Steven Furtick - Living Up to Your Potential
Potential is like milk. If you drink it and pour it out in time it can be provision, but if you let it sit… How many want to drink it after it has been sitting out for a month? It does a body good if you drink it in time, but if you let it get past that date that was put on the jug… That's why some of us are miserable: because of unlived potential that has been sitting in the jug, sitting on the shelf. I'm afraid to fail, so I won't try.
Now my potential has become poisonous, and I'm miserable because I'm not living my potential. See, the secret is I don't really want to reach my potential. If I ever reach my potential, that means it's my funeral. I don't want to reach my potential. What do I want to do? I want to do what Paul did. He said in Philippians 3, "Forgetting what is behind me and straining toward what is ahead…" I have to forget about the past. My potential is not back there. "And straining toward what's ahead". I have to persevere. My potential won't come to pass if I play with it. I can't strike three times. I have to strain toward something. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God. I have to show you this.
Philippians 3:15. This is cool. He said, "All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things". What such a view of things? A view of things that knows that you have not arrived yet, a view of things that knows that what's behind you can't hold you and what's ahead of you is greater than what's against you. God help me preach this message for three people who feel like "It's all I have, but it's not enough. But it's all I have. But it's not enough". He said, "All of us who are mature should take such a view. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you".
In other words, if you think you've reached your full potential, if you think you've arrived, God will leg sweep you to make sure you don't strut around in circles. This one confused me. He said, "Only let us live up to what we have already attained". What? Live up? That means I'm not there. Attained? That means I've arrived. Potential has potential. "Keep preaching," Wayne Ahl told me. "Building houses is not your thing". He was kind of right, because my hands have never built a house, but I grabbed my microphone in 2010 and told the whole church about Love Week. I said, "We're all going to serve".
You know I got to visit five different Habitat for Humanity sites where we were building houses? It hit me. If I use what I've got, God will be what I am not. High-five your neighbor and say, "Work it"! Work your window! Work your gift! Work your potential, according to his purpose! Potential has potential. How did a microphone build a house? It's the power of potential. How did a stick part the Red Sea? It's the power of potential. How did a mustard seed become the kingdom of God? How did a baby become the Savior of the world? It's the power of potential. "Only let us live up to what we've already attained". It's funny, because the English translators didn't know how to translate what Paul said. What he said is, "Let us live toward".
I don't want to reach my potential; I want to run after it. My potential is what gives me the possibility of progress. If I was there, I wouldn't have anything to run for. That's what makes me get up in the morning: the possibility that I could be a better man today than I was yesterday, the possibility that I could fulfill… Do you know why I got up to preach? I preached this sermon on Saturday night. Some of my staff said, "Play it back. It was good". I said, "I think I could preach it better. I want to reach. I know I could quit, but I have some arrows left". Don't play with me. This is the kind of preaching that'll mess you up. This is the kind of preaching that'll stir up your gift. This is the kind of preaching that'll light a fire.
Somebody shout like you have potential, like your praise has potential, like your gift has potential! It's in you, it's in you, it's in you! It's in you, it's in you, it's in you! Potential. Initiative. Now I know why God was speaking to me before I came out. He's doing something. Before I came out I kept thinking, "Initiative". There's a guy here at the church. You might meet him if you stay around a little while. He's the campus pastor of our University City Campus. His name is Larry Brey. Larry Brey is from Minnesota. I met him in Shelby, North Carolina. I asked him to come help me start the church. He was up at our revival, and he turned over to me. He was on stage here at Ballantyne, and he said, "Thank you, Pastor, for seeing my potential".
I never told him this until this moment, but I want to tell him right now. I didn't see potential in you. I don't have that power. I don't see potential in you. You can't see potential. None of us knows. If they couldn't see it in the Beatles and if it took Holly a full 12 months to get her act together and be interested in me… What I saw was patterns. I saw patterns of initiative. I saw that when the pastor of the church we were serving at said he wanted something, before he could get it out of his mouth what he wanted built, Larry Brey was at Lowe's with his pickup truck. I saw when a room needed painting, Larry Brey was out in the lobby, and instead of drinking coffee over there just talking about the good Lord, he was recruiting volunteers to paint a classroom. I said, "I could use a guy like Brey".
Jesus saw Peter fishing and said, "I see potential. The way you throw that net is the way you're going to preach my Word. I see potential". God looked at David and said, "I see potential. The way you tend those sheep is the way you're going to be king over my people. I see potential". Potential is revealed through patterns, and how will you know your full potential if you don't give yourself to the process? I'm closing with this.
