When I ask either of my small children to do something (pick up their toys, throw away their trash, pressure wash the house, etc.), I always have a reason. In addition to my reason, I also already know that they have the strength, resources, and ability to carry out that task. Otherwise, I wouldn’t ask them to do it.
When one of them says, “I’m too tired,” or “I don’t want to,” I know that they are simply testing my resolve with an excuse. The question for me becomes, “How determined am I, as a parent, to train my children to obey me?”
The prophet Jeremiah once said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1:6 - ESV) Other translations have him saying, “O Sovereign Lord, I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” (NLT), or “Hold it, Master God! Look at me. I don’t know anything. I’m only a boy!” (The Message)
I’m not sure we need multiple translations in order to understand what Jeremiah was trying to say, do we? This was a young man who had been appointed by God to be a “prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5), and his response indicates that he either felt unprepared, unequipped, or unwilling to accept this position because of his age. He gave God an excuse.
God’s answer to Jeremiah’s excuse was simple and direct; God said, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth;’ for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jer. 1:7-8) In other words, God said, “I don’t want to hear that excuse, Jeremiah. You will do what I asked you to do, and I’ll take care of everything else.” God had already told Jeremiah that, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jer. 1:5) God KNEW that Jeremiah was capable of doing what He was asking him to do, because God MADE Jeremiah for this specific purpose!
We see a similar conversation in Exodus 3-4 between God and Moses. God had chosen Moses for a very specific task, and He had been preparing and equipping him for this task for his entire life. None of Moses’ excuses (and he had several good ones) were going to change God’s mind, and that conversation ended in the same way that God’s conversation with Jeremiah ended: Moses did what God asked him to do.
Do we realize that God has a purpose for our life? Do we realize that we have been formed, prepared, equipped, and – in many ways – destined to do something for God? The Christian life is not just about cleansing us of sin and giving us the gift of eternal life; it is about finding out the true reasons why we exist. The Christian life is to be spent emptying ourselves in the service of our God (2 Tim. 4:6), redirecting our efforts towards God’s purposes instead of our own (Rom. 12:1-8; I Pet. 4:1-5), and discovering what we can do for Him, not what He can do for us! You might say:
“I’m too young.”
“I’m too old.”
“I’m not talented enough.”
“I’m too busy.”
“I don’t fit in.”
“No one will listen."
“I will fail.”
What’s your excuse?
Whatever our excuses might be, we need to realize that God does not accept them; instead He expects His servants to obey His commands, be a functioning part of the body of Christ, and produce fruit for His purposes. So, regardless of how many people may believe or buy into our excuses for not serving God, God Himself does not.
He knew us before we were born. He will give us the tools that we will need in order to do the work that He has planned for us. He will be with us.
But He will not take “no” for an answer.