Knowing Yourself (Part IV of IV): Potential…
Your Identity, Value, Purpose, & Potential
Lesson IV: Potential
Rhetorical Questions: What is your potential? What can you become? What did God create you to be?
If you reach your potential, what would you look like? How do you know?
Think about this for a moment—we’ll come back to these important questions later…
Introduction: Beginning three lessons ago and finishing up today ,we have been looking at the Bible to try and understand ourselves better—specifically trying to figure out the
of each human being.
Why, you might ask? Again, because we must understand who we really are before we can
Treat ourselves with the respect we deserve,
Love others with the love they deserve,
Do what God made us to do, and
Be who He made us to be.
Three weeks ago we started by looking at our Identity—who we are…
Two weeks ago we continued by looking at our Value—what we are worth…
Last week we continued by looking at our Purpose—why God made us…
And today we will conclude by looking at our Potential…
Question: What does “potential” mean?
“Capable of being or becoming; A latent [present but not visible] excellence or ability that may or may not be developed” (www.dictionary.com).
Question: Would anyone like to guess what is in the little zip-loc bag?
Great job—what do you think it will grow to become—what is its potential?
(A Redwood or Giant Sequoia—the tallest trees in the world!)
Illustration: Red Wood Tree Seeds
We can learn a lot from looking at some of the tallest trees in the world, the Redwoods (Sequoia Semperviren). These trees grow to a spectacular height of around 400 ft., and they are visited by thousands of awestruck tourists every year. To put that in perspective, the Bell Tower at Christ Church Lake Forest is only 120 ft. tall (but is also visited by thousands of people each year!).
Now, as large, tall, strong, and beautiful as these trees are, they don’t start out that way. In fact, they begin as all trees do: as a little seed. The LORD knows their potential, for He made them. But if one were to simply look at the seed, it would be difficult to guess the beauty and magnitude of the end result.
Also, these trees take quite a long time to grow and transform, and must do so under difficult conditions. Consider that “it takes 300-400 years for these [trees] to grow to these heights. They also need huge amounts of rainfall and specific altitude requirements. In that time the trees have to survive bush fires, parasites and forest mammals, storms & strong winds, lightning strikes and the greatest threat of all – intervention by man. You’ll agree, the odds are stacked against the trees ‘ reaching their full potential’” (http://members.optusnet.com.au/mruhsam/).
My friends, we are like these Redwood trees! God made us with an amazing amount of potential, and He wants to transform us into something so beautiful, strong, and magnificent that it is beyond our imagination. Yet just like the Redwood trees–which grow a little bit each day during many years of soaking in sunlight and water–we too grow slowly each day during many years of
A. reading (and living out) the Bible,
B. participating in a small group by asking questions and listening to answers,
C. attending Club 56 and Wild Kingdom,
D. talking and listening to the LORD each day,
E. loving and serving others,
F. choosing to do the right thing even though it is hard,
G. taking responsibility for our actions by apologizing to God and other people when we hurt them, etc.
And though we may face great difficulty in living the life God desires for us and becoming who He made us to be, the Lord Jesus is with us every step of the way. When we make the choice each day to put our faith in Jesus into action we are one step closer to reaching our amazing potential!!!
Interesting Point: Of all the trees on earth, these trees hold another record—having the lowest germination rates (less than 20%). That means that less than 20% of these seeds will actually become giant redwoods and sequoias—very few will actually reach their potential.
Main Points: Does this sound familiar? Our potential is basically our ability to fulfill our purpose (see the three purposes from last week).
Because Jesus gives us potential, we now have the ability to accomplish with Him what we never could have done on our own. And so we all have this potential in us once again, just like a redwood seed has the potential to grow into a giant, strong, tall, and beautiful tree. But just as certain things have to happen for the seed to grow into the tree (rich soil, rain, sunlight, etc.), so too do certain things have to happen to us and in us in order for us to become the men and women that God made us to be.
