In 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.
For some people, that just about sums up their life. And yet, all of us feel deep down ‘there must be more to life than that’. Jesus says, in effect, ‘Yes, there is!’. The potential for every human being is great.
Jesus wants you to live a highly productive life. He wants you to produce ‘a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’ (Matthew 13:8). The minimum is a thirty-times multiplication. The key to that potential lies in your relationship with Jesus
– a relationship that can be as close as that of a brother or sister or mother (12:50). You can live a life of real purpose that will make a difference to the world, because of what you receive from him (13:11,12,16).
Your potential is not about being driven by ambition or success; it is about recognising who you are in God. As you seek him and live your life according to his purposes, you will bear much fruit. The more you begin to fulfil your God-given potential, the more
he entrusts to you. He wants you to live a life of abundance (v.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 potential 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 that although there is great potential in each of us, there are pitfalls ahead. How can you avoid the pitfalls and fulfil your potential?PSALM
1. Possess humility
In 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.’
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 warns 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
Some dangerous cults have twisted the words of Jesus (12:50) to teach that becoming a Christian means severing relations with your family. This is not only dangerous, but also unbiblical. The fifth commandment is ‘honour your father and your mother’ (Exodus
20:12). In the New Testament, 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 importantthan your relationship with your own family. Your 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. You can have this amazing closeness to Jesus. Stay
close to him each day and you will fulfil your potential.
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 shallowness, which can lead to falling away. 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).
Your spiritual roots are the parts of your life that no one else sees – your secret life with God. This includes your prayers, your giving and your thought life. If you want to fulfil your potential make sure you develop deep, strong and healthy roots in your relationship with God.
4. Protect your heart
It is so easy for people to be distracted by the busyness of life. Many things can fill your life and push out time for God, church and other ways in which your 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).
Father, thank you that you call me into this intimate relationship with Jesus. Help me to put my roots down deep and to keep my eyes fixed on you. Help me to guard this relationship and never allow other things, even good things, to crowd in and choke my life.
5. Purify yourself
In 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. The retribution was not proportionate. 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; it is a temptation for all of us. When I am offended, I 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 your relationships today. Forgive and love your enemies.
Joyce Meyer, who often speaks of the terrible 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
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. As Rick Warren says, ‘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 my life is vast. May I produce a crop thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.
Verse of the Day
‘God… answered me in the day of my distress and… has been with me wherever I have gone’