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