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From Chris's Heart


July 2009
Fulfilling Our Potential
by Nick Harris

Several years ago, I attended a mission conference on Sanibel Island, Florida. One of the speakers at this conference said something that really got my attention. He said, "All of us come into this world with unlimited resources at our disposal, but very few of us will ever fully draw upon the resources we have available to us." I knew these words were true of me, and those words may be true of you, as well.

As I have observed people over the years, I do not know if I have ever seen one man or woman who has maximized his/her full potential in life. The sad truth is this: more people squander their potentials than realize their potentials.

The question all of us should answer is this: how many of our God-given gifts do we actually utilize? Probably, not too many! And the problem with failing to utilize these gifts is this: if we fail to utilize them, we take them to the grave with us. In other words, we waste the potential those gifts represent and that is a tragedy.

So, what is potential? How do we define that term? What does this word mean? Here are a few definitions. "Potential is dormant ability; reserved power; untapped strength; hidden talent; unused capability; potential is all that we have the possibility of becoming, but have not yet attained."

So, potential involves the goals we have established in our lives that have not been achieved. Therefore, all of our past achievements stand totally outside the realm of what we call potential. One of my favorite thinkers is the brilliant Englishman of the nineteenth century, G. K. Chesterton. He once said this: "Potential does not have a retirement plan," and he was right.

Several years ago, I was sitting on the BEMA located in the sacred precinct of Tel Dan in Israel. I was teaching one of my groups when I looked around and saw some of the largest acorns that I had ever seen in my life. They had fallen from some great oak trees growing in the precinct. They were bigger than golf balls. So, I reached down and picked up one of these acorns.

I held this acorn up and I asked the group, "What is this?" Everyone answered, "It's an acorn." I said, “Yes, you are right.” But then I explained to the group that even though this answer was factual, it was only partially true. Then I explained to them, "I am indeed holding an acorn in my hand, but that is not all I am holding in my hand; I am also holding a forest." Of course, that acorn did not look like a forest yet, but it did have the potential of becoming a forest.

I could say that because inside that huge acorn and every acorn a potential oak tree is hidden, and that particular oak tree could produce tens of thousands of acorns and those tens of thousands of acorns could produce tens of thousands of other hardy oak trees. And, of course, ten thousand oak trees represent a forest. That is what potential is, and everything that has life in it has potential.
Several years ago, this concept of potential and how it can be squandered was made clear to me when my aged mother stopped driving. She had decided to give her Cadillac to my wife Chris and me.

The truth is this: she hadn't driven this car very much and therefore the battery was weak. So, I decided to purchase a new Delco.
To my chagrin I soon found that replacing the battery on that particular model was not an easy thing to do. There was a bolt that held the battery in place, a bolt that had to be unscrewed. The problem was this: the bolt was located deep down in the wheel well. Our garage was quite dark and that made it impossible for me to locate that bolt.

It occurred to me that I needed one of those thin, six inch long flashlights that hold AA batteries. I could hold that flashlight in my mouth and then I would be free to work with both hands. In addition, I also knew that I had purchased one of those flashlights. So, I went in the house to find it. And it was exactly where I had put it, in a closet in our utility room.

With the flashlight in hand, I took it to the garage and I flipped the switch to the "on" position, but no light appeared. The batteries were dead. I thought to myself, "This flashlight should work!" I reminded myself that I had put new batteries in it when I bought it and as far as I knew this flashlight had never been turned on. Then, I asked myself the question, "When did I purchase this flashlight?" When I really thought about it, I realized that I had purchased this flashlight over six years earlier, and over six years the batteries had died. The batteries were useless even though they had never powered a single beam of light.
Then it came to me! Energy potential had been built into each of those batteries, but that potential had been wasted through disuse. But is that not true of many of us? Some of us have never once tapped into our God-given potential pool, and that is sad.

In 2002, I had the opportunity to visit the home of William Shakespeare and Stratford-on-Avon, England. As I stood outside his house, a thought leapt into my mind. I asked myself, "What if William Shakespeare had decided, very early in his life that he was incapable of becoming a writer? What if he had failed to pick up a pen? What if he had never recorded his ideas?"
I remember thinking to myself what a tragedy that would have been for the world. The human race would have lost masterpieces like Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and Othello, the Moor of Venice. We would have none of Shakespeare's immortal sonnets.

What about you and me? What are we denying ourselves, what are we denying our families, what are we denying our world, when we reject our God-given potentials? Every time I visit the cemetery, which is often, I go around and examine the gravestones, and I always ask myself the same question: "How many of these people actually managed to fulfill their God-given potentials while they lived on this earth?" And the answer that comes back to me is always the same: not many.

In fact, I only know of one person who entirely fulfilled his potential during his lifetime, and that person was Jesus of Nazareth. I love the way he looked at himself and I love the way he looked at life. He could see potential in both areas. He could see it in himself and he could see it all around him. And we can do the same if we will only try.





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