If there’s one thing I’m exceptionally good at doing, it’s making excuses. Fortunately for me, I’m in good company.
Almost every man or woman who was used by God in the Bible to do incredible things started off with either trepidation or doubt; from Jonah to Gideon, there are plenty of instances of people’s hearts being changed as they give God’s plan a chance.
The most reluctant of these people was, in my opinion, Moses. Fearing for his life after a misguided attempt at vigilante justice, he had retreated to Midian in his forties for some easy living in a remote country.
It wasn’t long before God disrupted his life by calling him to leave his life of comfort to save his people from the hands of Pharoah. It’s here, in his first conversation with God, that we see Moses give five back-to-back excuses for why he could not do what God wanted.
While you may tell yourself that you would never have the audacity to reject God to his face, the truth is that you probably do this more than you think. God is constantly pushing us through the Scriptures to live lives filled with love and impact, and this can feel daunting or downright impossible, depending on your level of faith.
The good news is that we can learn from Moses! The excuses he made mirror excuses we can give ourselves when we are balking at God’s vision. Let’s take a look at the excuses Moses gave all those years ago, and see how relevant they can still be for us today.
Excuse #1: “I’m afraid!”
Moses (to God): 11 Who am I to confront Pharaoh and lead Israel’s children out of Egypt?Exodus 3:11 (Voice)
Fear in and of itself is not a bad thing. Fear is baked into our system to provide several benefits, including keeping us safe in dangerous situations. When we talk about fear in a spiritual context, however, we tend to refer to the idea that we will choose the path of least resistance and avoid situations that make us feel uncomfortable.
For example, one of the things I am regularly afraid to do is initiate conversations with people that may lead to conflict. Part of being a good friend is bringing up the things that will help their lives, regardless of the fact that they may not enjoy hearing you tell it to them.
When God called Moses to lead his people, he was calling him to do a lot more than just have uncomfortable talks. I have to believe that Moses understood this, so his apprehension is somewhat warranted. Luckily for him, God had a solution for his fear.
God’s response: “I’ll be with you.”
Eternal One: 12 Do not fear, Moses. I will be with you every step of the way, and this will be the sign to you that I am the One who has sent you: after you have led them out of Egypt, you will return to this mountain and worship God.Exodus 3:12 (Voice)
A strong relationship with God is one that gives us the courage to do what we would never do on our own. Whether it’s talking to a friend about that elephant in the room you’ve been avoiding, or making a big life decision that puts you in unfamiliar territory, it’s important to remember that God is actively playing a part in your life to ensure your long-term success and happiness. Believing this will allow you to take risks and do things you wouldn’t have imagined possible on your own.
Excuse #2: “I might get pushback!”
Moses: 13 Let’s say I go to the people of Israel and tell them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to rescue you,” and then they reply, “What is His name?” What should I tell them then?Exodus 3:13 (Voice)
God is big on change – change we can experience in our personal lives, and change we can inspire others to make for theirs. I live in Silicon Valley, and the attitude and mindset here is one of constant innovation. I think similarly, God’s hope for us is that we’re constantly evolving in the way we think, feel and act in response to the ever-changing circumstances around us.
Influencing others to change can be tough. We are all subject to getting set in our ways, and anyone who pushes us out of our comfort zone can be met with hostility. Moses knew he would be talking to a group of people who were frustrated and disillusioned, and he wasn’t looking forward to dealing with their potential lack of enthusiasm at his arrival.
God’s response: “It’s not about you.”
Eternal One: 14 I AM WHO I AM. This is what you should tell the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to rescue you.”Exodus 3:14-15 (Voice)
15 This is what you are to tell Israel’s people: “The Eternal, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is the One who has sent me to you.” This is My name forevermore, and this is the name by which all future generations shall remember Me.
There’s relief you feel when you are able to remove yourself from a situation. God calls us to be a driving force in the lives of others, and he wants us to remember that if people respond poorly when you’re trying to help them, it’s not personal to you. It’s God they’re having an issue with. Remembering this will embolden you to say what needs to be said, no matter the reaction you get.
Excuse #3: “People are the problem…”
Moses: What if they don’t trust me? What if they don’t listen to a single word I say? They are more likely to reply: “The Eternal has not revealed Himself to you.”Exodus 4:1 (Voice)
Have you ever found yourself saying “well if he/she weren’t _____, things would be a lot easier”? God calls us to be difference makers in the lives of others, but sometimes the “others” part can really throw us off. Whether it’s the annoying coworker, the stubborn friend, or the pesky relative, it’s always easier to get fixated on a person’s shortcomings (however glaring they may be) than it is to look past them and find a solution.
