Potential – defn:
(attribute) Having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future.
(noun) Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
I wonder what you would think of if I asked you what your potential was? We’re probably more comfortable thinking about the ‘potential’ someone else has than thinking about our own. Potential is about something stored up in you that could be released – its about what might happen, what you could do. Its about something that’s there, if it is used – something that is up for grabs. What do you think your potential is? Are you doing anything to try to give yourself the best chance of reaching yours? And what, I wonder does your faith do to influence your perspective about your potential?
Someone’s potential is about the max they could achieve – what they could do in the best conditions with the most support and the right training and support. For me when I think of potential I think of a swing. When I was a kid in primary school we had this swing. Forget all the swings you have ever known, this was an amazing swing. The posts were so tall that as a small child I remember them seeming to go almost up to the sky. The chains on the swing were incredibly long. It took you a while to get going but when you did – oh boy did you soar!
Reaching your potential is kind of like getting going on that swing – it is when you get into your own rhythm with the max length of swing – you can really soar. Its what I comes to my mind when I read what Jesus said about why he came: ‘I came that they might have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10, NIV). The message puts it like this ‘I came that they can have real life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of’. Too many people are trying to get going on swings that have had the chains shortened – like our local park when I was a teenager where some kid had always spun the swing over the bar so the chain got wound round and round the bar. You just couldn’t get going on chains that short. It was hard work and it certainly never felt like soaring.
Do you sometimes feel under pressure to ‘be’ or ‘do’ something amazing, or struggle with feeling like you aren’t achieving enough in your life? Be encouraged – reaching your potential doesn’t mean you have to do – or be – something out of the ordinary. In fact ordinary is exactly how Paul puts it in Romans 12. He challenges us to ‘take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going to work and walking around life – and place it before God as an offering’ (Romans 12:1, Msg). We don’t have to pull something amazing out of the bag – its about giving our ordinary over to God and watching Him do something extraordinary with it.
In Romans 12 Paul compares the church – the gathering of people who follow Jesus – to a body – all with different skills and abilities, all working together perfectly. He concludes ‘since we all find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvellously functioning parts of Christ’s body, lets just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t (Romans 12:6, Msg).
So don’t feel under pressure to be something you are not. Just be yourself and let God worry about the rest.
So how does it work if it isn’t us making something amazing happen through what we do? Back to Paul again this time speaking (well, writing) in 1 Corinthians 3:7. ‘It’s not the one who plants, or the one who waters who is at the centre of this process, but God, who makes things grow’ (1 Cor 3:7, Msg). God will grow you – you don’t have to do anything except offer your ordinary self up to him. God will take seeds planted in you which you may not even be aware of and make them grow. And you may never know the impact your ‘ordinary’ actions have on someone or something else.
The bible says so many things about who we are through God. My favourite at the moment comes from 1 Corinthians 1:2 (again from The Message translation):
We are ‘believers cleaned up by Jesus and set apart for a God filled life.’ (1 Cor 1:2 Msg)
So what could God do through you? What could you achieve if you gave your ordinary life over to God? How might God use you?
Jesus also said that ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’ (Luke 8:27 NIV) – perhaps the difficult thing in growing into our potential is not limiting God because we have such a limited view ourselves of what we could do.