The Rev. Tommy Nelson draws upon the Song of Solomon's rich imagery to convey wise principles about dating and courtship. (Part 1 of 2)
Pastor Tommy Nelson: I see all of these couples that fight in dating and fall in and out of dating and break up and get back together. So they say, "Look, it ain't [sic] gonna work too well, let's get married." (Laughter) "We're not bench-pressing 70 pounds; let's stack 350 on the bar. (Laughter) We can't get along in four hours a day; let's commit till we're 90 and never leave the house." (Laughter) Not wise.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, we have some wisdom for you from Tommy Nelson today with Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church is our featured speaker today and next time, really because you responded so favorably to his program last week. And he covered in that the eight essentials for raising emotionally healthy kids and it was a big hit. And because of that, we wanted to come back to some more great material from Pastor Nelson.
John: And by the way, if you missed that presentation last week on Thursday and Friday, it's still available on CD or as an instant download. Call us at 800-A-FAMILY or go to www.focusonthefamily.com/radio to get that.
Jim: And John, I would highly like to recommend that, certainly to parents, but if you're a grandparent and you think there's an opportunity there to help your adult children do maybe a little better job in their parenting, this might be a really easy way to do that, because the content is so rich.
Today Tommy Nelson is going to share his insights into the dating and courtship process. This is based on an often-overlooked book of the Bible, The Song of Solomon, which is of course, the love story between Solomon and the Shulamite woman. Interestingly enough, we never are told that woman's name in the Bible.
John: Well, that's right and Tommy will refer to this couple as he talks about the passage. That means he's referring to Solomon and that unnamed future bride. With that backdrop, here's Pastor Tommy Nelson on today's "Focus on the Family."
Tommy: I think, undoubtedly, that all of us at some point would agree that dating is a pain and can be a painful thing. (Applause)
Hey, hey! But actually, if you want to get kind of specific about it, it's not so much dating as it is the phenomena when dates stack up with the same person and you evolve into that institution that is known as "courtship." You see, a bad date costs you a little time, money and an annoyance; but courtship—when you have a bad courtship—that costs you a little bit of your soul. It's kind of like if you were to see somebody on a subzero day taking their tongue and putting it to a flagpole. (Laughter) And you would say, "Friend, that is an ill-designed and an uncommon union. And you're not gonna get out of that without leaving a little part of you (Laughter) on that flagpole." Well, that's kind of what courtship is.
When you start dating the same person over and over and over, you may not do it like The Quiet Man with John Wayne coming and having your formal proposal. But when you date the same person, you're into courtship, be it in Dallas or in Victorian England; you're into courtship.
Now dating takes a little bit of time and a little bit of politeness. Courtship is a different animal altogether and it takes all kind[s] if sensitivity. You can't go too shallow or you frustrate it. You can't go too deep, too fast or too far or you destroy it. Courtship takes great flexibility. It takes tenderness, sensitivity. It takes holiness.
"Courtship," really, is just what the word says. To treat somebody in a courtly manner is to treat them like they were a prince or a princess to bring them to your way of thinking and to trust you. When you date a young lady and you court her, you treat her in a certain way, [so] that she'll want to spend the rest of her life with you. You treat a young man in your words, your responses, your actions, so that he's convinced about you and he wants to spend the rest of his life with you.
Courtship takes you intentionally to marriage. Dating is observation; courtship is depth. Dating is no more than a time allotment. Dating is an end in itself. Courtship intends to go to marriage, if possible. Dating, they're not strings attached. Courtship, you have responsibility, trust and you're now vulnerable and you can be hurt. Dating is marketing; courtship is "the close," (Laughter) if you know what I'm saying.
Now what I'm going to do is, in this text I'm gonna show you four things that have to occur in dating to have a proper courtship. Then I'm going to show you two ways when those things occur, when those planks of proper dating are laid that this couple did, there's two ways that a person should feel, specifically, this man.
And then, you're going to see two things that this man does. So, you'll see how he feels. You'll see in courtship, what he does. And then, you're going to see three responses this woman has toward a fellow who treats her in a certain way and has treated her in a certain way in courtship. And then, you're gonna see a common commitment.
Now let me just touch, just really quickly, to have a good courtship, four things have to occur in dating. The No. 1 thing you have to do in dating is, you have to have the wisdom to properly evaluate the character of the person that you are now going to court. In other words, what you see is what you get. You are courting what they are, not what they are not. And you have to be willing to live in courtship with the character, the standard of righteousness and also the personality.
