I want to talk today about intentions. It’s an interesting, unusual topic. I think most people act with the best of intentions, don’t they? Even when things don’t go as planned.
Have you ever been in a situation where your good intentions were completely misinterpreted? Now it can occur. We act in good faith and then we find out later others didn’t receive our actions in that same light. Now I know from personal experience it can be very frustrating. It seems unfair. It’s easy to assign blame onto somebody else. Their perspective is just so unreasonable. And you think I meant well, how could any normal person think otherwise?
Intentions and actions
And within the family, this can be especially upsetting. Good intentions. We all have them. You say to the boss, “look, I intended to get that project done yesterday” or we tell our kids “I intended to come.” Or you tell the police officer “I never intended to go that fast.” So we all have good intentions. But do our good intentions always translate to right actions? No. So what’s going wrong here? What keeps our good intentions from becoming good actions.
And we miss the project deadline or we miss our kids basketball game or we get that ticket for speeding. How did all our good intentions get derailed? Here’s a simple story for you.
A father went to his kid’s school carnival and they won four free goldfish. Great, but Dad decided to go out and buy an aquarium. After a bit of searching around, he found an old discarded 30 litre display tank. It had been used before with a gravel filter. It was just right, a bit dirty, but he decided he could clean it up himself. Took two hours of hard work, but he cleaned it up. And these four new fish look great in their new home, at least for the first day. But by Sunday, one of the fish had died. Well, that’s a shame. Three fish remained. Monday morning, a second casualty. Monday night, a third goldfish had gone belly up. Dad had good intentions but he destroyed the fish. You see, he’d washed the aquarium out with soap. And you just don’t do that with fish. Good intentions and best intentions. We’ve all got them. How often do we intend for one thing to happen only to experience a completely different outcome.
Our intentions and God’s Will
When was the last time you made a comment to someone and you realised you’d actually hurt their feelings? And you apologise by saying, “well, I’m sorry. I never meant it that way.” But where does God fit into all of this? Would it surprise you to realise that we do this with God all the time. Our good Intentions are often at odds with God’s willful intentions.
For instance, when we seek achievement in the world and we neglect those who are around us or when we make our truth more important than the truth. So when we try to do something we know is not in line with God’s will, and we believe the end will justify how we got there. Regardless of how it might affect other people. God’s will is not really hard to understand if you search for it. Have you ever asked God to show you what his plan for you is? His will does not manipulate you. Nor is it deceptive. God doesn’t hide it away in secret. His intent is never out of sync. The desired outcomes of our lives are the issue. In fact, the greatest single issue facing us since the moment of creation is answering this question – is what I intend more important than what God intends. Now, if you can honestly answer that question, you’re on your way to a happy and peaceful life as a committed Christian, as you ask God, are my intentions in line with your intentions for me?
Even Jesus himself faced it during an agonising moment in Gethsemane when he cried out “My father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass me by.” And yet Jesus resolved that question. One passage later, we read. Nevertheless, he said to God his Father, “let it be as you want, not as I want.” That’s in Matthew 26.
Psalm 33:11 – “The Lord’s plans stand firm forever. His intentions can never be shaken.” Yes, the intention behind our actions is often more powerful than the actions themselves. If we do things for our own gain, and I think we often lack integrity, in time people will see our true intentions. We worship an all knowing God. So he certainly knows the intentions just as well. He is gracious, but I’m sure he is well pleased when he sees our motives.
Dear Lord, so often we do things to please others or please ourselves. And we don’t put you first. Even if we’ve got the best of intentions. Forgive us, Dear Lord. Help us to have you at the front of all we do today, Amen.