“Intentional” is a word that comes up a lot in the Counseling Room–especially when we talk about faith and how the challenges we face provide opportunities to trust and honor God. The Bible has much to say about faith and makes clear that true faith is never accidental. In fact, a faith that pleases and honors God is always intentionally applied.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture that demonstrates the connection between faith and intentionality is recorded in the second chapter of James. He begins his discourse with a question that has been asked throughout the ages:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,
if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save them?”
He answers his question with a powerful example and declaration:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, FAITH by itself, if it is not accompanied by action (intentionality), IS DEAD.”
(Verses 15-17–emphasis mine)
James continues the argument,
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
You believe that there is one God. Good!
Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
(Verses 18, 19)
James concludes his discourse with the ultimate example of intentional faith (you can read it for yourself as it is recorded in Genesis 22):
“You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
Faith that pleases God is never accidental. True faith is demonstrated with no lessor motive than a desire to honor God–even when we do not fully understand what He is seeking to accomplish. An intentional faith:
- Prays and waits for clarity before moving forward.
- Relies on the Scriptures for wisdom and perspective in every situation.
- Is lived out daily as we make choices that are God-honoring.
- Refuses to entertain doubt or fear.
- Is not naive, it is a growing, maturing faith.
- Is committed to loving others, even when they disappoint us.
- Gives thanks to God for His faithfulness, even when our lives appear to fall apart:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
II Corinthians 4:16-18
Do you struggle because your faith is weak? Be encouraged by a conversation recorded in Mark 9:29-27, between Jesus and a father, desperate to save his son from being tormented:
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
I have always found Jesus’s response to the father’s confession reassuring. He did not chide him for his inadequacy or turn him away by saying, “Come back after you’ve got your act together!” Jesus freed the son and returned him to his father.
It isn’t the size of the faith but the willingness to trust that grows and matures a God-pleasing faith. Faith intentionally placed in Him will carry you through whatever twist or turn your life takes:
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Psalm 16:7, 8
All to His Glory!