Good Intentions Are Not Enough

A lesson from the beans.

Pole beans are very good long term bearers. They start making beans early in the season and keep at it well into the fall. We plant the seeds along the base of racks so that the vines have support as they grow, and the beans are easy to harvest. The bean plants grow rapidly, blossoming and making beans during the long, hot days of June and July. That is what we expect. But suppose the plants sprouted and climbed the racks but waited until mid October to start blossoming…New growth in October…  And blossoms … and small beans forming. More blossoms … and more beans in the making… good intentions, but TOO LATE to make!

They were doing the “right” thing, but… That fresh new growth in late October and November would amount to NOTHING. The time for growth had gone by. The warm nights, the long days, the hot sunshine, the summer rains … gone!

This is where we say, Good intentions are not enough. Good intentions cannot take the place of good fruit.

Isn’t there a powerful lesson here for us? It is possible to delay too long. Jeremiah brings it home to each of us. The time to act is NOW. Good intentions are not enough. They are like blossoms at the end of October.

Jeremiah 13:15–16  15Hear, and give ear; do not be proud: for the Lord has spoken. 16Give glory to the Lord your God, before he causes darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and, while you look for light, he turns it into the shadow of death, and makes it gross darkness.

Gross darkness. The grave. Opportunity gone. It is the price of good intentions. We intend to change, we plan what we will do, or be, or make. But the time keeps going by, faster and faster.

Just today I heard it said another way:

Minutes CRAWL, hours WALK, days RUN, years FLY.

Such is the story of each of our lives. We MUST carry through with those good intentions NOW. If we neglect God’s appeal when the time is favorable, we cannot expect Him to hear us when we are in distress. It is the warning of Proverbs. It is the voice of wisdom, speaking for God:

Proverbs 1:24–27  24Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, 25Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, 26I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, 27When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.

A time we surely do not want to be OUTSIDE God’s circle—when we will want His love, not His laugh. A calamity we want to PREVENT.

Proverbs 1:28–31  28“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. 29Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord, 30They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. 31Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies.

We have all known or known of those struck with serious accident or illness, who vowed great changes in their lives if they were spared. But most often we know also the end of it. Most resumed their former way of life when they returned to health. It is a repetition of the poet’s couplet:

The devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;
The devil was well…

and that was another story.

It becomes the vicious circle of sin and confess, sin and confess, and never forsake. It is so very easy to keep the demands of the spirit at a minimum, reserving our energy for ourselves.

The word for it is temporizing. What is temporizing?

According to the dictionary it is;

to be indecisive or delay acting, as in order to gain time or avoid conflict.

Temperizing. Delaying. Stalling. It is all too easy, especially when it is the conflict of flesh against spirit. As Paul said:

Galatians 5:16–17  16…Walk in the Spirit [the higher life, God’s way], and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh [the level of our instincts]. 17For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

The higher life, the growing of the “new” nature, the spirit-motivated nature, stops at the level of “good intentions.” Just a little growth, or a few blossoms, like the late beans. To repent, to make the change from old nature to new, requires real and sustained effort when there is still opportunity. Jesus said it right to the point:

Matthew 26:41  41Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Spirit willing. (Good intentions.) Flesh weak. (Nothing happens.)

Good intentions are not enough.

This moral laziness, this self-deception, this temporizing (I’ll do it tomorrow) is dangerous. It can so easily become a way of life, a habit that takes a tremendous force to break. That is the warning of Jeremiah again:

Jeremiah 13:23  23Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.

Being forewarned, it is a plight we CAN avoid. How? By agitating those good intentions and making them HAPPEN.

The more we practice going against our will, the stronger spiritually we will be. It is a matter of developing spiritual muscles to overpower the “Devil” nature in us; to see where we lack and then:

Romans 12:21  21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Overcome! That is overpower… overrule… the “over” being the power of the NEW nature we know we MUST become to follow the example of Christ.

This power to overrule our instincts comes with a firm resolve to live at the higher level, above the world, above OURSELVES—because we WANT the eternal LIFE God has offered us! Life with the ANGELS! Life on the higher level. Life without END!

At all costs we want to avoid the plight of the man described in Young’s “Night Thoughts”:

At 30, man suspects himself a fool,
Knows it at 40, and reforms his plan;
At 50, chides his infamous delay,
And pushes his prudent purpose to resolve,
In all the magnanimity of thought;
Resolves, and re-resolves, then dies the same.”

We don’t want to be like those beans in late October, just starting to make blossoms. Good intentions, but lacking good opportunity. Good intentions, but there is time only for regret, no time to make a solid turn around.

To give up the world and go God’s way we must do it NOW. With a complete change of heart. It is not a panic-turnaround in sickness, not a death-bed repentance, but a turn to God in wholehearted gratitude for what He is offering us today, for our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

The Psalmist had the right spirit when he said,

Psalm 66:13–14  13I will go into Your house with burnt offerings; I will pay You my vows, 14Which my lips have uttered And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble.

Jesus reproved the unbelief of the cities that had seen his works—Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum because there was no change of heart. What did He say:

Matthew 11:21  21“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Matthew 11:23 23And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven [they must have had a high opinion of themselves!], you will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Why were Sodom and Gomorrah not given opportunity to repent if God is no respecter of persons? The answer is that it would have been only a regret, not a true repentance. Only a temporary sorrow, not a true reformation. They would not have turned their hearts to seeking God and godliness. They had no heart for God.

Let us act NOW on our good intentions, so we will not be like the bean plants, blossoming and preparing for fruit when summer is done.

Whatever we need to do, DO IT NOW. Don’t temporize. Don’t wait until we have to say with the people of Jeremiah’s day,

Jeremiah 8:20  20“The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!”

As we work to rid ourselves of all evil, we cannot just dream about doing the right thing, we must DO IT! Or one day it will be too late––impossible to change––our evil ways set too deeply.

Jeremiah asks a most serious question:

Jer. 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots?

Then comes the obvious answer:

Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil..

Before we become so accustomed to living life our way, let us be sure to heed the warning and change to God’s way. Avoid, at all cost, ever thinking, “time enough yet.”

To those who have put off until a more convenient day Christ will utter the saddest words ever to be spoken: ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

NOW is time to put good intentions into action! “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”