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The Divine Plan

Matthew 19:1-12

by Stuart Mains

July 30, 2023

Obrigado por conferir este sermão. Se você se comove com o que ouve e está na área de Boston, considere visitar pessoalmente!

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Amen, church! Well, if you weren't awake already, now you are. My name is Stuart Mains, and along with my wife Ashley, we help to lead this congregation in downtown Boston. If you're visiting with us, we want to say a big thank you for coming out—big welcome to you. You have found a family here. You have found a church that deeply loves one another, and we know one another, and we still deeply love one another, amen?

Sometimes you know each other as family, but you always love what you know. We know each other, and we love each other here, and if you're visiting for the first time or the umpteenth time, we're grateful you're here with us. As well as if you're a member of the church, I just want to say from Ashley and me how much we love you, how deeply we love you, and love being a part of this church family.

You know this has been a great couple of weeks. I know we just heard Juan got baptized last Thursday, which is very, very encouraging, and there's Juan right there. Juan, can you stand up for everybody to be able to see you? There he is, amen. And then two weeks ago, and then she went out of town so we weren't able to announce it last week, but Raquel got baptized two Sundays ago. Where's Raquel at? Raquel, can you stand up there she is [Applause], amen. You know it's so exciting to have some conversions in the Professionalism Ministry. We see a lot of people coming to faith in the college ministry, but you know college ministry is not the only time you can meet Jesus. And it is something different when an adult that's a little bit further along in their life has seen some things. I know Juan is married and turning his life over to God. It's just an amazing, amazing thing.

I also wanted to let you know, in case you didn't realize, the Spanish South region is meeting with us this Sunday, and very excited about that. So even as you're fellowshipping at the end, make sure that you make them feel very welcomed. You may notice there are a few less chairs in here, that's why they're worshiping in there, and we're so grateful to have them. We had already planned this for about a month, and then because of the rains yesterday, they ended up having a flooding in their facility that they normally meet up to a foot in their facility, so their actual auditorium wouldn't have been unusable. The Lord just had that all mapped out and figured out a month ago as we were planning this, and so we're looking forward to connecting with them as well.

You know the title of today's message is 'The Divine Plan.' The divine plan. You know when you think about planning, what kind of planner are you? You know when you go on vacations, are you the ones that plan out every little detail, or are you more fly by the seat of your pants? You know, I just saw a show on Netflix; it was a documentary about this couple. I think it was called 'The Longest Third Date,' and it was about during COVID this guy and girl, they met on Tinder, they had their first two dates. Then COVID was shutting down New York, they lived in New York. They said, 'You know what, let's go to Costa Rica for our third date for the weekend. We won't tell anybody, you know, our bosses or anything; we'll work remotely because things are shutting down and the tickets are so cheap, let's just go out there.' They go out there, and they get stuck there for 90 days. They didn't really plan that through, did they?

Some of you may view planning as boring or it's more exhilarating when you don't have a plan; it's more of an adventure. Others of you, the idea of not planning just feels like a nightmare. You know, when I think about family vacations, my sister is a huge planner. She texts us as we're leading up to the vacation, whether it's Christmas or Thanksgiving, she'll text the itinerary ideas that she has. And at first, I thought this was just stupid, you know, why are we planning it out so much, let's just see what happens. But then I started realizing on her itinerary that she had, okay, Tuesday night girls' night out, Dad's babysitting. Okay, Wednesday night out, Manny's mani-pedis with the girls, Dad's babysitting. Then girls go and see a movie or girls going to see Disney on Ice, and Dad's babysitting. So finally, I realized if I'm not going to have any fun on this vacation unless I get into her plan in her itinerary. Sometimes, so I talked to Chaz, my brother-in-law, said okay, we gotta plan some fun stuff. What are we going to do? And so, we went and saw a movie together. We're like, 'What, that's pretty good; we planned it out.'

You know, my sister is a huge planner when it comes to vacation. What are you? How many of you in this room are a big planner? You want details; you want it all figured out? Oh, very few of you; some of you are shy; your hands are very low; you don't want to go above the shoulder level to show your plannerness. Is this a source of tension maybe in your house a little bit? How many of you are flying by the seat of the pants, 'Let's just have an adventure and see what happens?' Okay, some of you; I'd say it's probably 50/50, and then others of you just didn't respond; I don't know what you do on vacation, maybe you don't go on vacations or something. I don't know; some plan, some not; maybe half and half, maybe havesies plan.

