Setting Myself up for Failure

I am horrible at keeping my promises. Utterly horrible. I promise to do things I don’t plan on doing!

I say I’ll take out the trash tonight, but I only plan to take it out if I feel like it (and there is a 100% chance I will not feel like it). I make agreements that I can’t keep. I say I’ll do something I know I can’t (or won’t) do.

I even do this with God.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my church pew, waiting for the service to start. I had the perfect opportunity to go say hi to a new girl at my church who recently became a Christian.

My thought process went something like this: “What will I say to her? I have nothing important to talk about. I really don’t feel like walking two rows up to say hi to her. Ugh.”

So I made things complicated for myself.

I made a deal with God.

This girl and her family are good friends with another new family at my church, and sometimes the two families sit together. One of the sons in the other family started to come in, and I decided to make a little pact with God.

“Hmm…there’s not much room left in her row. The other family probably won’t be able to sit there. So, if the new family sits in the row behind her, I won’t go talk to her. She can talk with them.”

The son came in. And he sat in her row. He didn’t sit behind her.


I then had a choice to make. I could swallow my selfishness and talk to her…or I could sit in my comfy little pew and hope she came back next week.

You can probably guess what I did.

Yup, I stayed seated like I was stuck in a puddle of glue.

I promised the One who holds the entire universe in His hand a promise to show kindness to someone.

And I broke it.

What’s worse is that this is a common occurrence in my life. I frequently break promises to my family and to my God.

I say I’ll talk to the lonely girl at lunch, and then I completely ignore her.

I say I’ll clean my room today, and then I read a new magazine.

I say I’ll stay off the Internet today, and then I shop for three hours on eBay.

There’s a simple solution to this:

  1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
  2. Do the thing you don’t feel like doing.

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment. (James 5:12 NKJV)

Above ALL.

Did you catch that?  James wanted us to know that keeping our promises is a top priority.


Because when you don’t follow through on your agreements, people won’t trust you. People won’t rely on you to do things. No one likes a flaker or a faker.

God doesn’t need us to follow through on our promises. He will work out His plan—with or without us. If you break your promise to help your widowed neighbor mow her lawn, He has someone else to do it.

God will get done what He wants done.

But wouldn’t you rather take part in God’s plan?

When we commit to something, we need to do it; and we need to be serious about it. I don’t make a big deal out of the promises I make to God. But I need to.

Don’t promise to help with the church potluck at 5:00 on Wednesday night if you have a meeting that ends at 4:45. It’s okay to say no to some things (which is a topic I’ll probably discuss in the future, but I’m not going to promise anything :)).

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. (Luke 16:10 NASB)

Be trustworthy. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. People may get annoyed because you’re not committing to everything, but it’s better not to set yourself up for failure.

If you know you won’t do something, don’t say you’ll do it. But if it needs to be done, pray for the strength to do it.

Be faithful in the little promises (and the big ones), and God will reward you for it.

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