Regarding our potential in life, then, I want to highlight three main points for you:
1. The importance of accepting Jesus as your Savior–it is the only way to reach your potential (to get plugged back into God and become who He made you to be);
2. Don’t be afraid to reach your potential as a prince or princess of heaven (son or daughter of God through faith in Jesus Christ);
3. Don’t waste your potential (your new life in Jesus).
1. Accepting Jesus as your Savior is the only way to reach your potential (to get plugged back into God and become who He made you to be);
My friends, God originally designed Adam and Eve—and every human—to fulfill our potential perfectly—our potential to know God, to be like God, and to represent God.
But remember when Adam and Eve sinned against God—when they broke the ONE rule that He gave them? Well, sin entered the world, and the Bible tells us that sin brought death with it into the world and into our lives (Romans 5:12). God never originally meant for us to die—isn’t that so cool? But death came through our decision to ignore God and live life our own way.
Sin not only brought death, but it choked out and killed our ability to reach our potential—it is now impossible to reach our potential on our own!
Illustration: Termites and wooden houses.
Who knows what a termite is? Yeah—they’re little bugs that eat wood. If a home has termites, you need to call an exterminator right away. But if you don’t realize you have termites, they will eat your house from the inside out until it falls apart. Sometimes, there is no way to reverse termite damage—you have to knock down the house, clean and kill all the termites, and start all over again by building a new house.
Termites are like sin—they destroy houses like sin destroys lives. But through living a perfect life, dying on the cross, and coming back to life, Jesus has given each person in the world the opportunity to be healed of sin, to be freed from sin, to accomplish His purposes for us, to fulfill our potential, and to be plugged back into Him again!
When Jesus died on the cross and came back to life, He offered everyone a new start, the ability to have the old house full of termites knocked down and a new life built again so that with Jesus’ help we can reach our potential both in heaven and on earth!
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV):
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
If we accept Jesus as our Savior, then, we are re-born as new people—we are plugged back in to God!
And with being “born again,” Jesus gives us gifts, talents, and abilities through His Holy Spirit—He gives us the opportunity to accomplish His purposes and to fulfill our potential in Him!!!
Gifts like healing people, encouraging people, supporting people, teaching people, leading people, serving others, taking care of others, being kind to others, being brave and courageous, being strong and beautiful, being honest and trustworthy, etc. These gifts allow us to do the amazing things that Jesus says we can do if only we have faith in Him (remember John 14:12?). The Holy Spirit gives us these gifts, just like new and improved programs are uploaded into a computer to make them better, faster, and more powerful.
Question: But what do we do with these gifts, these talents, these new abilities?
Response: We share them with others—we use them to take care of other people, just as God uses His abilities to take care of us. And when we do, when we love others with our gifts as Jesus loves us, the world that is still unplugged
learns who God really is,
sees how much He really loves them,
and learns about the new life that He offers to them
(2 Corinthians 5:18-20)!
We use the gifts God has given us to show others how great God is…
As we reach our potential more and more, Jesus gets more famous around the world!!!
Question: Think of a pitcher in your refrigerator at home.
Why do you fill it up with water, milk, lemonade, or another delicious liquid?
Why does Tropicana fill up thousands of orange juice containers each day?
Response: Pitchers are filled up so that others can enjoy what’s inside, so that others can be made healthy by the vitamins of the milk or the orange juice.
Pitchers are filled up so that others can drink;
Pitchers are filled up to be poured out.
It would be silly to fill up a pitcher with liquid and then to simply leave it alone in the fridge because you wanted it to remain full.
Question: If you treated a gallon of milk that way, what would happen to the milk and to the people in your house?
Response: The milk would spoil and rot, and the people could not enjoy its vitamins—they could not get healthy.
My friends, Jesus gives you gifts—characteristics that He already has like patience, kindness, goodness, mercy, faith, wisdom, self-control, honesty, strength, power, generosity, courage—so that you can pour them out onto others, not so that you can keep them for yourself.
Illustration: Universities and Graduate Schools
Question: Why are schools like Harvard, Stanford, and Northwestern considered some of the best schools in the world?
Response: Because those schools and others produce more students who go on to be successful business people, doctors, lawyers, professors, etc.
The schools become famous more and more because of what their students do…
The same is true with God—we can show the world how great He is and increase His fame by reaching our potential and becoming the men and women He made us to be!!!