For some of you, you know, God is a planner. God has a divine plan. He plans on a micro level and he plans on a macro level. He plans for the world and he plans for your life. In Jeremiah 29:11, we know this passage. It's a famous passage; oftentimes it's not totally misunderstood, though who he's talking about and what it would take for that plan to come to fruition. But it says in verse 11, 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.' You know, we hear this and we go, 'Oh, I'm so excited; this passage means so much to me; God has a plan for my life.' Little did you know that his plan, as he's telling this to his people, would come to fruition 400 years later from when he said this, 13 generations later. This plan came to fruition. His people at that time when he was sharing that were actually going to go through some very challenging times in those 400 years, but he wanted to let them know that despite what they were going through, 'I still have a plan.' God is organized; he's a planner; he knows where you should live, what jobs are going to be best for you. He knows the girlfriends or boyfriends that you currently have that won't be best for you in the long run and the ones that may be better for you. He knows the ones that could get you to heaven and the ones that most certainly will not.

You know Matthew 10:30, you know, they're turning there, but it says, 'Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.' God is organized; he has an itinerary for your life, a plan. God has a calling for your life, and one of those plans that God has for some of us is marriage. It's not necessarily a guarantee; it's not necessarily in the plan for all of us, but for many of us, it is. And we come into the story in Matthew 19 if you'll turn in your Bibles there where Jesus is being tested. The word that's used there is that the Pharisees were trying to entrap him, that they were trying to ensnare him, that they were testing him in order to have him make more enemies by the way that they ask this question. And look at how Jesus responds to the trap, getting back to the heart of God's intended plan that he's planned since the beginning of time for marriage.

Matthew 19, Verse 3, it says some Pharisees came to him to test him, to trap him, to ensnare him. They asked, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?' Haven't you read?' He replied that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh, so they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.' Why, then,' they asked, 'in Moses command that a man gives his wife a certificate of divorce and sends her away?'

Make note of this that they say, 'Why did Moses command?' But in reality, look what Jesus says in verse 8, 'Jesus replied, "Moses permitted, he didn't command; he permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another woman commits adultery."'

You know, Jesus is confronted with this question that the Pharisees hoped would stump him, 'Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?' You know, you've got to think about what's the context of why they would even ask this question in the world that they lived in at this time. You know, there are two schools of thought on divorce. You know, divorce was common in the Jewish culture, similar to today in American culture. In Deuteronomy 24, verses 1 through 4, the guidelines that Moses gave to the Israelites from God in verse 1, it says, 'When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens if she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, then he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her away from his house.' And then the passage goes on and basically says, 'And then she gets remarried to someone else and gets divorced from that other person. Then the original husband can't come back and say, "She's my wife; she's mine," after she has been married.' And so they were talking about a very specific thing, but in this passage, in verse 1, you see it says, 'If she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her.' You know, this was something that was talked about a lot. There were really two rabbis that had differing thoughts on what it meant to have this indecency or this uncleanness.

The first was Shammai. The Shammai train of thought was that she was immoral, that she had been unfaithful, that he got into a marriage with her, and that she was not a virgin. Those would be grounds in Shammai's way of thinking so that you could divorce this woman and give her a certificate. And really, the whole issue of the certificate was surrounding the concept of protecting the woman from being strewn along by the guy, saying, 'I don't want you in my life,' but then she can't move on with her life because she's still legally bound. And so actually, the certificate of divorce was to protect women from being mistreated.

The other way of thinking was Hillel. Hillel had more of a free expression of indecency. In his mind, it was often said that if he didn't like her spirit or her temperament, he could divorce her. She talked to someone on the road, and he didn't like it; he could divorce her. If she mis-seasoned his food or burnt the bread, he could divorce her. He had this way of communicating to the train of thought that really, for any reason, on any ground. I mean, think about being a woman in that culture if that was the way of thinking that you could get divorced by burning bread."

"I mean, I don't know how you are at baking, but one burnt meal should not be a reason for divorce. Think about the devastation; think about what that would do to a woman being divorced because she misseasoned your food. You know, you can't divorce her because you found her unclean or indecent just because she wasn't as attractive as another woman.

I mean, you think about how far away God's people in that time had gotten away from God's intention for marriage. There was a massive effect that happened on the women in the culture as this was a thought of the day, not the only thought, but it was definitely a popular thought of the day.

