Let's pray. Father, we thank You for what we've just been singing. Lord, we feel it's so prophetic. Having passed through the last week and seen so many things with both the natural eye and the spiritual eye, Lord, we really sense that You're wanting to move in our land. We believe that, we've always known that, but Lord You are communicating to so many of us in various different ways in our capacities, wherever we are serving You or representing You, that You are moving, You're doing a new thing. We're excited, we thank You, and we want to declare tonight - not just sing, but we want to declare - greater things have yet to come for this island, greater things have yet to come for this county, for this province, and for all the four provinces of Ireland. Lord, we are looking to You, and we're talking about 'Releasing Potential' tonight, Lord, and we just want to take that position before You individually, for You to do whatever You want to do with each of our lives. Yet, Father, we also want the potential of our nation to be released. We think of the latent potential of those old wells that were dug many many years ago, Lord, that You would open them again and release the potential. Lord, we really covet Your presence here tonight; we ask You to come now and meet with us in a very definite way and do whatever You want to do, Lord. We will give You all the praise and all the glory, in Jesus' name, Amen.
Well, you're very welcome. Thank you for joining with us. We've been going through this series - 'Release Your Potential' is tonight's subject, but the series is 'Hunger for Reality'. Really we've been charting the course of how to go deeper with God in our Christian experience. So many of us go through the motions in Christendom, Christianity, of churchgoing. Maybe you're really spiritual and you read your Bible and you pray, and maybe even tell people about Jesus - but, yet there is within many of us this ache of 'There must be more, and I'm not experiencing everything that God has for me'. So we have been covering - and all the CDs are free out there, there are hundreds of them, please take some of them! - but we've been covering subjects like being Spirit-filled, the empowerment of the Spirit, hearing the voice of God, obeying the voice of God, what else have we done? 'Exuberant Joy', and so subjects that are little bit different in a sense, and yet intrinsic to what it is to have experiential Christianity. Not just concept, but actually to have a depth to our knowledge and experience of God. Tonight we're looking at 'Releasing Your Potential'. Now, again, each of these subjects each night could be a series on their own, so there is a lot of potential in tonight's message - let me tell you! But we're not going to be looking at it exhaustively, you'll be glad to know, but I want to look at two scriptures first of all just as a launchpad for what we're going to look at tonight.
Colossians chapter 4, and then 2 Timothy chapter 4. So Colossians chapter 4 and then 2 Timothy 4, if you want to get both of those. Just one verse from each of them, Colossians 4 and verse 17, Paul is writing to this church and he highlights an individual in the church with a message: "And say to Archippus, 'Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it'". Wow! It would be wonderful to have a church that you went to where you got a letter from an apostle, wouldn't it? But imagine if you had a personal reference in that letter! It would seem really good that Sunday morning, while that was read out, you were singled out - but obviously there is a bit of a censure here as well, because this guy mustn't have been fulfilling his potential. Maybe he was reneging, backing off in a ministry that God had given him, and Paul is giving him this revelation: 'You've got to fulfil the ministry that God has given you'. Then a similar verse in 2 Timothy 4 verse 5, and this is Paul to Timothy - he gets two epistles to him highlighting issues in his own ministry! Second Timothy 4 and verse 5: "But you be watchful", be sober and vigilant, "in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry". There it is again, 'Fulfil your ministry! What God has called you to, Timothy, you've got to fulfil it, you've got to execute. There is responsibility there, for you to fulfil your potential'.
Now, if you were with us last season at the very beginning, the first subject that we took in our 'Deeper Healing' series was ''Who Am I?' - Finding True Identity'. You may recall that I showed you this fellow [Michelangelo's David]. Antonio was a sculptor, I told you the story how he chipped away at a block of marble and he could do nothing with it, so he tossed away the marble - very precious. Later a guy called Michelangelo took it up, and he carved the greatest statue of all time, arguably speaking, and this is the statue of David that is now situated in Rome. Michelangelo had this gift that he could see the potential that another was going to discard. I asked you, I don't know whether you were there on that occasion, but I asked you: if you saw yourself as a block of marble, what do you see? What do you see in yourself? I'm not going to go over that whole ground that we spent a whole night on, but this is vital to your understanding of unlocking your potential; because a great deal of the problem and hindrance is our own perception of ourselves. So, how do you see yourself? Do you see yourself as having potential at all?
The dictionary definition of 'potential' as an adjective is 'having or showing the capacity to develop into something in the future'. So, you've got promise - is that the way you see yourself? The noun is 'having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness'. So there are dormant abilities within you that may not have been tapped into or realised yet, but they are there - do you see yourself that way? That particular night, I homed in on Gideon. That's where we started, and we looked at Gideon in Judges, and he was hiding behind a winepress threshing out wheat, for fear of the Midianites, God's enemies and the people who were destroying God's people and taking their harvest. So here was a fearful man, his knees are knocking, he's intimidated, and he's even hiding as he is trying to get some food for himself - and that's when he has a theophany, what we call a divine encounter, and the Angel of the Lord appears to him and God speaks to him. It's ridiculous what God says to him, He addresses him as 'You mighty man of valour'! God must have been the only person who saw that in Gideon, yes? But God saw it nevertheless, and God told him: 'Go in this, your might' - he's probably thinking 'I don't have any might, what are You talking about?' - 'Go in this, your might', but God made him into what He saw him to be originally, not what everybody else saw, not what he saw, but what God saw.