If you're going to court somebody, you're saying that, "I've evaluated them in dating." And if it's a quiet person in dating, you can't court and then marry and make them noisy. If it is a fellow who has the sensitivity of a stomach pump in (Laughter) dating, you can't try to court with this fellow and marry him and think you're gonna change him. Women have been trying it forever and it will not work.
If you're dating an unspiritual woman and you have great plans for God, it is not fair for you to marry that person, to court that person and not accept their standard of righteousness. It's a cliché, but you make your bed and then you have to lie in it.
And so, I see these bad, bad relationships that were in courting and in marriage. And I say, "Was he this kind of fellow when you dated him?" "Yes." "Well, what were you thinking?" (Laughter) It is the job of the Holy Ghost to transform, not yours. And so, you have to have the wisdom, like this couple did, to properly evaluate that person that you have dated, that you intend to go to courtship. All right? The standard of moral righteousness and the personality, you've gotta to be willing to live with.
Secondly, you've got to have consistency in dating. I see all of these couples that fight in dating and fall in and out of dating and break up and get back together. So they say, "Look, it ain't [sic] gonna work too well, let's get married." (Laughter)
Tommy: "We're not bench-pressing 70 pounds; let's stack 350 on the bar. (Laughter) We can't get along in four hours a day; let's commit till we're 90 and never leave the house." (Laughter) Not wise. Folks, your dating relationship should be easy. You should be able to negotiate it. You should have the same standard of moral uprightness and you should be able to live with the kind of person God has made and has given you. So, I've never seen a good courtship from a dating that breaks up, breaks out and then gets back together. You just can't do it.
Thirdly—this is a biggie—in dating, you have to have the sensitivity of communication. This is where most, specifically, girls get hurt. Now here's what I mean. Fellows, if you've been dating a girl, four or five weeks, that girl's thinking some things. You've got to sit down with her and say, "You know, I want you to know, I don't know if you're the girl that God has for my life or whether you would want to be. But I know this; you're certainly the type of woman that I would want to spend my life with. And I so enjoy spending this time with you. And I would like to ask you if I could keep taking you out, as to whether I can fall completely in love with you and you can be my wife. And I want you to know that if you would like to back out of this, you owe me nothing but honesty. You have been nothing but upright with me."
And then here's the key. This'll get her right here, all right. (Laughter) Then you say this. You say, "And if I'm not the fellow, not only do you need to leave me, but I'll pray and find the guy that you should marry." (Laughter & Applause)
That'll work. Do you see what I'm saying? And in the same way, fellows, if you're taking this girl and she's a wonderful friend, but it doesn't want to go any deeper, and girls, you need to give him the freedom to say. And incidentally, guys, always give a girl an out. At this point, I would hate to be a woman. Women don't like messing on guys all the time, you know, and just putting 'em down. I said to my wife, "I would hate to be a woman and always have some knucklehead like us, you know, kind of, you know, (Laughter) 'Say, uh ..." and what do you say to them? 'Ah, get out, or (Laughter) why don't you die or something like this?'" (Laughter) How does a woman graciously drop a guy off? That's a hard thing to do.
Always give a girl the option to say, "You tell me no and I'll go away." And the same way, fellows, if you're taking a girl out and she's a wonderful girl, but you don't see it going any place, you need to say, "You're a wonderful person. I so enjoy just spending time with you as a friend. I don't see my heart going any place." And girls, that may not make you happy or excited, but nevertheless, he's been honest with you. And I see more couples get hurt from bad communication and the lack of it. Somebody's got to talk. Now don't do it on the first date, 'cause that's presumptuous. (Laughter) But after a while, somebody's gotta talk.
And listen, I had this done to me and I know it can be done. Maple Street Dorm, 1972, a girl sat with me and said, "You know"—she was a Christian girl—"I so enjoy spending this time with you. However (Laughter), you know, I would feel," (she was sharp, she said), "I would feel such a peace if God were to take us now in different ways." (Laughter)
And it didn't take, you know, Forrest Gump too long right here (Laughter), to figure this out. "God gives peace when I'm not around. All right. I see what you're saying." (Laughter) But she was able to do it. So you got to [sic] talk. Are you with me? This is good stuff, now. And this couple did this in their dating. The couple had wisdom of evaluation. They had sensitivity and communication and they got along. They had consistency.
And the other big one is, you have got to have patience in letting the relationship go on. Don't escalate a relationship too quick [sic]. How do you escalate a relationship too quick? One way is couples share too much, too deep, too fast. You go to Denny's and you spend from 7 to 2 on the first date. And the guy just goes, "Blah," (Laughter) and just lets everything out in his entire life. And sometimes you can bind too quick on that.
