The word "potential" means "possible as opposed to actual" or "capable of being or becoming." When we say that someone has potential, we usually mean it in a good way. It means that we expect great things from this person. Some sports teams invest millions of dollars in an athlete based upon his potential alone.
Every person has a potential for something good. However, not every person has the same potential. Consider the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30). All three men who were given talents had the potential to make a profit with them. Each man's potential was different because of the number of talents given to him by the master, but the master expected each of them to fulfill their potential with what they had.
With potential always comes expectations. These expectations are reasonable according to what one's potential is. In the parable, the man who received five talents and the man who received two talents fulfilled their potential with those talents. The master was equally pleased with both of them and gave them the same reward even though one had profited more than the other (verses 21,23). However, the man who received one talent failed to reach his potential, and the master rebuked him and punished him for not meeting expectations (verses 26-30).
The point of the parable is that God has given each person a potential to do good, and He expects the same effort from everybody. Effort is what turns potential into reality. In the parable, the master calls the man given one talent a "wicked, lazy slave" because he did not make the effort to do his master's will (verse 26). The achievement of fulfilling potential will not happen unless the one to whom God has given potential works to meet God's expectations.
Every person has the potential to obtain forgiveness of sins and salvation from death. God has made this possible through the giving of His own Son on the cross. However, God still has expectations for every person in order for that person to achieve eternal life. Just as the three men in the parable knew what their master's expectations were (verses 24, 26), we also know what God's expectations are because he has told us through His word. So, we have no excuses for failing to meet our potentials.
Young people must especially keep in mind that potential is not achievement. Often a young person who has a tremendous potential for doing good will receive bountiful praise and encouragement from others for his potential. If he becomes satisfied with this praise, he may never accomplish his potential. He must remember that the fact that he has potential means that he has not done anything yet.
When opportunities have passed, potential is remembered as a burden if it was not accomplished, and it is remembered as blessing if it was achieved. When your opportunities have passed, how will you remember your potential? Make it a blessing, and achieve what God expects of you now while you can, before He comes to settle His account with you.
Stacey E. Durham
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