Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Ministries, urged Christians to stop making excuses, explaining that many professing believers construct a “paper wall”— often fueled by fear or insecurity — that holds them back from living a God-glorifying life.
In a sermon on Sunday, the Atlanta-based pastor encouraged his audience to leave “excuses” in the past, stressing that there is a “fine line between a reason and an excuse” — and “one always disguises itself as the other.”
“From a distance, an excuse looks like an actual reason,” he said. “Excuses get passed off as reasons, and excuses easily become, in the real world, ‘becauses,’ because all of us have some ‘becauses’ that we habitually hide behind when certain things come up.”
Though it’s easy to pinpoint the flaws of others, the pastor challenged listeners to examine their own hearts.
“What if we just quit disguising our excuses as reasons?” he asked. “What if we acknowledge, ‘This isn’t real. I’ve just made this up.’”
He asked his audience: “Is it possible you have created a paper wall or an excuse for why you procrastinate about certain things, why you neglect certain things, why you avoid certain things? Is it possible you created a paper wall for why you avoid certain kinds of people, certain people, events, circumstances, opportunities?”
When Stanley was in high school, he tried out for sports teams and never made any teams. As a result of that experience, he said, he harbored an internal resentment for athletes throughout his academic career.
“I was a failed high school athlete. … And I loved sports, but I just wasn’t good enough,” Stanley shared. “I just didn’t like athletes. … Because I wanted to be one and I failed. I couldn’t be what I wanted. It’s easier not to like them than to admit something about me.”
“Are there types of people you just don’t like?” he asked. “Rich people, pretty people, people who graduated, people who didn’t graduate, college grads? Are there whole categories of people you don’t like? You should pay attention to that because you think it’s them. It’s not. It’s you.”
After he started his ministry, Stanley recalled being asked to preach at different sports franchises, college sports events and NFL games. But because of his insecurity surrounding his athletic ability, the pastor said he’d often decline such opportunities.
Though his fellow pastors thought he was being “humble,” Stanely said he can see now that “it was just an excuse.”
“I was just intimidated,” he said. “I was just uncomfortable.”
At the root of an excuse is “blaming something internal on something external,” the pastor contended.
“Something is wrong with me, but it’s so hard to look in the mirror, so I decide it’s not me, it’s something out there,” he stated. “The the moment I decide it’s something out there … I begin constructing a wall. And I think I’m protecting myself. I’m actually hemming myself in and keeping myself out of opportunities … and maybe better relationships because of something I won’t admit.”
It wasn’t until Stanley’s own sons began playing sports and he was asked to coach their teams that the pastor realized just how much he was letting his fear hold him back.
“And when I look back on the pictures and when I drive by those baseball parks, it is still emotional because of the joy to be with my sons, to learn. That season is one of the greatest seasons of my life. And I’m telling you, I almost missed it,” he shared.
The Deep Wide author said everyone has excuses or paper walls — but no one knows what’s on the other side of them.
“Is it possible you’re missing out because you’ve walled yourself in?” he asked listeners. “Is it possible that a ‘because’ is actually an excuse?”
An excuse, he said, can become a “king,” while “excuses” can become a “board of directors.”
“Do you want excuses to be the boss of you?” he asked. “You don’t want excuses to be the boss of you. You don’t want to get to the end of your life and look back and think, ‘Good grief. I spent my whole life behind the stupid wall that was nothing other than something I made up based on what somebody told me, something I believed, something I heard, something I read.”
Throughout Scripture, Christians are encouraged to continue following Jesus despite challenges or reasons, and “throw off anything that hinders” to stay in the race of life (Hebrews 12:1).
“An excuse is really just a lie we tell ourselves about ourselves,” Stanley said. “You may owe yourself an apology.”
People who make excuses, he posited, rarely make much of a difference.
“People who live behind paper walls and make excuses ... rarely make much of a difference because paper walls keep you and keep me from being engaged. ... They rob you and they rob others,” he said. “Excuses are often selfishness disguised as humility.”
The pastor correlated a person’s ability to follow Jesus with their willingness to push through their paper walls and acknowledge that their reasons are often just excuses.
“If you really decide to follow Jesus, Jesus will lead you through these. Jesus will expose those. If you follow Jesus, you will eventually have to stop manufacturing excuses because you’ll eventually have to stop lying to the people around you and lying to yourself,” he emphasized
“Our excuses compete for lordship of our lives, and an excuse can become your king,” he declared. “An excuse can become your master. An excuse can become your boss. … Excuses tell you what you can’t do.”
Excuses make us “small” and “self-centered,” the pastor reminded. He urged listeners to “close down the excuse factory,” adding: “If you choose to leave them behind, your family will be better off, or your future family would be better off.”
“If we all decide to leave them behind, the world would be a better place because we will be free to follow our Savior instead of saying, ‘No.’”