You know, God has a plan for marriage, and Jesus is thrust right in the middle of this debate. And what he does is he brings us right back to the origination of marriage, the very first marriage. You know, God's divine plan for marriage is seen in Genesis 1. Let's turn to Genesis 1 now. You know, God has a plan for everything, as I've said, and he starts off in Genesis 1, talking about this marriage, this covenant, this connection between Adam and Eve. And we're going to jump around a few verses here, but you can read all of Genesis 1 and 2 to understand more deeply.

In Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:18 and 24, it reads:

'Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

**That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.'"

As you look at God's original plan, as Jesus is being confronted by this idea of whether someone can get divorced for any and every reason, he brings it back to the creation story, the beginning of time, the intentionality of marriage, and a covenant between a man and a woman. He describes the circumstances that this came about, the circumstances that this started, what his plan was, what they would do. He came up with five things that I saw in this passage; maybe you can come up with more:

Reflect His Image (Genesis 1:26): The idea of being a man is an incomplete image of God. Now, God made me in His image, and yet I am brought to full completion of the image of God with my spouse, Ashley. As you have learned to know me over the last couple of years, you know that I am an incomplete representation of God. I'm not truly all that God intended or God who God made the world to be. We needed the counterpart. The idea of marriage is to reflect His image.

Raise Godly Children (Genesis 1:28): 'Be fruitful and increase in number.'

Establish God's Kingdom (Genesis 1:28): 'Fill the Earth and subdue it; rule over it.'

Companionship (Genesis 2:18): 'It's not good for man to be alone.'

Become Your Own Family Unit (Genesis 2:24): 'For them to leave their father and mother and be united to become one flesh.'

When I'm doing pre-marriage counseling, this is something that we talk about—that you're getting married to each other, and you're building your own family unit. Dad may pay for a vacation, and so you hop onto that family vacation for the first couple of years of marriage while you're broke as a joke, but there will come a time when you are your own family unit here, that you're to make your own traditions, that you're to make your own memories. You know, this is not just going to Vegas on a whim kind of marriage. God has thought this through; He shows us who He is by creating us in this way that through marriage, we display the fullness of the characteristics of who God is.

And as a man who is living this out, this is an amazing thing. It's an amazing thing to have a Godly marriage. You know, Ashley and I, we've been together for 18 years; we've been married for 14 years. I'm 35 years old, so you can do the math on that. We met in high school. You know, I, uh, we started dating May 7, 2005. Even writing that felt old. You know, the amen? We got engaged February 17, 2009, and we got married June 27, 2009. 7/7. That was not planned, but praise God for the three sevens there. But this idea of being married, it has been one of the greatest joys of my life. The fun, the laughter that we have, the way that we're able to look after one another and go through life's greatest triumphs together.

When I do a sermon, the one I want to hear from the most is my wife. What do you think? Are you going to tell it to me straight? Was it good? Was it okay? I care about what she thinks about me. I love when I do something good and she praises me for it. I also feel it deeply when I've wronged her or hurt her. I'm in love with the life that God has allowed us to build together. She has given me four beautiful children. I did pray for at least one of them to be a brunette, but they're all four redheads.

She's been willing to come across the country from California to hear. She's been willing to go on all kinds of adventures with me for the preaching of the Gospel, to lead churches, or just adventures because I'm like, 'Hey, let's go. You want to go to Maine? Let's go. You want to go?' One time around COVID started, we were in California; I was like, 'Let's just go to Denver.' So we did, 14 hours, on a whim. She's down for it; she's ready for the adventure with me. She has been there through the ups and the downs, through the grief that I didn't know if I would get past. She has held down the family when I've been more depressed than I knew what to do with. She was willing to stick with me when we were making a thousand dollars each when we first got married. A month! Oh, man, we were broke. I mean, shopping for all of your groceries at 99 Cent Store. I do not totally recommend it, especially the meats. Stay away from the meats when they're 99 cents, that's all I got to say."

You know, God had a perfect plan, and for those of you who have been able to experience a Godly marriage, there are few things that better commercials for God's power and plan than a Godly marriage. Few things are better than being able to see God's plan come to fruition from Genesis 1 on, to see His plan for marriage and to see all the ways that she or he makes you better, the ways that you're able to complete one another, and just the joy and the fun that you're able to have in a marriage. It's not always fun, but there are a lot of incredibly fun times.

