By Dan King
Many people today are guilty of the sin which the author of the Hebrew epistle condemns his readers for in 10:25 of his letter. He writes: “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing night.” Many of those people to whom he addressed himself were drawn back to Jewish ways and Jewish things, and so came to place a low value upon worship with other Christians. Clearly this is the case with many folks today; not that they are drawn back to Judaism, but that they place a low value upon worhsip activities because they place a high value upon things which are worldly and temporal, and yet have no long-term spiritual worth.
Now, when we begin to ask ourselves why we are neglecting the growth of our souls and the worship of our God, we have a list of excuses a mile long. But excuses are just that: attempts at justifying ourselves and exempting us from duty. The Lord must surely see these excuses like the wife did in a story I heard recently. It seems that a certain fellow was a prominent member of a gentleman’s club. At the breakfast table he was relating to his wife an incident that occurred at the club the previous evening. The president of the organization had offered a silk hat to the brother who could stand up and truthfully say that during his married life he had never kissed any woman but his own wife. “And, would you believe it Helen? – not a one stood up.” “Harry,” his wife said, “why didn’t you stand up?” “Well,” he replied, “I was going to, but I knew I would look awful in a silk hat.” Pretty lame, wouldn’t you agree? But if you want to hear a few lame excuses, listen to some of these:
1. I Just Don’t Feel Good On Sunday. Someone has dubbed this ailment “Sunday morbitis,” since it only seems to strike on Sundays. It is a disease which has many different symptoms and only a few similarities. For example, people who are stricken by it always seem to improve on Sunday night so that by Monday morning they can go back to work and not lose any part of their paycheck. Too, you will see them out shopping and present at all social occasions by Monday.
2. I Had Important Things To Do On Sunday. Wonder how that one sounds to God? IT most certainly puts him and his kingdom down the list from where it ought to be (see Matt. 6:33). Was it really more important than being with the people of God and learning about the Son of God?
3. I Just Don’t Enjoy Worship Enough To Go Regularly. This sounds more like a self-indictment than an excuse! Of course, all of our likes and dislikes and based upon developed tastes. The right attitude is critical to enjoying anything. Do you come to worship for the right reason? Do you come to be entertained, or to worship and serve your Creator? If you come for entertainment, you are there for the wrong reason! If you come to be coddled or catered to, you are there for the wrong reason! God’s people sang his praises and glorified his Name in the sewers and labyrinths beneath ancient Rome, and did so at the risk of persecution and death! Whereas today we must listen to complaints about minor little problems: the temperature in the building, the seats are too hard, the song leader didn’t pitch the song correctly, the preacher preached too long, the people were unfriendly (friendliness starts with ME), etc. “I didn’t get anything out of that service,” should be answered with the question, “Did you put anything into it?” If we would take the attitude of David, we would most assuredly enjoy the worship: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go up to the House of the Lord” (Psa. 122:1).
4. Once A Week Is Enough. If you will read again Hebrews 10:25, you will find that it does not refer to a single assembly, but to “assembling.” Early Christians at times met every day (similar to what we do during a gospel meeting or special series of lessons). “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching. . . ” (Acts 2:42); and, “Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple . . . (Acts 2:46). Every child of God who was not hindered by sickness was expected at all the assemblies: “To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17). Brethren have generally found that most everyone can fit in the three services per week that congregations provide. Of course, work obligations limit us in some instances, but, in reality, there are few times when we absolutely must miss even one of these few hours of the week for worship. If one went to all four hours of study and worship provided by the local church, it would take up only 4 out of 168 total hours in the week. Surely we can spare that much time for the Savior who bore the cross to Calvary for us!
5. I’m Only Hurting Myself. Now, there is where you are wrong. A poor example hurts everyone around him or her. It hurts a spouse, who is thereby weakened in faith and resolve to do right. It hurts the children, who are set on the wrong path in life by the patterns we are now putting before them. It hurts relatives and neighbors and friends who see our model and receive encouragement for their own indifference and apathy. We never hurt only ourselves! Jesus said: “Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). What kind of light are you shining before the world?
6. One Of These Days I’m Going To Get Started Being Faithful. I heard the story once of a boy, the son of a negligent church member, who was bitten by a rattlesnake. He called the preacher to come over and pray for him. When he showed up, Sam was shocked to hear the preacher pray as follows: “Dear Lord, please send more and bigger snakes to bite Jim, and Pete, and the old man too!” What we all need is “more and bigger” of whatever it takes to shake us out of our lethargy. God does not guarantee that we will have a tomorrow to start being what we need to be and doing what we need to do. “Today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). God wants us faithful all the time so that we will befoundfaithful at the end of time (Rev. 2:10)! Now is the time to get started on the road to faithfulness!
Stop making lame-sounding excuses that are aimed at “excusing us from duty.” If they sound ridiculous to others, then they no doubt sound so to God who knows the hearts of men. Stop playing games with your soul. Heaven is too wonderful to miss, and Hell too horrible to hit! And, please be assured dear reader, the Judge of all the earth knows the difference between a reason and an excuse. If you don’t believe it, read Luke 14:16-21.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 5, pp. 142-143
March 5, 1992