Andy Stanley - The Five Step Plan
So chances are at some point along the way you have heard it said that there are two kinds of people in the world, right? In fact, you've heard this so many times that's the only part of it that you remember, right? You can't even remember what comes after this. This is what originally attributed to Mark Twain. I assume he's the first person who popularized there are two kinds of people in the world, and whatever follows this is generally some sort of oversimplification, but that's okay because simple things are sticky things, and sometimes it's better to oversimplify something to remember it than to make it complicated and tease it all out, but you can't remember anything that was said. So I'll give you an example.
When I was 30 years old, I had a friend named Al Cain. Al Cain was a real estate developer, several years older than me, and every once in a while, he would take me out to lunch and give me advice, which I was wide open to 'cause he was very wise guy. So one day we're sitting at lunch and anytime he was gonna give me advice it started like this. He'd say, "Buddy..." Kind of buddy, that's how it started. "Buddy, there are two kinds of people in the world. They're those who make interest and there are those who pay interest". Now that's a little bit of an oversimplification, but it's kinda challenging. And then he looked at me across the table and he said, "Which one do you wanna be"? I knew the right answer. "I think making it's better than paying it". And he said, "Yup, you just gotta decide". So I decided, I literally decided. "I'm gonna be an interest maker, not an interest payer. And I'm not gonna borrow any money on anything, and any depreciable item..."
I already didn't nearly use credit cards, had sort of figured that one out, but I decided I'm gonna be an interest maker, not an interest payer. And so I decided I'm never gonna borrow money on anything that depreciates, including cars. And I never have ever since that conversation with him and his oversimplification. Now when I tell you that you think, "Oh, that's because you're rich". No it's because I made a decision at 30 years old. So dismissed. That's your lesson for today. No, anyway... So you can think about that... The point is this, that sometimes oversimplifications are actually startling and cause us to think.
So here here's another one to kinda get us into today's topic. There are two kinds of people in the world, people who make a difference and people who make what? Excuses, yeah. There are people who make a difference, there people who make excuses. So the question is, which kinda person do you wanna be? The kinda person that makes the world better? The kinda person that makes the people around them better? Or do you wanna be somebody who lives behind what we've called paper walls? Behind the excuses that we disguise as reasons, but at the end of the day they're just excuses.
Today we're wrapping up our series. If you haven't been with us: Paper Walls, Moving Beyond The Excuses That Hold You Back. We've said throughout the series they're things that are worth carrying season to season, year to year, good friends, good habits, and there are things that need to be left behind once and for all and namely we're talking about excuses. That whatever our excuses are, they need to be abandoned once and for all. We said throughout this series, that excuses are a lot like paper walls. That from a distance it looks real, it looks like an actual obstacle, it looks like there's no way through, and we present it that way to ourselves, and we presented that way to other people.
And then before we know it, our excuses become our becauses. Becauses that we retreat to when certain topics come up, certain people come up, certain challenges come up, becauses of that we hide behind and defend ourselves with, "Well, why don't you"? "Well because..." "Or why haven't you"? "Because..." "Why don't you always"? "Because..." "Why do you act that way"? "Because..." "Why don't you just give that up"? "Because..." "Why don't you just talk to her"? "Why don't you just talk to him"? "Because..." "Why don't you just forgive them"? "Because..." "Why don't you call your dad"? "Because..." "Why don't you call your mom"? "Because..." "Why don't you reach out"? "Why"? "What"? "Because, because, because..." And often as we've said, because isn't really the cause! Or because it's an excuse masquerading as a call.
So in this series throughout, we've asked this question and I've tried to be gentle. So I've posed the question in somewhat of a general way. Is it possible? Is it possible? Would you be open to considering? Is it possible that you're missing out because you have walled yourself in? is it possible? Is it possible that there is something on the other side of your excuses that is good? Is there something on the other side of your excuses that you would benefit from? Is there something on the other side of your excuses that would allow you to make the people around you better and make the world better? Is it possible that you're missing out on something because you have walled yourself in with excuses? Paper walls that you have manufactured and you have yet to move beyond.