You know, Satan lies to us when it comes to the plan. Part of the lie that Satan tells us is that the plan for a Godly marriage is boring, that the plan isn't for you, that the plan won't work, that the plan has all kinds of problems. You know, I don't know how you like to vacation, but I like to go on cruises. How many of you guys are cruise people? Okay, four people like cruises, and I love you people. The rest of you, I don't know what you're doing; you're missing out. Or all-inclusive places, you like all-inclusive places? Okay, a little bit more of you that I love.

Going on cruises, there is such enjoyment because it's all planned out, an all-inclusive place. It's all covered. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? Clean your room? Damn it, we got someone to do that for you. Entertainment? Sit here; we'll entertain you. Hello, and you go to a show; we got that planned out for you. There is a peace going on a vacation where it's all planned out for you. And yet, Satan has lied to so many of us that even though God has this whole thing planned out for you, you can go, "I just need to buy into His plan for marriage and live out a life. I need to be pure in my dating relationship. We need to not live together; we need to live in separate places while we're dating. When you stay away from sexual morality or any kind of impurity, we need to build deep roots, emotionally connected to one another but in a healthy Godly way." Satan lies to us and goes, "That's not how it's going to work," and there's so much stress in a life where you try to take matters into your own hands. The idea that it's all planned out for you does not make it boring; it makes it incredible.

God has a plan for how you should live as married couples. In Ephesians 5:25, it says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with the water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one has ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."

Remember hearing that? This is a profound mystery, but I'm talking about Christ and the church. However, each of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Husbands in the room, he says, "We've got to love them. We must love them just like Christ loves the church." What did He do? He laid down His life. He laid down His life for the church. The way you lead your household, the way you lead your marriage, is sacrificially laying down your life. He says, "You love your own body; love her like you love your own body. With food, you love food; feed your wife with fun. You want to have fun; take care of your wife." You know, even in the physical relationship, in the sexual relationship, our world has tweaked out through pornography and through media what it means to get your needs met sexually. We look at this passage, and this pertains to sex as well, that the idea of being in a marriage that pleases God is that you are laying down even your pleasure for making sure that your wife is taken care of.

The idea of being in a marriage that is blessed by God is one where the man leads in his sacrifice towards his wife. This idea of laying down your life for your wife is not how the world views it. This is not how the world views sex; this is not how the world views marriage; this is not how the world views any of these things. And yet, you see the beauty of a Godly marriage, the beauty of what God wants to see is that each partner is laying down their lives, sacrificing and loving and respecting one another in such a powerful way that both get their needs met in every way.

The second part is, "Wives must respect her husband." Wives, are you living this passage out? Are you living out the passage when it says, "Wives must respect your husband"? Are you living this out in your speech? Are you living this out in your tone? Are you living this out in your lifestyle? Is the home environment one where you lay your hair down and say, "I can talk to however I want," or is it a place of respect? Not out of fear but out of love. Again, not in a domineering environment of, "This man demands respect," but instead, that you willingly give it and say, out of reverence, submission to God, "I will respect you." It's interesting; it doesn't say if he deserves it. It doesn't say if he's worthy of respect because it was never about him in the first place; it was about God. It's about your reverence, submission to God, that in doing so, you will be able to show him what it means to reflect the image of God.

A little caveat on this point: some of you here are wives to non-Christian spouses, non-Christian husbands. First of all, I just want to say, you are heroes. The idea of being a disciple and trying to live a disciple life while having your spouse, who you want to be more connected to than ever before, not going in the same direction is just so challenging. But in 1 Peter 3:1, it says, "Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your husbands so that if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives."

The commercial that I've been talking about of who God is, it's not going to be through badgering him, "You heathen, you non-Christian husband, you stink, and you're lazy. I've been going to church, and I've been hearing about how you don't lay down your life for me, and you stink." That's not going to get it done

. It's through your reverence, submission to God that you're willing to respect him even if you don't think he's worthy of respect.

It goes both ways; even if you don't feel that she deserves love, you love your wife because of the reverence submission to God. We must follow God's plan for marriage. Some of you in this room are single, maybe you're looking for a spouse, and the Scriptures inform us on how we should look for a spouse, where we should look. It calls us to look for spouses in the church, look for a mate, look for a partner in life with someone that's going in the same direction as you.

