Fulfil Your Potential!

Posted: June 12, 2014 in Thoughts on God
Tags: , , ,

potentialIn life, many people do not reach their full potential. We can become so caught up in the everyday that it is easy to continue in old patterns rather than change. Yet, we all have a God-given desire to live to our full potential. Perhaps you remember this celebrated biography:

‘Solomon Grundy … Born on a Monday …
Christened on Tuesday … Married on Wednesday …
Took ill on Thursday … Grew worse on Friday …
Died on Saturday … Buried on Sunday …
And that was the end of Solomon Grundy.’

In life there are many people, like Solomon Grundy, who do not reach their full potential. And yet, the potential of every human being is great. Jesus wants us to live highly productive lives. He wants us to produce ‘a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’ (Matthew 13:8). The key to that potential lies in our relationship with Jesus – a relationship that can be as close as that of a brother or sister or mother (12:50). We can live lives of real purpose that will make a difference to the world, because of what we receive from him (13:11–12,16).

Our potential is not about being driven by ambition or success; it is about recognising who we are in God. As we seek him and live our lives according to his purposes, we will begin to bear much fruit. The more we begin to fulfil our God-given potential, the more he entrust to us. He wants us to live lives of abundance (13:12).

The potential for Israel was very great (Genesis 35:11). God intended that Israel would not only be blessed, but also be a blessing to other nations. You have the opportunity to live a life of even greater blessing than those you read about in the Old Testament. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it’ (Matthew 13:16–17).

Jesus warns us that although there is great potential in each of us, there are pitfalls ahead. How can you avoid the pitfalls of life and fulfil your potential?

1. Promote humility

Psalm 10:1-11In his book, Finding Happiness: Monastic Steps for a Fulfilling Life, Abbot Christopher Jamison defines pride as ‘self-importance’. He writes: ‘Humility is an honest approach to the reality of our own lives and acknowledges that we are not more important than other people.’

In this psalm, the psalmist goes on a journey from feeling that God is ‘far off … in times of trouble’ (v.1 onwards), to a realisation (as we will read tomorrow) that God certainly does ‘see trouble and grief’, does ‘listen’ to the ‘cry’ of the ‘afflicted’ and does defend ‘the fatherless and oppressed’ (v.14 onwards).

In fact, it is the ‘wicked’ (v.2) who seek to make themselves distant – ‘your laws are rejected by him’ (v.5). They think of themselves as more important than others – especially the poor, whom they ‘draw into their net and crush’ (vv.9–10, AMP). These verses tell us about the pitfall of ‘pride’ (v.4).

When things go well it is tempting to say, ‘Nothing will ever shake me … No one will ever do me harm’ (v.6). We can be tempted to feel that we have no need of God. ‘In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God’ (v.4). It’s easy to become arrogant (v.2) and boastful (v.3). This psalm seeks to warn us against doing so, and reminds us of our need for God.

Lord, keep me from pride, arrogance and self-importance. May I seek you with all my heart, remembering that I need you and that you never forget me.

2. Pursue intimacy

Matthew 12:46-13:17Some dangerous cults have twisted the words of Jesus (12:50) to teach that becoming a Christian means severing all relations with your family. This is not only dangerous, but also unbiblical. The fifth commandment tells us to honour our father and mother. We are told that, ‘Anyone who does not provide for relatives, and especially for immediate family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever’ (1 Timothy 5:8).

Yet Jesus shows here that there is something even more important than our relationships with our own family. Our supreme calling is to an intimate relationship with Jesus, doing ‘the will of the Father’ (Matthew 12:50).

Jesus says, ‘Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’ (v.50). His words speak of intimacy, permanence and acceptance – a relationship at the deepest possible level. We have the potential to acquire this amazing closeness to Jesus.

Father, thank you that you call me into this intimate relationship with Jesus. Help me to do your will and stay close to Jesus each day.

3. Put down roots

The highs of spiritual experiences are very important, but if they are not combined with deep spiritual roots there is the danger of a shallowness that can lead to falling away. We all need to be aware of this pitfall. We can all fall away in our hearts even while we are doing the right things.

Jesus talks about the seed that falls on shallow ground. It springs up quickly but withers because it has no root (13:6). Later on he will explain that the person who has no roots lasts only a short time because they fall away when trouble or persecution come (v.21).   The answer is to develop deep and strong roots in our relationship with God.                           

Lord, help me to put my roots down deep. May the parts of my life that are beneath the surface, that no one sees, be strong and healthy.

4. Protect your heart

It is so easy for people to be distracted by the busyness of life. Many things can fill our lives and push out time for God, church and other ways in which our spiritual roots could be developed. Again, this is a danger for us all.

Jesus warned about thorns that choke the plant (v.7). Later on, he explains that the thorns are ‘the worries of this life’ and the ‘deceitfulness of wealth’ (v.22).

Lord, help me to keep my eyes fixed on you, to abide in you and stay close to you. Help me to guard this relationship and never allow other things, even good things, to crowd in and choke my life.

5. Purify yourselves

Genesis 34:1-35:29In this passage we read a warning of the danger of escalating revenge (see 1 Corinthians 10:11). One terrible crime (the rape of Dinah, Genesis 34:2) led to another that was even greater: The people of God ‘attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male … They carried off … all their women and children’ (vv.25–29).

The result was a disaster. Jacob says, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to … the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed’ (v.30). The actions of Simeon and Levi are roundly condemned for their violence, ferocity and cruelty (see 49:5–7).

Revenge was not just a pitfall for Simeon and Levi; once again it is a temptation for all of us. When we are offended, we want revenge. In the Old Testament, retribution was limited by proportionality – ‘life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ and so on (Exodus 21:23–24). Jesus sets (and by his death and resurrection makes possible) an even higher standard in our relationships today. We are to forgive and love our enemies.

Joyce Meyer, who often speaks of the abuse that she suffered as a child, writes, ‘Have you, like Dinah, ever been an innocent victim? I can assure you that even in the worst circumstances, God gives us grace to forgive so that we can go on with our lives.’

Jacob said to his household, ‘Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves’ (Genesis 35:2). God appeared to Jacob (renamed Israel, v.10) and said, ‘I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you’ (v.11).

The potential is great. Rick Warren has said, ‘In ministry, private purity is the source of public power’. This is true for all of us, whether we are operating in the family, the workplace, the community or the church. If we want to have a powerful impact for Christ in the world, we need to be people of purity.

Lord, thank you that the potential for Jacob and for the nation of Israel was so great. Thank you that the potential for all our lives is vast. Thank you that you want us to live highly productive lives of real purpose that make a difference to the world. Help us to avoid all the pitfalls and to fulfil our potential. May we be those who produce a crop thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.

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