Hopefully you have had at least one person stick with you through hard times. Think about how it made you feel knowing they cared about you even when you were not easy to love. God calls us to be people who are willing to love others (see: serve, sacrifice for), and that can be tough if you don’t know how to move past their perceived stubbornness or other faults.
God’s response: “I’m bigger than people.”
Eternal One: 2 What do you have in your hand?Exodus 4:2-5 (Voice)
Moses: My shepherd’s staff.
Eternal One: 3 Throw your staff down on the ground.
So Moses threw the staff on the ground, and it was transformed into a snake. Moses quickly jumped back in fear.
Eternal One: 4 Reach out and grab it by the tail.
Despite his natural fears, Moses reached out and grabbed the snake; and as he held it, it changed back into a shepherd’s staff.
Eternal One: 5 This sign is so the people will believe that I, the God of their fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—have revealed Himself to you.
The great thing about God is that he gives us confidence in any situation by reminding us that he’s in control. Moses was in a situation where he doubted his ability to influence others because he thought he had to rely solely on his ability to be persuasive. God wanted him to know that it was he that would be doing the heavy lifting, not Moses.
We apply this today by remembering that we have the Bible, which gives us just about every kind of relationship advice we could ever need. How to respond to anger (Ephesians 4:26), how to make a relationship more transparent (2 Corinthians 6:11), how to truly love (1 Corinthians 13) – at a heart level, the Bible is always applicable (Hebrews 4:12).
Excuse #4: “I’m not talented enough!”
Moses: 10 Please, Lord, I am not a talented speaker. I have never been good with words. I wasn’t when I was younger and I haven’t gotten any better since You revealed Yourself to me. I stutter and stammer. My words get all twisted.Exodus 4:10 (Voice)
A common reason for not wanting to take the plunge and embrace God’s plan for our lives is that we can feel like we just don’t have what it takes. We look at talent and have a hard time moving past what we feel is a lacking skillset.
This can be a legitimate excuse, because in some ways it’s logical. You look at what needs to be done, look at what you’re good at and what you’re not, and you do the math. Moses certainly did that, though by this point in his conversation with God, he was willing to throw out everything but the kitchen sink to get out of what God was wanting him to do.
God’s response: “I’ll make up for whatever you lack.”
Eternal One: 11 Who is it that gives a person a mouth? Who determines whether one person speaks and another doesn’t? Why is it that one person hears and another doesn’t? And why can one person see and another doesn’t? Isn’t it because of Me, the Eternal? You know it is. 12 Go now, and I will be there to give you the words to speak; I will tell you what to say.Exodus 4:11-12 (Voice)
A real relationship with God produces faith, and faith is what allows us to believe that we can do things that should be impossible (Ephesians 3:20). In John 6:28-29, Jesus made it clear to his disciples that where we need to be focusing most of our efforts is in believing in God and what he says he can do.
Do you believe that God is able to supply whatever it is you lack in talent, character or heart?
Excuse #5: Stubborn refusal
Moses: 13 Please, Lord, I beg you to send Your message through someone else, anyone else.Exodus 4:13 (Voice)
This one isn’t an excuse as much as it is a final response we can have to God after he’s removed all of our other excuses. You may find yourself in this position now: seeing very clearly the kind of life God is calling you to live, but stubbornly refusing to believe that it’s for you. If that’s the case, don’t worry – you’re not alone.
God’s response: Perseverance and flexibility.
14 Then the Eternal became angry with Moses.
Eternal One: How about your brother—Aaron the Levite? I know he speaks eloquently. And look, he is already on his way to meet you. When he sees you, his heart will be delighted.Exodus 4:14 (Voice)
I like this verse because we get a glimpse into how God thinks and feels. When faced with Moses’ immaturity and stubborn refusal to trust him, he gets angry.
What does it mean for God to be angry? I don’t believe it’s the kind of anger we can display in our human lives – petty, over-emotional, and leading to fits of rage or causing others harm. Ephesians 4:26 teaches us that anger is a common emotion we can experience; it’s what comes after anger that matters most.
The great thing is that God perseveres and doesn’t give up on us. He will do everything he can to use your life and the people around you to persuade you to give him a chance.
He is also flexible and will provide us extra help even if we don’t deserve it. He saw Moses’ fear and gave him the option to work with his brother Aaron. He knows what help we need, and won’t hesitate to provide it if it means we’ll be willing to go for it.
So which excuse(s) have you been making to God? Take some time to write out what you have been resisting, and make the decision to believe God’s answers. When you follow God wholeheartedly, you won’t be disappointed.