Own Your Life and Give Up Your Excuses

Kyle Maynard’s Story

Kyle Maynard wrestled in high school and in college for the Georgia Bulldogs. He set records in weightlifting, fought in mixed martial arts, and ascended to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. These would be amazing feats for anyone to achieve but they are more amazing when you consider Kyle Maynard’s physical condition: he was born with a condition known as congenital amputation. Most of his arms and legs were not there at birth.

According to his biography, his parents told him that the world would not be designed to meet his needs so he would have to find ways to adapt to how the world works. “With basically two elbows he can type up to fifty words per minute on a normal keyboard, eat and write without any adaptations, drive a vehicle that has little modification, and live on his own in a three-story townhouse in Atlanta, GA.” He can feed himself, shave, and otherwise take care of himself.kylemaynard

He had many challenges: he lost every wrestling match for most of the two years he competed but with an iron will and parents who supported him he won 36 varsity matches, defeated several state champions, and bench pressed 240 pounds 23 times and, with leather straps and chains, lifted 420 lbs. “In April of 2009, Kyle became the first quadruple amputee to step into the cage and compete as an amateur mixed martial arts fighter. Kyle’s focus is on grappling and ground fighting — he’s currently in his 7th year studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and now training with Renzo Gracie black belt Paul Creighton.”

The reason that Kyle had such success is that he took responsibility for his life instead of giving up because of his physical condition.

Taking responsibility means giving up your excuses

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus told the Parable of the Talents. The master was going away and entrusted his servants with various sums of money and expected them to use that money to make more money for him. The master had different expectations for each man but expected all to prosper. He rewarded or punished the men based on how they used the talents. When the master returned, two of the servants had some success but one failed prosper. He thought he was playing it safe but the master was angry and punished him for being a wicked and useless servant.

This is a parable of judgment. The issue is not taking care of money but using what God has given us to His glory. God will judge us on how we use or waste our lives and the blessings He has given. Two men made a choice; one made an excuse.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God, Romans 14:12

What is “responsibility”?

There are many definitions available. For our purposes, one could define responsibility as:

  1. The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control overs someone or something
  2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something
  3. The opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization

Responsibility means trust is placed in an individual with expectation that they will fulfill their obligations without being told or threatened, accepting the good and bad consequences of their actions, and running to responsibilities instead of hiding from them.

Accepting responsibility is the essence of being mature

God has given us free will – the right to choose our course of life. We are not robots who follow a predetermined program. He does not force us to do His will or refrain from sin. Like the servants in the parable of the talents, we are given great freedom in what we choose to do with what God has given us. We are stewards of the life God has given us and He will hold us accountable for our actions or failure to act. God has given us control over how we live our lives.

I remember when I got the keys to my first car. The keys meant I had the freedom to go where I wanted when I wanted. I didn’t have to depend on anyone for a ride and I could go on dates. I was also responsible for paying for gas to fuel my freedom. I had to wash and clean it if I wanted it to look nice: no one did it for me. I was also accountable for the safety of myself and my passengers. One night I almost killed myself and two girls by being stupid behind the wheel. When I was given the keys to the car I was given freedom, responsibility, and accountability.

God has given us the keys to our life and with them freedom, responsibility, and accountability for how we use our lives. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16 -17 that God’s word fully equips us for EVERY good work so we can’t blame God for not telling us what to do.

One of the most sobering passages of scripture is Romans 14:12: “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” We will have to answer to God for how we lived our life: the choices we made and the things that we failed to do. 2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” Our parents don’t answer for us. The preacher or elders don’t answer for us. We cannot blame or credit anyone else for how we have lived. We receive reward or punishment based on what we have done.

Some people fail to accept responsibility for their lives. Some churches filled with people who are spiritually weak and biblically ignorant having given no serious effort to their spiritual growth. Churches need spiritually strong Christians grounded in God’s word to live faithful holy lives and to serve God and others. In some churches a few are willing to step up and work and learn new responsibilities but they are surrounded by irresponsible people who are willing to let others work and do not challenge themselves to godly service.