Now the truth is, and we can spend a lot of time on this but we won't, most of our paper walls, or most of our excuses are fear-based. In my case, I almost didn't go to the graduate school that I really wanted to go to because I was afraid. I was just afraid. And of course people would ask and I would talk about it with my family. I didn't say I'm afraid, I had other reasons. I had several paper walls as to why I wasn't going to attend that particular graduate school. But I would never say it was because I was afraid because... Fear wasn't a reason you give. Fear of failure... Isn't it true? Fear of failure is very difficult to admit. And the most difficult person it is to admit to is to ourselves. But I was actually afraid of the academic rigor of that particular school. I knew I could get in, but I may never get out. It would be my Hotel California, I would be there forever trying to make my way out because it was just gonna be too difficult.
So I just put it out of my mind, I'm not even gonna go there. I filled out half the application then just quit and decided to go to another school. And I was at home, I was living in my parents' basement, had just finished Georgia State University, getting ready for grad school. And my dad was out of town and he called me. He literally called me on the phone. I was gonna say he called me on it. He didn't call me on it, he called me on the phone. He knew that the reasons I had been giving him, and he had heard me give other people, they weren't really reasons they were excuses. And he decided, "You know what? I'm gonna interfere". And he called me and he challenged me.
And he didn't accuse me of being afraid, but he know what he did? He was so wise. He led me right up to the paper wall and then he just left me there. And he ended the phone call, no lie, I was so angry. I was so angry at him because I already had a roommate, I'd already sent in my deposit for the other school, I already had a dorm, had everything worked out, and now he's interfering with my plan, because he knew I was making an excuse. I was afraid of failure. And I changed my mind at the last minute. And I went to the school of my choice and I'm so extraordinarily, extraordinarily grateful that I did.
Now, our fear comes from several things. oftentimes our fear sorta is the seed bed for excuses. It comes from our past experience, there's something we experienced in the past, and we don't ever wanna experience that again. It may not be the exact same circumstances, but it creates that same sense of fear. Fear of abandonment or fear of failure, fear of just being embarrassed or ashamed. But most of the time, I think we don't even know where it comes from. We don't know, but there's something that just triggers. It just automatically triggers are because narrative and we just go there over and over and over. So off we go and then we don't grow, and we're stuck. Because, you should know this, excuses are like kryptonite to your soul. They slowly kill you on the inside, they kill us on the inside, because we're not able to do the thing that we were created to do. We're not able to be the person that we were created, as we're gonna see in just a few minutes to be. Excuses. And we don't do this on purpose.
Excuses make us small and excuses ultimately make us selfish and relationally they make us unavailable. Excuses are fueled by a lie or lies that we tell ourselves, and then we don't think about it as lying, we end up lying to other people. "Andy, why aren't you gonna go to that school"? "Here's why I'm not gonna go to that school..." And everything I said after that was a lie, that I had internalized and then I told other people. You will miss out. You miss out. And then because of your excuse, the world misses out on you. And it's all because you have allowed, I've allowed an excuse to become the boss of me. A tyrant! A king! A king that says, "You can't try that, you'll fail. You can't do that, you know what happened last time. You shouldn't try that, somebody else has already done that, somebody else has already tried that, somebody else already wrote that, somebody else already started something like that. somebody else already did that, or somebody else already failed at that".
So you miss out, the world misses out on you but here's the worst thing, and here's what we're gonna talk about for just a few minutes. You run the risk and I know you don't wanna do this, you run the risk of missing out on God's plan for you. Now, I need you to just work with me for just a minute, and especially if you're not a Christian or you're not even sure there is a God. Just use your imagination with me for just a minute. okay? If there is a personal God, and by personal God, I mean a personal God who knows you. Who knows maybe your name, who is aware of you. If there's a personal God who knows you and can hear your prayers, and I believe there is, because Jesus believed there is. And as you know, I'm a simple person. Anybody who can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off, I just go with whatever that person says. And Jesus clearly believed that there is a personal God who hears our personal prayers.
