Premeditated Goodness

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

Goodness does not just happen. Goodness must be premeditated.

In Run with the Horses, Eugene Peterson’s exploration of Jeremiah, Peterson makes an observation about King Zedekiah that stuck with me.  He says, “There is no evidence that he premeditated wrong doing. But, and this is the significant fact, neither did he premeditate goodness. And goodness does not just happen.”

Goodness, Peterson argues, does not “spring full-bodied out of the head of kingly intent. It requires careful nurture, disciplined training, long development.”

King Zedekiah was the king of Judah at the beginning of the Babylonian exile. He was the Babylonian’s figurehead king, placed on the throne after the “real” king, Jehoiachin, had been taken into exile. Zedekiah was handpicked by the Babylonians because he could be easily manipulated. He could provide the illusion of local control and authority while allowing the Babylonians a free hand in Israel.

Zedekiah almost certainly didn’t grow up dreaming to be the king who collaborated with the enemy, the king who became the puppet to an invading army. He didn’t want to be the king who was led along by the tide of history. He, like most people, almost certainly wanted to be the king who WAS the tide of history. But that’s not how he turned out.

All of us—individuals and churches—want to shape our own destinies. We want to be the people who swing the hammer, not the nail that leaves the mark. We want to be actors in and directors of events, not tools of them.

But wanting to shape our futures and actually shaping our futures are two different things. Good intentions are not enough. Peterson writes, “[G]ood intentions are worthless if they are not coupled with character development…Intentions must mature into commitments if we are to become persons (or churches) with definition, with character, with substance.”

So we can cross our fingers and hope that good things happen. Or we can commit to partnering with God to make good things happen. We can premeditate goodness.

That’s what strategic planning is all about. It is about premeditating goodness. It’s about partnering with God to dream God’s future—for our lives, for God’s church, for this community—into existence.

When we fail to plan, fail to dream, fail to identify purpose and direction, life will carry us along in whatever direction the wind is blowing—OR in whatever direction those who have planned choose to take us. The Babylonians had a plan—a disciplined, carefully nurtured, well-developed plan. Zedekiah did not. Zedekiah’s good intentions never stood a chance.

God has a plan and purpose for our lives. And God has a plan and purpose for our church. But we are not called to be bystanders in that plan. God honors us with the opportunity of partnership. We are called to be co-laborers in that plan because goodness doesn’t just happen. It takes careful nurture, disciplined training and long development. Goodness must be premeditated.

We’ll start premeditating goodness together by revisiting our 2012 Strategic Plan at the beginning of 2015. That’s something I can get excited about. I hope you can, too.  See you Sunday.