You, whether you realise it or not or want to consider it, you have potential, you have unused strengths, you've got hidden talents, untapped abilities, dormant gifts. There is a great wealth of potential in every single one of you. Do you know what that is [a picture of]? No, it's not gold, it looks like gold but it's not gold:
'A diamond in the rough,
Is a diamond sure enough,
For, before it ever sparkled,
It was made of diamond stuff'
That's what that is, an uncut diamond. It's not very interesting to look at, is it, uncut? Look at the beauty of the cut diamond. Myles Munro in his book, 'Releasing Your Potential', says: 'The wealthiest spot on planet Earth is not the oilfields of Saudi Arabia, or the goldmines of South Africa. The richest deposits on our planet lie not many blocks from your house in your local cemetery. Buried beneath the soil of those sacred grounds are songs that never were sung, books that never were written, paintings that never filled a canvas, ideas that never became reality. Tragically, our graveyards are filled with potential that was never fulfilled'. Very sobering, isn't it? Again, even currently, consider that only a small percentage of the 7.5 billion people that inhabit our planet will achieve a significant proportion of their true potential. Before we even talk tonight about the potential of a Christian, on a mere human level so many people are living so far down on their potential.
So, you have a decision to make tonight, and that is: to live up to both your natural and your supernatural potential - because if you're a child of God, you have supernatural potential - not to waste your life like most of humanity is. Christians are no exceptions, Christians wasting away, eking out an existence without any purpose and not realising their potential. Myles Munro - I'm going to quote him a lot tonight, he wrote this book 'Releasing Your Potential' - he says: 'Every manufacturer establishes the specifications, environment, conditions and operational standards for attaining the maximum performance level of his or her product. God our Creator has also established a plan for the maximum performance and release of your potential. Violation of these requirements will result in the malfunction, distortion, misuse and abuse of your precious potential'.
After carefully studying the Manufacturer's manual, Munro identifies what he believes are ten major keys to releasing your full potential. This is what he says: first of all, you must know your source. We'll be looking at these tonight, maybe not in this order and in as much detail as he does, but you need to know your source - like everything that is manufactured needs to have a source, an origin. You need to understand how the product was designed to function. You need to know your purpose, what it's for. You need to understand your resources. You need to have the right environment. You must work out of your potential. You must cultivate your potential. You must guard your potential. You must share your potential, and you must know and understand the laws of limitation. You can take a photograph of that if you want if you have a smart phone, but we will be looking at these tonight.
First of all I want us to consider that you must know your Source. Now, what that simply means from a Christian perspective is that you've got to be related to your Source, to your Manufacturer. Have you got the picture, yes? Not of me I hope! That wooden table has a source, and the strength, the durability and stability of the table, the nature of the table can only be as strong and durable as the tree that it came from, the source. Therefore the potential of the table to do its job is determined by the potential of the source from which it came. It's exactly the same for us. We've got to understand, biblically speaking - just in case there's anybody here that is not a true Bible-believing, born-again Christian who knows Jesus personally as Saviour and Lord - you've got to understand that you're not a mistake, you're certainly not an accident, you didn't come from a big bang in space billions of years ago, but God created you in His image. He designed you, there is a Creator, and He actually planned your life. You've got to understand that He is the source of all life, and therefore we need to be related to Him in order to have the meaning of life, and to know the true purpose. But equally, as Christians, we got to understand that our life here on Earth is not just to enjoy ourselves - even through the message of the Gospel and Christian blessings - but there is a divine order to everything, and we've got to understand that if we are born again we've actually received the life of God Himself! Is that not incredible?
The Bible says we have become partakers of the divine nature. It's a nonsense statement, but you understand what I mean: God's DNA is in us. I've said it before, I don't know whether it was here or not, but that's the difference between adoption in Bible times and even today, and spiritual adoption. When you adopt someone, you get another person's biological child and they become legally yours, and might be as much a child of yours as any biological child - but they will never be your biological offspring, correct? But when you're born again and adopted into God's family, you actually become - again, another nonsense statement - but you become biologically His. He gives you His life, His nature, yes? Isn't that good? So this is how we relate to our Source, that the very life of God is in us. Jesus put it another way in John chapter 15, He said: 'I am the vine, you are the branches'. The inferred truth there is that just as the branches are drawing life off the vine, we draw life off Jesus, and hopefully bear fruit. But there is something more that Jesus exhorts the disciples to do in John 15, having taught them that we are plugged into Him as the life source, He says: 'Remain in Me, abide in Me, so that you might bear much fruit'. So there is a responsibility upon us to be related to our Source, to abide in God, to continue to pursue God in order to release our potential.
I usually buy second-hand cars, and the nearest thing to a brand-new car I've ever bought was my latest car, and it was two years old. The beauty about that was that it was still in warranty, a four-year warranty. To stay in warranty, I'm not allowed to go to Joe Bloggs down the road and get a service, or get my car fixed - did you know that? I have to go to the manufacturer, and it has to be somebody who pays their bills and their VAT and all the rest and is registered, but they have to put genuine parts into that car. In order to stay in warranty, in order to get the guarantee if you like, I need to abide in the relationship with the manufacturer. Listen, if you want to release your full potential for the Lord, if you want to perform at a maximum level for God, you need to be in relationship with the Lord, you need to know your Source - and I don't just mean being a Christian, I mean actually getting a deep knowledge and experience of God in your life. So I'm asking you tonight: are you pursuing the Lord? So many people who come to meetings, and come out for prayer and look for help and ministry - and I'm encouraging you to do that tonight - but some of them don't have this desire and passion to really pursue God, to chase after Him, to follow hard after the Lord. They are not hungry and thirsty after Him and righteousness. They don't have a passion or a zeal to go after God.