So if there is a personal God who knows you, and if God has invited you to interact with and speak to Him and respond to Him as if he is a perfect heavenly father... And Jesus said that is how we're to approach God, as a perfect heavenly father. If that's the case, then think about it. The God of the universe may have a plan for your life. And I don't mean on Monday at three o'clock kinda plan, I mean, the God of the universe may in fact have something you're supposed to do with your life. There may be something unique to you, that's only for you.
You say, "Well Andy, there's nothing unique for me". Well you know what? If you're a parent, you already know there's something unique to you. I mean every child has a mother, right? There's only one mother that birth the child. If you're a mom whose birthed a child that is unique to you, okay? I'm the only father to my children, biological father that my kids are ever gonna have. That's unique to me, so we can just start there. But there may be something else. There may be something that is unique to you that God wants you to do, and if you're not careful, and if I'm not careful, we can miss it because we live behind excuses and paper walls.
Now, this is an original with me. The Apostle Paul, who as most of you know, steps onto the pages of history as Saul of Tarsus, who hates Christians. So if you hate Christians, he's your guy. Hated Christians... You may hate Christians in your mind, he had had Christians arrested and tortured. And then he becomes one, fascinating story. And then he becomes the most famous one ever. And in a letter that he wrote to Christians, living in Ephesus in the first century, listen to what he says to them and what he says to you, what he says to me. He writes, "For we..." This is so powerful. You've probably read this before or heard it before. "For we are God's creation..."
Now think about this, anything that's created is created with a purpose in mind. Anything that's created is created with a purpose in mind. Anything that's created, is created as a means to an end that's not the thing. Even something as simple as a sandcastle. I love to build sand castles. We' go to the beach, I create sand castles. You're like, "What's the purpose of a sand castle"? To give me pleasure. I just absolutely enjoy it. And the point of the sand castle isn't the sand castle, It's what it brings me. And in a small sense, in a personal sense like that, or in a big sense, anything that's created, anything you've created, anything created, is created for a reason, for a purpose. It is a means to an end. In fact, the thing that gives anything meaning, is that it is a means to an end that's not the thing.
So if you in any sense, believe that there is a God who is a creator God, and that God has created you, then you have been created with a purpose. Because everything that's created as a means to an end. Think about that. But then the Apostle Paul drops back and he addresses a subset of God's creation. He says, "We are all God's creation..." Some of us because of a choice we've made. "Created in Christ Jesus or recreated in Christ Jesus..." And this is the apostle Paul's code terminology for new covenant. Whenever the Apostle Paul writes "in Christ," he's talking about people who have embraced Jesus' new covenant.
When Jesus said, "I've come to establish a different kinda relationship between God and man. I'm the mediator of a brand new contract, a brand new covenant. And in this covenant, you enter it by placing your faith in me. And there's only one rule in this covenant, you are to love other people as I have and I am about to love you". And the Apostle Paul says, "Everyone is created by God," which means everybody has a purpose and if you are a Christian or a Jesus follower, you have been created with a special purpose that always goes beyond you, because the new covenant marching orders is to live our lives in such a way that we make the world a better place and make people around us better. So here's what he says. He says, "For we are God's creation, created in Christ Jesus..." Check this out. "To do good works". That means that God has something for you to do!
God has a To-do list for you. And this isn't about being good for goodness sake, or even for your sake. If you're in the new covenant, this is about being good for the sake of the people around you in the world's sake. And then listen to how he caps this off. This is so powerful. This should move us all beyond our excuses. "Which God prepared in advance for us to do". I mean just suspend your agnosticism for just a minute or your unbelief for just a minute, and just imagine. Just imagine. This is why it's called good news. Because anything that's good news, you want it to be true even before you're convinced its true. I mean, imagine how good this news is. That the God who breathed the universe into existence, that the God who created everything, created you and knows you and has a purpose for your life.
What if God has a plan and a purpose for your life, and what if you're missing it or missing part of it because you're hiding out and you're excusing out, and you're opting out of that good purpose for your life, because of fear, because of insecurity, because of something somebody who doesn't even know you anymore labeled you, somebody who's not even around anymore called you, because of something in your past that just undermined your self-esteem and undermined our belief in yourself, anybody who hears your story would understand. But what if that is holding you back from the thing God created you to do and who God created you to be.
