Overcoming 5 Excuses for "Why I Can Not"

Overcoming Five Excuses for
“Why I Can Not”

“Never say that you can’t do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can’t be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds...Never be a victim of life; be it’s conqueror.”
Mike Norton

“The attitude of I can’t is really a decision of I won’t.”
Craig D. Lounsbrough

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
John Wooden

“Instead of giving myself reasons why I can’t, I give myself reasons why I can.”
Unknown

“The only limits to the possibilities in your life tomorrow are the buts you use today.”
Les Brown
We all have things we feel unqualified, unable, or unwilling to do. When we think a task is too difficult, time-consuming, or outside our comfort zone, “I can not” excuses flood our minds. God, however, often calls us to walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), moving forward in His work despite feeling ill-equipped on our own. In Exodus 3, Moses provides at least five “I can not” excuses when God calls him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. As we examine Moses’ reasoning and how God equips him for success, valuable principles emerge for tackling our own reluctance. By leaning on divine empowerment, we also can move past these limitations that hold many people back from being used powerfully by God.

Excuse 1: Unimportant—Holding no Significance
Moses was doing his ordinary job of shepherding when God abruptly called him to liberate the Israelites from slavery. Moses wondered, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11, ESV). He, in essence asked, “God, could you not find someone more qualified and important?” When opportunities arise to serve God, we may minimize them also, thinking, “This ministry or prayer meeting is not essential” or “Someone more talented can do this.” However, we all have a role, big or small, to play. Paul reminds even those with less visible gifts that they “are indispensable” in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:22). God calls ordinary people to do extraordinary things by His strength (Judges 6:15-16). Moses felt unimportant for the task God gave him. But God reassures Moses that it is by His power, not Moses’ own, that he will succeed: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). As believers, our significance comes not from anything in us but from God’s presence and being called and equipped by Him for His work (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

Excuse 2: Uninformed—Lacking Knowledge
After calling Moses to lead His people from slavery, Moses asks God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13, ESV). Moses, in essence, says, “God, I do not know enough about You to represent You adequately in this role.” As we follow God’s promptings, we may also feel unprepared about what comes next. However, He promises wisdom to those who ask in faith (James 1:5-6). We need not have everything figured out to say “yes” and take the next step. As we walk forward in obedience, He reveals specifics and teaches us what we require for the task (Psalm 32:8). Though Moses felt unqualified, God equips those He calls, and revealing one of His most personal names to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14).

Excuse 3: Unconvincing—Lacking Credibility
Despite God’s assurance that He would be with Moses and would equip him as needed, Moses was still unconvinced, offering his third excuse: The people would not believe his account of the Lord’s appearance and call (Exodus 4:1). Essentially, Moses says, “I lack the credibility and authority in the eyes of the Israelites to compel them to follow me and undertake this monumental task you have set before me.” He worried that relaying God’s commission would be met with rejection, with the Israelites challenging him with skepticism. Insecure in his authority, Moses believed his lack of credibility rendered him unable to compel Israel to action. God’s commitment that the elders would accept his leadership in Exodus 3:18 seemed forgotten, overshadowed by Moses’ crisis of confidence. Rather than trust God’s guarantee, Moses fixated on presumed incredulity as a shield against his calling, and his hollow faith crippled acceptance of his vital role.

