This is part 2 of the Series “Why are You Making Excuses?” To read the previous post, click here.
As I read the news and sift through messages of entitlement and blame-shifting, I fall into the trap of thinking this is some new problem. Reading historical narratives reveals there really is nothing new under the sun—especially when it comes to human nature.
Most barriers to success remain so because we refuse to climb.
In 2017 I read two fascinating Civil War Narratives: American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant and Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. It was an opportunity to look into the lives of multiple people, but two Generals—Grant and McClellan—stood in clear contrast to each other. McClellan had all he needed to be successful and was defeated by his own excuses. Grant experienced multiples failures in his early life only to become the most successful general in the Civil War.
I had never heard of General McClellan before my reading, so I had no preconception of the man himself. If he is as obscure to you as he was to me, then let me shed some light on why this man has faded into obscurity.
McClellan served as the leader of the Union’s Army of the Potomac during the early years of the Civil War. His savvy organizational skills and early successes propelled him to the high-ranking position of General in Chief. His personal correspondence gives the impression of a self-aggrandizing, blame-shifting man. His service during the Mexican-American war indicates a moderate degree of bravery; however, his behavior during the Civil War betrays a crippling fear of loss and risk-aversion.
Instead of taking action, McClellan kept making excuses.
As he polished and drilled his armies into gleaming perfection, he avoided the tediousness of chasing down the enemy. His letters reek with grumbling and excuses. He wouldn’t act unless the conditions were to his liking and more than once he missed an opportunity to utterly defeat the confederates.
Here are a few of McClellan’s infamous excuses:
- Challenging terrain
- The superior numbers of the enemy (in reality, he often outnumbered the Confederates)
- Poor timing
- Tired horses
Do we fail to share the gospel using similar excuses?
We live in a time in which Christianity is despised by the powerful trifecta: Hollywood, Politicians, and the Media. Faith is taboo in our schools. Scandals of high-profile Christians cause thousands to abandon the faith. Standing up for truth is now “bigotry.”
It’s tough terrain, but it could be worse.
In the face of adversity, we often hunker down with the like-minded, hoping we don’t run out of apologetics ammo. Rather than tackle the terrain in faith, we recoil in fear.
Should we stop sharing the gospel, or get creative in sharing it?
Should we circle the wagons, or stand and fight?
Should we blend in with the world, or dare to be different?
We can use “adversity” as an excuse or we can advance in faith.
Consider [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
~ Hebrews 12.3-4, ESV
The Superiority of the Enemy
Do you ever outnumbered? Does it feel like evil has a better arsenal?
When the servant of the [Elisha] rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
~ 2 Kings 6.15-17, ESV
In this account from 2 Kings, the physical odds looked impossible. The servant’s “what shall we do?” is more like, “we’re done for!!” I have always been profoundly moved by Elisha’s confidence: “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
In those moments when we feel completely outnumbered we are trusting in self and not in God. If we succumb to hopelessness, we have forgotten who God is and what He can do.
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
~1 John 4:4, ESV
The terror of evil may be great, but the power of God is greater.
Bad Timing/Lack of Time
There is a tendency to believe a change in circumstances will improve our chances at success. In truth, the time we think we need rarely materializes; we have to make the best use of the time we have now.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, who would you share the gospel with? Who would you give your money to? How would you spend your remaining hours?
We live almost carelessly, believing our time stretches far out into the future when it could end in a moment.
If we delay serving God today, we may not get the opportunity tomorrow.
Not Enough “Resources”
Do any of the following sound familiar?
“I don’t know enough to defend the gospel.”
“I barely have enough to make my bills. I can’t help these people with their need.”
“My house isn’t big enough. When I get a new place, I’ll start having people over.”
You would be amazed what God can accomplish through you and your humble means.
The God we serve defeated a battle-hardened giant through the faith of a young man. He used a Hebrew prisoner to save the mighty nation of Egypt from famine. He used a simple offering of five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand men (and there were leftovers!). Our Almighty God sent His Son to earth with no money, no prominence, no earthly commendation, and He turned the world upside down.
God doesn’t need your imaginary resources. God can use the humblest of means to accomplish the greatest of ends.
Our “horses” are tired
The battle of Antietam was fought September 17, 1862. McClellan was reluctant to pursue the confederates, and as part of his excuse (dated October 25, 1862) McClellan stated: “the horses are absolutely broken down from fatigue and want of flesh.”
A frustrated Lincoln replied, “Will you pardon me for asking what the horses of your army have done since the battle of Antietam that fatigues anything?”
Soon after this string of excuses of and failures to act, McClellan was relieved of duty.
I think I say, “I’m tired” at least eight days a week. How about you?
We can use this blanket excuse for almost anything. Like all excuses, there are times when this is a legitimate problem. Even Moses and Elijah got tired and discouraged at times.
We’re human. We get tired.
Will we allow our exhaustion to prevent us from serving the Lord? Or will we, like Moses and Elijah, take our weariness to God? He always provides the refreshing we need to carry on.
What excuses have I been making?
My excuses often fall along the lines of fearing rejection, introversion, exhaustion, or busyness.
Let’s resolve to stop making excuses and start taking action.
Don’t be a McClellan, be a Grant.
General Grant had fewer resources than McClellan. He didn’t waste time making excuses about what problems he had or what resources he didn’t; he made the best of his situation and fought fiercely against the enemy. He did not need to partake in shameless self-promotion; his successes spoke for him. President Lincoln, impressed with Grant’s tenacity, promoted Grant to Lieutenant General—a rank previously held only by George Washington. As we know, due to Grant’s persistence and the efforts of the generals and men with him, the war was eventually won.
“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” – General Grant
As Murrow said, in the above quote, “Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.” No difficulty is so great that our Lord cannot help us overcome. If we set out to serve Him and glorify Him, He can move the mountain or help us climb it. He can part the waters or give us a boat.
God’s Word will accomplish His purpose. Will we choose to be part of His victory?