By Charles Stanley
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Text: Psalms 139:13-16
Are you excited about your life? Or do you feel as if you are merely existing?
Are you moving with confidence toward a desired goal? Or do you feel as if you are drifting along from day to day without any sense of purpose or direction?
Perhaps there was a time when you were excited about your life, but now the excitement has faded, and you are asking, What has happened to me? Why am I so apathetic about my life? What happened to my inner drive?
People have said to me, "When I look at my life and the way the world is today, I just don't see much to be excited about."
Some think about their vocation or job and say, "I can't go any higher, do any better, or go any farther. I can't do more than I'm doing right now."
Others feel as if their lives have gone stale. Perhaps their marriage isn't as dynamic as it once was, or they have lost all interest in hobbies and activities that once gave them pleasure.
Some people tell me that they feel inadequate or unprepared for the future. Still others say that they feel plagued by their lives -- stuck in their circumstances wondering, What's it all about? What is my life worth? What happened to my joy?
There are reasons we feel stuck, discouraged, or adrift.
There are reasons people lose their enthusiasm for life.
There are reasons God's people lose their hope, their sense of purpose, and their joy.
There are reasons life becomes just one long bore.
In my opinion, the foremost reasons are: (1) people have lost sight of who God made them to be and what He designed them to do; and (2) as a result, people are not actively, intentionally, and purposefully pursuing what the Father has planned and desired for them.
If you truly want to pursue and reach your full potential, then you must face up to these two truths:
Truth #1: God has placed more within you than you realize.
Truth #2: You likely have settled for the life you have now.
Are You Living a Settled-for Life?
Through the years, I have met countless people who are living what I call a "settled-for life." Someplace along their journey, they became complacent and content in their circumstances. They settled for what they believed was adequate or satisfactory.
A friend reminded me recently that several decades ago, children in the earliest grades of school were given one of three marks for their achievement: outstanding, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory. Children frequently compared their results, telling how many O's and S's they received from their teacher. They never bragged, of course, about any U's. For most children, getting an S for satisfactory was just that --satisfactory. S might also stand for "settled for." If a student becomes content with a satisfactory effort, he will rarely apply himself to earn an O for outstanding.
The same is true in life. If a person becomes content with what is average, minimally acceptable, or satisfactory, she will rarely exert the effort or work toward something truly excellent or outstanding. In the vast majority of cases, the longer a person remains satisfied with a string of S marks in her life, the more she becomes complacent about life. Going through the motions to achieve satisfactory results becomes the norm.
Eventually the person who has settled for a "settled-for" life may actually feel threatened by challenges to achieve, have, or experience more than what is presently the reality of her life. Ultimately she turns her back on her future and refuses to hope for more, seek more, or pursue more.
If that is where you are today, I encourage you to begin to see yourself the way God sees you. When you look at yourself through His eyes, you will no longer rest on the satisfactory marks of your settled-for life.
How God Sees You
You may be asking, "Well, how does God see me?"
Your heavenly Father sees you through eyes of love and forgiveness. He sees where you are, but --- more importantly -- He sees the person He made you to be. God sees all the awesome potential and possibilities He created you to fulfill.
And if you are willing to discover and align yourself with His plan and purpose for you, He will bless you more than you could ever imagine. God promises to bless you with life at its best. He sees the restored joy, peace, and sense of accomplishment that He wants in your life.
Psalms 139 is a wonderful passage that speaks to us about the way the Father sees us.
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them (Psalms 139:13-16).
These verses from God's Word speak of three important truths about the way He sees you.
1. You Are Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
In God's eyes, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Other translations of this verse from the earliest versions of the Bible use the words "awesomely wonderful." That's what the Father says about you. He has made you in a way that is awesome.
In the first chapter of Genesis, God says again and again that what He made, Is "good." Everything the Creator made was, at the outset, perfect in its form and in its function. It was beautiful, ordered, and magnificently connected to all other aspects of creation. It worked exactly as He intended it to work.