Another way is ... how can you say this? Keep your hands off each other. You know what I'm saying? Sometimes you get your hands too fast on somebody. It's like those kids at the mall and energy is coming off 'em like bug zappers, you know (Laughter), where they're walking around with each other (Laughter) on the mall. And you know they're playing with fire, so you don't—and especially guys—you don't go kissing on some woman before you're willing to be responsible to hold her heart. And so, be careful of taking it too deep.
And fellows, good word. Whenever a girl says, "Thanks, but no thanks" or whenever a girl shows any inclination, here's a great verse for you: Proverbs, "Do you see honey? Eat what you need, lest you eat too much and vomit it up." (Laughter) Next verse, "Let your foot not be often in your neighbor's house, lest he come to despise you." Those two verses are put in right next to each other to show that a good thing is good, but too much of a good thing, when you become a boor, can make people hate you.
John: Well, timeless wisdom from the Scripture and Pastor Tommy Nelson delivering a great message on today's "Focus on the Family." Now in just a few moments, you'll hear why it's important to share details of your past with the person that you're dating seriously. And you can get a CD of this program for relistening or for sharing with someone else or The Book of Romance, written by Pastor Tommy Nelson, when you call 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459 or get the book and an instant download of this program at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Now let's go ahead and return now to this look at the Song of Solomon, detailing the relationship between Solomon and his future bride, on today's "Focus on the Family."
End of Program Note
Pastor Tommy Nelson: Let's take a look at chapter two. In verse 8, we're in a new day and this couple that has dated with wisdom and success and consistency and sensitivity and piety and restraint, now let's see what a man should feel in a good courtship. Verse eight, "Listen, my beloved. Behold he is coming, climbing on the mountains, leaping on the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag." And in verse seven, she is called a young doe, a gazelle.
Behold, he is standing behind our wall. He's looking through the windows. He is peering through the lattice. This man is pictured as a stag and he runs and he leaps on the mountains to get closer to this woman. He is excited. This is what a man should feel and a woman also, in a relationship that is going into courtship. Time should not dwindle. Time kindles this relationship. That's why one of the greatest tests of a relationship is the separation test, when you're away from each other. Is it "Out of sight, out of mind" or do you feel like a young stag wanting to get closer and closer to her?
Listen, I did a trip to Jerusalem one time for three weeks, cost me $300 in phone calls just to hear my wife's voice because I couldn't take being away from her. Time kindles a good relationship. Every time that I read this text, I think of something that I saw when I was in college. Our athletic dorm was just down from the girls' dorm at Maple Street. And the dorms would close at 11 o'clock and you would see the guys at about 10:50 on a dead run down to Maple Street dorms, running as fast as they could, just to have one word with their beloved girl, because that's the excitement that a man feels.
Or I remember a couple of guys, two doors down from me in our athletic dorm. On Friday nights at about 7 o'clock, you would hear their stereo go up full volume with "The William Tell Overture,
"duh-dun-dun, duh-dun-dun, duh-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun." (Laughter) And they were going out. And that's the way (Laughter) that a fellow feels. So, this fellow is excited.
Look at something else; verse 10. What period—girls can answer this so well—what period of the year are we in here, ladies? Verse 10: "My beloved responded and said to me, 'Arise, my darling, my beautiful one and come along for winter is past. The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land. The time has arrived for pruning the vines. The voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened. The vines in blossom have given forth fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one and come along.'" Ladies, what period are we in?
Yes. Isn't it? It's time for growth. It's spring time and summer that we've moved into. That's the second thing that a relationship should produce, is life. How many times have you seen singles begin to date that are spiritual, godly people and once they get to date, their spiritual relationship goes down and there is not life produced? There's guilt and anger. They disappear from church. They disappear from Bible study. The guy's worried about her. He doesn't read his Bible. That's why not just the separation test, but the time test. Time should produce life.
When I was with my wife, fellows, I wanted to read my Bible more, to keep up the pace, to be able to merit this woman. I met her in a prayer group at Campus Crusade for Christ. And I wanted to walk close with God just to be with her. And if I hadn't shown up in church, if I had dropped out, if I had acted immorally to her, I'm convinced Teresa would have dropped me like a hot rock, as she should have. No, if they pull you down, it's not springtime. This couple flourishes.
What are two things you should feel? You should feel desire and you should feel life by being around this person. Verse 14, now what's something that you do? Watch this. "Oh my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret path or place of the steep pathway, let me hear your voice. Your voice is sweet and your form is lovely." Fellows, what kind of position is this girl in? She is an innocent dove up in the clefts of a rock in the steep pathway back there. Solomon thought that he knew her in dating, but he didn't. And now she's coming out.
