Be all you can be! The Army isn’t the only one who urges us to reach our full potential; the church has picked up on it as well. As a friend of ours is recently told us, “My passion is helping people reach their potential, all God created them to be!”
Our friend went on to quote Ephesians 3:20—“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us….” explaining that because we have that power—the power of the Holy Spirit—at work within us, all believers have greatness hiding inside themselves. He saw his contribution to the church as helping believers discover and use the talents and abilities that God has placed within each one of us.
I’ve noticed that God doesn’t waste anything, including the lives of His people, but I wondered—is “reaching our God-given potential” God’s primary concern? Is this what we should be focused on? God’s priorities are so different from ours. His idea of someone’s potential could be so unexpected, will we even recognize it when we see it?
I’ve written before about my husband Pete’s greatest hero—a Chinese pastor who was imprisoned for his faith. This man spent years slogging hip-deep through human waste, carrying bucket after bucket of raw sewage from the prison camp latrine to a disposal site. Clearly God was with him for all that time, as he never sickened and died from what the prison guards considered a death sentence. And God not only sustained his body, but his spirit. Since no guard would approach due to the stench, he was free to sing praise and worship songs as he worked.
Did this man reach his God-given potential? Did he have a chance to use his doubtless plentiful talents and skills? Did it matter if he was, say, good at business, or had a flair for musical composition? Or was God’s intent to be glorified by his faithfulness in the most horrific of circumstances?
Think about how many other people never have a chance to reach their potential. What about those in poverty, with limited choices? What about the disabled, or those without political freedom to choose their careers or where they live? In some places, women are prevented from participating in a life outside the few rooms of their homes.
In a perfect world, we would all have the freedom to recognize and develop all that God has created in us. But our world is far from perfect.
Let me tell you one more true story. Those who know Pete know that he’s always busy. As the founder and CEO of a ministry, he always has more to do, and he does it with energy and joy. But there was a time (after a horrific accident) when Pete was lying in a hospital bed unable to do anything but think and pray. He knew he was alive, but he had no idea if he would ever again be capable of movement, let alone anything more.
It was at this difficult time when he heard God ask him, “Are you willing to do nothing for me?”
The question came with a mental image of servants standing in the hallway of a palace, waiting for the king to give them an order. While ready and available, most of their time was spent just waiting. In the same way, as long as he knew it was God’s will, was Pete willing to simply do nothing for God?
Of course, questions of this sort have only one correct answer, so after a bit of serious soul searching, Pete answered that yes, he was willing to do nothing, if that is what God wanted.
How does that jibe with a focus on using all the gifts God has given us?
You may remember that our speaker quoted Ephesians 3:20, but the passage continues in verse 21:
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Yes, we have the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us, but to what purpose? Where does Paul, the author of Ephesians, direct our attention? It’s “… to him who is able…” and “… to him be glory…”!
Knowing ourselves—our strengths and weaknesses, the aptitudes and talents God has gifted us with—can be useful. It can help us serve God and others to the best of our ability. But God may call us to do something that doesn’t use a single one of our skills. Do we say no?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
1 Samuel 15:22b
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”