We all have expectations for ourselves, as well as others. We have expectations of having good relationships with family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. We may have expectations of having a great marriage, or a wonderful career. We often expect others to live up to certain expectations we have for them – I know that parents have them for their children, and children also have them for their parents. The word expectation, defined is: “Belief with confidence of fulfillment; the feeling that something will happen, anticipation.” The Latin derivative includes “a prospect of a future outcome.” Often the word “wishing,” is even incorporated into the definition. The reason I go to such lengths defining this, is because I would like to show how living up to our potential is actually very different from living up to our expectations. Potential is described as “being potent, endowed with energy adequate to a result.” It is also rendered “capable of being, but not in existence yet; having capability or power.” And my favorite is: “The inherent ability or capacity for growth or development.”
I think it is obvious that although very similar and often interchanged, these two words carry significantly different meanings. I may fail to live up to an expectation, but that does not mean that I don’t possess the potential to do so. Keeping that in mind, let’s take an introspective look into our Christian lives and service to God, and ask ourselves, “Are we living up to our potential, or are we simply fulfilling what is expected of us by ourselves and/or others?”
What am I capable of? Can I answer that question? Have I attempted to do anything out of my comfort zone, or do I just keep doing the same service to God that I have done since becoming a Christian. Notice the words in the definition of expectation: “belief, feeling, prospect.” All are subjective. Then note the words associated with potential: “Potent, capable, ability, power.” These indicate an existing trait perhaps not even tapped into. Whoa, you say! I’m not…….wait a minute. Have you attempted to do it yet? Whatever it might be? If not, you don’t know. The only way to find out if you are capable of teaching a class is to jump in and try. Obviously, one must prepare for this, but the time comes when we need to put all that preparation into action. Peter said, “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:18) It is a command. We must study and grow. Here is how that happens, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby,” (1 Peter 2:1). We must have a strong desire to study and learn and teach others. Then we must follow through until we have sufficient knowledge to be able to teach others ( 2Timothy 2:15).
Some of us have talents or gifts that others do not have. I understand that. I would not be able to lead a group of ladies in singing as well as I could teach a group of children in Bible classes. Does that mean I will never do that? No. If the need arose I would do my best. And do you know what? I might, with some practice, be able to cultivate that talent. Through the years I have seen many men and women become confident, capable public speakers who thought they would never be able to do so. I am married to just such a one.
I do not think that we should disregard our potential. As a noun, the word potential, means, “Latent but unrealized ability or capacity; the state of being not yet evident or active.” If someone you truly admired and respected as being an authority told you that you had the ability to go far in a given discipline, you would probably consider that and act upon it. Well, Someone has. Someone said that you could convert the souls of the spiritually lost. Someone has said that you can teach others, that you can rear up godly children, that you can set examples for others who are discouraged, that you can be a catalyst for those who are not confident, that you can be an encourager. We need to keep in mind that Someone, our Father in heaven, has never given us commands that were grievous or impossible to fulfill (1 John 5:3). He has also endowed every one of us with talents, some many and others a few, but we all have some. We see this in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-46). There was an expectation on the part of the man who distributed the talents, but there was also a potential for each of those who received to live up to those expectations. Do you see how closely related expectation and potential are? We all have potential. We need to endeavor to cultivate that potential in our lives for us to be as effective in the kingdom of God as possible. Imagine, if you can, what the Lord’s body would be if every Christian were living up to his/her full potential each and every day! We have control over this in our lives. We can be all that He would have us to be. Will you determine to release that inherent potency in your life? I pray that may be the case, and I would ask you to pray for me, as I continue to struggle to go beyond my self-imposed boundaries, on to even greater and higher levels of service to our Lord.
Nancy is the wife of Bill Goring, who serves as a gospel preacher and elder for the Chipman Road church of Christ in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She has 4 children, 11 grandchildren and has taught Bible class for over 40 years, speaks at Ladies Day gatherings and has published several books including: Behavior Becoming Holiness: Studies in Titus Chapter 2 and Overcoming our Self-Imposed Prisons.