Berean Blog

Living with a Singular Focus: A Passionate Pursuit

If you’re anything like me, it often feels like church preaching and programming aims away from single people. Until recently, I was a single guy in my thirties. I attended church alone, sat alone, and served alone. I knew my church friends loved me, but it was hard to hear messages that always included “family” or “husband and wife." As God took me on a journey to carve away my old life and caused me to fall more deeply in love with him, he taught me a beautiful truth. Our identity is not tied to our marital status or any other label we wear. Instead, as believers in the Church, each one of us is a vital part of the bride of Christ radically sought by him. He is the pursuer, and we are the pursued. He is the treasure worth passionately beholding. As we learn to make him our singular focus, we discover the truly abundant life he has planned for us. And, no, living with a singular focus is not just for singles!

by Tony Oleson on September 19, 2023


“I’m sorry, Mom, but I probably won’t be giving you grandchildren.”

I uttered those words through tears in February of 2020 (yes, just before the Covid lockdown). In a span of about five years, I had gone from completely lost, often drunk and hopeless, to a prodigal son with a passion for the glory of God. I spent much of that time seeking the Lord through his Word, going to Bible studies, leading a Bible study myself, and serving at church. Amid that, I got baptized, joined Berean as a member, and fully engaged at Berean's Burnsville Campus. Then, I followed the Lord's leading to the Lakeville Campus, where I met many amazing people. I absolutely loved serving week in and week out with my family of families, but it was not easy.

I was clearly aware of my singleness.

Let me be clear. I was acutely aware of the fact that I was loved deeply by my faith community. But week after week, I was also deeply aware that as a single person in my thirties, I went to church alone, served alone, sat alone, and left alone. While I knew the “alone” part wasn’t exactly true, it didn’t change the fact that I felt the weight of it. I know many of you feel that weight at times, too. I remember not wanting any attention to point toward my “singleness” to remind me of it . . . ugh . . . but also wanting the church to acknowledge my struggle, my pain, and in a lot of cases, my desperation. I’m writing this to you because I remember it all as clearly as the sun in the summer sky.

When I told my mom I was planning to be single, I meant it. I finally and completely surrendered to God’s will in my life in place of my own. Does that mean I didn’t want to be married? No. So please know that your desire for marriage is a good thing, and the Lord knows the depths of it. It simply means I knew I should desire Christ and want him more than anything, even more than dating or a spouse. 

It's not easy to be single in the Church.

If you’re anything like me, it often feels like church preaching and programming aims away from single people. It was hard for me to hear messages that always included “family” or “husband and wife” with no mention or attention to me as a single person. In fact, I think the Church at large has a lot of work to do to improve the way we care for, speak to, and minister to singles.

So, I am turning my attention to you, the wonderful people at Berean whom I love deeply. There may be many others outside of Berean who will read this post as well. Please know that I love you as a brother in Christ, too. I write this with a very full yet tender, aching heart because for those of you who know me, you know that God very recently blessed me with the most amazing, adventurous, God-fearing wife on earth. So, while I’m no longer in the single stage of life, I know that stage intimately and regard it with the highest respect.

God helped me to realize a beautiful truth.

The truth is, the Lord had desires of his own for my life, to teach me and carve away the sludge of my old, horrible way of living so that what remains more closely resembles him. Yes, imperfectly. The process isn’t over and will not end in this life. That’s okay! However, as I look at my life now, I realize something pivotal.

This transformation that has taken place in my life is not primarily so that I can be a better and more joyful husband. It is so that I can become a more passionate, deeply loving, and devoted bride to Christ! 

When we were considering Pastor Deven MacDonald as our next Lead Pastor at Berean, I watched his previous sermons. In one of them, he wisely said, “If you’re young and not married, but you want to be someday, the best time to prepare is now.” This statement got me thinking . . . Is it truly about being prepared for marriage? Should we aim at an earthly maybe? Or does it go deeper?

The Lord never guaranteed every person a spouse anywhere in his Word. As I grappled with frustration over that truth, I began looking for a deeper, more glorious truth. One guaranteed regardless of our life stage in the here and now. One that changes how I hear what Pastor Deven said.


God is our pursuer, and we are the pursued.

In the Bible, God is referred to as the Bridegroom. This makes him the pursuer. So, if he is the pursuer, and we are his Church, and the image of a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife refers upward to Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23, 32), it follows that we, the Church, are his bride, the pursued. The Church is the bride, and therefore the believer (yes, that includes you if you're a follower of Christ), is now a vital part of the bride of Christ. As the bride of Christ, it is our joy to cleave to Christ. This is a staggering statement!

