Senior evangelical preacher John MacArthur had the audience of a conference in California burst into laughter Saturday evening as he narrated how he met his wife under extraordinary circumstances, a story that compelled Reformed theologian C.J. Mahaney to follow suit.
It was a question and answer session with the distinguished speakers of the 2011 Resolved Conference in Palm Springs, but the first query on discovering God’s will in choosing a life partner became the theme of the evening.
Soon after R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., advised Christian adolescents to hang around “where the right kind of people find each other within the communion and fellowship of the local church…,” MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., was asked to tell his story.
“I was looking for a woman who could be described in the way I described a godly woman … who came from a godly heritage … understanding my call for ministry, somebody who loved the Lord, who walked with the Lord,” he said.
Of course, “…who was also really cute and could cook, and have fun,” MacArthur added. “And I saw her (his wife Patricia); she kept coming to my house, because she was my sister’s friend.” But there was a problem. MacArthur called it a “small nuisance.”
“…It was a small nuisance to me that she was engaged … to somebody else … [But] I just saw in her … you know … I was looking for that …,” the 72-year-old said, as the Christian audience and other panelists, including Steve Lawson, senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala., and Rick Holland, a pastor at MacArthur’s church, applauded and laughed.
Once again, the hall filled with laughter when he said, “I took her home from church one night, because her fiancé was away, at school …” But…“wait a minute, I was her Bible teacher also.”
“I was at college … I was involved in playing football, I would come on Sundays to teach” and she was a student. “I really think that God used that. I became spiritual source to her.”
MacArthur took her home “one more night.” And this time, he asked, “Hey, I understand you are having some anxieties about that guy…”
“There was a preliminary reality,” MacArthur added. “She had all the wedding invitations addressed or stamped in the car and couldn’t mail them. So she was extremely vulnerable. She was restrained from mailing the invitations for the wedding, which was a few weeks away, to this other guy…
“And I just said … honestly … I said, ‘I don’t know what the Lord is doing through this. You should know … your parents are all over you, your in-laws … mail these and mail these … you can’t do that.’ And I said, ‘Maybe, it’s because … hey … who knows the Lord might want you to marry … me,” MacArthur recalled to the audience, which was by now in splits. “So she married me.”
However, MacArthur said, her fiancé was a “wonderful Christian guy, a good guy … he went to a medical school, he did wonderfully in life and career.”
MacArthur advised the Christian youth to work for marriage as soon as they were out of college. “The longer you wait the more you prolong the struggle with your own flesh, and your own evil desire … and stall off the purpose of God from being fulfilled in your life,” he said.
No one could agree with MacArthur more than C.J. Mahaney, who leads the leadership team of Sovereign Grace Ministries and one of the speakers at the conference.
Not long after he was converted, Mahaney became friends with guys who were zealous but lacked knowledge. They assumed, he said, that remaining single was the most effective way to serve God.
“But as soon as I saw her (his wife Caroline), I began to reconsider … rethink,” Mahaney admitted. In a “very short time,” he found himself proposing.
The theologian said, today, if a young man or lady approached him for advice, he would say, “Develop the conviction from God’s Word about the gender distinctives, about the complimentary positions … the beauty of masculinity and femininity.”
The speakers encouraged the youth to be proactive in looking for their life partners.
“One of the problems is, in this new perpetual adolescence, young men hang around with guys and young women hang around largely with other young women,” Mohler said. “Let me just point out, that is not a great recipe for either finding or being found. And the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ needs to be the place where the right kind of people find each other within the communion and fellowship of the local church…”