May I be excused from your excuses?
The everyday life of a youth pastor involves conversations with students at varying places in their spiritual journey. Some students are loving Jesus and loving their friends, while others hardly acknowledge there is a God, at least not in public. The challenge is in meeting them where they are and encouraging them to move into a deeper relationship with God, thorough Jesus Christ.
It is not unusual for students to get defensive about where they find themselves spiritually. They will tell me that they have been really busy with sports and haven’t had time to come to church. I had one person tell me flat-out that they did not have time for God right now. Other people will describe in great detail the stresses of their day and how tired they are at the end of the day. Usually this ends with the “therefore, I am not able to read my Bible…but I want to.” I find this interesting because my approach is not one of confrontation, but as their advocate. I want to encourage them to see the excellence of Jesus Christ, not feel defeated when they ignore Him. Not knowing the Word does appear to be a problem in general; a problem I am not entirely sure I completely understand. The excuses just indicate that people do realize that they need to be in the Word, but they just don’t know how to make it happen. Is it an issue of priorities? Does it have to do with our media driven society?
On a recent retreat I was talking with some students about people of the Bible. I was shocked with how little they actually knew, and these are church kids! It was a wake up call for me to never assume that they actually know who Moses is, or that Genesis is in the Old Testament. For many people the only Bible they ever hear is when one of us pastors preach it.
Jesus ran into a similar issue among the Pharisees, the people who should have known the scriptures. They presented to Jesus a question regarding the resurrection in Matthew 22. After listening, Jesus said, ” You are in error because you to not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” – Matthew 22:29 Their question was based on a misunderstanding because they didn’t know what the Bible said.
Ephesians 6 takes this into the daily battle for truth as a part of the armor of God, described here as the sword of the Spirit. This was demonstrated for us in Matthew 4 when the devil tempted Jesus in the desert. How did Jesus combat the devil’s misuse of Scripture? He did it by using Scripture and refuting the way the devil used the Word. Given the nature of the world, there is no excuse for our lack of time in the Word because there is no substitute for it.
This whole discussion is a crucial one because in order to be able to answer questions, we need to know what the Bible teaches, or at least how to find it in there. In fact, you could say that knowing and obeying God’s Word is crucial to the believer. Yet, like I said, there are constant excuses to it. This reminds me of Moses and that call God placed on him in Exodus 4. Moses had nothing but excuses for God as he was called to go and ask Pharaoh to let the Israelites free from slavery. He wanted to know if they would believe him, or why God chose him with his speech problem. God’s answer makes sense of this.
“The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” Exodus 4:11
The same answer could go for any number of excuses, even the ones about reading the Bible. If God has given this to us to know Him and make sense of this world, then it stands to reason that He will also increase our desire for Him and His Word as we spend time in it. God will teach us, if we open ourselves up to Him. We could each make excuses for everything. I am too busy, fat, lazy, hungry, uneducated, small, young, old to do what God calls. Those things don’t matter to God. What matters is a person willing to come before him and submit themselves to His work. This is why I will continue to encourage students to read their Bibles. The Word matters! It matters right now in their lives, just like it matters in your life. Would you open it up without excuse?
Have you had a time when the Word of God has spoken into a situation? God’s Word is living and active; this is not just another book. Don’t believe me, give it a try. But, please save the excuses.