But after the fall, both form and function became warped. Each of us was born into a sinful world that isn't always beautiful and doesn't always work well or harmoniously. Nevertheless -- and this is a vital point for you to understand -- God said about your creation, "It is good." the Father made you for good purposes, and He made you with the potential to be perfected by His Spirit. That means that He desires to engage in the process of transforming you from the inside out so that you are continually being molded into the most God-beloved, Christ-honoring, Spirit-yielded person you can ever be.
The Lord has a great plan for you and created you to accomplish it in His name.
2. God Knows Everything about You
The psalmist wrote, "Your eyes saw my substance." Your substance is more than your flesh. It is the sum of all your natural gifts, talents, dreams, personality, and abilities. Even before you were conceived in your mother's womb, God saw you as a whole and unique person. He made you one of a kind, and from your beginning, He saw your ending. The Lord has always known what you could be and do, because He is the One who created you.
3. God Is the Author and Finisher of Your Days
The psalmist wrote that the days of his life were "fashioned" for him. You too were born at a particular time and to a particular family in a particular location. He made your life a set number of years in a set environment so you could be and do all that He created you to be and do.
Every person is born into circumstances with both good and bad aspects. Each of us will encounter a degree of evil and righteousness. We all will face the realities of death and life. God created you, equipped you, and then filled you with His Holy Spirit, to face situations and that, with His help and guidance, you will transform from death to life, evil to good, and bad to best.
Your purpose on this earth is to develop your God-given gifts, talents, and abilities to the best of your ability so you can impact the world around you for Christ.
If you have ever wondered why you are on this earth, understand that God has placed you here as a unique person with a unique mission aimed at establishing and extending His kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven." Your potential lies securely and completely in that purpose.
The Questions You Must Ask God
Have you ever stopped to seriously ask God about His will, plan and purpose for your life? Are you fully willing and available to receive His answers? Among the questions I ask God -- and I encourage you to ask -- are these:
- "What do You want to do in my life?"
- "What do You want to do through my life?"
- "What do You still desire for me to experience?"
- "What possibilities lie within me?"
- "What potential lies before me?"
- "What could I become?"
- "What did You have in mind when you created me?"
- "What do You desire for me?"
Only God can answer these questions. And for the vast majority of people in the vast majority of situations and circumstances, He will answer them only when asked.
Thousands of young people this very day are planning their futures -- the job they want, where they want to travel, who they want to meet, the experiences they want to have. My questions to them are: "Have you asked God what He has created you to do and be? Have you asked the Lord what He has planned and purposed for you?"
But it is not only the young person who needs to ask these questions. Everyone needs to ask God these things periodically throughout life.
The person who has recently lost a spouse
The person who has been released from a job
The person who has retired
The person who is about to be married
The person who will soon become a parent
We all need to ask God repeatedly and frequently, "What did You create me to do and be? What have You planned and purposed for me?"
Five Key Principles about Your Potential
The Word of God presents five key principles that are vital for our understanding of potential:
- Every person has potential -- no matter how much you may have achieved already, and no matter how old you are. There's still more God has for you to be and do!
- Every person has been created by God to bring Him glory. How do we accomplish that? By being the people He made us to be, as individuals and then collectively as His church, and by fulfilling His purposes for us on earth.
- No one can reach his potential without the Father's help or apart from our God-given talents and gifts.
- No person can reach her potential without factoring in the spiritual dimension associated with potential. God has not only created you with the gifts and talents to do His work on this earth, but He also has created you with the desires, dreams, and disposition to become a person with whom He enjoys fellowship and spiritual intimacy. Part of your potential lies in who God made you to be, not only what He created you to do.
- Only God knows the limits of your potential. You are finite and do not have the ability to fathom all that God has purposed for you No one can fully understand the depths of His love, the help that He desires to give, or the blessings and rewards that He has prepared.
A person may reach the pinnacle of a profession or be lauded as the best in the world at a particular sport, skill, or craft. He may rank at the top of any number of the world's scales or criteria of evaluation. But unless he factors God into his life and seeks to love and serve Him wholeheartedly, he has not reached his full potential. He has maximized only his outward abilities and not his inward attributes.
Your Potential Includes Both Attributes and Abilities
The difference between abilities and attributes is worth underscoring.