As the bride of Christ, it is our joy to cleave to Christ.

If you believe in Christ, I know you know this already, right? You’ve known it for years. Step back with me for a second and take in the full scope of this truth as a reminder. What does this mean for you? You’ve confessed your faith in the eternal Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you believe in your heart that he was raised from the dead. That means you are alive and united to him in his life! You are no longer your own. I am no longer my own. This is what it means to say we are “in Christ.” He paid the full price for sin with his blood on the cross. We belong to him completely. We are dead to sin. Indeed, we die daily to ourselves. It also means we are made fully alive, abundantly alive, in the most glorious person to ever live in history!

We are more than flesh and blood; in the Kingdom of God, through faith, our spirit is signed and sealed by his Spirit. He is the guarantee, the King’s seal, the stamp on our life as bond-servant brides to a powerful, wonderful King.

He pursues us, calls us, woos us, and wins us.

He planned to do so before a human was alive to pursue (Ephesians 1:4-6). That means we should already, in the here and now, be living prepared in the truth that we are his bride.

Don’t take my word for it; Scripture says it better:

“And while they (the foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom) were going (to buy oil for their lamps), the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:1-11, parentheses mine).

In this parable, the wise ones brought enough oil to have light to wait for their groom. The foolish ones brought only their lamp and had to turn their focus away to get what they needed. What’s the problem with that? They weren’t looking where they should, living in readiness for him to show up. Instead, in their foolishness, they were hoping for someone else to give them what they should have brought in the first place. They were not prepared.

Notice what happens just two verses later. They come back, and the Lord says, “I do not know you.” I’d argue that these people aren’t all simply distracted. They’re too busy trying to get their life in order or clean themselves up, or they figure “I’ll do the run-hard-after-Jesus thing later.”

My dear friend, there is no such thing as a guaranteed later in life. Run hard after Jesus now.


Single or married, we must make Christ our most consuming focus.

Let me ask a sobering question that I’ve wrestled with hard. What if it’s not mainly an issue of the Church not preaching to single people? What if the longing for and pursuit of relationships and earthly marriage is causing singles to miss the main point and JOY of life? Namely, living prepared for the coming Bridegroom by longing for and pursuing the knowledge, worship, and glory of the Lord. These things are the oil that keeps the lamp burning, and no one can get them for us. Oh, and by the way, married people? This all counts for us, too.

So, how do we live prepared for the coming Bridegroom? In today’s break-neck, hurry-up society that’s more connected yet more distant than ever, we as Christians must stop trying so hard to be relevant to the culture. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot seek two things first.

We must make our most supreme treasure, Christ, our most consuming focus. 

1.  We must be single-minded.

Our culture will never see Christians rightly if we constantly shift like sand and walk in other desires like the world. We must stop playing nice with things that mark the world. Peter did not say that we are set within; he said we are set apart. A holy nation. Sojourners in the land. We are different. Therefore, we must look different, sound different, watch different, act different, and, in so doing, feel different to unbelievers. We must live what we read: “Be doers, not just hearers of the word” (James 1:22). We must surrender wholly and change in every aspect of our lives (Romans 12:2).

Dating and marriage will not satisfy the way we think it will. It won’t take away our fears, addictions, sinful habits (trust me here), or all our loneliness. We must already be fully satisfied in Christ. Only he can take those things away. Wanting to date or be married is a great desire! It’s when our desire for a mate or marriage eclipses our desire for or focus on Jesus that it becomes idolatrous. If we're pursuing earthy love harder than we're pursuing Christ . . . that, my friend, is dangerous ground to walk on. And it is often subtle, with red flags we too often beat down.

2.  We must be aware.

We must understand that our remaining indwelling sin does not lie dormant. It is always fighting for dominance, for our focus. It’s always doing push-ups and shadowboxing. It’s ready to take us out. “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). But the problem we have is, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick . . .” (Jeremiah 17:9). 

So, if we’re lazy in reading and only doing in-and-out Sunday church and an occasional event, we deceive ourselves in our vision of pursuing holiness. This kind of life cannot lead to the true mortification (killing) of sin. Thus, allowing things we should not in our pursuit of love becomes easy. We excuse things we ought not to. We must fellowship with other believers to lift us up, encourage us, convict us, and correct us with godly accountability.

