Stop giving God your excuses

What does it take to become good at something? By what standard might someone actually be considered great at something? Typically, our standard for measuring the skill, talent, or giftedness of a person is by the results they produce. And if that's the kind of standard we applied to the prophet Jeremiah, we might call him a failure, and we would be dead wrong.

Jeremiah was a prophet to the kingdom of Judah beginning in the year 627 B.C. He was faithful to the Lord's calling on his life. He was courageous in the midst of persecution. He was given a thankless task as he proclaimed the truth to a rebellious people that didn't want to hear what the Lord was saying through him. His message was mocked. He was called a liar. His life was threatened, and the people of Judah did not repent of their sins.

But God gave Jeremiah the task to speak the truth to a dying nation, and Jeremiah relied on the Lord to provide him the strength to accomplish this task. Later in his life, he was taken to Egypt and it's believe that he was stoned to death and buried in an unmarked grave because his message was so despised. Yet we can be confident that he received a rich welcome into the presence of God as one who trusted in Him and poured out his heart and his life trying to point others to the Lord.


1. God's plan for your life isn't something that just occurred to Him

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
— Jeremiah 1:4-5, ESV

Is it reasonable to believe that the Lord has a plan for your life, or is that just fanciful thinking? With the billions of people currently living in the world and the billions that have come before us, is it too much to believe that God would notice any one of us and ordain a mission for us, even before we were born? Truthfully speaking, this is exactly what the Lord does, and there are multiple places in Scripture that testify to this truth. 

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
— Psalm 139:13-14a, ESV
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;
— Galatians 1:15-16, ESV

As the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, the Lord told him that He knew him, even before he was born. The Lord expressed to Jeremiah the fact that he was intentionally formed in the womb, set apart as one who belonged to God, and appointed as a prophet to the nations.

God is sovereign. He is in complete control and nothing escapes His sight. He knows all things that have happened and will happen. He is steering the events of world history toward the day when the Son of God, Jesus Christ, will rule and reign over the nations. And by His grace, we have the privilege to be included in His plan.

God doesn't do anything by accident. His decision that you would be born when you were born and where you were born was for the purpose that you would have the greatest opportunity to come to know the Lord Jesus Christ by faith. And if you know Christ, please also know that the Lord's plan for your life isn't something that just occurred to Him. From eternity past, He has ordained a distinct and intentional purpose for how you would use the few really brief decades you're given on this earth. 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
— Ephesians 2:10, ESV

The kind of plan the Lord carved out for Jeremiah is most certainly not the kind of experience we would choose for ourselves. I have experienced what it's like to preach to people who didn't want to hear what I was saying and it can be a demoralizing experience. There were maybe a couple people during Jeremiah's life who appreciated what he was saying. The rest detested him, yet Jeremiah trusted that the Lord's will was perfect and His plan was intentional.

You may not have chosen the kind of plan the Lord has ordained for your life on this earth, but with the strength He provides, trust Him with the life He has given you and rest confident in the fact that His plans are perfect.


2. God likes to use the most unlikely people to accomplish His plan through

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“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.”
— Jeremiah 1:6-8, ESV

One of the most offensive things happened to me on New Year's Eve of my senior year of college. My wife's family and I were invited to have dinner at the home of a family that was friends with her parents. After the meal, one of the women at the table asked me what my plans were after I graduated. I told her I planned to serve as the pastor of a church. When I said that, she laughed and said, "I couldn't sit under the ministry of a man that young. Even someone 25-years-old would still be too young to be a pastor." I didn't know what to say to her in the moment, and I could tell that she made just about everyone at the table feel awkward, but her mockery of my age was honestly hurtful at the time.

Naturally speaking, there are certain qualifications we tend to look for in leaders or in those that we expect God to accomplish His work through. We expect them to be older, but not too old. Educated, but not overly academic. Social, but not obnoxious. Gregarious, but not silly. Of good physical stature, but not vain. People of character, but not so holy as to seem inaccessible. Basically, we have an image in our minds that the Lord might prefer using people who meet this world's standard of perfection, but when we look at the Scriptures, we discover that the Lord delights to do great things through unlikely people like us.

When the Lord spoke to Jeremiah, he was still a young man. As the Lord revealed His plan for Jeremiah's life, how did Jeremiah respond? Jeremiah gave God excuses. He claimed he wasn't sufficient for the task he was being called to. He tried to use his youth as a disqualifying factor. He tried to convince God that his inexperience with public speaking made him a bad choice for the task at hand.

And how did God respond to Jeremiah's excuses? God effectively told him to quit giving Him excuses. To stop whining. To go to the people God called him to go to and to say whatever God told him to say.

As I'm sure any of us can appreciate, Jeremiah was afraid. He was afraid of what people might say to him and how they might react to him. The Lord knew his heart and likewise told him that he didn't need to be afraid. He promised to be with Jeremiah and that He would ultimately deliver him. Basically, whether he was afraid or not, God was calling Jeremiah to remain faithful. This was a lesson the Lord taught the Apostle Paul as well. 

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, ESV

God likes to use unlikely people like us for tasks like this. Are you afraid of what God has called you to do? That understandable, but you'll be OK. Don't let your emotions paralyze you or prevent you from taking the steps of faith God has planned for you to take.


3. Be a faithful steward of the authority the Lord entrusts to you

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
— Jeremiah 1:9-10, ESV

The words Jeremiah would speak to the people would not be his own. His calling wasn't to share his own ideas or opinions. His calling wasn't to echo the ideas and ideals of his generation for the applause of men. The Lord reached out and touched Jeremiah's mouth. This act demonstrated the fact that the words Jeremiah spoke would be the words of God. The very words of God would be put in Jeremiah's mouth.

The Lord told Jeremiah that he was being set over nations and kingdoms to both destroy and build. Jeremiah was being called to be a faithful steward of what the Lord had placed under his oversight, but much of what that task included wouldn't necessarily be fun. Plucking up, breaking down, destroying, and overthrowing don't sound as delightful as building and planting, but Jeremiah's ministry would have aspects of each of these things.

The culture of the time was so far from the Lord. The people were worshipping false gods and even sacrificing their children to these demons. They showed almost no interest in the word of God or the heart of God. And Jeremiah's message was going to expose that. It would offend them and irritate them, but it would be true and accurate.

Let's be honest and introspective for a second because this is very much like our own experience with the Lord. I believe that the message of the gospel offends before it delights us. Before we experience the depth of the joy of being rescued, redeemed, saved, and forgiven by Jesus Christ, we need to first wrestle with the state we were in. The Bible teaches us that we were enemies of God, chained to our sin, and under the righteous wrath of God. We were condemned to an eternity of separation from God and constant torment in a very real place the Scriptures call Hell. I don't see how telling someone they are presently destined for eternity in Hell wouldn't be offensive. But it's necessary for that message to really set in if we're ever going to value the offer God has given us to be rescued through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The gospel offends before it heals, much like Jeremiah understood as he preached.

If you've never received forgiveness for you sin, Christ invites you to receive it today through faith in Him. If you have received forgiveness and new life through Christ, He invites you to stop giving Him your excuses because He has a distinct and specific plan for your life. He will use you, even if you aren't the most ideal candidate by this world's standards, and He will enable you to rely on His strength, day-by-day, to remain faithful to His mission for you.

God wants you, but He doesn't want your excuses. Even if you're still afraid of what He wants to do in your life, He invites you to trust Him anyway. Don't waste this opportunity to do so.

© John Stange, 2018