2. Don’t be afraid to fulfill your potential, to become the man or the woman that God made you to be!
Now some of you might be saying, “Why would I be afraid of that?”
Many people, myself included sometimes, are afraid of fulfilling our potential because it’s dangerous, difficult, and risky.
Scripture: Hebrews 10:32-39 (The Message)
“Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were the hard times! Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse—some days it was you, other days your friends. If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn’t touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don’t throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It’s still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God’s plan so you’ll be there for the promised completion.”
It won’t be long now, he’s on the way;
he’ll show up most any minute.
But anyone who is right with me thrives on loyal trust;
if he cuts and runs, I won’t be very happy.
But we’re not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We’ll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way.”
Hebrews 10:39 (NIV)
“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”
Dangerous: When a platoon is going out in war, one soldier has to be the point, the person in front of everyone. This is the scariest position on the battlefield because no one is in front of you—you can’t see your fellow soldiers. You feel alone, and once you run into the enemy, you’re the person whom they will shoot at first. That’s what it’s like to become the person God made you to be—you’re a big fat target for those who don’t love Jesus.
Difficult: Becoming like Jesus is also hard, friends—it’s difficult. I mean come on—He’s God!!! Imaging how hard it would be trying to play basketball as good as Dwayne Wade or trying to play football as good as Tom Brady. Imagine how difficult it would be to play the cello as good as Yo-Yo Ma or to understand science as well as Albert Einstein. That would be hard. This is even harder.
Risky: Also, most people are still not plugged in to God—they’re still expensive paperweights and doorstops. Sadly, most Christians do not even reach their full potential in Christ. They may be going to heaven alright, but they’ve grown too comfortable, too lazy, too satisfied with the status quo and too focused on fulfilling their own dreams instead of God’s dreams.
So, there aren’t many people like you when you’re becoming like Jesus. And some people will make fun of you and try to cut you down for trying to be like Jesus, for saying things like “Jesus loves me”, “I’m a son or daughter of God,” “I’m friends with God,” “He’s my Father,” “I’m valuable and talented,” “I’m made in His image,” etc.
Just think of how some kids treat you if you’re really smart at school—you can be called a nerd, a book worm, a teacher’s pet, etc. You can be excluded from the group. It can be pretty dangerous and pretty uncomfortable to stand out from the crowd. It can also be pretty hurtful.
But don’t worry—Jesus is still with you through all that nonsense. Don’t give up!
Movie Clip: Akeelah and the Bee (all of chapter 9, from 38:01—42:05)(partial clip please click HERE).
Akeelah has all the talent—all the potential—to possibly win the national spelling bee. But she’s scared—scared she could lose, scared of what others will say, and scared of who she might become if she does win!
But God has made us to be great like Him and to do great things for Him.
We are to stand up and show the world how great Jesus is
by becoming great like He is.
Yeah it’s scary—you bet it is.
But remember, Jesus said that He’ll always be with you (Matthew 28:20 NIV), and that is a very comforting truth indeed!
It’s Worth It: We want to reach our potential, friends—we will have a better life as we know God, become like God, and represent God.
Illustration: M.J. and Getting Stuck in Traffic Jams
I do not do well in traffic. I really don’t. I would rather drive 20 miles out of my way to avoid traffic than to sit in traffic for two miles. I get cranky, impatient, angry, frustrated, and act like a big jerk when I’m stuck in traffic.
Traffic isn’t fun for me, but acting cranky, impatient, angry, frustrated, and being a jerk is even less fun for me. I would much rather be joyful, patient, kind, hopeful, and loving when I am in traffic—there are people who act like this, and their lives are much more wonderful!
As we reach our potential more and more each day and act like God, we will have more fun, more joy, more happiness, more excitement—we will have an amazing life! So reaching our potential is not just for God—it’s for us too!
3. Finally, don’t waste your life, this new life that Jesus has given you.
Scripture: Matthew 25:14-30 (The Message) (The Parable of the Talents)
“It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.
After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’
The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’
The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’
The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.
Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.'”
Now I know that’s pretty heavy passage…
I’m not trying to scare you here, but Jesus tells us this story for a reason…He wants us to be like the first two servants!