3.  We must burn with holy longing!

Our most passionate and gratifying desire should be in the supremacy of Christ. We must long for him genuinely. Only in surrender do we become any good for pursuing the knowledge, worship, and glory of God in Christ. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5).

We can’t listen to or obey (live according to) the Spirit if we have no idea how he moves or speaks. There is only one place to know this oft-silent yet powerful person who has always been God - through his Word. We cannot live by the Spirit we do not know. Don’t neglect or relegate him to last place in the Trinity. He is the one who hovered over the face of the deep before the earth was formed. He is the one Jesus sent to reveal wisdom to us, help us, and intercede when we don’t have the words. He will fill us with wonder and power if we look to him and listen!


What does it look like to make Christ our singular focus?

Now that we've discovered what it means to make Christ our most consuming focus, let's explore what that looks like in our everyday lives. Let's look at three things.

1.  We must be inspired!

Making Christ our focus looks like endless pursuit, love, patience, gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, and forbearance. A marriage between a man and a woman should always look like Jesus and his loving pursuit of the people he died to save. This image of a godly marriage in the world should inform how we live as singularly devoted people in the Church and life. It should inspire us greatly! That is, we ought to have one mind, one heart, and one devotion toward the Lord, no matter our current marital status. We are HIS, and that is stunning.

Since my wife and I started dating, I have always tried to figure out, “What’s she thinking? Why does she do that? What does she want? What is important to her?” And most importantly, “What’s in her heart?” Listen to me closely here: These are the same questions I/we should be asking the Lord and answering by digging deep into the bottomless ocean of his Word: “Lord, what are you thinking? Why do you do what you do? What do you want? What is important to you? What’s in your heart?”

2.  We must cut out distractions.

We have zero excuses for spending more time on leisure and entertainment than on truly getting to know the holy, majestic, earth-shaking, ocean-churning, storm-breaking Lord of creation. Just as in the earthly example a man should consistently be mastering his knowledge of his wife (and vice versa!), more so ought he always to be mastering his knowledge of the Lord. I argue that without the latter, the former means nothing. 

While you’re single, even if it’s the rest of your life, bend yourself to this! Stop “looking where you shouldn’t” with the constant YouTube, Netflix, TikTok, and Pinterest scrolling, and start spending time where it matters! Entertainment is fun, but be very watchful because it will easily become a distraction. That means, yeah you guessed it, entertainment has become an idol. 

I would go as far as to say that entertainment is the single biggest idol in the Western Church today. It is our Nebuchadnezzar statue, and when the Holy One, the “stone cut from the mountain by no human hand” (Daniel 2:34, 45) appears, he will uncover the reality we’ve neglected and shatter it all as he did in Daniel’s vision. We’ll say with the writer of Ecclesiastes, “'Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.’ But behold, this also was vanity” (Ecclesiastes 2:1, emphasis mine).

3.  We must look at the Scriptures.

We must open our Bibles, read the texts about God’s faithfulness in earlier generations, and get to know the doctrines and attributes of he who called us out of darkness into marvelous light. Did you catch that? MARVELOUS light! We must spend our time there. I’m not saying don’t live life. I’m saying we're not truly living an abundant life if we're not intimately tied to Christ and going deeply into his heart. 

As Christ-followers, we must be theologians. That doesn’t mean we have to get a doctorate in theology or that we should spend every single moment studying. It means we must care passionately about God's Word and everything that makes our glorious God, God. It is an ocean of truth, the unending cistern of refreshment, the most satisfying drink of life. “The more satisfied you are in Christ, the more glorified he will be in you” (Pastor John Piper, rephrased by me).

As Christ-followers, we must be theologians . . . we must care passionately about the Word, about everything that makes our glorious God, God.

Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!

My dear brothers and sisters, we must look to the glory of Christ in both the highs and lows of life. In those desperate hours, and believe me, I know they come, open your Bible and read things like our concluding passage below. Passages like this blow my mind every time. Let the words of Scripture overwhelm you. Let them pull you along in a torrent of grace and beauty - for all of God and his Word is a flood of overwhelming and glorious grace.

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth; yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, 'The LORD reigns!' Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Say also: 'Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!'” (1 Chronicles 16:29-36).

About the Author:

Tony is a member of Berean and is active in Berean's Men's Ministry. He loves to write and is a student of Biblical and Theological Studies at the University of Northwestern - St. Paul. He and his amazing new bride, Sarah, live in Inver Grove Heights with their tropical sun conure, Maui, and are passionate about seeking the Lord together!

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