In 2 Corinthians 6:14, it reads, "Do not be mismatched." We know in the NIV it says, "Do not be yoked or connected with," but do not be mismatched with unbelievers, or it's synonymous with non-Christians or non-disciples. "For what do righteousness and lawlessness share together? Or what does light have in common with darkness? Or what harmony does Christ have with Belial, meaning Satan, or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? Or what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, 'I'll live in them, move into them; I'll be their God, they will be my people.' So, leave the corruption and compromise. Leave it for good, says God. Don't link up with those who will pollute you. I want you all for myself. I'll be your Father to you; you'll be sons and daughters to me," says the Master God. God is saying, "I have a plan for even who you should pursue."

You know, as you look at this passage, this concept, there is a conviction that should well up in you of where you allow your eyes to look for some prospect. Should you look on Tinder? No. Why? Because what do you have in common with people that are out looking for sexual promiscuity? You have nothing if you're a disciple of Jesus Christ. And if you say, "Well, I'm looking for that," then you're probably not a disciple of Jesus Christ. If it's attractive to you, there's a problem with your Christianity. But if you're truly following God, the idea of looking for a spiritual relationship, you have to look in places that you know for certain you're going to find Christians. And even in the body of believers, we have people at varying levels in their spiritual walk, so there's even a higher calling because this is a wellspring of life. You know, the Scriptures say that the heart is, and so therefore, we want to protect this. And so maybe there's people that are going through challenges or difficulty in their spiritual walk. That's probably not someone to pursue at that moment. We want to make sure they get their needs met spiritually.

Where are you looking to date? Where are you looking for someone? Do you have a conviction of where you're allowing your heart to go? What attracts you? Is it righteousness? You know, we have in our church some incredible men and women that are single, that are not married yet. And yet, too often times, we can look at the people around us, and we view people as the world views people. We go, "I don't know if they're my kind of hot. I don't know if they're as attractive to me as I think they should be. I don't know if they're as ambitious in their careers or financially. I don't know what your retirement's looking like. Do you own a couple of properties?" Yeah, we make it out to be as if you're some kind of hotshot that everyone should fall in love with you because you're out there having all kinds of thoughts about what everybody else should have on their resume of life. And yet, the reality is, through scripture, we read time and time again that we should not view people the way the rest of the world looks at them. Instead, there should be righteousness that adorns the sisters and the brothers. What makes them attractive is their faithfulness to God, not what brand they're wearing or how they did their hair. In fact, it says the opposite. It says what should be so attractive is their spirit. And yet, if you are not attracted to the spirits in this room, it's a problem with your righteousness. It is not a problem with the people. And so we have this culture, particularly in the singles ministry, of "I'm going to find my person in wherever, California." California, I mean, amen. Maybe God's got someone for you in California, but look around the room. There are incredible people here. Why are you being so prejudiced against those that are right near you? Allow yourself to see and be attracted to the Godly things, and who knows if God's got a plan outside of this room? Amen for that. But allow yourself to be directed by God.

Are you allowing your steps to be directed by God? Amen.

It goes on in verse 7 of Matthew 19. "Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?" Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard, but it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife except for sexual immorality and marries another woman commits adultery."

You know, Jesus reminds them this was never the plan, this was never how marriage was supposed to be lived out. Marriage is for life, the plan for marriage is "till death do us part." In this passage, Jesus makes a caveat: if you get divorced for any other reason than marital unfaithfulness, you commit adultery. We know and recognize in First Corinthians 7, verse 15, you can read that on your own, that Paul also makes a caveat of abandonment by a non-Christian spouse, by an unbeliever. But there are very specific criteria for which you can get divorced in both these instances, in First Corinthians 7, and as Jesus is saying it, it's never encouraged as, "This would be awesome, go and get divorced." It's saying, as a last resort, it's never required; it's never said, "If they're unfaithful, you must get divorced." And yet, so often this is prevalent in our world. He makes the distinction; the reason that this law came about in Deuteronomy 24 is because of the hardness of your hearts. The reason that this came about, this concession, this divine concession to say, "Okay, in certain circumstances, you can get a divorce," is because of the hardness of hearts.

The second thing we're going to look at here is the hardness of our hearts alters God's intended plan. This point is much shorter than the first, and we're moving on. The hardness of our hearts alters God's intended plan. Do you know that you have the ability to change God's plan? That God has given us free will to choose His plan or to not choose His plan, to step outside of God's plan? The hardness, the stubbornness of heart can alter the intended plan for your life. We have free will to choose God's plan or try our own way. And we see this quite a few times where people step outside of God's plan, and God allows it.