If you want to release your potential for the kingdom of God, you need to have this relationship with your Source. Another thing I want you to see - and, again, a point that Myles Munroe makes, but not in the order that he makes them - you must understand your resources. So there is source, but there is also resource. All manufacturers provide access to the necessary resources for a proper maintenance and operation of their product. Listen to Romans chapter 8 and verse 11, just listen to it: 'If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you'. What that verse is telling us is that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is living in you, do you believe that? Oh yes, yes - really? Do you believe it? That that power that raised Jesus from death - He was really dead, you know, really dead, like heart stopped, yes? Blood drains, He shed His blood at the cross of course, but that paleness of death - He was dead, really dead, and God's Spirit brought Him back from the dead, after three days now! That's some power, to do that. There were resurrections before, or at least people were brought back to life, but there was never a resurrection like this - because the Bible says that He was raised to the power of an endless life, which means He was raised to die never again. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he died again. Jairus' daughter was raised from the dead, but she died again. The widow of Nain's son was raised from the dead, but he died again. Jesus will never die again - that power that raised Him from the dead set Him into an eternal life that we now are partakers of, but listen: we don't have to wait until we die, or the resurrection, that actually is in us now! You're a hard audience tonight!
That life is in us that raised Jesus from the dead, do you believe that? Now that would be enough, but that's not all there is. First Corinthians 12 verses 4-6 says in the New Living Translation: 'There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source', there's that word again, 'of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us'. So God's Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in all of us, but He also gives us gifts, He gives us special abilities through which we can serve the Lord. Now, you might have natural talents, and we will touch on this in a moment or two, you might have natural talents - you don't have to be a Christian to have natural talents - but what you do have, if you're a child of God, is: you have spiritual gifts. You may not know what those are, you might even think you don't have them, but you do.
Not a lot of people know the difference between natural talents and spiritual gifts, some people mix them up. Let me show you this slide, you can take a photo of it if you want, just highlighting the contrasts between the two. Natural talents are from God, there is no doubt about that, but they come through our parents, they are more of a human thing; but spiritual gifts are from God, independent of our parents. So your Mum or Dad may not have the particular spiritual gift that you are given, even if they are Christians. Natural talents come from birth, spiritual gifts come from rebirth. Natural talent is to benefit mankind on a natural level, that's a blessing of course, but spiritual gifts are to benefit mankind on the spiritual level. Natural talents must be recognised, developed, and exercised; and identically so - this is worth a bit of pondering, we haven't got time tonight - spiritual gifts must also be recognised, developed, and exercised. So nobody who has a spiritual gift is perfect in the execution of that spiritual gift right away or perhaps ever. Natural talents ought to be dedicated by believers to the Lord - so God gives us them naturally, but we've got to dedicate them to God - and equally, spiritual gifts ought to be used for God's glory, to God for His use and glory. So those are the differences, and that's a huge subject in and of itself.
So what have you got? I'm sure you've got a few talents, whether you would admit it or not, but you also have got spiritual gifts. The good news is - it is good news, hopefully, for you tonight - whatever you have, you can have more. First Corinthians 12 verse 31 says: 'Earnestly desire the best gifts'. Now that infers that you haven't already got those gifts, doesn't it? Then in 1 Corinthians 14 verse 1: 'Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy'. There's a lot of nonsense talked about spiritual gifts, particularly in church: 'Oh, be very careful. Oh, be careful what you seek or what you go after'. But Paul on the contrary actually says: 'No, you go after these spiritual gifts, you desire them and pursue them, especially that you might prophesy'. Some of us have a very passive attitude to spiritual gifts, when we say in a laissez-faire type of way: 'Well, if God hasn't given me that, then I'll not be looking for that if God hasn't given me that'. That's not what the Bible says, the Bible says if you haven't got something, desire it and go after it, pursue it!
So, are you plugged into the power Source that raised Jesus Christ from the dead? Are you cognisant of the gifts that you have, not just natural talents which God can use, but the gifts that God has supernaturally given you? Do you recognise them? Now, be honest, OK? Spiritually, what are the things that you do really well? 'Oh, I couldn't possibly say I do anything well, because that would be pride, wouldn't it?'. If you have to say 'There's nothing that I do really well', can I tell you something? The devil is lying to you! You need to face that fact tonight, that you are good at things - what are you good at? What are you good at spiritually? You see, for some of you: your problem with admitting that at all, is that you cannot admit your own uniqueness, that you have unique gifts and talents. Now there are gifts delineated within the New Testament in general areas, but you are unique as a human being made in the image of God. That means - and we said this before, I think we talked about it when we looked at 'Empowered by the Spirit' - that what God can do with His Holy Spirit upon you, with the gifts that He has given you, is unique. It's like a fingerprint in the spiritual realm, He cannot do with anybody else what He can do with you with the Holy Spirit working in and through you - isn't that incredible?
There are some of you here tonight, and you don't think there is anything special about you - that's the devil's lie. You need to realise that you are unique. We were talking about 7.5 billion people on the face of the Earth tonight, and there's not one other person like you - and that's not even including all the people that have already lived and died; I mean, how many billions is that? Yet you are absolutely unique, there will never be another person like you - and yet you struggle with thinking that you're special? Isn't God incredible that He could make so many different types of people? But for some others of you, the problem is not just uniqueness, but it is actually self-acceptance - that you've got a real struggle accepting the way God has made you. I'm not talking about your foibles, your sins, and your deficiencies that can be worked on, and God wants to do that - He saves us as we are, but He doesn't want to leave us as we are. I'm talking about just generally speaking, the way that you're made, and I think it was that night to do with 'Identity' I talked about Psalm 139, how God knit us together in our mother's womb, He made us, He ordered us the way we are; and then when He saw the finished article, He said 'It's wonderful!'. You're fearfully and wonderfully made. I think I got you that night to say: 'God, You made a good job when You made me', didn't I, if you were here? Could you do that tonight? 'God, You made a good job when You made me'. Say it: 'God, You made a good job when You made me' - but the half of you don't believe that! Isn't that right?
