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Sunday, August 23, 2009


What we are is not fully who we could be. But, if we are headed in the right direction, what we are is more than what we were.

Today, Next Generation Ministries took over the church. The youth led worship, ush-ed and all that stuff. They got donuts in the AM and pizza at the end of the day. I feel cheated (but not fat!) that I don't get that stuff! Reality is, I would rather have a good apple anyway.

As I watched these young guys and ladies, I reflected on what it would take for them to reach their potential. There are a lot of factors that can play into reaching potential but there are three essential elements that have to be taken into consideration. One we don't have control over, two we do.

Our potential depends upon our giftedness (we don't control it - God and the Holy Spirit do), our skill and our character (we have huge amounts of control over these two).

1 Corinthians 12:7 makes it clear that giftedness is an act of God in our life. And that giftedness is not for us, it is for "the common good." It is to build up community. So, there is spiritual giftedness that is promised for all followers of Christ. God chooses this for us and for our serving of others. I also believe God marries this spiritual gifting with our natural giftings as well. Each person is created in the image of God - we carry in ourselves the imprint of God. In that, we are unique with particular strengths. None of us is complete in ourselves (unlike God who is totally complete and self-sufficient). We have areas of non-strength, by God's design, so that we will need community and be blessed by others.

Proverbs 22:29 reminds us that skill is rewarded. Skill is the intentional development of the aptitudes and abilities we have. Skill takes work, it takes practice. I watched a documentary about Les Paul the other night. Anyone who plays a guitar is indebted to the skill, creativity and inventiveness of Les Paul, one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Les Paul died last week at the age of 94. He was still playing in jazz clubs up to the very end of his life. Although it was obvious he was a giftedness musician, he also worked extremely hard at his craft and he said as much - "Whatever I'm doing, I work hard."

One of the greatest sadnesses is observing someone with giftedness but no work ethic to develop their skills. No matter what area of life - musicians, athletes, businessmen, artists, engineers, scientists, parents, pastors, students - the best are not the best just because they have natural aptitude, they are best because they strive to be so. They take that which has been given them and leverage it through disciplined study, practice and learning. Tiger Woods is a phenomenal golfer - and he is one of the most disciplined athletes you will meet. He continues to develop his skills.

Romans 5:3-5 lets us know that character is something that is formed. Character is the slippery one of the three because your character is a result of how you respond to life. Your character is a result of the disciplines you exercise in your life and then how those disciplines transform your experiences. Two critical disciplines are reading the Bible and prayer. In reading the Bible, we learn to see all of life through God's eyes and allow him to define reality. In prayer, we find comfort and wisdom as the Holy Spirit brings conviction, correction and guidance to our lives.

In Romans 5, Paul ties character to suffering. Suffering is the crucible that refines our character. Someone once said hard things in life can make you bitter or they can make you better. That is the character question. No one likes to suffer and, as a culture, we do everything we can to run from it, mask it, hide it and defer it. I'm not saying we should go out looking for difficulty in life but, we must remember that when it comes, God is not absent. He will use these experiences to transform our character if we embrace God in the midst of them.

What keeps you from reaching your full potential? There is a 66% chance it has to do mostly with you. What could you do to make a difference in your potential? It's never too late to invest in yourself. Start with your giftedness (if you aren't clear on this, ask someone who knows you well, they will be able to point you in the right direction), pursue learning so you can develop your skills, decide to be humble enough to allow God to transform your character - then join with him by exercising the appropriate disciplines (Philippians 2:12-13).

Where and when are you going to start?