Excuses, We All Have Them

In Lev. 16:5-10, we see where Israel of old had their scapegoat on whom the sins of the people were placed. In like manner, we have our scapegoats. We just rename them and call them excuses. They are easy and readily available. So, if we want to extricate ourselves from any course of action or fault, we just come up with a good excuse. However, there may be some things about excuses we have not thought much about.

In Lev. 16:5-10, we see where Israel of old had their scapegoat on whom the sins of the people were placed. In like manner, we have our scapegoats. We just rename them and call them excuses. They are easy and readily available. So, if we want to extricate ourselves from any course of action or fault, we just come up with a good excuse. However, there may be some things about excuses we have not thought much about.

Excuses anger God

First, we need to remember excuses anger the Lord. Remember when God called Moses to deliver the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage? Moses made several. He said, “I can’t do it” (Ex. 3:10-12). Further, Moses said, “They will ask who sent me” (Ex. 3:13-14). He also said, “They will not believe me” (Ex. 4:1). Then came, “I can’t talk well” (Ex. 4:10-11). Usually we read this account and are not impressed by Moses’ excuses. But, our own excuses always sound good to us. We think when we make our excuses God will accept it. However, excuses don’t alleviate the anger of the Lord. The point is not how good or poor the excuses are – but the Lord’s reaction. God was angry with Moses because he was not going to do what God told him to do.

The consequences remain

Second, excuses don’t change the consequences. In the parable of Luke 14:15-24, our Lord told us of three excuses. We might have thought they were good reasons, but the Lord said differently. One man had bought a piece of ground, another a yoke of oxen, and another married a wife. We smile at the shallowness of these, yet the same principle is stated. The excuses did not appease the master (Lk. 14:21). The Lord’s point is that because of the excuse making those who made excuses missed something. No matter how good the excuse, when it is given, it prevents us from partaking of the blessings of the feast. Therefore, the master sent his servants out into the highway and hedges to invite the outcast of society to the feast so that the house was filled.

Responsibility is not removed

Third on the list; excuses don’t eliminate the responsibility even though we like to think they do. Generally, excuses are an attempt to do away with responsibility. “I never was responsible.” Adam and Eve used this. Adam was called by God, “What have you done? Have you eaten what I told you not to eat?” While Adam must finally admit he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, before he does, he tries to excuse his responsibility. “The woman gave it to me. It is her fault. And, You gave me the woman, so the fault lies somewhere between You and Eve, but not me” (Genesis 3:9-11). Eventually, Adam had to admit he had eaten. Eve had to bear her share of the burden for encouraging Adam. But Adam was still guilty. In the final analysis the responsibility is mine. Crying about it won’t change a thing.

Most are not truth

Consider, what is the true nature of excuses? Most of the time they are not the truth. Excuses have been defined as “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.”  They do not really tell why we do or don’t do a thing. So, we manufacture an excuse; take something that is part of the truth and blow it up to make another thing more important. Most of the time we make excuses because we do not want to do or say something. We don’t say, “I didn’t want….” so we make excuses.

Finally, since most people easily see through our flimsy layer of excuses, how much more does our Father see right through them to our heart? Our great danger is in deceiving ourselves. We lie to ourselves and cut ourselves off from ever solving the problem from which we are excusing ourselves. The remedy is to get our “want to” right. Face the truth about our excuses and rid ourselves of them.

Remaining Strong in the Lord

It is hard to remain strong when one is discouraged. And discouragement is one of the nastiest tools the devil has at his disposal. If he can discourage a Christian, he can keep him from doing the will of God. Discouragement creates a type of spiritual paralysis within the heart that keeps a Christian inactive before the Lord. It then becomes a question of how do we keep ourselves strong in the Lord when the devil is working so hard against us? Let’s look at some suggestions.

Listen to the word of God

The word of God tells us He will always be there for us (Hebrews 13:5-6) So, the best way to overcome any adversity in life is to go to God’s word. Contained within is all the instructions we will ever need to fight the good fight of faith and rise victoriously. In the eighteenth chapter of the book of Luke we read, “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Jesus then tells the parable about the “Persistent Widow”. The judge in the parable did not fear God nor regard man. But, because of the widow’s persistence, he finally gave in and gave her the justice that she craved. What we must understand is that the judge is by no means a comparison to our heavenly Father, but rather he serves as a direct contrast to Him.

When we read in the word of God about our heavenly Father, we find that He is very much in tune with our needs. Matthew 6:8 tells us that God knows our needs even before we ask. Matthew 7:7-11 reminds us that human fathers know how to give good gifts to their children. The question is then raised, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11).

Cast your anxiety (cares, worries) on God

Peter wrote, “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). When we are faced with adversity, it is easy to forget the strength and comfort we find in the Lord. Too often we wait until the world is in shambles before we remember the great love God has for us. Too often, we forget to approach Him in prayer.

