“Seek first the kingdom of heaven and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” My mother quoted these words from the Gospel of Matthew to me often as I would worry and struggle through school. I often would ask myself if I was worthy enough to be there preparing for the priesthood, and if what I was doing was worth the heartache and pain I felt. I would sometimes look at my situation and think up excuses of why I should not go on and say: “I am tired and burnt out of this; I am going to pack it up and move back home.” My mom would tell me those familiar words that I think about often: My son, “seek first the kingdom of heaven and His Righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.”
As I struggled, I remembered some of those men in the scriptures that made excuses of why they could not heed the call of God.I looked at those men because they said some of the same things I did and still do. Moses protested, “Who am I that I should go to the pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to you servant, but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Gideon from the Book of Judges, “But, sir, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” Finally, Jeremiah said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
Then I turned to the Gospel of Luke and there was a story of some men that Jesus encountered on the road as he made His way toward Jerusalem in which He had dialogue with. Jesus said to one of them “Follow me” and he replied to Jesus “First let me go and bury my father”, and then the next said “I will follow you Lord, but let me first go and say farewell to those at my home.” Each made excuses. How many times do we get called by God and the precursor to His request is with the preposition "but"?
How many of us were called to school to serve His church and when we received the call said “Lord, I cannot go, I have a great job.” When he says, “Follow me” we reply I am too old, I am not smart enough, and I am not worthy of this task. I, I, I, but, but, but.
As I look back now, when Christ called me, I struggled with my calling for many years. I am just a small country boy, my town has a fraction for a zip code and I like being able to make it to the grocery store in less than 5 minutes. The city will never fully agree with me, there are way too many people. I was never that good in grade school and I didn’t think I would be able to make it. My family and I aren’t rich and I really couldn’t afford it. I was afraid of it all.
We all have made excuses and try to bargain our lives with God. Being a servant to God is a sacrifice and a life of saying good-byes to the old and hello to the new and when the feelings of overwhelming depression and doubt begin to set in, I sometimes tell myself I really don’t think I can go on.
How many stories I have heard telling me excuses why they cannot come to school. How many excuses have I heard telling me about depression, money, family and a whole array of things that could lead us away from our goal of serving the church in the capacity that God sees for us?
Excuses can always be found where ever you look. Look hard enough and fault will be found against the smallest of things. We can always find reasons to give up.
“Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
How about those men I mentioned earlier? Moses was blessed and given Aaron, his brother, to aid him in his weakness. Through Moses and Aaron, the people of Israel where delivered from their bondage in Egypt.
Through Gideon, God used him to bring Israel victory over innumerable odds making him one of the scriptures mightiest warriors. Then Jeremiah was used to bring God’s message to the people of Israel to give them a chance to change their hearts.
Then the men that Jesus spoke to, he replied to the first to “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Whether the father was dead or not Jesus’ call is unequivocal. The ones who are spiritually dead can go ahead and bury the physically dead, but the ones that have the light of spiritual life within them have the responsibility to the ones who are still alive to bring the Good News to them.
Finally, to the last man Jesus said that, “No one putting His hand on the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Even through most of us have never plowed a field with a horse drawn plow, Jesus’ words still hold true. The man who walked behind the plow had to keep his eyes fixed ahead of him so that he would not swerve and make uneven rows. Similarly, think of driving down the road. You need to keep your eyes on the road, because if you don’t you could swerve into the other lane and cause a crash.
Each of these people we were called to the service of God, each made excuses, but nonetheless God had used of them in one way or the other to glorify Himself. Keeping your eyes on the goal is what is needed to make it in this life. “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.”
All of us who came to school, afraid of change, afraid of being alone, afraid of the unknown, we were given gifts of abundance. God did for us as he did for Moses and gave us the gift of our fellow students to help us through the hard times.
Each of us has gifts that God granted us and each of us shares those gifts with the rest of the people. We were all called by God in one way or the other and even when we make excuses God still loves us and uses us in His service of His people. He wants us out of the bondage of sin and He uses us to bring His message to the people. He uses us to wage war against the innumerable enemy army of a world of sin and temptation that we face everyday and lets us have victory through His Church.
When we are seeking the Kingdom, most often that means that we must go down an unfamiliar road full of unknown twists and turns and the obstacles that could come up makes us fret about the “what’s going to happen” part of us. This is the side of us that makes us come up with excuses of why we should not continue down the road. This is the part that we often confront, especially as Christians.
But, there is good news.
Even when we make excuses…He calls us still.
I want to share with you one final example of one of my Hero’s that is still alive today, a hero that I think of when I begin to make excuses. As they spit in His face and accused Him falsely, He made no excuses. As He carried His cross to the hill they called the skull, He made no excuses. As He hung on the cross- still no excuses. Our Lord and Savior made no excuses, even as He was dying on the cross. He followed His own words as He always did. He sought first the Kingdom of Heaven and His righteousness, and all those things he promised, was given to us.
What awaits us as we are lead to our cross?
The gift of the resurrection with no excuses.