What’s Your Excuse?

During this week prior to Holy Week, I will be posting each of my five Lenten sermons today through Saturday and again this year, I used some Lenten resources from Creative Communications for the Parish. This year’s material was title Thy Will be Done. I hope that you will enjoy these messages as a prelude to Holy Week and Easter.

Jim

God’s Will and My Inadequacy
Exodus 3 and 4 (selected)

I begin this morning with some questions, that I will ask you to raise your hand on to signal your answer. Some of these are from the website conversationstartersworld.com and youthworkinit.com They are “would you rather” questions.

Would you rather have an easy job working for someone else or work for yourself but work incredibly hard?

Would you rather live without the internet or live without AC and heating?

Would you rather lose all of your money and valuables or all of the pictures you have ever taken?

Would you rather be famous when you are alive and forgotten when you die or unknown when you are alive but famous after you die?

Would you rather be the life of the party and the funniest person your friends know but suffer from depression or be happy and content but people think you are boring and unfunny?

Or how about these questions…

Would you rather have seen the Red Sea being parted or Jesus walking on water?

Would you rather spend one hour in heaven or one week with Jesus on Earth?

Would you rather be able to feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish or heal someone’s blindness?

Finally, would you rather have dinner with Paul or with Moses?

Well, we have meet with Moses today and we will meet with Paul next month!

Oh, one more question:

Would Moses rather have had two teeth pulled or speak face to face with Pharaoh?

As we continue in our Lenten series “Your will be done,” we go to Exodus chapters 3 and 4 and we meet up with Moses this week. I am reading selective verses from these two chapters:

God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth?… Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”

Last week we began our Lenten journey with Abraham and Isaac and the very important component of trust was highlighted as God’s promise to Abraham to become the father of a great nation was tested when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, who was the beginning of that great nation, and for whom Abraham had waited for a long time.

Today, we take some time with Moses who used his inadequacies as an excuse to not do what God asked him to do – namely, lead the Israelites out of Egypt.

Excuses. We all have excuses. Some are legitimate and some are not. We all use excuses and when I googled the statement “excuses people use to not serve God” I got 4.6 MILLION hits, or places to read on the internet, in .43 seconds that featured something having to do with excuses people use to not serve God!

Pastor Ron Edmonson, in an article on his website that was published in 2016, offers seven excuses he says for Not Doing What We Know God has Called Us To Do:

I can’t!
Edmonson says, “Your excuse is you don’t have what it takes. And, the sad part of this excuse – this also means you aren’t trusting God to provide what you lack.. If God calls you to it – you can do it because whatever you lack He will supply . (Gideon would love to weigh in on this excuse. Judges 6)
I don’t know how!
The task seems overwhelming and you may be too proud to ask for help…If you trace its roots – this excuse is often fueled by either laziness, apathy or fear. (Do you think Noah knew how to build a boat the size of an ark? See Genesis 6)
I don’t have time!
God calls for obedience now, but you’re preoccupied. What it really means is…I have my agenda and God’s agenda – and there is no time left in my agenda. (See how Jesus liked this excuse in Luke 9:57-62)
I’m all alone!
Leading out by faith feels this way sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to being obedient to God’s call…(Remember, Elijah thought He was alone – and he found out otherwise. 1 Kings 19)
I’m afraid!
And, the reality of this excuse is you can choose to let fear control you… Fear is simply an emotion and it’s a powerful, often motivating excuse…our mind is capable and skilled at quickly creating worst-case-scenarios. But, know this. Trusting God, even when you’re afraid to do so, always produces God-appointed and God-sized victories. In fact, you can’t possibly get to the victory until you face the fear. (Could we learn anything here from Esther? Esther 3)
I can’t afford it!
You’re afraid the dream will be more expensive than the provision of God…(Tell this excuse to the widow in 1 Kings 17 or the disciples who picked up 12 baskets of leftover bread in Matthew 14)
I won’t!
This may be the boldest excuse. With this excuse you simply refuse. You may disguise it lots of ways, but the fact is you’re doing things your way – instead of God’s way…(How did this excuse work for Jonah?)
As we go through our main text for this morning, we are going to ask ourselves
I can’t!

And as we do this, I am asking us to pay attention to two passages from our main text for this morning by noting three things:

God’s will for Moses as part of God’s mission
Moses’ excuse
God’s provision

Ready? Here we go!

Exodus 3:10 out of the English Standard Version states God’s will for Moses as part of God’s mission.
“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

It is a mission of deliverance God is sending Moses on. God has heard the cry of the Israelites, through whom He would work and ultimately live with, to make possible the salvation of all humanity.

We are on the same mission. God calls us to go and make disciples, to go and help people come to faith in Christ and then live for Christ. We are called to help others come out of the bondage and slavery of sin.

