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Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 15 January 2014

POTENTIAL ISN’T ENOUGH

By Jim Jordal

 Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will tell me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, in your name cast out demons, and in your name do many mighty works?' Then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you who work iniquity.'

Matt. 7:21-23 WEB

Legend has it that the great Texas Longhorn football coach Darrell Royal confronted new recruits in this manner. His great successes over 20 years meant that he could recruit top high school players from across the country. After returning from recruiting trips scouts would regale him with accounts of the great potential exhibited by some players. When the players finally signed and were on campus, Royal would call them in one at a time and present this challenge: "Son, they tell me ya got potential. Well, potential don’t mean nothing to me except that ya ain’t done it yet. Now get out there and do it."

The same thing is true in life: Potential only means we haven’t done it yet. We could do it, but we haven’t. The "good" Christians in the above reading had much potential, but they used it to accomplish deeds that didn’t please God because they failed to carry into action his laws for justice and righteousness on earth. In other words they "practiced lawlessness" by ignoring clear demands of the law for justice, mercy and truth in favor of "flashy" works of their own choosing.

The term potential refers to a "pent-up force" under restraint but capable of providing great power once the blockages are removed. It is a state of being full of possibilities not yet attained. It is latent abilities awaiting development. And it is a sad commentary on life that it is so often ignored or squelched that it slides away into the gray twilight of unfulfilled dreams.

Unfulfilled potential is excused by a variety of personal defense mechanisms and institutional ungrounded explanations. "They wouldn’t let me do it" is a favorite because it generalizes whatever forces are perceived to be in opposition without actually naming them or explaining why they resisted. It demonizes a hidden enemy without identifying what really happened so it could be corrected. And it allows the defeated person or group to never face their own contributions to the failure.

Another excuse is that used by believers in the Scripture above. They did what they desired rather than what God wanted for them. What they did was not evil, and may even have been helpful, but it wasn’t what God wanted. They never rose to their potential. So doing your own will, even though it may be helpful to the church, is not an acceptable excuse for failing in the mission desired by God.

How does this failure to achieve potential affect the church of today? I think it obvious that we have unlimited potential through the promises of God, Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary, and empowering and leading by the Holy Spirit. But because of internal disagreements and petty bickering, plus being restrained by the cold, dead hand of excessive tradition and ritual, we fail in the greatest mission of all—the Jubilee call for deliverance uttered by Moses, advocated by the prophets, and prescribed by Jesus in his first sermon, recorded in Luke 4:21-24. All other activities by well-meaning churches and Christians pale before this heavenly mandate.

So we need to do as coach Royal said to his promising recruits, "Now get out there and do it!" Today God says the same to us: "Look on the fields for they are white with harvest." The problems are greater than ever before, but so are the opportunities for personal and national transformation. Pray that God will send laborers into the harvest.