominations have completely rejected a biblical sexual ethic and have embraced our God-denying culture’s definitions of love, identity, and sexuality.
But even within conservative biblical understandings of sexuality, there is still confusion and division over how to minister to our brothers and sisters wrestling in these ways.
I want to briefly address two common approaches to discipleship when it comes to the question of marriage, and then offer a third way that I believe is most helpful and most faithful to Scripture.
Most people who see life-long celibacy as the best or only option for Christians wrestling with exclusive same-sex attraction often explicitly or implicitly embrace a theology that sees same-sex desires as a core aspect of identity. Thus, many have no problem identifying as “gay Christians.” They’re not equating a gay identity with same-sex behavior—they still hold to the Bible’s design for sexuality when it comes to what is permissible sexual activity. But they also see exclusive same-sex desires as a largely unchangeable, life-long experience until the resurrection. Thus, the only option for the vast majority of these brothers and sisters is celibacy.
Pros of the Celibacy Solution
It’s commendable to see our brothers and sisters testify to the reality that Christ is all-satisfying. If following Christ means they’ll never experience sexual satisfaction, they willingly take up that cross. This choice of celibacy also points the entire church to what is eternal. Human marriage was designed by God to be a temporary sign that gives way to the reality of the church’s eternal union with our bridegroom, Jesus Christ.
The celibacy solution also recognizes the reality that there are many sin struggles in this life that God may allow to remain a formidable foe until we see Jesus face to face.
Lastly, the celibacy solution reminds us that while marriage is a blessing for many, it’s not a requirement for all. We can’t escape Paul’s provocative words when he states that “he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better” (1 Cor. 7:38).
Cons of the Celibacy Solution
The celibacy solution typically comes from an unbiblical premise, spoken or unspoken, which states: “My exclusive same-sex attraction is immutable, unchangeable, and God almost certainly will do nothing about it.” It would seem that this theology places same-sex desires in a unique category from other sins. When Jesus does a radical work of bringing dead hearts to life, making someone a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), this particular area remains unreachable from God’s grace.
This belief goes hand-in-hand with another unbiblical supposition: same-sex desire, if not consciously acted upon, is morally neutral. As long as you don’t allow the attraction to give birth to lust, there’s no need for change because this is not an area in need of repentance. But the church has historically rejected this premise which only identifies sin in the realm of conscious choice. The Bible makes it clear that the fall has corrupted not only our choices but our desires as well (James 1:14–15, Jer. 17:9).
While it’s important to maintain a distinction between “indwelling sin” and what we could call “willful sin,” both need redemption. When we limit the scope of sin’s reach, we also limit the scope of the gospel’s reach. To dive deeper on the topic of whether same-sex desires can be properly labeled sin, see my previous blog, “Is it Sin or Temptation?”
The call to repent of all sinful desires is non-negotiable. This will seem impossible if desire and identity are inseparably linked.
Some see same-sex attraction as morally neutral because they often see their attractions as integral to their identity. To lose this desire would be to lose a part of themselves that they don’t want to lose. Whether it be their creativity, their cultural tastes, or the way they interact with friends, they see their desires as foundational to their being. But to whatever degree repentance changes our preferences or the ways we interact with others, that can only be a good thing. The call to repent of all sinful desires is non-negotiable. This will seem impossible if desire and identity are inseparably linked.
In response to the celibacy solution, some conservative Christian thought leaders and pastors have advocated that many Christians wrestling with same-sex desires should place a high emphasis on seeking marriage with someone of the opposite sex. While they would not go so far as to say that it’s sinful for every Christian to remain single, they would say that in many (if not most) cases, true repentance of same-sex desires would eventually give way to new desires for biblical marriage.
They would also propose that the ethical opposite of same-sex desire is heterosexual desire within marriage. They would argue that Paul’s description of the call to singleness in 1 Corinthians 7 was not describing someone wrestling with exclusive same-sex desires but instead refers to those Christians who’ve been given the gift of great contentment in singleness. Therefore, it is not tied to a sense of inability to marry according to God’s design.
Pros of the Marriage Solution
The marriage solution fundamentally rejects the idea that exclusive same-sex attraction is tied to identity and therefore immutable. It also sees same-sex attraction as part of indwelling sin and therefore in need of redemption. It’s an aspect of the Christian’s experience that the gospel has the power to change. These pastors want believers who struggle with same-sex attraction to believe God is powerful enough to bring about incredible change even at the level of our desires. The very heart of the gospel is the proclamation that what was impossible with man is made possible with God (Matt. 19:26).
The very heart of the gospel is the proclamation that what was impossible with man is made possible with God (Matt. 19:26).
The marriage solution also rightly pushes back against an unhelpful feedback loop in the celibacy solution in which the belief that heterosexual marriage is impossible prevents the possibility of it. Our beliefs impact our desires, and vice versa. The more we believe a specific narrative, the more our expectations, hopes, and desires will be shaped by that narrative. If the narrative says someone should abandon realistic expectations of developing godly desires for marriage, then hope has no place to root itself. That desire will have no fertile soil to feed upon.