But what was Moses’ excuse? (Exodus 3:11)

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
This is an excuse about our identity, about who we belong to, about who we are truly created to be, and about our past, our personal history having a hold on us. It is about our limitations.

Who am I?
Who me. God?
I am not good enough…I am not smart enough…I am not this enough or that enough!
I have problems. I have issues. I have health issues. I have mental health issues.
How can God use me?

40 years ago at this time, I was an intern at a church outside Washington DC. I would go make visits with the pastor and after those visits, I would often think, “How can he ask people those questions! I could never do that! I could never ask them about their faith in Christ or whether they had a faith in Christ!” And when I returned to college that fall, I said to my major professor and the professor who certified my credits for that internship, “I will NEVER become a pastor!”
I couldn’t do that!

In my own strength.

“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

“Who am I that I can talk to these people about faith and Christ and the hope we have in Him?”

But in God’s strength God’s provision, I could! I have!

He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

I will be with you Moses and you will know that I was with you when one day, one day you shall serve me here on this mountain.

God is with us as we step out in faith to serve Him! He gives us the ability, one step, one moment at a time, to serve Him. We don’t do it in our strength, we can’t!

I couldn’t ask those questions! I couldn’t talk to those people about Jesus and faith! In my own strength.
God’s will for Moses was to be part of God’s plan of deliverance…for both the Israelites AND, I truly, truly believe Moses!

And speaking of talking, this brings me to the second time Moses expresses his inability to do what the Lord is asking of Him to do.

In Exodus 4:10 we read “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.”

What’s Moses’ excuse?

I don’t have the ability to do that!

One of the biggest excuses I have heard over the years as I have asked people to consider serving God in a specific way is this one:

“I can’t speak in front of people, I stumble over my words! Please don’t ask me to say anything in front of people!”
How many people are you going to talk to if what I ask you is to be part of a prayer ministry where you take time to pray at home…alone?

Two, the person who calls (these days it would probably be a text) and gives you who and what to pray for and God….to whom you pray.

Where did we get this idea that all ministry is, is always taking in front of people?

Moses said, “I can’t do that God!”

What does the Lord say He will do for Moses? Exodus 4:11-12

“Who has made man’s mouth?…Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.”

There is more to making the Great Commission happen than just talking. I believe that in today’s society, action is very important. People want to see Christianity in action, in a positive way, not just hear the talk.

This life of faith, requires us to be willing to say and do what God asks of us to say and do. It is about the life that we can have through Jesus Christ now not just later on. But we do so in the strength and power of God, not our own strength and power.

But there is one other thing that Moses, and all of us, deal with. And I think that it is truly behind everything excuse Moses throws up to God as an excuse for not doing what the Lord wants him to do.

His past.

In a fit of anger, Moses, YEARS ago, murdered someone…and it was found out and Moses fled and wandered for 40 years. 40 YEARS!

It was his greatest limitation, excuse. It cast a shadow over his life.

But the Lord, had a plan and purpose for Moses. He did not want Moses to stay where he was. Neither does the Lord want each of us, nor us as this congregation, to stay where we are. I am thinking more than geographically. I am thinking personally, congregationally, spiritually.

God has more for us to do! It may be one thing but that one thing is very important and God wants US to do it!
Moses reluctantly went back to Egypt. And though him, God brought a group of people, a new nation, out slavery and bondage. Moses still had issues, okay, he had flaws, character defects, as he lead the people out of Egypt and toward the land they had been promised. So Moses was not perfect. Neither are we.

But God still has a place for us in His church and His mission.

This story is a story about trust…Moses had to learn about trust…he had to learn to trust the Lord and he had to learn to trust himself.

What is your excuse for not trusting the Lord?

Not your biggest one, but the basic one? The one you have hidden, perhaps for years?

Which of these excuses did Moses use?

I think all of them.

There are pastors and missionaries and Christians around this world, who have a past. And there are also some who deal with limitations that society says are not acceptable.

They are recovering addicts and alcoholics.

They are former felons whose records will following them until the day they die. They stole, they dealt in drugs or other contraband, they hurt people, even committing murder.

Some had an abortion. A regret and pain they carry with themselves every day.

And some deal with some mental illness, from mild cases to severe cases.

God is not done using them. Maybe they have some limitations, physical, mental, emotional, and yes in some cases legal, that keep them from doing a lot of things. But God still has something, one thing, for them to do.

There is no such thing as a perfect church. Why? Look around this morning.

Thanks be to God for His great grace that helps us overcome our limitations and the fear that comes with them.
Amen

http://ronedmondson.com/2016/03/7-best-excuses-we-make.html

(Quotes from Character Dialogues by Justin Rossow. © 2018 Creative Communications for the Parish, a division of Bayard, Inc., 1564 Fencorp Dr., Fenton, MO 63026. 800-325-9414. http://www.creativecommunications.com.)

 

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