promises

Good Intentions and No Ambition

An old English proverb says the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Intentions are like ambitions without action. Unless there is follow-through, intentions become rash commitments or poorly conceived plans.

A common example is the New Year's resolution that sounds good and useful but isn't carried out or sustained. Intentions can be rash—not thought through carefully or without consideration of possible consequences.

Not Afraid

Fear can paralyze or energize us. It's called the flight or fight effect. But the fear of fear—of sudden terror—is a bottomless pit. There's no end to it. It doesn't paralyze, it puts a person in a comatose emotional and mental state.

A fear of sudden terror is understandable for war-torn regions of the world and for people living under an oppressive government. In those situations, a general fear for one's life is realistic, but it's not for those of us who live in nations with some form of democracy or representative government.

Fear that Blesses

How can fear bring blessing? When it's the right type of fear. This psalm speaks of the fear of God and declares the blessing it brings. The fear of God is often misunderstood by believers and non-believers alike.

It's a matter of priorities. When a person honors the Lord—realizing who He is and how powerful yet merciful He is—blessing will follow.

Shadow of the Almighty

Yesterday was somewhat of an African excursion for me. In the morning, I met with a young woman who spent seven months in the DR Congo. It's a nation mired in poverty and turmoil, not a comfortable place for a young white woman raised along the beaches of Southern California.

She's committed to going back there to work with children and young people, especially victims of rape and sexual abuse. I was impressed with the clarity of her vision and strength of her faith.

Promises, Promises

Photo credit: lightstock.com
Photo credit: lightstock.com

Remember the ways we tried to make our promises believable, as children? We said things like, "Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye." I never liked the idea of a needle in the eye! I've heard people say other silly things like, "I swear on a stack of Bibles," or "...on my mother's grave."

It's useless to guarantee promises. Either you keep them or you don't. My experience is that serial promise-makers don't keep their promises most of the time. For many people, promises are often just good intentions, and it's said that "the path to hell is paved with good intentions."

It seems a lot wiser to not make promises in the first place, especially ones we can't, or won't, keep.

Scripture

Be careful what you say when you go to God's house. Go there to listen. Don't be like foolish people when you offer your sacrifice. They do what is wrong and don't even know it. Don't be too quick to speak.Don't be in a hurry to say anything to God. He is in heaven. You are on earth. So use only a few words when you speak.Dreams come to people when they worry a lot. When foolish people talk, they use too many words.[vss 1-3]

When you make a promise to God, don't wait too long to carry it out. He isn't pleased with foolish people. So do what you have promised. It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it. Don't let your mouth cause you to sin. Don't object to the temple messenger. Don't say, "My promise was a mistake." Why should God be angry with what you say? Why should he destroy what you have done? Dreaming too much and talking too much are meaningless. So have respect for God.[vss 4-7]

(Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 NIRV) [Context– Ecclesiastes 5]

Key phrase— It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it 

[bctt tweet="It is better to make no promise at all than to make a promise and not keep it"]

Digging Deeper...

What's the first admonition given here? What is recommended and why?

When should we limit our words? What tends to happen when too many words are spoken?

What are we told about promises and God? What advice is given and why?

When we fail to keep our word and follow through on things, what is the wise thing to do?

Reflection...

Sometimes I like to drive with the radio and CD player off. It might sound boring, but it's not. It helps me pray and think things through, as well as pray for others. I also find myself more attentive to what's going on around me.

Sometimes, I'll go through a day where I say little to others, and just listen. That's not always easy for me. I like to talk, and can ramble on and on without saying much of anything.

Another place I've learned to listen is when I'm on my knees before God. I don't always need to say something. We can hear a lot when we're willing to just listen.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again to consider and answer the following questions

Do you find yourself making promises to assure people of your intentions?

Do you ever regret making promises, or have a hard time keeping the ones you do make?

How do you guard yourself from making rash promises or talking too much?

When was the last time you listened more than talked?