We have a problem with self-acceptance. We need to accept ourselves the way God has made us - that would be a big step for some of you this evening if you could do that. Another issue that we would do well to address and indeed dispatch is comparison and competition, where we are measuring ourselves to others. This is particularly rife within Christian circles and, in the sections of Christendom that really celebrate and believe in the gifts of the Spirit, this can be a real problem. Do you compare yourself? I shared this quote with you before, it's from Kirk Cobain from the rock band 'Nirvana', he took his own life sadly, but he said: 'Pretending to be someone you're not is a waste of the person you are'. How many of us have looked on at some other skilled or gifted Christian or person in the church that we admire, and said: 'I wish I was them', or 'I wish I was like them', when God has made you uniquely gifted and talented. He wants you to have His Spirit on you to do something that no one else can do, and yet we are harping after something that someone else has.
We need to dispatch comparison and competition, 2 Corinthians 10 verse 12 in the NIV says, Paul is writing: 'We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise'. Basically Paul is saying that they are fools, to measure themselves by themselves, to compare themselves with themselves - it's a road to no town. This is, at the top of this iceberg, what many of us see of ourselves - where our potential is below water level. Isn't that an incredible photograph? There is so much more to you than you realise, and certainly regarding potential - what you've got to offer, and what God sees in you. Now we have got this complex - and I've alluded to it already, particularly in Christian circles in the North of Ireland but I think it is a Northern Irish thing, and maybe even an Irish or a Celtic thing - whereby we are afraid of pride, so afraid, so afraid of admitting 'I might be good at something'. Who says that?
Now there is no doubt about it, we have to be aware of pride. Vavasor Powell was a Welsh Puritan, and he said: 'Pride in our talents is a sign of ingratitude to God. It is very hard to behold our own gifts without pride, and the gifts of others without envy'. It's true, isn't it? We seem to swing, pendulum like, to extremes. You know, I have found this as a preacher, sometimes when you preach well, you know, your head swells and you think 'Wow! That went well! That was good!'; and then when you think it hasn't gone so well, you go right into the dumps of despair and think 'I'm never going to preach again, that's it! That's my last sermon!'. Do you know what I mean? It's hard to get the happy medium in between, isn't it? That's because of the old sinful nature that we have. So we are afraid of pride, it was J.C. Ryle who said: 'Gifts without grace are the characteristics of Satan himself'. Isn't that what happened Lucifer? He was gifted by God, he had great powers and abilities, but pride lifted him to a level where he wanted to be in the glory himself. He still had the gifts, and he's still got those gifts, not power, but they were prostituted for the wrong reasons.
So we need to be aware of pride, but we also need to be aware that there are two extremes: one of them is pride, but the other is low self-esteem. The other is not recognising the gifts that God has given. Yes, let's recognise they are gifts, it's got nothing to do with us, but let's recognise them! So the answer to solve this problem is to focus on the Source, to keep God at the forefront. Romans chapter 12 and verse 6: 'Having then gifts differing according to the grace', so it's nothing to do with your abilities in and of yourself, it's what God has gifted you with through grace, 'Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith'. So recognise what God has given us, and use them. Going back a couple of verses to verse 3: 'For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith'.
So right away that bursts the bubble of pride, doesn't it? Don't think of yourself too highly, these gifts are given by God, they are grace-gifts - but hold on a wee minute. If we wrote that verse, it would say 'Don't think about yourself at all. Don't think about yourself highly, but don't think about yourself at all, because that would be pride'. It doesn't say that, it says: 'Think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith'. So what that means is: you need to think about yourself the way God thinks about you, you need to think about your gifts the way God thinks about your gifts, not the way the devil tells you or false humility tells you to denigrate yourself. Are you with me? We want to avoid the extreme of pride, but equally we want to avoid the extreme of low self-esteem and actually denying what God has given us. So, you need to know your gift. Now I don't have time tonight to go into a whole excursus about the gifts of the Spirit, or certain gifts in the church, or giftings that are people in the church - Ephesians 4 - we don't have time for that tonight. There are plenty of resources out there for you to get information on that. I'm not sure that some of these 'tick box exercises' are the best way to find out your gift, they might be ways to find out where your talents are or something like that. Go away and search out for that, but find before God, prayerfully, the gifts that He has given you and go and use them! Don't deny them, go and use them for Him!
But you also need to know how to use them. You must understand how the product was designed to function, isn't that right? Isn't that what we said at the beginning? Every manufacturer designs and develops products to function in a specific manner - so hoovers were not meant to cut the grass, isn't that right? There is a function of every product. So I want to ask you: what are you doing with what God gave you? What are you doing with the strength, even your life energy that you're living everyday, what are you doing with it? Now I'm not saying that you can't have a secular job - I don't think there is any such thing as a secular job when you're a Christian, because everything that we do we have to do with all our might to the glory of God, everything is a ministry - what I mean is that you don't have to be on a mission field or in a pulpit in order to be serving the Lord. But what are your energies being used on day by day? What are you using your gifts for, your strengths and talents? You must understand how the product was designed a function, to the glory of God.
You must know your purpose in life. There are a lot of people, Christians, who don't know their purpose. They're still asking, like the unbeliever: 'Why am I here? What's the purpose of my life?'. Maybe you're in middle age, and you're starting to think: 'What have I done with my years? Where am I going? What am I going to do with the rest of the time God has given to me?'. We need to know our gifts, but we need to know how to use them, the purpose for which we have them. We need to know our purpose here, that you possess potential and you need to know how to fulfil it. The good news tonight is, whatever that purpose is, you possess the potential to fulfil it; and no matter how big the dream is God has given you, your potential is equal to that assignment. He has given you purpose, and He can match the potential in you with the power to fulfil it!
