Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NKJV)
We’ve all heard about good intentions, and people often talk about living intentionally. What does that mean, exactly?
I fully intended to eat healthy today. With a crazy work schedule, I know that I also function better when I eat healthy food, and I crash and burn when I succumb to the ease of the drive-thru diet. However, I did not back up my intentions with actions that would help me to achieve my desired end-state. I shopped for healthy food that sat in the fridge unprepared because I have other intentions that were unrealistic. Such as, I don’t want to waste money on bagged lettuce when whole heads of lettuce are cheaper.
Working 14 hours a day, I don’t have time to wash, dry, and cut up lettuce. There is time, however, to open up a bag of pre-washed lettuce and toss it into a plastic container with some meat and veggies. So, my intention of not wanting to waste money buying more expensive pre-bagged lettuce conflicts with my intention of eating healthy. As a result, I threw away two perfectly rotten heads of Romaine, and ate more than chicken salad sandwich with waffle cut fries handed to me with a smile through a drive-thru window.
Without the fancy label, intentions are really just uncommitted hopes. Wishes, really. We can toss around this pretty, multi-syllabic word to make it seem like we have grand plans for ourselves, but it’s just fluff and show unless we’re determined to achieve the good that we hope for ourselves. This is where I’m learning to replace the word intention with a more deliberate term: determination.
I was determined to get to work on time this morning. In order for that to happen, I have to wake up on time. So, I set my alarm clock to make sure I followed through. My alarm clock goes off at 2am, because I have to be to work by 3. If I should sleep in, I’ll be late to work, no one will be there to write the news, and my co-host will be floundering when it’s time to start the newscast at 5:03. And I could very well lose my job. There is a goal (get to work on time) and a potential negative outcome (losing my job) if I’m not fully committed to getting up on time, so I have a system in place (setting my alarm clock, having my clothes ready the night before) to ensure that I achieve my goal of getting to work on time.
When I’m determined to eat healthy, I will set goals for myself, and put measures in place to make sure that those goals are achievable. This is true of so many other areas of our lives. If you’re determined to have children who are obedient and polite, you can’t let them get away with being rude and disrespectful. If you’re determined to raise children who know the Lord, you don’t hope that someday they understand who God is– you teach them, deliberately, not through osmosis. If you’re determined to get out of debt, to lose weight, so save for a family vacation, to have a better relationship with your mom, or to get a raise at work– you’ll put a plan in place to make sure you get to that place.
Does it really matter what word we use? Maybe not. But I think words are important. God didn’t intend to send His Son to die on the cross for our sins. He was determined that it should happen. He had a plan– we see that clearly in the Bible through the prophets. God didn’t just wake up one day and go, “Ya know what might be a good idea? Maybe I should send The Word down to Earth, live sinlessly among Man, and then allow My people to nail Him on a cross as redemption for sin. Hmmm…. that might just work.” No, ma’am. He knew that we were going to screw up, and that we would need a better plan for salvation than following His law and sacrificing an occasional lamb. So He put a plan in place, and He saw it through.
This is a truth for our kids, as well. Your son may not intend to sleep with his girlfriend before they get married, but unless he is determined to stay pure and has a plan in place to make sure he doesn’t put himself in a tempting situation, those good intentions may fail him. Your daughter may not intend to get an F in History, but unless she is determined to get good grades and schedules time to study and seeks out help when she needs it, those good intentions may fail her. My dad used to always say, “Nothing ‘just’ happens.” You don’t ‘just’ graduate from college Magna Cum Laude. You don’t ‘just’ become a missionary. You don’t ‘just’ learn how to play the piano, or memorize scripture, or write a book.
As we walk with determination toward our goals, we may miss a step along the way. But with a clearly defined goal in mind, we can dust ourselves off and continue to move forward confidently in the direction of those things that are good for us.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.