Intention. What a strange little word. We are all familiar with the old saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Ah yes. I can look back at many potholed, dead-end roads sprinkled liberally with my good intentions. You see, I don’t like that word because the meaning can be misconstrued. A simple check of its synonyms reveals the problem: aim, hope, motive, drift, struggle… wait. What? How does one drift toward something they are supposed to be aiming for? And here lies the heart of why my plans full of beautiful intentions never come to fruition. I hope I will change/accomplish/do… Mostly I struggle. But how much serious effort do I give it?
Oooohh Ouch. I have this one shot at this one beautiful life and I have spent far too many years drifting along toward my good intentions. A boat with no rudder cannot be steered and therefore must only drift. Oooohh. Double ouch. So often, I don’t ask the Lord to be my rudder and when I do, it doesn’t take long before I default to assuming that I need to jump in and grab the wheel. Yet, I am learning and drilling it through this thick, stubborn head of mine. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6,8) I want to be stable, and that means I must let Christ work in me.
Let’s revisit the conversation on stumbling and getting down to the how of letting Jesus work in my weaknesses. You know, I never did like the answer of submitting it to him because it is too vague. So let’s work with things that are tangible. First, you’ve got to read your Bible consistently. I am not one to try to preach that you must be in that book every single day without fail, no excuses. C’mon, this is life and stuff happens. But recognize that the longer you are out of that book, the faster the Lord’s wisdom and guidance begin to fade from your thoughts. In my experience, I have gone through seasons that were sometimes months long between reading and studying the Word. Let me tell you, that allows plenty of time and room for ugly, evil, hateful, bitterness to make itself at home in my heart.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)
Ok, so back to the idea of “intentions.” Throw it out the widow. Pick a different verb like focus, aim, plan, concentrate, purpose… Then, and this part is so so so so important: put that verb in front of the action you need Jesus to work on. Is it your attitude? Your inappropriate language? Are you bitter? Angry? Jealous? How about lazy? Judgmental? Selfish? You know where you are weak. And so does Christ. Find verses on your area of weakness in the Word. Starve that area of weakness by consciously abstaining from doing that act, and instead focusing on how the Bible tells you to overcome it. After all, the words on those pages are the Word himself and it is exactly where to go to hear from Him. And when you mess it up, (because seriously, do any of us get it right all of the time? No way.) be quick to admit that you messed up. Confess it to Christ, ask for his forgiveness and for him to strengthen you in that area. But here’s the rub: you actually have to do it. You can’t just say, oh yeah, that sounds like a plan, I’ll give that a try, and if it doesn’t work the first time, then it must not work. No!
You must remember, we are “being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14) It is a process, not a one-time event. The more we recognize the wrong, confess, repent and ask for help, the more sensitive our consciences become, allowing the Holy Spirit to do his best work. (Want to know more about being made holy? Check out How the Spirit Sanctifies.) There are so many things in our paths that can make us stumble and fall, but mostly our own sinful selves, so we must clear the path. In order to do that you must be able to see it, and God’s “word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105). That light will help you clear the way. I encourage you to be consistent, focused, and concentrate on the one who really can and will help you.
Abide in His Grace,