Excuse 4: Unskilled—Not Capable
Though God assured Moses of His presence, equipping, and authority, Moses hesitated, claiming “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent [from root dabar: speech, word], either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow [kabed: heavy; a burden; dull; oppressing; difficult; weighty; dull, unresponsive; thick] of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10, ESV). In Exodus 6, Moses twice tells the Lord, “I am of uncircumcised lips” (verses 12 & 30, ESV). While some scholars interpret “eloquent,” “slow of speech,” and “uncircumcised lips” as a reference to stuttering, these phrases could have other explanations. Nowhere else in the Bible is Moses described as unable to speak well, and his articulation in confronting Pharaoh and speeches certainly suggests otherwise. Moses’ hesitation may have stemmed from not being raised a Jew. Instead, the daughter of Pharaoh raised Moses in Pharaoh’s household in uncircumcised, gentile ways. Alternatively, he may have felt a lack of confidence in his ability to convince people without the standing of an Israelite elder. Whatever the exact meaning, Acts 7:22 (ESV) notes, “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.” Therefore, it is far more likely that Moses offered merely another excuse to avoid his calling, employing claimed inadequacy of speech to evade God’s purpose. Moses essentially argues, “I am not capable of this position.” Moses may have felt unqualified to address anyone, whether Pharaoh or the Israelite elders, but God reminds him it is divine strength and not human eloquence that enables His accomplished work (Exodus 4:11, cf Zechariah 4:6). Similarly, we should not limit what God may achieve through willing hearts (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) because He calls the unequipped to develop courage, faith, and reliance on Him. As Scripture says, God intentionally chooses the foolish or weak to shame the strong for His power to shine through us (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). Fear of failure often fuels the “I am not skilled enough” excuse. But we can have confidence that God equips those He calls. When David faced Goliath, he testified, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37, ESV). God builds needed skills as we step out in faith (Hebrews 11:1), and capability comes through action with His help (Philippians 4:13). The Lord reminds Moses, “Who gave human beings their mouths?...Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11, ESV). When we feel unskilled or lacking words, we can have confidence in God’s capability shining through us.

Excuse 5: Unwilling—Not Inclined to Offer Oneself
As God’s calls to Moses become more insistent, Moses’ panic steadily mounts until he is desperately pleading, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13). With this final frantic appeal to be excused from duty, Moses lays bare his profound reluctance by uttering the word “please.” Though God had reassuringly addressed each and every one of Moses’ other expressed inadequacies, Moses initially remained unwilling to accept the divine call. How often do we also dig in our heels when confronted with God’s call on our lives, even after He has equipped us for the tasks at hand? Scripture reminds us that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV). His call always comes paired with the means to accomplish seemingly impossible ends (Philippians 4:13). The good news is Moses did step out in faith and obedience, and God used him mightily. Hebrews 11 lists Moses as a man of great faith.

Getting Past Our Excuses
Underlying Moses’ five excuses is the belief that “I can not.” Though seemingly valid on the surface, his excuses reveal a view of himself and God that was too small. We fall for this deception also, yet our human weakness contrasted with God’s power should drive our reliance on Him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Moses could not accept that God wanted to use him powerfully. That same God calls ordinary believers today not to have comfortable or self-focused lives but to boldly follow Him. God compassionately answers each excuse Moses makes meeting him where he doubts and fears. Yet God also pressed forward in calling Moses beyond himself. If “I can not” holds you back today, bring those excuses to God. Ask Him to address your specific limitations, as He did for Moses. Scripture can transform these beliefs:

  1. God uses the average person – When we fixate on weakness, we overlook God’s strength. He often calls people who feel unfit so that His power shines through humble vessels
    (2 Corinthians 4:7). You are not too unimportant or ill-equipped for His plans. Psalm 81:10 (ESV), “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Matthew 10:19-20 (ESV), “Do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
  2. Obedience brings God’s presence and provision – As Moses obeyed, God promised to guide and equip him. God does not just point us toward difficult things and leave us alone. He calls us to join His work, then provides powerfully as His presence goes with us.
  3. Fear reveals misplaced dependence – Moses was ultimately unwilling because he was afraid. But Scripture says, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). We must rely on Him. Then, fears give way to extraordinary courage and confidence in God when we depend on His strength.

No More Excuses
On our own, as humans, there will always be justifiable reasons to say, “I can not.” But as believers, we do not operate in our own strength. We have full access to the infinite capability of Almighty God living in us (Ephesians 3:20). Rather than shrink back fearfully at a challenging opportunity God presents, prayerfully evaluate your reasons why not. Are they based on impossibilities? Or do they reveal areas where your view of yourself and God needs adjusting? Ask Him for an accurate perspective. Just as God confronted and conquered each of Moses’ excuses, He wants to break down the “I can not” barriers limiting you also. Will you let Him transform areas of insufficiency and uncertainty into opportunities to display His glorious capability through your life?

God has a greater calling for you. Though daunting, do not let fear cause you to shrink back. He will equip you, turning doubts into opportunities to shine His light. Take the next obedient step, trusting Him to provide all you need. Let God shift your focus from “I can not” to “with God, I can.” The same God who revealed Himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM” now stands ready to reveal His majesty through those wholly available to Him today. No more excuses. Will you trust Him enough to say “I can” to the next opportunity He presents?

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