He doesn’t want us to play it safe because we’re scared of failing or making a mistake…We don’t have to be perfect—Jesus was already perfect for us!
But God does want us to try—He wants us to try our best, our real best—to know Him, to love Him, to be like Him, to represent Him…To reach our potential…That’s what God is looking for…our best effort. If we offer up our best He can take that and great things through it (just like Jesus took the five loaves of bread and two fish from the little boy and fed thousands of people with it)!
Question: Do you know what many people think is the biggest danger is for Christians in the United States today—
especially young Christians?
Answer: Boredom. That’s right, boredom. Too many of us are so afraid of being bored that we will do anything—even if it is wrong—to not become bored (see apathy & indifference—in your dictionaries!).
We are a culture of “feelings” and “experiences”—we keep trying to find the next thrill, the next rush. We go from toys when we’re little to video games when were older to gadgets, cars, boyfriends/girlfriends, and sometimes to alcohol and drugs, all in the search to get plugged back in, to feel the rush that Adam and Eve felt when they were plugged in to God, knowing Him, being like Him, and representing Him.
We’re looking for an experience that will help us feel alive—
as Adam & Eve felt alive in the garden of Eden—
but we’re looking to everyone but Jesus,
we’re looking at every map except the Bible.
And that’s why so many of us get bored with church, get bored with youth group sometimes, get bored with reading the Bible, get bored with obeying Jesus. We think we’re missing out on something better, just as Adam and Eve thought God was holding out on them by not allowing them to eat the fruit from the one tree. We still think we can live our life on our own, apart from Jesus, unplugged from Him—
What we want, above all else,
is to be entertained.
Or, some of us come to church just to please our parents, and we are content that we are going to heaven because our parents are Christians, we believe in Jesus with our brains alone, and we come to church—so we live our lives any way we want because of this…
But God created us for so much more than mere entertainment,
He created us for so much more than just barely squeaking into heaven.
We were made to:
A. know/love/worship/enjoy God as our perfect Father and Friend,
B. to be like God in so many beautiful and powerful ways, and
C. to represent/serve Him as His trusted friends and ambassadors!
I want to conclude by showing you a video that almost always moves me to tears, a clip from a video about a young Snoodle who always dreamed about being big strong, and talented, but who became sad, frustrated, and hopeless because other people told him that he could never become what he wanted. Take a look at what happens when this young Snoodle meets God and listens to His voice—the voice of truth!
Movie Clip: A Snoodle’s Tale (from VeggieTales)(13 minutes long)(PLease click HERE)
My Friends, over these last four weeks we have learned about our
Identity—we are made in the image of God,
Value & Worth—we are priceless because God made us and because Jesus died for us,
Purpose—God made us to know Him, be like Him, and represent Him,
Potential—to live so that others see us and praise and worship God.
Will you go out, starting today, and
A. Treat yourself and others as if they are made in God’s image (not just animals)?
B. Value yourself and others as if they are priceless masterpieces of God (and not more valuable because of your physical appearance, clothes, stuff, and friends)?
C. Live to know & love Jesus, be like Him, and represent Him?
D. Strive to reach your potential to show the world how great Jesus is?
(instead of living as if you were made to sleep in as late as possible,
eat as much junk as possible,
play as many video games as possible,
get as much stuff as possible,
obey your parents just enough to not get in trouble,
do as little schoolwork as possible so you don’t fail).
These things won’t happen on accident—you must choose each day to follow Jesus…
But if you choose this, I guarantee that you will not be alone!
You will have the support of all of us leaders,
And you will have the support of this local church,
And you will have the support of the full power of God, His Word, and heaven!
You’ll see Jesus’ face in heaven,
His smiling face,
and you’ll hear Him say,
“Well done, good and faithful servant—enter into your Master’s happiness”
(Matthew 25:23 NIV).
Closing Song: “I Am Free” by the Newsboys (Please click HERE).
What does this song teach you about your identity, value, purpose, and potential?
Questions for Discussion
1. What was interesting or confusing from the lesson?
2. What was the point of the Redwood Seed illustration?
3. What is your potential?
4. Why would you want to reach your potential?
5. How do you reach your potential?
6. What will happen if you do reach your potential?