King Saul was established; Israelites were not supposed to have a human king, and yet the people started yelling to Samuel the prophet, "Please give us a king so we can be just like everybody else." And God goes, "This, Samuel goes to God and goes, 'I cannot believe they're asking for this. You are supposed to be our God. I'm so sorry, God, that they're asking for this.' And God says, 'Well, they haven't rejected you; they've rejected me. And I'm going to give them what they want, and they're going to massively regret it. And when their sons go off to war, they'll mourn, and they'll know that they should have had me as a king. But I'll give them a king because it's what they're asking for.'" King Hezekiah, he was told, "I'm gonna die." And he said, "Oh, God, please don't let me die." And he begged God, "Please don't let me die." And God said, "Okay, I'll give you 15 more years." Reluctantly, God allowed him to live 15 more years. In those 15 more years, Hezekiah set up Judah as a prime target for the Babylonians. He set up Israel with the most evil king ever, Manasseh. He set up Judah to plunge into immorality and idolatry. And ultimately, he forfeited the right to the land God had given them. That's what happened in those 15 years. Things had gone pretty well, God knew it's time for you to die. If you don't die right now, it's gonna get messy. He begged, "No, don't let me." And God allowed it to happen, and there was generational destruction that took place because of him staying alive for 15 years.

Divorce is outside of the original plan. And if we don't have—we're definitely not taking a raise of hands—we know that every single one of us has been influenced by divorce, whether directly, it's been our parents, whether it's been family members, loved ones, people that are your best friends and their parents were divorced, maybe your spouse comes from a broken home. And so, it has a massive impact on your marriage. We've all had the influence of divorce on our lives. It's not God's original plan; it's an alteration of God's original plan. And it has devastating effects. Divorce should not be the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, never any one of those type resorts. It should be the last and absolute last in very small situations. You know, if a few kinds of situations, this shouldn't be something that we run to because we just don't like them anymore. And we think about all the ways and reasons that people get divorced; it's just foolishness. And yet, God allows it because of our free will, this alteration, this change, this concession on things.

 As I talked about these cruises that we would go on, one of the cruises I went on was with Jesse and Alexandra Ghoman. And many of you guys know them; they were on ministerial staff here. They led the campus ministry for like a decade. They're very loved; they're some of our best friends. There's a picture there of us on a beautiful beach in Roatan, Honduras. But we went on this Western Caribbean cruise, and really, the only decision you have on cruises is excursions. Excursions are basically completely planned out adventures that you can go on, and they're actually pretty cheap in the grand scheme of things. But for broke campus ministry staff, they are way too expensive. It's like $100 a person. And yeah, you may be going to all these incredible places and doing amazing things, but to us, we were like, "We're not gonna be able to do the excursions." And so we went to some of the beaches that were there, but we got to Belize City. And if you know Alexandra, she's all about Instagram. So she just kept saying, hashtag unbelievable, and was all about the pictures, and it is going to be unbelievable. And it was non-stop; it was unrelenting. But Jesse got sick for that day and said, "I've heard you're supposed to go on excursions, but let's just try out Belize, and then let's go back on the boat." And so, we found ourselves saying no to the excursions, going out into Belize City.

And if you've ever been to Belize City, what they do is they take you on an excursion all the way around, like two hours away because where you get dropped off for the cruise is a very rough neighborhood. It's a very impoverished area. And so, we're walking around, and you've got Alexandra taking pictures of this very rough neighborhood, unbelievable, and we don't know where to go. We don't find anything. We find a trash heap; we find no beaches that you could go on because there's so much trash on those beaches that we were at. And we decide just to go back to the boat. Then we go to another one, another island, the Cayman

 Islands. We go, "Nah, we're not going to pay for it. I'm sure we can find something." And we end up hitching a ride to one of the beaches with a local guy. Here's the car that we rode in. This is where the four of us got into this random car with this cable guy because we thought we'd save money on the excursion. And he said, "Yeah, I'll take you to where you need to go." And so we're hitchhiking in this guy's car, trapped in the back with all these wires and stuff, hoping that he doesn't abduct us to get back to the boat in time. In order to not be left in the Cayman Islands, otherwise, you've got to pay for flights. And that's way more expensive than the excursions when you go outside of the plan, especially when you think that you know better than the plan. It always goes bad when you go outside of God's plan. It has devastating effects.