But purpose gives birth to responsibility, doesn't it? You see, you must work out your potential. Potential is essentially, by definition, a dormant ability. It can lie sleeping, even a sleeping giant, but if it's lying sleeping it's no good to anybody. Potential means nothing if you don't do anything with it. So you've got to take your responsibility with the gifts that God has given to you. 'How To Get up and Get Dressed' - reading a book about it lying in bed isn't going to make it happen, isn't that correct? It's interesting that the first thing that God gave Adam was not a wife - every man say 'Amen'! Do you know what God gave Adam before a wife? Work! Now I know the wife probably was a bit of work, in the end, but work - before the fall, before sinking into the world - work was given to Adam. He was given responsibility over all humanity, and he named the animals and so on; he was given dominion there. One of the verses we looked at a while ago, Romans 12 verse 6, talking about us being given grace gifts, it says: 'use them', to use them! If the gift of prophecy has been given to you, prophesy, use it. You see, all this potential latent within us has got to be tapped into, and we've got to use it! That verse that we read says 'by faith', according to the measure of faith that we're given. So it's not about feelings - let's ditch that right away - if you're sitting here thinking: 'Oh, but I don't feel confident', it's not about you feeling confident, it's about what God has called you to, the promises He has given, the inheritance that is yours, the gifts that have been laid upon you - the talents that are natural to you, but the gifts that God has given you supernaturally - about being obedient and, by faith, using them! What is faith? Taking God at His word, not your feelings - if it was down to feelings I never would've started preaching, maybe that would have been better, but I never would have started because you're a bundle of nerves, a bundle of nerves when you stand up for the first time in front of people and try to string a few words together. Am I right? When you give your first word of prophecy, or you share in a prayer meeting for the first time, I challenge anybody that is never nervous - there's probably something else that needs to be dealt with if you aren't nervous at all, you're overconfident if that's the case.
So it's not about feelings, it's about faith. Can I say this to you: your faith will put you outside your comfort zone. In other words, the faith has to actually cancel out the feelings, because it's our comfort zone that is holding in our potential. I like that, this goldfish jumping from one bowl to the other: 'If you want something in your life you've never had, you have to do something you've never done'. So, right away, you're pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, which will challenge your feelings - do you understand? God is speaking to some of you right now, and He's challenging you to the fact that you're too comfortable. Someone once said 'Faith is spelt R-I-S-K'. If you're going to exercise faith, you're going to have to take risks, it's going to step you out into uncomfortable places where you're vulnerable. Listen, if you're going to use your full potential for the Lord, you're going to have to do that - it's as simple as that. This passive attitude - and you can sing all the choruses you like, and go for all the prayer that you like, and get experiences galore - but if you just sit on your blessing assurance and do nothing about it, and wait for God to zap you and to do something so that all of a sudden you'll be a spiritual superhero overnight, it's not going to happen! God is going to call you to step out of your comfort zone by faith, to tap into your potential.
Not only must you work out of your potential, you must cultivate your potential and, indeed, guard your potential. Potential is like a seed, and so it has to be fed and watered, and bathed in sunshine. It has to be in an environment, you know, like a greenhouse effect, there has to be a climate, conditions conducive to the growth of that seed - and it might be a totally different environment to what you're inhabiting day by day (it usually is) in this world in which we live. But nevertheless, it needs to be cultivated, you need to get around people who are going to do that for you, who are going to speak into your life, they're going to edify you. You need to be around a body of Christian believers that is going to encourage you in the giftings and the callings that are in your life. But you need to do your part, you need to pray, you need to be in the word, you need to be keeping yourself in the love of God so that that plant bringing fruit for the glory of the Lord might grow. You need to stimulate your faith and nourish your dream. A lot of people have dreams and visions, what are you doing about it? What are you doing about it?
There is an assumption in certain Christian circles that if God gives you a vision - whether I'm talking metaphorically or literally, you've had a vision from God or a dream that something is going to happen - I've heard this said even recently, that 'If God gives it, God will perform it'. There is an element of truth in that, but God will not perform it without your cooperation. I challenge you to look at every biblical character that God gave a vision, God give promises to - take Abraham himself, He called him out, showed him the stars in the sky, the sand of the shore, and said 'I'm going to make your descendants like this', but did Abraham not have to have faith? Sure, he's called 'the father of faith', because he had to believe God - even to the point where God was calling him, what a contradiction! God doesn't make sense at times, you do know that, don't you? He asks you to do certain things that seem to go contrary to what He has asked you before. He asked him to kill his one and only son after he'd got him - and he'd gone through a whole lot of hoops trying to get a son, wrongly, that's were Ishmael came from. He got the Ishmael, but when the son came - he's 99 years old, it's a miracle - then God asks him to put him to death! Now He didn't, of course, it was a test - but it took faith, it took years, it took generations before Abraham's vision that God splattered right across the sky for him, it took many years before that was fulfilled, because it took faith.
So you need to cultivate your potential, you also need to guard it. One of the saddest things is when what could have been becomes what should have been, and dreams die because people have not realised their potential. I mean, a premature death is a tragic thing, isn't it? Where people die before their time - and I know people debate that you can't die before your time, I believe you can die before your time - it's a tragedy, because what has been ordained of God for your life has not been fulfilled. Equally, dreams, you can live to a ripe old age but your dreams were never fulfilled, those visions that God gave you, the calling that was upon your life, the gifts that were dormant within your being never ever found manifestation - why? Because the potential was not guarded, something came in and attacked it. The enemy is a thief, you know that, don't you? He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus comes to bring life in abundance, life to the full, overflowing - that's potential.
Maybe the enemy has been coming to you, Paul talks about the life of God in us as treasure in earthen vessels - but our potential, isn't that right, is treasure within these clay pots of ours. Satan is after your potential, that's what was going on in the Garden of Eden, where he went and said 'Has God really said?'. He cast doubt upon God's word, he wanted to destroy the image of God in humanity, he wrested dominion from humankind and indeed of the whole universe from humanity in the Garden. He has been destroying humanity ever since, destroying and distorting the image of God in men and women and boys and girls. That's why you see the demoniac running about the way he was, stark naked in the graveyard, in the cemetery - that was a man in whom Satan had destroyed almost completely the image of God, but Jesus has come to undo what Satan has done. That's why, in the Garden of Gethsemane as He wrestles, in the wilderness of temptation as He wrestles with the enemy, He is wresting back the dominion that Satan took from human hands and Adam and Eve. He is restoring us to a rightful place of potential, even far superior than the original plan of God in the Garden of Eden. You've got to understand that you've got an enemy. What is it that is causing you to not see your uniqueness? What is it that is robbing you of self-acceptance? What is it that is causing you to compare your gifts and even compete with other people? It's not a what, it's a who. It's the enemy. He's wanting to rob you, be on your guard.
