Mistaking Intentions for Accomplishments

A number of years ago I met with a ministry leader at a Christian College about his retirement plan. I’d noted that he was not participating in a very generous plan provided by the College. Because he was such a senior leader I was curious as to why he was not either receiving the gracious ministry contribution available or making any voluntary contributions.

Upon entering his office, greeting him and making some small talk about “the weather” I broached the financial issue at hand.

“It appears you are not participating in the College’s retirement plan. May I ask why not?"

He looked a little shocked. During his almost 20 years at the college, he was considered a wise elder stateman of the faculty and looked up to by many present and past students.

 “I think I am, aren’t I?”

“No, I don’t think so. At least not according to the retirement plan records.”

He reflected for a few moments and then added, “Oh yes, I was going to sign up.”

Rising from his chair he approached a two-foot high stack of papers. “I know I have those papers here somewhere.”

The stack really was about two feet high filled with loose papers and file folders. He used his two right-hand fingers much like a divining rod running up and down the stack searching…….for those account application forms.

“Ah, I’ve triumphed. Here they are and a little worse for wear. Are they still good?”

As I took the ancient forms from him, flipped through them, and answered his question with a question?

“It looks like the date on these forms is about 15 years ago? Can that be right?”

He took them back, re-examined them, sat back down on his chair, hard and said:

“Oh my goodness, has it been that long? And I never signed them either. What can I do?”

“Let’s sign new ones, quickly, right away. Would you like to know what the account might have been if you had participated?”

“I’m afraid of the answer, but yes I’d like to know as long as you don’t tell my wife.”

After making the calculations, the amount was over $40,000. Back then, $40,000 was a lot of money…..something like $90,000 in today’s dollars.

It is expensive to mistake intentions for accomplishments. How often do we make this mistake, not just with money, but with all kinds of resources and ministry assets?

Unfortunately, we often take the same approach with people and relationships. A person dies and we lament that the time is passed for us to repair the broken relationship. We lament the lost years of love experienced because of all the excuses accepted for not taking action.

A friend shared his lament because of another hesitancy to take action. His wife put a repair project on his “honey do” list. The fountain out front of the house had not worked for almost two years. Now they had the house on the market and an interested buyer showed up. They went through the house and were very interested. When leaving, they observed the fountain and commented on how attractive it was. They then asked, “Why is it not working?”

The realtor checked back with my friend who assured her that he would “Get it fixed, right away.” 

When he checked back with the Realtor a few days later, she told him that the prospects had “cooled” on the house.

"Why?"

“To tell you the truth, the prospects decided that if fixing the fountain that was right out front was not a priority, then what, that they can not see needing attention, is not being fixed either?”

The result was a lost sale and a challenged marriage relationship.

We do mistake intentions for accomplishments while often claiming accomplishments when they are only intentions.

An acquaintance of mine had a stinging way of referring to the act of claiming accomplishments when they are only intentions. He described this process as, “Telling the truth in advance.” My grandmother always referred to that as “lying."

Another difficult aspect to all of this is that we often “tell the truth in advance” to ourselves and those we love. We express it in hyperbole to our associates or anyone else willing to listen. In our Life Group, we quote weekly from the book of John in the Bible: “When you know the truth it will set you free”. The reverse is also true. When you don’t know the truth and/or don’t tell it, is captures and imprisons you. This reality is reflected in so many ways. We are trapped by our own words rather than being freed by them.

Jesus was truthful and intentional about his reason for walking among us and then sending His Spirit to help us along our path of commitment.

“Be faithful for a lifetime,” impact the world by spreading love like yeast and growing exponentially like a mustard seed. When we take this path departing from the “road of good intentions” and walking the path of wise decisions, compassionate relationships and actions that reflect Jesus love while building the Kingdom, the promise of the good life becomes real.

Be encouraged fellow laborers. It is a new day and we can begin again. Make that list of what needs doing, and then get started. Completed priorities and impactful accomplishments leads to a sweet night’s sleep. It will also lead to an eternity of relationships begun with those sweet words, “Well done, Good and faithful servant!”

Stay with us on the journey. Remember that to be faithful for a lifetime there is a funding component that cannot be ignored. Future Funded Ministry is the way we describe that piece to the lifetime of ministry call. Listen to the call and fund the associated action plan. It is worth it.

Trusted Advice along the journey.

Bruce