Excuse Making and Pillar Building

A Blog Series on the Book of Revelation, Chapter 3:7-13

Part 7 (3:1-6)  ΑΩ  Part 9 (3:14-22) →

How good are you at coming up with excuses?

Man… I’m pretty good. It’s frustrating to me how easy it is for me to come up with clever reasons for not doing what I should be doing—at least in some areas of life.

I’m not an excuse maker at work. I work hard, do the job, take responsibility when I’ve gotten something wrong, and ask for feedback on how I can do even better. I’m not an excuse maker when it comes to my family. I love strongly, discipline firmly and fairly, invest time and thought, I’m intentional in discipleship, and when I screw up, I seek forgiveness—even from a 6- and 4-year-old who don’t even fully understand why Daddy is apologizing and asking forgiveness from them for forgetting to lead family devotions this week.

But I tend to be pretty good at coming up with excuses for ignoring the voice of the Spirit. Especially when he’s prompting me to do something that transgresses social norms—the customary rules of a civil society. Too often I don’t do things that might “weird people out.” Like asking a client how I can pray for him and his wife because she’s having surgery (“Not professional”). Or sharing the story of Jesus with a stranger working on her laptop at Caribou (“She looks busy”). Or… I mean, you know, right? Social norms and civil codes too often make us ignore the quiet voice we know to be God’s own, prompting us to live out his design for our lives—the only design that really matters.

It’s why I need to hear God’s words to the church at Philadelphia over and over again. Excuses couldn’t have been easier to come by than for the believers at the church in Philly. They’re being opposed by a dominant, vocal, well-established Jewish population who have favor with the powers-that-be and who try to sabotage their work at every turn. These are Jewish opponents of followers of the Jewish messiah. What could be more discouraging? It reminds me of the way whistle-blowers in large companies often get treated. They try to tell the truth and do the right thing, and their own company eats them alive. So, would-be whistle-blowers often don’t blow the whistle. They just quit. Better to keep your head down and move on to something else.

It would have been very easy and very tempting for the believers in Philadelphia to do the same. Worship Jesus in private. Keep to yourself. Keep your head down. Meet in secret. Don’t “weird anyone out.” Don’t break social norms. Be excited about Jesus. That’s fine. Just keep it to yourself. Keep it in church. Keep the fire in the fireplace.

But God, the Cosmic Interferer, says to them: “I’ve opened the doors for ministry for you. All of them. We’re going to set the world on fire. Ready?”

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know you have little strength…” (Rev. 3:7-8)

Jesus isn’t refusing to acknowledge the challenges. He isn’t looking through rose-colored glasses and imagining that it will be easy. He knows we’re tired. He knows there’s lots of excuses. He’s simply saying, “I’ve done the hard work. I’ve placed open doors for ministry all around you. Walk through them. I’ll be there. I’ll help you. Ready?”

And the privilege we receive for walking through these doors and living as his followers is the gift of being “pillars in the temple of my God” (v. 12). The temple of God is the church—not the church building, but all believers everywhere. He’s calling us to be pillars.

A pillar. I don’t want to be a brick. I don’t want to be a bit of mortar. I don’t want to be part of some decorative facade or something else that looks nice, but doesn’t matter much to the temple itself.

God, make me a pillar.

May I quit with the convenient excuses. May I overturn the social norms like so many table of money changers.

God, make me a pillar.

May I stop typing and talk to this girl with the laptop who needs to know Jesus. May I call that client back and see how I can pray for him.

God, make me a pillar.

May I listen willingly and earnestly to your Spirit, go where he points, and do what he says.

God, make me a pillar.

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