Good Intentions Are Not Enough

Good Intentions Are Not Enough

Preacher Huijun - 22 January 2022

Weekend Devotion: Good Intentions Are Not Enough

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The devil loves “mere intentions”, which just stay as that, intention – a goal, but without any concrete steps or actions. It is like the delusional dreaming of a “more God-pleasing tomorrow”, when one is not even living in a God-pleasing way today. It is like agreeing and appreciating the goal of being Christlike, but just naively imagine that one can become more like Christ simply by valuing that goal.

Now, especially when the year just started, we hear many Christians expressing their wish that they would like to be closer to God, to pray more and read the Bible more. How serious they are with such “resolutions” depends on whether they have a feasible follow-up plan to see through this goal. Yet, often we tend to feel contented and comforted that at least we have some good intentions and goals, and we are happy to tell ourselves, “tomorrow I will get to it, I have that good intention in my mind already, but not today, tomorrow then I will work on it”. But come tomorrow, we will repeat the same thing to ourselves. We must realise that vague plans, empty prayers, and half-hearted resolve won’t actualize our best intentions.

However, on the topic of good intentions, we must first ask:

 

Good Intentions Vs God’s Intentions?

1) Are our good intentions in line with God’s will?

I will quote you two examples from the Bible, one from Old Testament, one from the New. In (1 Sam 15:3), God told Saul through Samuel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” However, Saul did not obey God and cited a seemingly “good excuse”, saying, “The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” (1 Sam 15:21) Now, even if we give Saul the benefit of the doubt, even if he indeed intended to keep the best animals to sacrifice to the Lord, he had also clearly disobeyed God’s clear commands. Later, Samuel told Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams” (1 Sam 15:22).

 

2) Indeed, to obey God’s intention is far more important than our best intention, no matter how nice the latter sounds.

The next example is that of Peter in the New Testament. When Jesus told His disciples in advance that He would die soon, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mt 16:22-23)

Perhaps in his love for Jesus, Peter could not bear the thought of Him dying, or perhaps Peter could not imagine what would happen to the earthly kingdom of Israel if this supposed Savior of Israel were to die. Peter sure had good intention, but too bad, it was not fitting with God’s salvation plan.

 

3) Must always align our intentions with the scriptures.

Just as Jesus told Peter, we too often merely have human concerns, which appear right and sound to our human minds, but it is important that we align our intentions with the scriptures. God’s word is right foundation for us to check if our best intentions are correct. Otherwise, we may unwittingly lead ourselves and others to pursue seemingly “good things” (such as career advancement, family time, material possessions) yet in a way that make people only place their concerns on things on earth rather than things above. It is not that Christians cannot pursue “good earthly blessings” or have good intentions, but we must always cross-check our intentions with the Bible.

 

Certainly, when our good intentions match God’s, He will empower us to fulfil those good goals, for we can do nothing apart from Him (Jn 15:5). However, we also need to put in our God-enabled efforts. Thus, the next question to ask ourselves is:

 

Are we willing to pay a good (heavy) price for our good intentions too?

I mentioned just now that without concrete actions, our best intentions will not be actualised. Now, in (Lk 9:57–62), we see examples of people who expressed their intent to follow Jesus but other priorities took over.

(Lk 9:57-62) As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Notice that here, Jesus did not commend them for having good intentions, but Jesus was looking for immediate and resolute commitment. So we see that “good intentions” may not result in following Jesus. Good intentions are not strong enough to make sinners reject the charms of sins and the force of their sinful nature. Some people heard the gospel and believe that it is true, or some Christians agree that it is important to be sanctified in their living, yet they find the cost of following Jesus too high, they are unwilling to surrender the control of their lives to God and live according to His will instead of their own. Perhaps they may be willing after they have enjoyed themselves enough in the world, but not now, not immediately. But are we sure that we will always have “future opportunities” to actualise our good intentions? So dear friends, we must not let good intentions deceive us to feel like we’re on the right track. Our sinful desires and spiritual laziness always hinder us from turning our intentions into real actions. But it is true obedience that pleases God and gets us to where He wants us to be. Therefore, our good intentions need to come together with our corresponding God-enabled actions.

 

Our best intentions must still be submitted to the sovereignty of God.

Our experience tells us that sometimes even with the best intentions, which are aligned with God’s word, and even when we put real actions into it, we may still receive a disappointing outcome. For example, we intend to bring people to Christ, this surely fits God’s intention too, but when we put in real actions, people may not immediately accept the gospel and we are disheartened. Therefore, we must bear in mind that at the end of all good intentions, we still have to submit to God’s sovereign will and guidance, and continue to follow Him by faith.

Dear friends, if you have certain good intentions, thank God for that, but remember that good intentions are not enough, they need to be cross-checked with the word of God, and be accompanied by concrete actions. And after all that is done, we must still yield our good intentions to the sovereignty of God.

Preacher Huijun
Preacher Huijun
huijun@lifechurchmissions.com

Huijun joined The Life Church and Missions (Singapore) as a preacher in 2012. She is effectively bilingual and preaches occasionally at the Chinese service. She graduated from Singapore Bible College and currently lives in Singapore with her husband, Chengji.

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