Yes, I’m a pastor, and I’ve heard them all. The excuses, I mean. Excuses as to why church members can’t come to church. Excuses as to why they are unable to serve in a church ministry or fill a church office. What it all comes down to is this: many professing Christians find every excuse possible as to why they can’t be involved in the Lord’s work in a consistent and committed way. Granted, discipleship is costly, but they’re unwilling to pay the price. Yes, I think I’ve heard them all, but so did the Lord Jesus during His earthly ministry. I refer to Luke 9:57-62. There we find three basic excuses for refusing to follow Jesus at the point when He calls.
First, “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’” (vv. 57-58). Interesting, isn’t it? This man sees the crowds and senses the excitement surrounding Jesus, and actually volunteers to follow Him, but our Lord responds by saying, “you have no idea what you’re volunteering for, you haven’t counted the cost. Come with Me, and I can guarantee you nothing by way of life’s conveniences and comfort; I can promise only hardship.” And so there’s no indication that the man followed Him. There are many in our churches just like this—eager to get involved until they find out what following Jesus really costs. That’s when they back away.
Then there’s the second man. “And He said to another, ‘Follow Me.’ But he said, ‘Permit me first to go and bury my father’” (vv. 59-60). Now there’s no indication that his father had just died or was about to die. Rather, this man is saying that he cannot follow Jesus until he is unencumbered by family responsibilities. Family first, discipleship second. There are many people in our churches with this attitude. Virtually every kind of family activity comes before the Lord and His work. Besides, the man’s tone—“permit me first”—would seem to indicate that he was setting the terms of discipleship and that he was quite sure Jesus that would understand!
Finally, we see the third man. “And another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’” (vv. 61-62). Like the first man, here’s another volunteer; and like the second, he is bold enough to set the terms of his discipleship. Here are those words again, “but first permit me.” Here is a potential discipled, ready to serve, but not yet ready to separate. Again, it’s family that has a grip on him, and he can’t just walk away from them, can he? But didn’t the Lord Jesus say, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:37)? How many believers know that at some point they were called to the ministry or to foreign missions, but failed to go because they couldn’t break the family ties? Jesus said, “. . . he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt 10:38). And note too that real discipleship does not tolerate quitters. To put one’s hand to the plow and turn back is to refuse the cost of obedience.
We need to learn, therefore, that when it comes to discipleship, we do not call the shots. Our Lord sets the terms, and when He calls, we must be ready to respond, never on our own terms, but always on His. We must be ready to give up whatever is necessary in order to follow Jesus—the plans we have made, the possessions we cherish, and even the people we love. It is precisely this willingness that proves whether or not we really have faith.
Have you heard the Master’s call in your life? Have you responded in total commitment? Or are you still unwilling to pay the price of discipleship? Now is the time to take that critical step of obedience! No more excuses!