Then something else: you must share your potential. It's a strange thing, but potential can only be truly fulfilled when you share it, when you give it away. That's what ministry is. In those first two readings we had from Colossians and 2 Timothy, 'Fulfil your ministry' - another word is 'service' for 'ministry'. We are most fulfilled in our potential when we serve others. We see this everywhere in nature. The sun does not exist for itself, plants release oxygen for us and we provide carbon dioxide for the plants. The bee receives nectar as it pollinates the flowers. No potential exists for itself. Sometimes when we think of spiritual gifts, we consider them solely for the benefit of the individual that has them. Do you know what that's like? It's like lighting the fire to warm the stove and not the room. It doesn't make sense. The whole of the passage of Scripture to do with spiritual gifts talks about edifying the body. Now we do get edified ourselves when we exercise them, but we are edifying the body primarily for the benefit of all. First Peter chapter 4 verse 10: 'As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God'. It's grace that has given it, we exercise it by faith, but the objective and motivation is to bless others. For some of us, including myself, do you know what we need to do? We need to ask the Lord to purify our motivations. Why do I want these gifts? So that people say 'Wow! Isn't he amazing! Oh, he's really in touch with God that guy! I just wish I was so like him!' - I know none of you are saying that, but you understand. That can be, very subtly, or maybe not so subtly, a motivation. If I could give you a word of knowledge or a word of wisdom that tells you your email address or your pass code for your bank or something (that would be handy, wouldn't it!), all of a sudden everybody would think 'Wow!'. Now I'm not saying those things necessarily are wrong, I'm just saying that where there is giftedness and power, there is a great danger for us to skew our motivations and not realise that we're not out to impress, we're out to bless. We're out to edify and build up. Do you need to ask the Lord to purify your motivation for spiritual gifts?
Finally, and again, as I say, all these points were from Myles Munroe, and some of the content - not all of it, but a lot of great depth in it: you must know and understand the laws of limitation. Now, what does that mean? Well, every manufacturer establishes laws of limitations. The laws aren't given to restrict, as such, your enjoyment or your effectiveness with this product, but they are there to protect you, isn't that right? The laws of limitation are there to protect. We talked a moment or two ago about power, and power without limitations is downright dangerous, isn't that right? So balance is necessary. You can do anything but not everything. So, understanding our potential is to know: 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, of myself I can do nothing' - we're all with that - 'but I can do all things. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me, quickens my mortal body, I've got gifts from the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ to edify the body. I get edified, I can edify others, I can serve other people'. So, there is a sense in which there is a limitlessness - God gives the Spirit without measure, isn't that incredible? There's enough to go around, by the way - just because she or he is really topped up and overflowing - you know, there is enough to go round. Yet we've got to be aware of our limitations. We can do anything, but we can't do everything. Some people want to do everything, but balance is necessary.
God has given you at least two things. He has given you strengths; and we would include in that category gifts and talents. So there are your natural talents that you've just got from birth, and then there are your spiritual gifts supernaturally given to you at new birth. So there are your strengths, but God has also given to you - listen to what I'm saying - God has also given to you your limitations. Did you know that? Have you ever heard that? Do you know why God has given you limitations? So that you can't do everything. He has given you limitations so that you will need other people. If you could do everything you would need no one. Limitations are given to us so that we make room for other people. If you had all the strengths available, you wouldn't need anybody else. So none of us qualify to be to be superman or superwoman; God has given us limitations so that we look to each other.
Now limitations are not the same as weaknesses, do you understand that? Weaknesses are moral foibles and sin: pride, lust, greed, envy, sloth, wrath, gluttony, etc. We're not talking about weaknesses, weaknesses come from our fallenness, our depravity in sin. By the way, weaknesses can be overcome - isn't that good? Genesis chapter 4 and verse 7, do you remember Cain slew Abel, and the Lord said: 'If you do well, will you not be accepted?', this was after their sacrifice, you remember Abel brought a lamb, Cain brought the fruit of the ground that was rejected by God. The lamb was accepted and Cain wasn't too happy, that's why he ended up slaying Abel. 'If you do well', God said, 'you will be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door' - another translation puts it 'sin crouches at the door' - 'and its desire is for you, but you should rule over it'. So it's personifying sin, like a demonic entity behind sin, it is crouching ready to pounce once you give in wilfully to the enemy's voice. But listen to what God says: 'You should rule over it' - so weaknesses can be overcome. So sin is crouching at your door, it is crouching at all of our doors, but we're supposed overcome it - but limitations, your limitations given to you by God, you will never overcome. That's a revelation some of you need to accept, and I think a weight will just fall off your shoulders once you say: 'Right, I've got plenty of gifts and talents, and God will give me more if I seek them; but there are certain limitations that He wants me to have so that I will have the need for other people'. That is profound to me.
