The day we were baptized, we made a commitment to serve our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We turned from servants of sin, to become servants of God (Romans 6:22). While we were servants of sin, our reward was only death; but when we obey Jesus, we receive the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). What a blessing it is to serve our Lord Jesus!
However, sometimes we forget that, when we commit to following our Lord Jesus, we are expected to serve Him wholeheartedly. After all, a servant must do everything that the Master says! Jesus Himself taught that those who would follow Him must “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Unfortunately, instead of putting Jesus first in our lives, and giving Him priority in our schedules, we often make excuses. When we make excuses at the workplace, our boss can decide whether to approve or reject our excuses. However, when we make excuses to God today, He does not reply us directly. Hence, we often assume that God approves of our excuses, and we do it anyway!
Before we make another presumptuous excuse to God, let us read about the various excuses that others had made to Jesus, as recorded in the Bible:
“Sorry, I need to inspect a new piece of property” (Luke 14:18)
"Sorry, I need to check something at work” (Luke 14:19)
“Sorry, I just got married” (Luke 14:19)
“Sorry, I need to attend my father’s funeral” (Luke 9:59)
“Sorry, I need to say my farewells” (Luke 9:60)
“Sorry, I was afraid” (Matthew 25:25-26)
There are many other excuses we could list down. However, we will observe that none of the above excuses were considered acceptable by Jesus. In the end, it really does not matter what the excuse was. The real problem is that by making excuses, we have not put God first in our lives.
If you are still looking for a valid excuse, here are 3 excuses that God will accept:
1. I am busy with the ministry of the Word.
A problem arose in the early church, whereby the Grecian widows were neglected in the daily food distribution (Acts 6:1-7). There was a need for someone to step up and help this good work. The apostles were alerted about this issue. However, none of the 12 apostles volunteered to help out. This was what they said: “It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:2).
Apparently, the ministry of the Word deserved the apostles’ attention, more than the food distribution work (Acts 6:4). This does not mean that this benevolent work was unimportant. However, the spreading of the gospel to save souls will always be the most important work of the church, as it was the mission of our Lord Jesus (Luke 19:10). Hence, the apostles did not want to sidetrack from this vital work. Instead, they appointed 7 other men to help in the food distribution (Acts 6:5).
There are so many works in the church that demand attention. Hence, the church needs every member to be involved, especially since all of us possess different talents, and can contribute in different ways (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Although evangelism should always be our main mission, not every member may be ready to preach the gospel like the elders or the preacher. Nevertheless, there are many other works that we can busy ourselves with. Perhaps as we grow in the faith, and equip ourselves more and more, we can slowly shift our personal ministry towards the work of evangelism. Interestingly, 2 of the 7 appointed men, namely Stephen and Philip, eventually moved on from the food distribution to become evangelists of the gospel (Acts 6-8).
2. I am sick.
Trophimus was one of Paul’s companions on his missionary journeys (Acts 20:4). We do not read much of Trophimus, but we know that every companion of Paul was vital for the success of his journeys. As we know from the John Mark dispute, Paul did not like to bring “excess baggage.” John Mark had abandoned Paul previously for some unknown reason, and evidently, Paul did not find John Mark’s excuse acceptable (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39).
Despite Trophimus’ importance, Paul wrote to Timothy that he had left Trophimus behind during one of his trips (2 Timothy 4:20). Apparently, Trophimus was excused from following Paul on that trip. The reason: Trophimus was sick. Despite everything we do to maintain good hygiene and stay healthy, sickness and diseases are things we cannot totally avoid. Many a Christian had missed the assembly, or were prevented from contributing more to the work, because of illness. This is certainly a reason that God will accept.
3. I am dead.
Christianity is a life-long marathon (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus promised to Christians a crown of life, on one condition: we remain faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). Hence, no Christian can excuse himself from the work by saying that he has “done enough,” or that “it is time for me to retire.” There is no retirement for Christians, as long as we are still alive on this earth!
It is a blessing for us to spend our lives in service to God, and what a blessing it is for Christians to die in the Lord, having served Jesus to the end. As it is written, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 119:15). Only in death can faithful Christians truly “rest from their labours” (Revelation 14:13). Certainly, we will miss our brethren who have gone to be with the Lord before us. We will miss their companionship, and we will miss their contribution to the work of the church. However, they are now hereby excused from their labours.
Do you have a valid excuse?
Jesus taught that the greatest command is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). I pray that we will show our love to God by putting Him first in our lives. In this new year, let us resolve to put aside petty excuses, and commit ourselves to God whole heartedly. Let us serve the Lord all the days of our life, until the day that the Lord Himself finally excuses us from our labours, and welcomes us into His eternal abode.