And as we think about this idea, this concept of altering the plan because of a hardness of heart, you've got to ask yourself, where is my heart getting hard? Where is there hardness in my heart? Am I a disciple of Jesus Christ? "I've got no areas in my heart that are hard." That's not true. Where are you wrestling with the hardness of your heart? Where is it creeping in you? You know, with this idea of divorce, some of the leading reasons that people get divorced is idolatry, right? The idea of longing for something else, someone else. Our hearts can get hard in the same way with God, of longing for someone else, longing for some other god in my life, or I want to make my own decisions. We can feel that way in our relationship with God, or I want control; I don't know if I trust. Or, man, this is a difficult season, or I don't want to go through these challenges that they're going through, and I have to experience them and feel them myself. And so, we start to allow our hearts to get hard and pull away from God's plan.

And Satan is sly in the way he does it. In Song of Solomon 2, verse 15, it says, "Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom." Song of Solomon is a book about marriage and intimacy, and one of the passages deals with the little issues, the little issues, the little foxes that could ruin the entire garden of your marriage. What are the little issues in your heart, whether you're married or not? What is Satan planting in your heart to cause you to get hard in your heart and start to alter God's plan for your life?

God is calling each one of us to deal with the little foxes of discontentment, to deal with the little foxes of thinking that you know better than God, to deal with the little foxes of just this concept of, "I want what I want, and I want it now, and regardless of what God says, I'm going to take it into my own hands." And God promises if you turn to Him that He will give you a soft heart. In Ezekiel 36, verse 26, He says, "I will give you a new heart and put in a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." God promises He will give you a new heart if you choose to turn to Him.

Where is your heart hard? Where have you allowed your heart to get hard? As we end out here, this is a kind of an interesting ending to this passage in Matthew 19, verse 10. Jesus says, "The disciples said to Him, 'If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.' Jesus replied, 'Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are those who chose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.'"

You know, I read this passage like 90 times in preparation for this lesson to try to figure out what God is trying to tell me. And as I prayed and wrestled through what He is saying with this, God spoke to me and said, "I have a plan for everyone. I have a plan for anyone and everyone despite their circumstances." What's He talking about with the eunuch? In that culture, the idea of a eunuch is that you do not have the ability to reproduce. You don't have the physical ability, whether that was taken from you surgically or you were born that way. It goes on and says, even for those who choose not to reproduce or be married, God is saying, "I have a plan for everyone. I have a plan, no matter what you have chosen and seen in your life."

You know, we have members within our church that have chosen to become disciples, that have decided to make Jesus Lord of their life, and through the circumstances of their life, have never gotten married. They have fought for their purity; they have fought for their righteousness; they have fought to seek God and see God despite the grief of desiring to be married, despite the grief of desiring to be a parent. It's never been a part of God's plan. And there are men and women in this room right now that have chosen, "Okay, God, that's not how I saw my life going, but if that's how you designed it, then I'm willing to live it out." And God is saying, "I have a plan for you. In fact, I don't just have a plan for you; I'm so inspired by you. If you can do this, it's even more elite to do this. It's something that is beyond the norm, above the fray. You're exceptional; you're a hero if you can do this." And yet, in our society still today, and sometimes in our church, people can be made to feel as a single person, "You're less than. You're not worth anything if you haven't had children. What can you teach me?" And yet, God, in His Scriptures, He's saying specifically, you know, "If you can accept this, accept it. It's exceptional what men and women are willing to do for the Kingdom of God. That needs to be the spirit.

How do you view the mature men and women in our church that are single? Do you view them as exceptional, as heroes, as people that have put it all on the line? You don't know what's going on in their hearts and their heads; you don't know what it means. Only them and God know the sacrifices that they've made. And they are heroes, and they need to be made to feel like heroes in our church. We must treat them that way; we must treat the members of our church as God does, with love, respect, and seeing that everybody has a God plan for their life.

You know, as you think about what we talked about today, this idea of divorce is so prevalent in our world. And yet, we must recognize that that is a caveat; that is not the original plan. That God's plan is for marriage to be a representation of the image of God. He has a plan for your life. Are you too hard-hearted to listen to it, to follow it? Or are you willing to follow through and trust His plan? We must trust the divine plan that He has for our life. Amen. [Applause]

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