Previously I talked about how the Christian life is the unintentional life, one where the natural response is godliness and we no longer require effort to be ungodly. This is the nature of sanctification. Now I want to talk about how God also interrupts and destroys any notion of the centrality of intention to Christianity.
God destroys human intention. Ask any Christian who has lived more than 30 years. Among the most godly Christians I doubt you’d find a single person who would say “God worked when I wanted him to, how I wanted him to.” God destroys human intention. Pastors and missionaries may have worked and earned massive incomes, but gave up money for the cause of the cross. I doubt that any of them intended to give up what they had. They were not intentional in what has happened to them, rather their response is the same as the disciples, an unintentional response that springs out of a heart attentive to the calling of God, a response that emerges as obedience to a call that surpasses anything on this earth. So it is with all Christians in any walk of life.
This is easily shown in the Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Hebrew Bible in the sayings of Qoheleth.
For everything there is a time (chronos), and a right time (kairos) for every matter under heaven:
A right time (kairos) to give birth, and a right time to die
A right time to plant, and a right time to pluck up what is planted . . .
See Greek, and to some extent Hebrew make this distinction between this idea of a set time and a right time and a set time is not always a right time. I can set my schedule to watch a movie at 6 PM, but if the movie doesn’t show until 8 PM, then all the sitting I do at 6 is pointless because the right time is not yet come. Intentionality often fails to account for the purposes of God. We might intend for a relationship to be deep, and if it’s a romantic relationship, that it might work out. At the same time though, we all know that no matter how intentional we might be, relationships fade with time and breakups happen. No amount of intentionality will change the fact that occasionally the things that we set in time, this idea of chronos, of a linear scheduled time, often conflict with kairos and the purposes of God.
Ultimately we cannot be intentional always because God does not allow it. The plans we set, the plans we are intent on, only fairly unoften account for the plans of God and merely include what we might think that he wants. An example instead of what to do is seen in the call of the disciples, a call that is repeated to every single person that calls themselves a Christian.
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Regardless of the intent of the disciples we find that upon the first call of Christ they put aside all they had and followed. Here rather than following their own schedule, their own chronos, they saw that the time was right for discipleship and followed in the kairos time of God. The same goes for the Christian walk. There is a right time for everything, and these times are ordained by God. It should be our unintentional, habitual response to say, as Isaiah did, “Here I am; send me.” The unintentional life is a life which is able to respond to the call of Christ, one where we have truly died to self so that Christ might live in us.
The purposes of God do not allow us to be intentional inasmuch as our intention stems from ourselves. Let us stop this carpe diem attitude whereby we say that by intention we can do whatever we set our minds to. What we intend may never happen if God does not will it. Additionally, a critique of the idea of intention in relationships equates intention with certainty, and the Christian life from the outside is anything but certain because it is a life of faith. Our only certainty is Christ and Christ is the center of all things. We walk by faith, not by sight and in faith let us die to self so that we may fully surrender to the will of Christ and let our intention be this one cause, that in all things we might decrease so that he may increase, that our intentionality furthers the areas in which we are unintentionally following Christ with a sanctified mind. Intentionality is not an end, it is merely the beginning of a process from which we emerge with a desire that is only for Christ and nothing other.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
and the young men shall utterly fall:
but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.