Some may contend that worry is simply part of life. They may even call the burdens that weigh heavily upon their minds “legitimate concerns”. But whatever a person may call them, they are not healthy for productive Christian living. Therefore, we must always remember to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. If we do so, all these other concerns will be taken care of (Matthew 6:25-34).

Remain Thankful

It may sound strange, but thankfulness before God goes a long way in keeping us strong in the faith. All can remember struggles of the past that they thought they would never make it through. Yet, it happened. The struggles were overcome because one’s faith was grounded in the Lord. The key was looking to Him in prayer and remaining steadfast.

Therefore, we look to the current obstacles in our path and face them with newfound confidence knowing that our God is still with us. This was exactly what David did before facing Goliath. He remembered God’s deliverance from the lion and the bear. Then he looked at the Philistine and boldly stated that he would be defeated like one of them. The next time you are faced with adversity and discouragement, remember the great power of prayer. When we bow our heads in prayer, the line of communication between our hearts and our heavenly Father is open. He hears us and will answer speedily (Luke 18:8).

When Life Makes No Sense

Confusing life

When we study God’s Word, we are warned that “evil” days will come (Ecclesiastes 12:1; Matthew 6:34; Ephesians 5:16). Job observed, “Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil” (Job 14:1; cf. Psalm 73:14, 21). At times, there will be events, situations, diagnoses, tragedies, and conditions in our lives that will make no sense. That is why the Psalmist wondered aloud, “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble” (Psalm 10:1)?

There are mysteries in the New Testament that are not explained:

  • James, the brother of John was martyred for Christ, but Peter was delivered from prison and spared from the same ruler (Acts 12:1ff). Why? Surely the Jerusalem Christians puzzled over this matter.
  • Four companions in the gospel—Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke—arrived in the city of Philippi to do spread the Word of God. Two of them—Paul and Silas—are whipped and thrown into prison. But, the other two apparently were untouched. Why?
  • Epaphroditus, Paul’s helper in Rome, became desperately ill but recovered (Philippians 2:25‐27). Paul, however, was afflicted with a grievous “thorn in the flesh” that was chronic (2 Corinthians 12:7‐9). Why?

It is times such as these, when life makes no sense, that our faith will be tested. And, in such storms, there are foundation stones that cannot be moved.

We can trust God in the dark.

Corrie Ten Boom, popular author and Holocaust survivor, wrote, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” So it is in life. We can trust God farther than we can “see.” Solomon wrote, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

When we hurt, we really have only two choices: (1) We can hurt with God, or (2) we can hurt without Him. We need God more in suffering than ever before because losing faith will not remove our pain. Instead it adds a second problem, and of the two, Wayne Jackson notes, “infidelity is of far greater consequence.” Job trusted despite his extreme suffering. When all his children died, his possessions were lost, and his means of livelihood removed, he said simply, “…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). When he soon also lost his health and suffered months of agony, he remained unfazed: “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

When a time of suffering come, is the time to turn to God’s Word, knowing the evidences in it build faith in God’s integrity (Psalm 19; Romans 10:17). It is of utmost importance that we establish confidence in the Word of God and not be moved from it. Unless we are convinced that the Bible is true, and we can trust its message, there is nowhere to go for any meaningful resolution; we will fall into the devil’s trap of doubt.

Faith Must Be Tested to Be Genuine.

Do you remember those public service announcements than began, “This is a test”? When going through trials, we can say to ourselves, “This is a test.” Times of crisis prove our friendship with God and declare the authenticity of our faith. Do we love God because He provides gifts? Do we love those gifts more than we love the Giver? This was the accusation Satan made against Job (Job 1:8-12; cf. 1 Peter 1:6-9). All the things we cling to in this world will eventually disappear. The One who gives them is all that will ultimately remain.

Simple answers sometimes are enough.

R. C. Sproul insightfully offers in his book, Not a Chance, that when a child asks a complicated question, or one that he is not yet ready to understand, a parent’s simple reply is, “Because.” “Because” implies there is an answer but does not give all of it. As God’s children, sometimes it must suffice to accept “because” when we ask “why?” In Job’s trial, as well as in ours, part of the test is the idea of not knowing the reason for the suffering. Jesus neither gave long explanations of evil nor ignored it (Luke 4:18-19).

Vance Havner remarked, “God marks across some of our days, ‘Will explain later.’” He continued, “One day of green pastures and still waters is followed by dark valleys and miry swamps, and a thousand ‘whys’ lie unanswered, tabled for future reference.” Warren Wiersbe wrote, “God’s people live by promises, not by explanations.” What promises do we have when life does not make sense?

We have the assurance of God’s presence.

While God never promised life would be problem-free, He did promise to be with His people (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5; Psalm 46:5-7). Notice these examples:

  • God was with David in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23).
  • He was with the three Hebrew men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
  • He was with Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6).
  • God sent an angel to the garden to strengthen Jesus (Luke 22:43).

