The Power Of Intention

“…and I’m going to do something about it!”

Sound familiar? We hear this every political season: the candidates make sure we know what’s wrong and how they’re bound and determined to fix it. Of course, eventually, life, reality – call it what you will – brings them back to earth and we’re chagrined to find that our favorite son or daughter can’t accomplish everything they promised.

But the best – or I should say, the most determined – politicians do find a way to achieve the goals they’ve prioritized. We like to ascribe it to that special breed of person who dares run for political office in the first place – the Type A, Hard-Charging Workaholic. But it’s more than that. This drive to do something big and important originates in the deepest wellsprings of a person,  and its engines are myriad: an early life experience, a handicap, past or present relationships.

If we could summarize it in a word, it’s intention – some say “intentionality.” The word means “an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.” It’s that rod of iron inside the person who says, “I’m going to do this!”

We find intentionality all around us. When God created mankind, He created two very different people, and He told them of His intentions: “go out into the world, make it habitable, and replenish it with more of your kind.” Everything was intended to create a thriving human society here on earth. And we see the raw power of God’s intention in our own drives to create, procreate, nurture, build, establish, and even to live.

That’s power. But God also recognized this power of intention in mankind: of the builders of the tower of Babel, He said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them [emphasis mine].” The power of intention.

So, if mankind’s innate drives are strong enough to get God’s notice, is there something in it for us?

There is. Constancy and intention were important themes to Christ. In a couple of stories He called out those who refused to lock on to the important things and do what was intended for them to do. But I think the strongest words Jesus had about the power of intention were when he out-and-out said, of us humans, “if you will, you can do anything.” In the English translations He’s using the word “will” as a verb – “to decide, bring about, or attempt to effect or bring about by an act of the will [emphasis mine],” which acts on “the will,” a noun – “the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions [emphasis mine].” Now, people often use these verses to depict God as a vending machine, but is it possible that Jesus was rather making an important observation about the power of our will – the same observation God made about the tower builders?

The apostles knew all about the power of intention: after Jesus left they lived their lives with a laser focus. In fact, John echoed Jesus words about our confidence in receiving what we ask from God. Paul, in a conversation about contentment in the face of difficult circumstances, said, “I can do anything through Christ!” And James railed against double-mindedness and assured us that a wishy-washy lack of focus would get us nowhere.

So, what should we do – if anything – about the power of intention in our lives? Given James’s admonitions above, it’s pretty clear that we need to be intentional when we come to God in prayer. But intentional for what? Here are some suggestions.

When it comes to our daily lives, we can be intentional about how we spend our time. Paul made it crystal clear that every single one of us is given a gift(s) that we’re expected to use for the care and feeding of our church family. It’s possible to be intentional about our talents and gifts: find out what we’re good at, get plugged into a Bible-based community of believers, find – or create! – a ministry in that community that aligns with our gifts…and we begin to live intentionally. And when it’s accompanied by prayer and thoughtfulness, we can be assured that our Father is helping us along.

But even if we somehow aren’t at a place to do this yet, the Bible pretty much shuts the door on doing nothing: “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (from Solomon); “whatever you do, do [it with passion], as to the Lord…” (from Paul).  So even if you don’t have a well-thought-out plan yet, you can be intentional if you just pick something – anything! – you think might benefit Jesus or His people, and do it with the gusto and the passion of intentionality.

Intentionality with our church may be fine. But what about the rest of our lives: relationships – jobs – stuff? Remember Jesus said that God, like any good father, loves to give us good things. Do we want more friends? Why would God deny that? He’s all about community. Do we want a romantic relationship? Solomon said “He who finds a wife finds a good thing…” (and obviously a husband is a good thing, too). Do we want a new car, house, clothes? The only restriction I see in praying for these types of things is that we shouldn’t want them just to feed a lifestyle of endless (purposeless?) indulgence.

But when we really desire something we have no doubt is good and right, then we must pursue it with a bulldog’s determination. Luke’s depiction of this level of determination involves an old woman who desperately seeks justice from a corrupt judge. He said Jesus told this story “to show that at all times they ought to pray and not lose heart.”

“Nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” “We know we have what we ask for.” “Pray…do not ever lose heart.” “Whatever you do, do it with all your might.” “Ask for wisdom, and God will give it to you.” If there ever was a time to drift aimlessly through life, this isn’t it. The power of intention is ours to grab ahold of. Get it and use it: it will change your life.


Categories: Life's Like That

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