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Entries in Intentions (2)

Thursday
Jan102019

Making Good on Good Intentions

Grace Fox wrote nine books. She's well-acquainted with the discipline and perseverance it takes to buckle down and write. She also knows how easy it is to stop at "good intentions." In this New Year UPGRADE, she invites us to examine our new goals and consider how we can "make good" on them.

"You and I—and millions of other women—know it’s easy to begin a new year with good intentions," Grace says. "Following through on them is often a different story."

Following through. Yes, I (Dawn) identify with that. I can't tell you how many times my good intentions ended up being forgotten intentions. But I can choose to change; and so can you!

Grace continues . . .

A traumatic experience helped me understand the importance of making good on my good intentions.

January 11th marks the sixth anniversary of my suffering leg injuries that left me wheelchair-bound for three months. Recovery required surgery, physiotherapy, and a lot of hard work on my part for two years.

I’m embarrassed to admit that my injuries were self-inflicted. As a writer, I sat at my desk for hours every day without getting up to stretch.

Granted, I woke each morning with good intentions. I promised myself that I’d take short exercise breaks, but soon my writing projects absorbed me and I’d think, I’ll take a walk later, after I finish what I’m doing.

Later never came, and I paid the price.

I’m grateful for the wakeup call. It forced me to admit something I knew all along—that good intentions alone won’t bring the benefits of good health.

Living long and strong for Jesus requires action on my part:

  • use my gym membership,
  • eat nutritious foods,
  • track my food intake,
  • practice portion control, and
  • be accountable on a weekly basis to a small group of women walking a similar path.

The same principle holds true for other aspects of life.

Say, for instance, we want to build relationships with our neighbors this year. Our intentions are admirable, but they won’t build friendships unless we take time to talk over the fence, to listen, and to demonstrate kindness.

We may want to grow in our relationship with the Lord over the next twelve months. Our desire is commendable, but it won’t result in spiritual growth unless we create space to study His Word, engage in dialogue with Him, and obey His commands.

Perhaps we intend to become more effective intercessors. This might mean facing our fear of praying aloud in front of other people. We may have to grow willing to pause and to pray right then and there for someone who’s just expressed a concern.

The examples I listed are among my good intentions for this year. Perhaps you’re nodding in agreement because like me, you hope to become more proactive about your health, about relationships with your neighbors, about knowing God more intimately, and about praying for others.

Or maybe your list includes a plethora of totally different ideas. Regardless, here are several prayer-focused points to ponder as you think about your good intentions for 2019.

1. Ask God for FOCUS.

It’s easy to make a list of impressive intentions. Trouble is, sometimes our list is too long or lofty or misses the mark altogether.

Ask the question, “God, what are Your good intentions for me this year? Where do you want me to focus?”

Jeremiah 33:3 promises that He will answer—“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wonderous things that you could never figure out on your own” (The Message).

2. Ask God for STRENGTH.

Following through on good intentions sometimes demands more emotional or physical strength than we can muster.

The good news is—God promises to strengthen us when we partner with Him to accomplish His purposes for our lives.

Psalm 18:29 has been especially meaningful to me as I continue my wellness journey—“In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.”

Sometimes following through on my intention to avoid unhealthy snacks is like fighting a battle, but God’s power at work within me gives me the strength to do the right thing. He’ll do the same for you.

3. Ask God for PERSEVERANCE.

We might think that making good on our good intentions will guarantee instant results.

For instance, extending kindness to a neighbor will automatically open the door to sharing the Gospel with her.

Unfortunately, sometimes our good intentions don’t yield the results we want, but that doesn’t mean we toss them aside. It means we learn to practice perseverance. We choose to hang in there for the long haul, trusting that God is at work even though we don’t see things happening.

Sometimes our good intentions are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We might think we know what God wants to do in and through us but in reality, He’s doing something much deeper, and that takes time.

So, my friend—what’s one of your good intentions for 2019? What actions will you take to make good on it?

Grace Fox is a career missionary, international speaker, and author of nine books. Her latest release is Forever Changed, a Bible study published by First Place 4 Health. Discover more about her ministry here. Purchase her Bible study through First Place 4 Health.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Ben White at Unsplash.

Tuesday
Mar072017

4 Ways to Turn Intentions into God-honoring Action

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages action! Intentions are great, but they don't change the world.

"You can't build a reputation," Henry Ford said, "on what you are going to do."

That's not just true of a reputation; it's also true of anything important to us.

Whether it's in ministry, writing, a professional career, marriage, parenting, finances—whatever—intentions are only a starting point, not a means to build anything lasting or worthwhile.

Don't get me wrong. Plans and intentions are wonderful. They're necessary for success. But plans are, in and of themselves, fruitless. We have to move beyond intentions to action. 