We've covered a lot of ground tonight, haven't we? Part of what I'm trying to do tonight under God is to enthuse you and excite you to the potential that you have latent within you - I hope it's working. I want to be like the rooster who took his hens to see some ostrich eggs, and said: 'Ladies, I just want you to see what can be done!'. Do you see what can be done with your little old life? Maybe you need to come to the Lord tonight, and you need to repent of certain attitudes that you've had about yourself, things you said about yourself and your own abilities. Maybe you need to forgive people who have said things about your abilities, your talents, that have stunted them. You see, the Lord wants you to live to your maximum potential. I mean, how many of us are doing this? I'm not doing it! Can you imagine if every human being lived to their maximum potential? Forget about Christians for a moment, every human being in Northern Ireland, politicians (I'm just saying), civil servants, people in the National Health Service, people in the legal system - imagine if everybody worked to their maximum potential, it would be the best country in the whole world, yes? But imagine if every Christian was living to their maximum potential in God, which is limitless to one degree - personal limitations are there, but the power of God is limitless - imagine what would happen in our land! I think there would be revival very, very quickly. I know revival is something that comes from God, but again we are not exempt from the whole process, we are a part of it.
Do you know how - this is really what else I want to do - not just cause you to realise the potential that you have, but do you realise how you tap into it? It is God, it is being related to your Source. You only will tap into the resource when you are related to the Manufacturer, when you're living according to the design that you've been made for, you know your calling, your purpose. I'm going to read you a poem - probably some of you have heard it before - and it really gives the answer as to how to tap into your full potential. Just close your eyes, maybe, and even picture this. It's called 'The Touch of the Master's Hand':
"'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
Hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
But he held it up with a smile.
'What am I bid, good people', he cried,
'Who starts the bidding for me?'
'One dollar, one dollar, do I hear two?'
'Two dollars, who makes it three?'
'Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three'.
From the room far back a grey-bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.
The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said 'What now am I bid for this old violin?'
As he held it aloft with its' bow.
'One thousand, one thousand, do I hear two?'
‘Two thousand, who makes it three?'
'Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone', said he.
The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
'We just don't understand'.
'What changed its' worth?'
Swift came the reply:
'The Touch of the Master's Hand'.
And many a man with life out of tune
All battered and bruised with hardship
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin.
A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.
But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Master's Hand".
Let's pray. I know I've covered a lot of ground tonight, but really, essentially, that poem sums it all up. If you allow yourself to be placed in the hands of not only your Creator, the One who made you and knows what you were made for - you were made for Him, to glorify Him, but to be satisfied fully in Him; and you can only be fully satisfied in Him when you glorify Him - but actually place your life in the nail-pierced hands of the Son of God who is God Himself, who came to die in order to buy you back from a wasted life, a wasted existence of being unfulfilled and unsatisfied. To put your life into His nail-pierced hands, and to say: 'Lord Jesus, would You remake me, would You remould me? Would You bring a melody from my life that will bless Your heart, and bless this world?'. Would you be prepared tonight to allow the Lord to release your potential, to tap in, and to bless this world? This world has been rocked and changed by one man, one woman, time after time again in history. The life of one man or one woman has completely changed the world, and it's still going on, and it still can happen with your life - but you've got to know your Source, and you've got to know the resource, and you've got to be plugged in.
While heads are bowed tonight - and please do bow your head and close your eyes just to respect people before God right now - is there anybody here tonight, and there may not be anybody that's not a Christian, not a person who has trusted in Jesus; but if there is anybody and you've never taken that step of faith before, we want to give you an opportunity to do that just now. Would you be prepared to raise your hand and say: 'Yes, tonight I'm going to give my life to Christ. I'm going to turn from my ways and my sins, and I'm going to turn to Jesus and ask Him to forgive me and cleanse me, and give me a purpose, a hope, and a future'. Is there anybody? Would you just raise your hand where you're sitting? They mightn't be anybody, but I just want to give you an opportunity if that's the case - just raise your hand and put it down again. Is there anybody that is a backslider, that's somebody who has turned away from the Lord. You once had a calling on your life, you once lived according to Father's purpose, but you've turned away from it and started living for yourself or selfishly; or other things have come in and hurt you and damaged you. But you realise, like the prodigal, that there is bread in your Father's house and to spare. You're unfulfilled, you're not being satisfied, and you know you need to come home and you need to realise again that calling on your life. Is there any prodigal that wants to come home tonight? Would you raise your hand and say: 'Yes, that's me. I want to repent, I want to come to the foot of the cross and be cleansed and made whole again'? Just slip your hand up, we're not doing it to embarrass you or anything, we want to pray with you now and lead you home to the Lord. Is there anybody?
OK, God bless you. Anybody else? Anybody else? Now, let me just pray with those people, you just pray now and say: 'Lord Jesus, I come to You', from your heart, 'I come to You. I ask You to forgive me for my waywardness, my selfishness and my sin. I place my life into Your hands to be my Lord, and to make me as I ought to be. Help me to be fulfilled and fulfill my calling in Your will. Teach me Your way, Lord Jesus'.
Now, are there any Christians here tonight - well, there obviously are - but God has spoken to you about a calling. This is a very specific thing that I'm going to say, a calling that you received - we'll talk in our next session in May about answering the call - but there are gifts that you have neglected, you haven't used, you've maybe even denied that you even have them now; and that calling in giftedness, you realise tonight that God is asking you to rediscover and to face again, and to by faith (not your feelings) by faith step out and say (and some of you need to do this) you need to actually put a line in the sand tonight and say: 'Yes, I'm hearing that, and I need to do something about it, I need to recognise that'. Even by putting up your hand tonight would be a way of saying: 'Lord, I'm going to do something about it, I'm not just going to sit and think 'Oh, that's me, but I'm not sure'' - but you're actually going to do something tonight, and say 'Yes, I've got to deal with this'. Could you put your hand up if that's you? God bless you, anybody else? Now there is no pressure, and I don't put pressure on people, but there is more than one - I'm just letting you know that - there is more than one. Thank you, God bless.