4. Process reveals potential. You will never know what the relationship could have been if you do not embrace the process. It is in the process of trying that potential to continue is released. It is in the process of getting down to the bottom that you find out how to make it to the top. Process reveals potential. That's why God chose Elisha. He was plowing in the field faithfully. He was involved in the process. God picks people who aren't afraid of process. God uses people who don't run when the ground is hard. God uses people who plow in obscurity. God raises up people who have their hands dirty, their sleeves rolled up, and embrace the process.
You will never know your potential if you keep resisting the process by which God is trying to reveal it. You never know what your mic can do. You never know what your marriage could be. You never know what you could be as a dad if you just keep staying stuck in the fact you didn't have one. Your past is not your potential, nor is it the best predictor of it. The limit to your potential is your purpose and your perseverance. Your purpose (you can't do what he didn't assign you to do) and your perseverance. He told him, "You should have struck five or six times".
My oldest son loves to argue. You could see that as a problem; I see it as potential. I feel like if we can get it applied to the right purpose… I don't have time to preach this whole sermon, but something you've been calling a problem is actually your potential in a different dimension. That boy might make $10 million as a lawyer by the time he's 25 and tithe to me personally. "Steven Furtick Incorporated Ministries of Jesus Christ". (That's not a real thing.) He was kind of arguing with me. He said, "This is the most epic text in the Bible, but why not 9 or 10 times? Why not 15 or 16"?
The prophet was angry, because here's a man named Elisha who one day, just going about the process of his life, a mantle falls on him. When the mantle falls on him, his potential is revealed with a glimpse. It's just a glimpse. He did not fully realize his potential until 14 years later when he was standing at the Jordan with the mantle that hit his shoulders while he was plowing, because process reveals potential. God will give you a glimpse of the arrow, and then he will call you to strike the ground. Process reveals potential. "So why not nine times"? Elijah says. It's a good question. "Why not 15? If we're just striking the ground…"
I had an answer, because I'm not going to be out-argued about the Bible by my 11-year-old. Not a chance. There is no potential for that to happen. Touch somebody and say, "You have potential". I know you have potential, because if you didn't, God would have killed you by now. We'd be at your funeral if you didn't have potential. What you do with it is up to you. If you let it sit, it'll be poisonous. "You should have; then you would have". Why five or six times? Here's my theory. It's just a theory, but it's absolutely true.
Do you know why he said five or six times? Remember when he told him to shoot out the window he said, "Take the arrow," singular? The power of potential. If you let it sit, it'll become poisonous. You'll start projecting onto other people the potential you didn't fulfill. But if you release it in the process, it will become your provision. So here's what the man of God said. He said, "Open the east window. Shoot! The Lord's arrow of victory. You will completely destroy the Arameans". You will completely destroy. You will press toward the mark. You're going to do it all. Verse 18: "Then he said, 'Take the arrows…'" Plural.
For some reason, when I used to visualize this story, in my mind I had the king with one arrow striking it over and over again, but now I realize all the prophet wanted him to do was use every arrow that was available. Why six arrows? You only did half of what you could have done. The only type of person I've ever found that God can only use in a limited measure is one who is half-hearted. I've met addicted people whom God used. I've met discouraged people whom God used. I've met mean people whom God used. Elisha was mean. One time he was walking back from healing the waters of Jericho. He had thrown some salt in the water, just like the church needs to heal the toxic waters of our nation.
Elisha took the salt. We are the salt of the earth. He threw the salt in the water. The waters became pure. It remains pure to this day, the Bible says, and the next thing he did… He's walking along, and some boys come out of the woods and start calling him "Baldy". It's in your Bible. Read it. Second Kings 2:19-25. They said, "Go on up, Baldy! Go on up, Baldy"! The Bible says he called down curses in the name of the Lord.
When he called down curses, bears came out of the woods and killed 42 boys. You didn't learn that in Sunday school. It wasn't on your flannelgraph, because we don't know what to do with that. The same words that had the potential to heal had the potential to kill. If your potential does not find its purpose… I'm telling you, the shame of stopping short is worse than the pain of falling short. Why don't you press? Why don't you run? Why don't you go? Why don't you strike every arrow? I'm using every arrow. I'm not leaving any arrows on the ground. I'm not leaving anything.