Now, kinda pulling back for a minute, back to just everybody, here's the thing, regardless if you're a religious person or not, or a Christian person or not, this is so important, okay? Excuses, and we don't think of it this way but it's true. Excuses are really a subtle way of refusing to take responsibility for our lives. Excuses are really a subtle way of refusing to take responsibility. And the reason you know that to be the case, is you've seen people... They've excused their irresponsibility with excuses. And you look at what they could be and should be, what they should do and the opportunities that come their way, and they miss out on it. And you feel like, "Goodness! You're just being irresponsible with the opportunities and the gifts that have your way". But it's even worse for those of us, or more important for those of us who are Jesus followers. Because for Jesus followers, excuses can become a subtle way of resisting the will of God for our lives.
Just simple case in point. We've been commanded to forgive. And if you were to come up here and tell your story, all of us would hear your story and go, "Wow, that is a real reason not to forgive". And your savior, not me. Your savior would say, "No, it is a paper wall, and I have something for you and you are missing out on what I have for you, because you're hiding. Understandably, but you're hiding behind your excuses". So our paper walls, our excuses have the potential to cause us to miss God's will for our lives. That's why this is such a big, big deal. So to wrap up, here's what I decided to do. I'm gonna give you five, not so easy steps for breaking through paper walls that hold you back. But before we start with the list I need... Just one disclaimer, or really it's a warning.
If you work through this list and if you take it seriously, you're going to get your feelings hurt by you. You are going to have to hurt your own feelings, okay? But if you will be honest with these questions, if you be honest with this process, you're gonna discover something about you that has potential maybe to really change the whole trajectory of your life. It'll certainly enrich your relationships. And the thing is this, whatever you discover may be new to you, but it will not be new to the people around you. In fact, when you share what you've discovered, that is an excuse rather than a cause, you may be excited about this new revelation, they won't be surprised they're gonna be relieved. Because they already know, just like you already know. We can smell an excuse a mile off, unless we're the one who stinks. I just made that up.
Okay anyway... So here's step number one, everybody ready? Step number one, here we go. Step number one, go through these quick. Step number one, you got to identify 'em. You can't abandon an excuse you have failed to identify. And the best way to identify an excuse... We've talked about this. The best way to identify 'em, is you have to get in the habit of listening to your becauses. Listen to your becauses. "I can't because... I quit because... I won't because... I have this debt because... I'm out of shape because... The reason I don't exercise because... The reason... Because, because. I don't go to church because... I don't believe because... I don't believe any more because..."
Listen to your becauses. Because we have a tendency... it's a rut in the road. We just go to the same becauses over and over. So listen to your becauses. And when you catch yourself becausing and you realize, "You know what? I think I say this just about every time she comes up, he comes up, that comes up, the past comes up. You mentioned that..." I want you to write it down. Just write it down, even if it doesn't make sense, even if you know immediately, "Oh my goodness that's an excuse". I want you to write it down even when you know it's an excuse, okay?
Step number two... First, we're gonna identify 'em second, second excuse and okay... This is where you might hurt your own feelings, okay? You need to interrogate your becauses. That is, you begin to ask the question, why? For example, why? Why do I immediately... For that particular because. That's, you're gonna interrogate you becauses. You got a because here, several becauses... "Okay, I'm gonna interrogate them. I'm gonna ask these because of some questions". Why do I immediately opt for that particular because? You need to know. Why do I make that excuse whenever that topic comes up? That part of my past comes up? That relationship comes up? He comes up? She comes up? People like them come up? That question comes up? That issue comes up? Why do I immediately go to that because? You gotta ask really hard questions like, What am I afraid of? "I'm not afraid of anything". Okay, we're all afraid of something, okay? So just get over that one. What am I afraid of? Who am I afraid of? Is there somebody I'm afraid of?