Now this is very specific. Upstairs, when we were praying, just a few of us before the meeting, someone was praying that there would be words of wisdom and words of knowledge. Whenever they prayed that, I felt this, and I'm going to say it: I feel that there is perhaps someone here tonight, and someone said to you 'That is not your gift', and it was your gift - but because they said 'That's not your gift', that word shut you down in that talent or that gift that God had given you, and because of that you have not been using it. Specifically, I want you to acknowledge that, if that's you tonight - there could be more than one person, but I feel that God wants to speak that to someone here tonight. Would you acknowledge if that was you? Someone has said 'That's not your gift', or 'You're no good at that' - but actually it is your gift, and that shut that gift down for you. Would you be able to acknowledge that? Yes, God bless you. Is there anybody else for whom that was a word from the Lord? It might only be for that person.
Now, don't misunderstand me, some people need to be told 'That's not your gift'! Okay, some people really do! In a nice, gracious way, a loving way; but some people are told that and it's wrong. Some children are told at school: 'You can't sing a note, you haven't got a note in your head', and they go up through life thinking 'I can't sing', when they can sing.
OK, let's pray, the people that have realised a call that they had once, let's pray. Just before we do that, is there anybody who got a fresh call from God tonight - a fresh call, a new call. You never had a call before, and you realise you've got gifts, and you've got something, and God is calling you to use them tonight and you're going to go out of your comfort zone? This is a new thing, not an old thing being reawakened, a new thing. Is there anybody else, and you want to say 'Yes, God spoke to me'? We've talked about things that have been left dormant, but anything else, before we move on, before we pray?
OK, let's pray, and just say: 'Lord, I thank You for Your call upon my life' - whoever you are - 'I thank You for Your call upon my life. Forgive me for neglecting it, forgive me for giving into fear or intimidation. Forgive me for listening to the enemy's voice when he has been trying to steal away my potential. Forgive me for passivity, waiting for You to get everything right, Lord, and for everything to align; when I have to do something and I haven't been doing it. Forgive me Lord, I repent. I ask You, Lord, tonight, to recommission me in that call and in those gifts, to reawaken those gifts, to activate those gifts again; to take my talents, if they are natural talents' - we saw a lot of musical stuff going on tonight, a lot of that is natural talent that has been dedicated to God. Dedicate those things back to God. That one person, and if there are others, who gave way to a word that bound them; where they were told 'That's not your gift', I want you to renounce that word that that person spoke, I want you to say 'I renounce that statement that that was not my gift, and I ask You, Lord, now to break the power of that statement off my life. I choose now to exercise my gift in the name of Jesus to the glory of God'. You do that. Thank You, Lord.
I'm going to pray for you all, OK. Father, I thank You that Jesus Christ on the cross bled and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Thank You for the precious power of the blood of Jesus. I thank You, Lord, that Jesus rose again from the dead, and when He ascended up on high He led captivity captive, and He gave gifts to men. He spoiled Satan's kingdom, and I thank You now that He is spreading His own riches and treasures in the kingdom of light. I thank You for everybody here tonight who has tapped into the source of true life, Jesus Christ, who is related to Jesus as Saviour and God as Father in salvation. But Lord, I pray that everybody here - and, Lord, I really don't want to even say this - without power (because it seems so redundant and futile), but Lord, the power that raised Christ from the dead is alive in these folk, and yet you could have fooled me. And I'm speaking of myself, Lord, I'm speaking of the church in general - that is not the impression that we give. Lord, I'm asking You to unleash the power of God in each of our lives. I'm asking You that the windows of heaven would open and the power of Pentecost would outflow. I'm asking You that from the innermost being would flow rivers of living water. Rivers don't just give us a wee fuzzy feeling, and it's not like a wee personal jacuzzi, Lord, it flows out to people around and touches them. That's what we need, Lord, we need something bubbling up within us. There is a well comes up within us, but we need it to become a river to outflow, to touch our communities and our whole land. So, Lord, that's what we're asking. We're not asking it selfishly, we want more experiences with You. Lord, we want the thrills, we do - if we're honest, we want to be satisfied, we want to be enjoying ourselves in this Christian life, why should it be anything else? But, Lord, we know it's not about that, it's not a dead end like that, it's not a cul-de-sac, it's not the Dead Sea with an inlet and no outlet; we have to be flowing out, touching others, and whoever touches that river will be revived. Lord, that's what we're asking for. So, would You just flow into us now. Holy Spirit come, Holy Spirit come now, flow in, just come Lord, come Holy Spirit, we need You. Come Holy Spirit, we pray. Come in Your strength and Your power, come in Your own special way. Come Lord. I pray that You will heal the hurts that have hindered people forgiving people who have judged or criticised the gifts or their talents, and they have shut down, or they are afraid to be rejected by exercising their talents or gifts because they've had so much rejection in their life. I pray, Lord, that You will heal people with low self-esteem; the people that are sitting here thinking 'What can I do? What do I have to offer?'. Lord, would You please come and reveal Yourself to these people to show them how precious they are, how special, how unique, how gifted and talented. Even if they didn't have any talents or gifts - and they do - they've got the life of God in them. Please do a healing, delivering work. Deliver people from bondages that are holding them back from using the potential that You have given them. Take the scales from off their eyes, give them self-acceptance to see they are accepted in the Beloved. Lord, do a healing and delivering work. I rebuke Satan in Jesus' name, every binding influence and empowerment that has been robbing people of their potential here tonight, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus, and I command everything to go of the enemy. I pray, Lord, that You will give us strengthening of our will, that You will make us active and not passive, that You will give us the grace of obedience to actually - when we hear Your voice telling us 'Walk this way', that we will do it. Thank You, Lord, for this night. It has been a sort of funny night in ways, yet, Lord, I believe You are moving deeply in people's lives. Thank You for what You're doing. Just increase Your presence upon us as we begin to worship now again. Lord, receive our worship, but inhabit our praises. Come in an even deeper way, and as people may come out for ministry, Lord, meet them, meet them, Lord. You are the Potter, we are the clay, mould us and make us after Your will, till we are waiting, yielded and still. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Stables in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth recording in his 'Hunger For Reality' series, entitled "Releasing Your Potential" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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