Your attributes are your character traits -- they are the real "you" that exists regardless of external circumstances. They are the "you" that shows up no matter where you go or with whom you associate. The Bible gives us a very good description of the character that God desires to see in each of us. The apostle Paul wrote that it is the Father's purpose to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus, so that we might reflect Christ's nature and character to the world around us. (See Romans 8:29.) That character is summarized in another of Paul's writings as being marked by "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, (and) self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23).
These are not attributes that we can produce on our own. They develop in us as we say no to the flesh and yes to the Holy Spirit living and working in us. The Spirit grows us up into the fullness of Christ's character. He generates in us the awareness, ability, and courage to live out a new life marked by godliness. You cannot reach the full potential of your attributes apart from God.
The same is true for your abilities. You may think that by exercising, practicing, or pursuing education and training, you can reach the fullness of your God-given abilities. In truth, however, you cannot. The Lord gives you opportunities for developing your talents and gifts. He orchestrates your life to put you into the company of the right teachers, encouragers, and yes, even competitors-all of whom have a role in pushing you to achieve your full potential. But never forget that it is God who gives you
the mental and physical energy to pursue the development of your talents and gifts. He is the One who provides your next heartbeat, your next breath, your next idea, and your next awareness of what is still possible.
And God gives you the opportunities for displaying and using your talents and gifts in ways that produce true growth.
A wise university professor once told me, "Theory is great. The learning and understanding of concepts are essential. Rules, principles, and precepts are vital. But in the end, I know a student has truly mastered a particular subject or skill when that student is capable of performing well in a real-world setting. Learning is completed with application." I couldn't agree more. The Christian life was never intended to be a matter of book learning or head knowledge. God wants us to live out the life He created and intends for us to live. The Bible tells us repeatedly to get knowledge and understanding, but then it challenges us to pursue wisdom, which is the application of knowledge and understanding in real-world situations according to God's commandments and principles.
But we must take a step beyond the mere application of what we know - that step is service. Our abilities are truly challenged when we manifest them in ways that genuinely help other people.
Let me give you an example. A young person may want to be a carpenter. He may have the physical aptitude to work with his hands, along with a certain degree of artistic ability that provides a sense of what makes quality, beautiful craftsmanship. He may work with a master carpenter to develop his talent and become highly skilled as a woodworker. As he develops his abilities, he gains an understanding of different types of wood, how to age wood, treat wood, stain or paint wood, or work with the grain of wood.
Then the day comes when he completes a project on his own. As he finishes more and more, displaying finer and finer craftsmanship, his potential may appear to be realized. But from God's perspective, this carpenter has not reached his full potential until the day he turns his skills into service. Not until he builds adequate housing for a family living in cardboard boxes trimmed in tin, or he raises a church for purposes of worship, or he constructs a school for educating people in the truths of the Bible, or he begins to teach others how to develop and use their woodworking skills for God's glory, is his potential fully realized.
The same principle holds true for a young woman who has musical ability. She may study with excellent teachers and learn to read music and play an instrument or sing in highly skilled ways. Then comes the day for performance -- appearing in front of an audience in a way that wins their applause, perhaps even a standing ovation. But then comes the opportunity to use her beautiful voice or her skill as a musician for purposes that are truly evangelistic or worship oriented. It is then that the fullness of her potential begins to be realized from God's perspective.
Only God provides those genuine opportunities for service and then rewards them with His presence.
Skills or abilities that are used in real-world situations for true service to the Lord gives an added dimension to the word purpose. At this point, a person truly experiences fulfillment and joy.
Yes, God has placed within you the attitudes that will drive you to develop the right attributes that bring Him glory. Yes, the Father has placed within you the aptitudes that can be trained and molded into the right abilities that bring Him glory.
And yes, God works throughout your entire life to bring you to the fullness of both your attributes and your abilities. You cannot do it in your own strength. You can do it only in God's strength and supply. That is the reason I say with boldness: only God knows your potential, and only God can help you fulfill it.
If you have never asked the Lord, "What do you want me to be?" ask Him that question today.
If you have never asked God, "What do you want me to do with my life?" ask Him right now.
Used by permission. Adapted from How to Reach Your Full Potential for God: Never Settle for Less than His Best by Charles F. Stanley (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Copyright (c) 2009).
Original publication date: November 29, 2009