Ask yourself, I know this is hard, "Am I just being lazy? Am I just refusing to move forward because I'm just being lazy? Which means am I just being selfish"? Because lazy and selfish generally go together. "Am I just being insecure? Is this something that I know I ought to, I know I should but I don't say to people, I know I ought to, I know I should" I give them the, because, because, because, because, because. And don't move ahead until you have an answer, until you've interrogated your becauses and here's why. This is so important. Your answer, if you'll do this... I'm telling you, if you do this, your answer will clarify whether or not it's an actual reason... Because there are some actual reasons why we don't do certain things. If it's an actual reason or a made up reason. if it's an actual brick wall or just a paper wall. And here's the thing, answering why is gonna reduce the power of the excuse. Anytime we bring an excuse into the light, you know what happens? It gets lighter. It gets lighter, It gets smaller. It gets sillier. It begins to look more and more ridiculous. It becomes disposable. Suddenly it's much easier to leave behind.
Third step is this, just gonna relabel 'em. That's not a reason. That's not how you look in the mirror, You just tell yourself, "You know what? That's not a reason. That's an excuse. That's not a reason. That's an excuse. My because is not the cause. That's not really the reason I'm doing that, that's not really the reason I'm saying that, that's not really the reason I respond that way, that's not really the reason I react that way, that's not really the reason... That is an excuse". And you say it out loud. And here's the thing, you can say this, "You know what? This is an excuse I created. This is a paper wall that I built..."
And here's the great liberating news. "And if I built it..." In other words, if I created this wall, that's not even really a wall... "If I built it, I can tear it down. I'm not a victim, I'm not a prisoner to my past, I'm not a prisoner to what I've been labeled, I'm not a prisoner to the fact that I tried and failed once, I'm not a prisoner to my fear, I've been created by God to do stuff. If I'm a creation, I'm a means to an end, and I wanna know what the end is, and I'm not gonna spend my life hiding behind a paper wall, and live my whole life and get to the end and never know what I was ultimately born to be a means to an end for or to whom I was born to be a means to an end. I've got a life to live, I've got a world to improve".
And now you're on your way. Now you're on your way, now there's nobody else to blame. Now there's no other reason to hide here, now you hold all the cards. Now you're in the driver's seat, you cut ties with the lies, right? You disabled the labels! One more. I like this one. You just sent your justification on a permanent vacation. That's some good preaching. I'm not really that good of a preacher, but I liked that one. Anyway the point is, once you're willing to make this discovery, once you're willing to step into this and acknowledge it with yourself. The truth has begun to set you free. Free to be, free to love, free to do, free to be fully who God made you to be.
Step number four, step number four. This is the nail in the coffin, okay? In fact, if you don't do anything else and you realize that you've got a paper wall in your life, just one, if you've identified one excuse, maybe before, maybe you've known for years, if you'll just take that one excuse and you'll do step number four, this may give you the energy and the courage to punch through. Step number four is to answer this question. What do I lose If I continue to excuse? what do I lose If I continue to excuse? what do I give up? What do I walk away from? What do I miss out on? What do you give up? Who do you give up? What do you miss out on? Who ends up missing out on you? Who for your entire marriage or your entire relationship with him wonders if they're ever gonna have all of you? What is the price you're paying for living behind that paper wall? What is that one excuse costing you? Whose respect do you lose? Whose respect do you continue to lose? Who's forced to pretend around you because they know better, they're just not sure that you do?
And I'm telling you, you write this down, here's what I lose, here's what I lose, here's what I give up, here's what I give up, here's the risk I run. You'll discover that the price is just too high. Because there are no do-overs. There are no do-overs in the arenas of life that matter most. You only get to raise her once. You only get to raise him once. They only leave home once, maybe twice or three times, but eventually they're gonna leave home, okay? And you gonna lose some influence with them. I mean, these are fleeting opportunities. You only have one first marriage, right? You only get one body to take care of, and if you don't take care of your body, do you know what you're assuming? You're assuming some other body is gonna take care of your body. And you're gonna get to the end of your life and realize all those reasons I gave for not taking care of my health, they were paper walls and it's too late to go back.