And guys, to a dove in the clefts of the rock, there's nothing more frightening than a man's hands. And this girl is back there and she's slowly and surely coming out. And this is the way it's gonna be in courtship. You think you know each other, but you don't. And you're gonna start going deeper and it takes not discovery and that's what should take place in courtship.
How do you discover? One thing that you do and I'm a great believer in this, is that you should have an airing of your linen. You should have one time with your mate to be, this girl that you love, this girl that you have blossomed around, this girl that you have appraised, communicated with, dated successfully, that you have let the relationship develop, that you're growing with, there should be one time that you get them and you talk to them honestly about what you used to be.
You're gonna have some guys that have not wept since they were little, that are gonna weep in your presence, sharing some things that have hurt you, because men just swallow it. You're gonna have some guys that no matter how godly they look, they have been through a number of women. Fellows, you might think that girl is pristine pure in Christ, but she might tell you some things that will amaze you.
Now you're saying, "Tom, boy, if you knew my past. Tom, what if I tell 'em and they can't forgive?" Then you turn and run, because if they can't forgive you for what you did against another, then what's gonna happen when you get married and they have to forgive you for what you do against them? Don't you dare marry an unforgiving person, because unforgiveness is the root of pride and of self-righteousness. You air it out one time.
Fellows, how does Jesus Christ love your girl-to-be? Ephesians 5, "He has washed her by the washing of water with the Word to present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing. There is no spot so nasty that He cannot get it out." See also Paul the murderer, David the adulterer, Mary Magdalene the prostitute, Zacchaeus the tax collector. He can forgive anything. And there is no wrinkle—that's something that's hidden. There are some things in your life that only you and God, an offended person and your mate-to-be will know. And if you forgive like God forgives, there's no wrinkle—there's no hidden thing—that you can't forgive. You talk and you cry.
And fellows, if you've got a girl and some of these girls have been hurt so deeply and when a man puts his hands out, they're going to instinctively go back in a steep place. When she tells you of how she has been hurt, of what she's been through--many of them, of immorality they have been through--let me tell you [that] you're gonna want to take that girl and hold her so close to you. You're gonna love her so deeply that your thought is gonna be, "Sweetie, you are never gonna be hurt again. You're with a man that's gonna treat you with such kindness and such dignity and such love and with such gentleness." And in the same way, girls, you're gonna look at him and say, "You're gonna find all of your needs satisfied in me. You will never, ever get defiled again."
John: Such great heart and compassion coming from Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church in Texas on today's "Focus on the Family." We'll have more next time. He's talking about dating principles and he's really keying in on the Bible's Song of Solomon.
Jim: Well, and John, there's more great insight coming next time. So, if you know a single person that might not have heard today's program, tell 'em to tune in. They can get the download. John'll have more of that information in a minute. This is a great way for us to help build strong marriages and that is by encouraging biblical principles, yes, even in the dating process.
John: Well, you've gotta lay that good foundation and Tommy has brought such wisdom. And if that person can't listen in, then get the CD for them or download it and pass it along.
We really do, as well, recommend Tommy's comprehensive book on this. It's called The Book of Romance: What Solomon Says About Love, Sex and Intimacy.
Jim: In fact, John, let's make the book available for a donation of any amount. We do that because we want to put that resource in as many people's hands as possible and we don't, you know, the price to be the biggest issue because we believe in the content. It's the kind of information I think, singles need to guide them into a relationship that has that very firm foundation in Christ.
John: Well, it really is and please be as generous as you can as you get that book for yourself or perhaps to pass along to someone, maybe even your own adult child who's in a relationship. We really could use your support right now, so please make that quick phone call, 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or donate online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. Help us as we do all we can to create great marriages by giving young adults that good, strong, godly foundation for their relationships.
Jim: You know, one way that we're reaching out to singles and even couples that are dating but maybe have not made that marriage commitment yet, is the Pursuit Conference, hosted by our Boundless team. It is a great weekend of teaching, worship and getting to know other people, which I think is probably the best part. It's coming up July 9th here in Colorado Springs and you can find out more about it at our website.
John: Oh, yeah, there was so much energy with the last Pursuit conference. It was great. We loved having everybody here at the campus. I hope you can be a part of Pursuit 2015.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back for more from Pastor Tommy Nelson tomorrow, as he talks about resolving conflict in the relationship, with more trusted advice to help you thrive.
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Tommy NelsonView Bio
Tommy Nelson is the senior pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, TX. He has authored many best-selling books including The Book of Romance, A Life Well Lived and Walking on Water When You Feel Like You're Drowning. Tommy and his wife, Teresa, have been married for more than 40 years. The couple has two adult sons and six grandchildren.