Some people won’t grow up. Most kids know the story of Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up, only wanted to play, and escaped from the real world to keep up his immature life. Far from being discouraged in our society, our emphasis on professional play, entertainment, and sexual promiscuity encourage a long period of irresponsibility. Some boys and girls do not want to leave play time to transition into the society of responsible men and women. I shocked a person who wondered why video games are intense and had language and other mature characteristics when I told her that video games weren’t made for kids, the biggest users are young adult men. I’m not condemning the playing of games because alcohol, laziness, non-electronic hobbies, etc. can limit a young person’s growth or lead people to perpetual adolescence. Though talking about spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 13:11 tells us there is a time to put away the childish things and accept responsibility.

Instead of seeking responsibility, some are passively avoiding it. They let others do the work. They wait for others to direct them to work. We have a lot of boys running around in men’s bodies who will not do hard work, want others to do things for them instead of serving others, seek entertainment and comfort instead of embracing the mature satisfaction of rising to the challenges of life. Proverbs 10:5 reminds us “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.”

Help others with their burden

Opportunity plus ability equals responsibilityThe Christian must rise to action to serve God, not hide or wait for others to work, but must seek opportunities to serve and rise to the task. John, in 1 John 3:16, describes a brother in need who requires an open heart and active hands to help him. Faced with this situation, the Christian should act if they can help. No one has to tell you to act: the situation calls you to action. When we encounter an opportunity to help, and we can help, then are responsible to act.

Be honest about your ability. You may not have the cash but can you use your time and energy to help the situation? Maybe the need isn’t financial, perhaps someone needs a friend, sympathetic ear, or word of encouragement.

Bear your own burden

We can help other people carry their burdens but everyone is responsible to carry their own burdens, Galatians 6:1-5. Some people will let you carry all of their burdens: do their work, make lots of demands on your time, etc. They might try to make you feel guilty for not doing more but remember they are responsible for their own lives.

Many years ago I spent several hours at the house of a husband and wife with marital problems AND problems raising their kids. I gave them some practical things to do to help in both situations. A couple of weeks later they called during the middle of some family time saying, “You need to come over here. We’re having problems.” I asked if they had followed the advice I gave earlier. They said “no.” I told them to discuss these things because I wasn’t going to come over repeat the advice they ignored. I didn’t feel guilty because they had ignored my help before. I would have sacrificed precious time with my family because these people were making poor decisions in their family and until they made different choices they would continue to have the bad consequences.

Conclusion

We have so many opportunities to let God’s light shine through us but we have to look for opportunities and act without being asked. Living this life will enrich your life and the lives of others and glorify your God.

Don’t Talk Your Dreams To Death

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

“In all toil (labor) there is profit”
Diligent work always leads to some result or profit of benefit to the worker. Most work is neither easy nor fun but it does pay the bills and provides money for doing good and having fun. Even if you have a job you enjoy, there will be  unpleasant duties. People who love to garden still must get dirty, sweaty, and dig through the soil if they want to have the flowers or produce of the garden.

“Mere talk leads to poverty”
In contrast to diligent labor, talk without action leads to poverty. Idle talking does not pay and has gotten some people fired. Grandiose plans and slick presentations may impress others but it does not pay one cent if no labor is expended to make the dream a reality.

The first obvious application—indeed the natural application—of this verse is to the business world. In the early days of personal computers —before the average person could access the Internet—a man I knew had great plans to work with realtors to put pictures of houses for sale on videodisc (pre-DVD) with sale information for agents and customers. He had a prototype system, good marketing plan, and enthusiastic presentation. He talked with people in the office about his plans and the unlimited potential for profits. One problem: he did not have customers or profit from the work because he did not get out and talk to the customers who needed the system. In short, he planned and talked his way to poverty while other people, through hard work, were able to profit from similar ideas.

The world is made up of  poor creative geniuses and  rich people of average intelligence. The difference is not what they know but by what they do.

This principle is especially important for spiritual growth. Is your spiritual life the product of hard work or mere talk?

Some people talk about “getting their life right” or “straightening up” but still hang out with ungodly friends, feed their minds with filth, and do not change. Some say they want to pray or study more—and do so year after year. Some talk about doing more things with their brethren, helping the sick or needy, or getting involved with some work in the church but do not act.

