Guarding our God-given potential – Greg Laurie – and
Life is full of surprises.
Some of the biggest surprises in my life have been how the lives of people I have known through the years have turned out. Maybe, like me, you can think of guys or girls who seemed to have no potential whatsoever. You never expected them to amount to much of anything. Maybe you even made fun of them in school. Then, five or 10 years after graduation, you hear one of these "geeks" is the president of a multi-million dollar software company!
Then there were those popular, cream-of-the-crop, most-likely-to-succeed kids whose lives seemed to be brimming over with promise. They had something special, and you just knew they would make their mark in life. Blessed with multiple talents, giftedness and personality, they seemed to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps it was someone who was unusually gifted spiritually. And sure enough, their star began to rise, and you’re thinking, "Well, at least I can say I knew them back when."
Then suddenly, seemingly without warning, the bottom drops out of this individual’s life. Or you watch in perplexity as The Golden Boy or Golden Girl is slowly sidetracked by foolish, life-marring decisions.
Stories like that are always very sad, because God has a unique, custom-designed plan for each of our lives. And when we stubbornly turn from His path to follow our own ways or the impulses of our flesh, our personal loss is incalculable.
The prophet Jeremiah tells the story of his trip to the potter’s house, where he watched as the craftsman molded clay into useful vessels. On the potter’s wheel, the pliable, shapeable clay could be made into something both useful and beautiful.
That is a picture of our lives. We’re the ones who determine if we will be flexible and moldable in God’s hands. We make ourselves that way by our openness to His plans and our willingness to obey.
I believe the steps of our lives are allowed by God before our conversion, and ordered by the Lord after. God knew the day you would receive Christ, and He has allowed your life experiences in order to do a unique and never-to-be-duplicated work in your life.
At this very moment, even as you read these words, you can be pliable and shapeable in God’s hands, or you can continually resist Him. He gives you that choice.
Outside of the potter’s house described in the book of Jeremiah was a field littered with cracked, broken pots and vessels. Wreckage. Lives that could have been objects of beauty and great usefulness to God – but would not yield. These broken shards represent wasted potential.
The story of Samson in the book of Judges is a stunning example of an individual gifted with off-the-charts potential. Blessed with unbelievable physical strength, Samson had God’s blessing and anointing on his life – from birth! In fact, he was one of only two men in the Old Testament whose birth and mission was foretold by angels. He could have been one of the greatest leaders and heroes in the history of Israel. He certainly began that job, and he had every opportunity to finish the task – if he had only allowed that potential to reach full bloom. But instead, in the very prime of his life, he became distracted – and then destroyed – by sexual temptation and foolish decisions.
When you think of Samson’s life, you think waste. A life of squandered resources and untapped potential and ability. He threw it away because of some subtle but ultimately fatal errors in judgment. His life stands as a warning to all of us: A good beginning doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good ending. The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, "Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending."
In other words, our lives will be evaluated not so much by how we began the race of life, but by how we finished.
When we think of Samson’s tragic fall, our minds race to his encounters with Delilah. But the fact of the matter is it was a series of smaller compromises that ultimately proved to be his undoing. Taken individually, each of these steps away from God may not have seemed like a big deal to him. What he didn’t understand was that every step away from God brought him closer to destroying his potential and his life.
Many of us vividly remember the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986. Seven crew members died in that tragic mishap. After weeks of careful research, technicians revealed that the primary cause of the explosion was a failure of something called an "o-ring."
O-rings are rubber rings used as mechanical seals or gaskets. When an o-ring failed on Challenger’s rocket booster, it allowed the super-heated gasses from the burning rocket to escape, ultimately resulting in the explosion.
It’s mind-boggling to think of that shuttle – something so large, so powerful, so incredibly expensive, so carefully designed – being brought down by something as small and seemingly insignificant as an o-ring.
Samson’s life was similar. We can trace a breakdown in the smaller areas of his life … leading to an explosion.
Some of you who read this column are young, with tremendous potential to make a difference for God in this very dark world, at this crucial time in history. Through the life of Samson, God warns you to walk with great care, so that you don’t repeat this mighty man’s mistakes. But the story isn’t just a red flag for young people. All of us need to attend to the details of our lives, seeking to walk before God with a whole heart.
Nobody falls suddenly into a wasted life. It may look that way to an outside observer. It may even seem that way to the one who falls. But the truth is each major compromise is preceded by a series of small compromises – choices that appear to be so insignificant to you that "playing the edge" seems like no big deal.
Is there any moral compromise in your life right now? If so, deal with it. Because someday, in some way, shape, or form, Delilah will show up on your doorstep.
And you may find yourself in a trap that has no back door.
Don’t throw your life away, but rather realize your full potential! And that will only come through a complete commitment to Jesus Christ.