All those excuses I gave for not managing my finances, more responsibly, paper walls and it's too late to go back. All those excuses I gave for not reconnecting, not forgiving, not reconciling, all of those were just paper walls, paper walls. And now it's too late to go back, because in the arenas of life that matter most, when time is gone, oftentimes the opportunity is gone as well. And you don't wanna live that way. You don't wanna get to the end of your life and look back on regret. And you know what regret is? Regret is, "I should have, I could have, but I didn't. I should have, I could have, but I didn't". And every single time somebody confronted me about what I should have done and could have done, I had an answer. But my becauses weren't the cause, they were just paper walls. And I don't know you personally, but I know you don't wanna live that way. And you don't wanna end up that way. And you don't wanna look back on that. And I don't wanna look back on that either.
Step number five, though... Step number five is for extra credit. It's tell somebody. I actually did this recently about two and a half months ago. I'm in the kitchen with our family and my daughter-in-law was there. And she said, she calls me Mr. Andy. I guess it's not Mr. Stanley, it's not Andy, it's in between, that's okay. "Mr. Andy," She said, "I think you should..." And my two sons were like, "Dad yeah you should..." And this is something that comes up pretty often. And I immediately went to my because, "Well, I can't do that because..." I can't do that because... And as soon as it came out of my mouth, because I was already working on this content, I'm like, "There it is".
Every time this comes up and it's not even a big deal. Every time this topic comes up, I immediately retreat to why I can't and why I shouldn't try. And I called myself out on it later. I said to her, I said to Danielle, I said, "You know what, the other day when you brought that up and I said because I said what I said, because that's what I always say". I said, "You know what? That's an excuse. And I'm glad you brought it up again". She kinda smiled which meant, "I know. We all know that's an excuse. And will you give the same reason every time".
I don't wanna live there, I don't want you to live there. So just tell somebody. You know what I realize, honey, I realized group, I realized whoever it is. Every time this comes up, I go to my because, I retreat to my because, I retreat to my paper wall. And I just want you to know, I've recognized this as an excuse I've lived with for years and I'm not living with it anymore because my because it's not the cause, and I'm done with it. Isn't that how you wanna live? Isn't this how we wanna our children to live? Imagine... I mean this is hard to imagine. Imagine if everybody in our community decided to live this way. imagine if everybody came clean with their excuses. What would happen in our world, in our community, our nation, our families?
Last thing, and I've kinda said this, but I just wanna say it one more time. If you don't deal with this... if you don't identify your excuses, you're gonna excuse your life away. And that's too high, a price to pay. You were created by God to be a means to an end, and until you discover what that end is, there's always gonna be something missing in you because you were made in the image of God. You are an image bearer. You are a purpose bearer and anything that's an obstacle to discovering what that is and doing it, you just need to get rid of it. You were created to do something in the world, for the world, for the people in the world.
So can we just decide, "You know what, no more excuses, no more hiding. I'm gonna make up my mind, no more paper walls." from now I'm just gonna admit it. I said because, but I just wanna stop and say, that's not really the cause. The real reason is that just scares me. The real reason is that just reminds me... the real reason is I'm afraid of what's on the other side, the real reason is I don't even know why I say that. But I just wanna stop myself and let you know. that's not a reason, that's just an excuse, because after all, they're just two kinds of people in the world. There are people who are not you, and there are someone who is you. And only you can do what God created you to do, and you don't wanna miss that.
So let's be done with paper walls. Life is too short. The world is too broken. God is too great. So would you identify 'em? Would you be willing to interrogate 'em? Relabel 'em? Would you spend some time considering what you're giving up and what you're losing? If you don't and then let's be done with them and let's pray every day. And I know I give you some version of this prayer every three or four months, and I will continue to as long as I'm up here speaking. Would you begin to pray heavenly father, I wanna see me the way the way you see me as a creation, with something to do, with a purpose... I wanna see the way you see me so I can be who you created me to be, not for my sake, but for the sake of the world and for the sake of the people around me.
There are things worth taking one season to the next, one year to the next excuses are not one of those things. Our excuses need to be left behind. And I hope that you will choose to leave them behind, for your sake, for your family's sake, for your future sake, for the community sake and for the world's sake. Leave them behind and invite, as we said last week, invite the light of the world to light up your life. And if you do, Jesus made this promise. "You will know the truth, and then you will be free".