Some people realize their life is displeasing to God, is yielding undesirable consequences, and is unsatisfying so they change their behavior. Some want a closer relationship with God and execute a plan to study and pray more frequently. Some take action to involve themselves with their brethren so they can have richer and deeper fellowship with other Christians.

If you want to have a rich and meaninful spiritual life, you’ll have to work for it.

  • Romans 13:11-14 – Awake and get busy
  • Thessalonians 5:4-8 – get busy with good things
  • Ephesians 5:14-17 – wake up and make good use of your time

 “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” Proverbs 28:19 (NIV)

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” How sad it will be for those who dreamed of a close relationship with God and their brethren, a close loving family, and a meaningful life’s work to fail because they only dreamed and did not act.

All My Lame Excuses (and 5 ways to get rid of them)

Excuse. Sounds like a reasonable word. Acceptable. Perhaps even respectable. The word “excuse” describes a plea or request to be released from a promise or obligation or an appeal for forgiveness for failing to meet an agreement. So an excuse is something I offer when I’m not doing what I should be doing, failing to keep a promise, or as part of an apology for not doing what I said I would do. Excuses sound fine to a rationalizing mind but under the harsh light of the truth, they look pretty weak and ugly.

How many excuses do you generate in a day and for what?

  • Do you make excuses at school for why you didn’t have an assigment or do well on a test?
  • Do you make excuses to the coach or teacher for why you didn’t give 100% or perform well?
  • Do you make excuses to your parents for why you didn’t do your chores?
  • Do you make excuses to God for why you can’t study your Bible or spend time with Him in prayer?
  • Do you make excuses to yourself for why you didn’t stay on the exercise program, diet, or daily practice?

See, we even make excuses to ourselves…AND BELIEVE THEM! The better approach is just to admit that we gave up, didn’t give our best, got distracted, or whatever, then apologize and fulfill our commitment.

If we continue to offer excuses people will learn not to trust us. If we keep giving ourselves excuses, we limit and cripple ourselves and will eventually expect less of ourselves. As Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

5 Ways to Eliminate excuses

  1. Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. You have a right to refuse anyone’s request for a favor and still be a good person. Recognize that the person might be disappointed but they would rather get an honest “no” from you and find someone else to fulfill their request than to get a “yes” then endure the frustration when you don’t keep your word. Jesus said to let your “yes” be “yes” and “no” be “no” and that anything beyond that was evil, Matthew 5:37.
  2. Keep your commitments and promises. It is good to make good promises and some commitments. If you have given your word, make haste to fulfill the obligation. You will preserve your integrity and the trust of others. Keeping your commitments strengthens the “no” that you must give for people learn that they can depend on your “yes” and “no”. As Elbert Hubbard, American writer, said, “Don’t make excuses–make good.”
  3. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasguest/5061459807/sizes/s/in/photostream/
    By Thomas Guest via Flickr (Creative Commons)
  4. Eat the toad. Excuses often follow procrastination. You agree to something, put it off telling yourself that you will get around to the task (excuse to yourself), then finally abandon the task and generate an excuse. If you absolutely had to eat a live toad every day when should you do it? First thing in the morning of course! You do it, get it out of the way, and you don’t have to dread it, put it off, brood over it, or kick yourself for not doing it. Don’t make an excuse–eat the toad, get it over with, and go on with your life.
  5. Embrace a “no excuses” policy. I used to keep a sign with what I understand is the motto of the British Foreign Office: “Never excuse. Never explain. Never complain.” If you are doing what you supposed to be doing, you should not have to explain or excuse your actions. If you commit to not giving excuses you have to commit to keeping your word. Remember that excuses weakens, execution strengthens.
  6. Practice at home. Decide that you will not offer any more excuses to your parents or God. You will “obey them in the Lord for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). Strive for completion of your promises and obligations.If you fail, give them a straightforward apology and ask what you can do to correct the situation: no excuses or reasons for failure then strive to do better in the future. Don’t offer God lame excuses for not praying, studying, or doing other work in service to Him. Admit your failures, ask His forgiveness, then make specific plans for how you can fulfill these expectations (which ultimately are for your good anyway!)

This Nike commercial might inspire you to give up your excuses today.