When God commands us to do something more often than not our responses start with excuses. Rather than offering ourselves to our creator as obedient servants and our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12), we offer him our “buts,” providing long lists of reasons why we can’t do what he’s asked us to. We’re too afraid, too unskilled, too socially awkward, too tired, and on and on.
We’re not alone in our tendency to give God our buts. Moses, after a direct verbal command from the God who made a bush speak, insisted “But I can’t speak properly!” Gideon made excuses to the angel of the Lord because his family was small and unimportant. When Jesus shows up at Lazarus’ tomb the crowd’s response to the command to roll away that stone isn’t excitement; it’s “But he’s been dead for three days!” The disciple’s response to Jesus command to feed the 5000 isn’t obedience, it’s excuses; “But we don’t have enough food.”
Continuing in a long line of but-offerers, we are generally extremely successful at counting ourselves out. God commands us to not fear or worry. We respond, “But there’s so many unknowns!” God commands us to be free from all sexual immorality and drunkenness. We respond, “But I have an addictive personality! I’ve tried to stop before and it hasn’t worked.” God commands us to practice hospitality and operate as a community. We respond, “But I’m an introvert, I don’t like big groups,” or “My problems are too big – they can’t handle them.”
Thankfully God never lets the story end with our “buts”. Moses isn’t abandoned after the burning bush and Lazarus isn’t left in the tomb. The disciples and the crowd aren’t left hungry, and the world isn’t left lost.
Throughout Scripture there’s a repeated theme of God butting in and dramatically changing the situation when things are going wrong. Note the “but God” in these three verses;
But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But God, because of his great love for us, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Moses couldn’t speak properly, but God provides someone to speak for him. Gideon was from a small, helpless family, but God makes him the leader of a great army. Lazarus was dead, but God brought him back to life.
We need to take our eyes off our “buts” and fix them instead on God’s promises. Rather than making excuses let’s revel at the power of our God to step in and save, heal, deliver, and restore. When we focus on our own problems we get locked into an attitude of defeat and uselessness. When our focus is on Jesus we’re freed to walk in faith.
Next time God commands you to do something, remember that he always gives the power to accomplish what he’s commanded – even if it doesn’t feel like it. Get over your “but” and get into the power of God.