Words are important, but ultimately, our lives are measured by what we do, not what we say.

So how do we turn our good intentions into actions that please the Lord?

I would suggest FOUR STEPS.

1. Examine Your Intentions

Good intentions aren't always good. Sometimes good intentions can be used to justify sin.

I laughed at a cartoon of a burglar before a judge. He told the judge, "Yes, I robbed the bank, but I had the best of intentions."

We see this justification of intentions in the life of Paul as he, thinking himself righteous, persecuted the church (Acts 23:1; 26:11-12). We also see misused intentions in the life of King Herod. He thought he was doing the Jews a favor—he had good political intentions—but he ended up imprisoning Peter (Acts 12:1-4). As Christians, we must examine our intentions before we move ahead.

Be sure your foundation for intentions is solid and biblical.

2. Count the Cost.

Jesus counseled His followers to "count the cost" before moving forward in a big project (Luke 14:28-30). On the surface, it appears He advocates careful decision-making.

But His counsel goes beyond our decisions to our discipleship. Masses of people followed the Lord for many reasons: free food, the miraculous healings and other miracles. But Jesus knew their hearts.

His counsel about counting the cost is part of a larger passage (14:26-33) that laid out what it meant to be His follower. While eternal life is free, discipleship "costs" us something.

It means recognizing He is Lord, and transfering the ownership of our lives and all we have to Him.

This changes the concept of our "intentions," doesn't it? "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps" (Proverbs 16:9).

Surrender every good intention to the Lord and His plans.

3. Fight the Flesh

I recently read an article that addressed humans' "internal guidance system," claiming we have "two brains: primitive and intellectual." The primitive brain or guidance system, the author suggested, was not evolved and it worked against our intellectual brain. So, accordingly, we know what to do, but our actions don't always synchronize with our intentions, because sometimes we are controlled by the primitive brain.

I smiled, suddenly "hearing" Paul's words in Romans 7:19: "For I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do."

Rather than a "primitive brain" and an evolved "intellectual brain," I think we are really battling sinful flesh. It is the sinful nature we inherited from Adam (Romans 5:12; 7:14-24; Psalm 51:5). With deceitful hearts, we struggle with the "deeds of the flesh" (Jeremiah 17:9; Galatians 5:19-21).

There are consequences to our sinfulness. One of the consequences is, the flesh can really sidetrack us in our best intentions!

Through God's grace and walking in the Spirit, we can overcome the flesh (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:11; Galatians 5:16; Romans 13:14; Psalm 119:11).

We can starve out it's influences in our lives (1 Timothy 6:11; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:24; Romans 6:6).

Fight the flesh to give your good intentions a fighting chance!

4. Check Your Obedience.

Many times we are sincere about our intentions, but we don't follow through.

At the Bema Seat of Christ, it will be our obedience that stands strong in the face of judgment—our good works after salvation, not our intentions (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

I have often heard this passage preached:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21)

We can have lots good intentions as Christians, but if we are not obedient disciples, committed to honoring God with righteous thoughts and behavior, we will not be seen as one who has borne fruit for the Kingdom. We will, in fact, suffer loss (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).

One of the deceiving things about intentions is they can tempt us to rest in a false sense of confidence and security. Sometimes we think because we have already "decided" to do something, we're moving forward.

Deciding is not doing.

In the parable of the two sons (Matthew 21:28-31a), Jesus taught about intentions versus obedience. When a father asked his first son to work in the vineyard, he refused, but later thought better and obeyed. When he asked the same question of the second son, the son said, "Sure, I'll go"—but he didn't follow through. He didn't obey.

The first son did the will of his father because he acted in response to the Father's will.

Many of us have heard clear instructions from our heavenly Father—perhaps during a time of prayer or Bible study, at church or in another gathering. Our hearts were moved. We may have intended to obey, but have we?

Determine to follow through on wise, biblical intentions... obey the Lord!

Good intentions, like New Year's resolutions, are only as good as the results.

In summary:

  1. Be sure your foundation for intentions is solid and biblical.
  2. Surrender every good intention to the Lord and His plans.
  3. Fight the flesh to give your good intentions a fighting chance.
  4. Determine to follow through on wise, biblical intentions ... obey the Lord!

We will not be perfect in our follow-through. We are still sinners. But sinners saved by God's transforming grace have the empowering Spirit to help us fight our battles and obey the Father.

The blessing to my heart is a wonderful truth: Our heavenly Father is "the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness"  (Exodus 34:6). When I am not faithful to my Lord, He is still faithful to me (Romans 3:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Hebrews 10:23).

God sees the believer's heart and know every intention; and He is a compassionate and faithful Father. 

What are some good intentions you have that you have yet to act upon? Would any of these points help you follow through?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.