Good intentions that fall short

I was recently listening to a podcast that was talking about how to discipline children. The woman who was being interviewed stressed how we shouldn’t label our kids, and emphasized that we should point out the “bad behavior” that they need to stop, and separate it from the child. We should then remind the child who they are – precious children of God. Sounds so on point, right? Obviously, this mom has very good intentions. To be honest, I realized this is somewhat how I have been known to discipline my own children. But when I heard this woman talking about correcting your child in this way, something seemed a little off. It seemed as if it was somewhat right, but not completely.

And then it dawned on me

After thinking about this for a bit, I realized when we separate the behavior of a child from the child him(her)self, the focus is all wrong. By focusing only on the behavior, we are highlighting the negative behavior rather than shining the light on God and His grace (when we repent). Clearly we shouldn’t brow beat our children and label them with nasty names. However, when we mainly focus on behavior and emphasize how essentially the child is really great on the inside and one of God’s children, we are going to turn these little sinning darlings into big sinning moralists who haven’t a clue on how broken and fallen they are. And therefore, they won’t embrace how much they need Christ.

And yes, we ARE children of God (when we accept Christ as our LORD and Savior), but we are still very much sinners who need to repent all the time. We may be children of God, but our choices are not these nebulous things that happen to us. Our sinful-selves make them happen. We choose sin rather than holiness, even when we are trying not to sin. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Romans 7:24-25)!

Good intentions strike again

Somewhere else where good intentions can fall short can even be seen by how we’re encouraged to approach bible study. Of course, ANY reading of God’s Word is a very good thing! All of us need to be doing that. However, as Believers we may be approaching it wrong. And if it’s left unaddressed, it can lead ultimately to an unhealthy (and ungodly) self-focus. Often times well-meaning people who are intending to hold us accountable or just ask about our bible reading will ask, “What was the LORD teaching you today?” Is there anything innately wrong with that question?? No. But here again, the focus shouldn’t be about us. The focus should be on God.

The Bible is God’s Word that teaches us all about Him. I’ve heard it described as a “how-to” manual for people. It’s also been described as a historical book. Many have said it’s God’s love story to us. The thing is, it’s all of these things and more. But the main reason and the main focus should always be that it’s about God. It’s about His goodness, His grace, and His mercy. And our job is to enjoy Him and glorify Him forever (Westminster Catechism, Question 1).

Good intentions done right

David is such a great example of what good intentions done right looks like. When David was conquering giants, his focus was never on himself. It was always on Him. For example, all of the other soldiers were focusing on themselves and how Goliath was defying Israel (1 Samuel 17:25). But David instead sees the situation as Goliath defying the armies of the living God (1 Samuel 17:26). This is a very big and important distinction.

The same can be said for all of the renowned men and women of the bible. Their focus wasn’t on themselves. Instead of being self-absorbed (manifesting itself in either despair or over-confidence), they were self-forgetful. Each Bible hero not only had good intentions, but a holy and good God that they were focusing and relying on.

LORD, direct my focus

Maybe it’s me, but LORD, do we need to be more intentional on where we focus. And when we’re self-forgetful and humble, a funny thing happens. When that attitude of humbleness is our posture before the LORD, He is always there to lift us up (James 4:10).

To be clear, it’s not about denigrating ourselves. As C.S. Lewis has so eloquently said,

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

C.S. Lewis

I love that quote and I try my best to remember it often. Because if I’m honest with myself, it’s the very hardest thing for me to do. I have very good intentions, but I also recognize the sin that lies within my heart. More often than I want to admit, I end up making everything about me. This is pretty much always true when I’m not being intentional. It just comes naturally. It goes against my nature to put God first. But praise His name, He listens to sinners like me. He doesn’t get tired of being asked, “LORD shift my focus,” or simply, “LORD, help me.”

Praise God, He helps us do what’s right, instead of what’s easy. Remind your kids of that. And the next time they sin, tell them that yes they have made some bad choices. But praise His name, God forgives all of us who repent. Keep pointing to Jesus. And get encouraged by reading incredible stories of God’s grace to fallen people like you and I, such as John Newton and Augustine.

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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