168 hours a week – we all have the same amount of time to work with. We would like to make excuses for why other people have an advantage over us in getting things done: spending more time in prayer, applying our efforts to God-given pursuits and callings – the important things in life; but the harsh truth is most of these reasons fall apart upon closer inspection. Excuses are the fleshes way of saying, “It’s not my fault, don’t look at me!” And if you’re content with avoiding the problem and spinning your wheels, then excuses are definitely for you!
However, if you’re looking for change – becoming a better manager of the time and resources that you’ve been given – then you must deal with excuses harshly. You will never be able to go forward if you can’t identify the problem, and most of the time the problem is us.
You may say, “Well, you must make an exception for me. My situation is uniquely difficult.” It may be true that your situation is uniquely bad, but I would ask you, was it worse than the Apostle Paul’s?
“…with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food,[b] in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” – 2 Cor. 11:23-29
Yet Paul’s conclusion, even through all this, was that these things were not an excuse for him to stop doing what God had called him to do.
“9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Cor. 12:9-10
Most of us have yet to encounter the kind of opposition that Paul faced in his ministry, and if you could ever earn an excuse, Paul would have earned a couple. Instead, in his inability to control those things that were without, he learned to lean on the strength and ability of God from within. Moreover, the trials that Paul faced were not of his own making. In being obedient to God’s call, the devil en-devoured to stop him. The devil is often not required in stopping us, as we can be quite effective in doing that ourselves.
I don’t doubt some people have it rougher than others, but that’s not really my point. Everyone has there own set of unique challenges to overcome, but excuses don’t solve problems. It’s through learning dependency on God as your Father, and as your strength, that He is released to help your weaknesses.
We must also be honest with ourselves. Most of the responsibilities we carry as individuals are the results of choices we’ve made. As a parent and a spouse, I don’t have a right to resent spending time with my family (not that I do, but some find themselves feeling that way) – you’re the reason they’re here! We complain about school debt, but who was it that agreed to repay the loan? Who was it that went to an expensive school?. We complain that we don’t make enough money to have “free time,” but who signed your mortgage and your two new car payments? We complain about our government leaders, as if they are not a reflection of our own values. Is it any coincidence that the government is as inefficient and indebted with their money as the average taxpayer?
The purpose of writing this is not condemnation, but freedom. Freedom from destructive behavior begins when excuses end. One of the ways that I don’t allow myself excuses is by keeping a schedule and measuring my time. I try to know what my plan is for the week before the week begins. Sometimes I’ll even set goals for a whole month. I have found that if you leave your relationship with God up to chance, it probably won’t grow. If you don’t purposefully invest in what God has called you to do, something else will take it’s place. The old adage is still true, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” Where you spend your time is not only a reflection of what you value, but it’s also a reflection of how you plan it.
Maybe you feel like this is great in theory, but don’t know how to practically apply it. I want to recommend a great tool I’ve found that I use on a daily basis. Most of us have smart phones or a tablet of some kind. I use an app called aTimeLogger. It’s an excellent tool that allows you to start timer’s for custom-designed activities. It also allows you to set goals for your time every week. It’s awesome! I use to track my prayer, bible-reading time, different activities, etc. Most importantly it forces me to see the choices I’m making every day, and adjust my behaviors accordingly.
As a follower of Christ, it’s my job to spend time in the Word, and prayer, and to get to know Him. If you want to be a good painter, you probably should practice every week. If you want to be a great painter, you should probably practice every day. If you want to be a master, it’s all you live for. This principle is true with everything, and it’s true with our relationship with God. You’ll get out of it what you put into it.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. – James 4:8