Cons of the Marriage Solution
The biggest problem with the marriage solution is that it turns the good opportunity of marriage into a command that Scripture does not warrant. There is no biblical backing to make a one-to-one correspondence between repentance and romantic desires.
Sexual desire is never commanded for a single Christian. If a Christian is already married, they’re called to cherish, love, and pursue their spouse—including, when appropriate, fanning the flames of desire so their attractions are devoted to their spouse alone. It’s also true that there may be a correlation between repentance of same-sex desires and a desire for marriage. As someone repents, the Lord may open their heart to an opportunity for marriage that he presents. If someone is convinced that their exclusive same-sex attraction is core to their identity, their unwillingness to consider marriage may indicate a lack of repentance. But that is a case-by-case area of wisdom and discernment.
But this gets to the question of the goal of repentance. The ethical opposite of same-sex lust is not heterosexual desire, but love (see The Opposite of Sexual Sin). The ethical opposite of lust is love for God and love for neighbor—in these two the entire law is summed up.
The Westminster Larger Catechism, question 138, asks, “What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?” The answer focuses on chastity as the main way we positively fulfill the seventh commandment. It says that marriage is a duty if someone does not have the “gift of continency”— “the exercise of self-constraint in sexual matters.” Self-constraint implies that there is something in need of restraining! Therefore, continency is not the absence of any sexual desire (whether hetero- or homosexual), but the ability to live a life of faithful obedience to God while lacking the proper context for sexual expression. This reflects Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:9 when he says that those who cannot exercise self-control should marry. We cannot conclude that the Bible requires marriage for someone who is faithfully repenting of sinful sexual desires with increasing self-control.
The marriage solution ties a heavy burden upon the necks of our brothers and sisters. It has too many similarities to the extra-biblical requirements of pharisaical laws. Just as forbidding marriage goes beyond the testimony of Scripture, so does requiring it.
I’ve sought to be accurate and charitable in my assessments of the first two solutions. Both views highlight some important truths and make fair criticisms of the opposite perspective. But their conclusions fall short of God’s wisdom.
Instead, if a brother or sister wrestling with same-sex attraction asks you if they should pursue marriage, see this as an opportunity to encourage them to bring their desires with open hands before the Lord.
For every unmarried Christian, the possibility of marriage must be fully surrendered to God. He claims Lordship over every part of your life.
Sometimes marriage seems to be the direction God is pointing them. They largely experience exclusive same-sex attraction but are open to marriage and desire to raise a family. If God calls them to marriage, there will be struggles (as in every marriage)—but it will also be an ongoing means of their sanctification and blessing. For others, their hesitancy to pursue marriage may be a lack of trust in their heavenly Father, revealing an idolatrous desire for control. The issue is not marriage itself, but what marriage is revealing about their hearts. For still others, they may not desire to pursue marriage because they are living contentedly with self-restraint as a single believer.
For every unmarried Christian, the possibility of marriage must be fully surrendered to God. He claims Lordship over every part of your life. We should hold up everything to God with open hands, including marriage, singleness, our career, where we live, how we spend our time and money, and especially including our desires. If you surrender to our Lord’s perfect will in this area, he will lead you. Perhaps God has a long, thriving season of service in the Kingdom that is only accomplished through singleness. That season of singleness may give way to marriage one day. The key is that your entire life is fully surrendered to him.
This is the standard for all followers of Christ! Jesus demands we give him everything (Luke 14:26). The only proper response to God’s amazing grace in salvation is to “no longer live for [ourselves] but for him who for [our] sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). Our plans and our desires no longer have control, but “the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). Our flesh naturally fights against this type of radical surrender, but the Spirit gently, patiently, sweetly, and convincingly continues to draw us into it.
My former colleague Dave White used to say that legalism and licentiousness are two sides of the same coin. They’re both sinful attempts to avoid a relationship with God. In a similar way, forcing or forbidding marriage cuts off the life of prayer that is required when considering such weighty decisions. For some of my single brothers and sisters struggling with same-sex attraction, God may be calling you to the scary work of praying about marriage. For others, you’ve been praying about this, you have submitted this to the Lord, and he has given you contentment in his call of singleness for your life.
A brief word to my married brothers and sisters who continue to battle against same-sex desires. You’re not alone in the fight to keep your desires singularly focused on your spouse. This is a battle every married person must faithfully fight. Remember, Jesus is Lord of your desires (Phil. 2:13)! Keep offering them to him. You may find it difficult at times to fan the flame of desire for your spouse, but this is an area that you can proactively cultivate by God’s grace. He wants to bless your Spirit-driven efforts at fostering a deeper longing for your spouse, as those efforts are the fruit of a singular and intentional longing for Christ.
Your heavenly Father can be trusted. He will not give you a scorpion when you ask for an egg, or a serpent when you ask for a fish (Luke 12:11–12). He loves you. He purchased you for his prized possession. He wants to lavish you with good things that result in praise and thanksgiving to his name. You can trust him with your desires, your future, and your entire life.