1/19/2017 Mike about 45
Is it better to make promises without following through, or to follow through without making promises? Jesus told a parable of two brothers who fit that description. The first son made a promise and didn't carry it out. Jesus commended the second son who at first refused to go help his father, but later thought better of it and went anyway.
A man named Mike reminded me of this parable as we talked about his beliefs. He had heard and responded to the Gospel while incarcerated, but now that he is released he gravitates away from the Bible and toward sensational conspiracy theories online. He had made commitments to God but fails to follow through. Mike doesn't attend church, but even while we talked he responded with impulsive enthusiasm, saying he would like to attend and asking all about it. He excitedly said he'd like to come to a Bible study I was attending that evening. But he never came. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume a good reason that he didn't follow through, but this seems to fit a pattern in his life - making promises without following through.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had a solution for our broken promises - don't make them in the first place! He said "But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." We should be extremely careful about the promises and even the more informal commitments that we make. It is better not to make a promise at all then to make one only to break it.
So what about resolutions, or the various commitments or promises we make toward self-discipline such as Bible reading, prayer, fasting, or sharing our faith regularly? It seems like the minute I make a vow or promise to God, the enemy of our souls sets to work to break down my commitment and resolve. I end up feeling like a failure and wondering if the Power of God or my faith in Him are even real.
I've found it is better to prayerfully set goals, and to prayerfully ask that God help me to reach them. Goals are different from promises. They show our intentions, but they also show we know better than to make promises we can't keep by our own effort. Trying to fulfill a promises by our own strength of will is lonely and discouraging, but walking with God and our family of believers toward completing a goal builds relationship and encouragement. God isn't impressed with our empty promises. He wants us to know Him and walk with Him toward godly goals.