Therefore, we can conclude, God is not a disinterested spectator in our lives. He is neither distant nor disengaged. Even when we feel life makes no sense, He cares (1 Peter 5:7). Even when we are afraid, through faith we can sing, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, safe and secure from all alarms.”

We have the assurance of God’s peace

(John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19-21; Ephesians 2:12-14; 1 Peter 5:14).

We have the assurance of God’s providence (Romans 8:28).

Rather than asking “Where is God?” or “Why me?” let us ask, “What can I learn from this?” and “Who can I help because of this?” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Life’s problems are not easy, but they qualify us to serve in ways we never could otherwise.

Adapted

The Apocalypse

I was reading an article by someone who was trying to explain The Revelation given to John (the Apocalypse). This Revelation was given to the first century Christians during a time of intense persecution so that they would have encouragement and comfort.

Things Which Must Shortly Take Place

The New King James says in verse 1, “things which must shortly take place.” However, the New American Standard puts it this way, “things which must soon take place.” This same writer tells us the marginal notes in his Bible say shortly means “quickly” or “swiftly.” I would agree. But then he tells us “shortly” must be interpreted considering verse 10 (the Lord’s day) meaning the day the Lord extracts judgment. Thus, he deduces when the end comes, it will come so rapidly it will astonish people and leave them frightened. Yet, how could this be when over and over the New Testament writers say the time of Jesus return is not revealed (Matthew 24:36; 25:13; 2 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10)?

In the Old Testament, the idea of God’s judgment is put forth many times (Isaiah 13:6, 9; Ezekiel 13:5, 30:3; Joel 1:15 and others), but we also find the same term used to indicate the day the Lord had set forth for other reasons (Isaiah 58:13, etc.). So to simply intimate this must be the case here also is to disregard the context of the letter. First of all, we are looking at the New Testament, not the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament, it sometime used the same way. However, the expression “Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10) is found only in this place and is hen kyriakē hēmera. The “day of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 2:2) is expressed as ē hēmera tou Kyriou. Almost all commentators agree John is speaking of the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) which would make it a day of worship not a day of destruction. In light of this we must look to the context of the book.

How to Interpret the Book

There are many other views as to the interpretation of the book. Some think that the book reveals all of history from the beginning to the end of time. Others think it reveals the future for the church–the rise of the Papacy, Mohammedanism, the Reformation, etc. Still others say that these are not actual historical events but are symbolical of temporal and physical forces at work. Some, in the light of this, say that the book was fulfilled in John’s day and could have no meaning for us. Besides all these, there are Millennial groups which have formulated their own various doctrines from the book. All of this makes it very difficult for people to find the meaning of the book.

To rightly interpret the book, we should seek to find the meaning the book had in the day of its origin. In other words, “What did it mean to the Christians of John’s day?” The things in it “must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1,3; 22:6,10). Revelation 1:4 says, “John, to the seven churches that are in Asia…” Furthermore, we should seek to determine its meaning for all ages and especially for our own age. Thus, “What does the book mean to us today?” All readers are blessed (Revelation 1:3), and it is for “everyone who hears” (Revelation 22:18). It is written to “his servants” (Revelation 1:1). Therefore, in our study of the book we should seek to understand how its principles applied then and observe how they will apply in similar situations now.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear the early Christians were looking for the return of the Lord during their time (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 17). To them that would have been the “end times.” Christians at the time when the book was written were being beheaded and slain for the word of God and the testimony which they held ( Revelation 2:13; 6:9-11; 7:13-17; 13:7-8; 16:6-7; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2; 20:4). This means the book was written in the atmosphere of intense and widespread persecution.

The Main Theme

The victory of Christ is revealed throughout the book (Revelation 1:18; 5:9; 6:2; 11:15; 14:1,14; 17:14; 19:15). Christ conquers death, hades, the dragon, the beast, the false prophet, and those who worship the beast. The book also pictures the victory that the saints have through Christ–as having washed their robes (Revelation 7:14; 22:14), as having come out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14), as standing upon their feet and not dead (Revelation 11:11), as victorious over the beast (Revelation 15:2), as reigning on earth and with Christ (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:4). The book, therefore, was given to bring comfort for the church and to encourage the saints in time of great tribulation–for example, God sees their tears (Revelation 7:17); their prayers shall rule (Revelation 8:3-4); suffering on earth is surpassed by glory (Revelation 14:13; 20:4); their blood will be avenged (Revelation 6:9-11; 19:2); victory is assured (Revelation 15:2).

It should be noted the book met a need at the time of its writing and it dealt with an historical situation in which spiritual forces were at work. Further, its message will apply to all generations. In the book we see the conflict between God and Satan. God’s forces are Christ and the church, while Satan’s forces are evil government and false religion. God and His righteousness will triumph. Satan is destined to destruction; he and all his helpers will be defeated. Christ is victorious and His saints can be victorious through Him. This idea is set forth gloriously and completely in Revelation 17:14: “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful” (NASV). This is the main theme of the book.