Note: This article appeared in the October 1991 issue of Charisma magazine.
The wealthiest spot on this planet is not the oil fields of Saudi Arabia or the gold mines of South Africa. The richest deposits on our planet lie not many blocks from your house—in your local cemetery. Buried beneath the soil of those sacred grounds are songs that never were sung, books that never were written, paintings that never filled a canvas, ideas that never became reality. Tragically, our graveyards are filled with potential that never was fulfilled.
As I walk the streets of our cities, my heart grieves over the wasted, broken, disoriented lives I encounter. During their youth, they had dreams, desires, plans and aspirations. But today they are lost in a maze of substance abuse, alcoholism and purposelessness.
Only a small percentage of the 5 billion people on this planet will achieve a significant portion of their true potential. Their potential remains untapped because they do not understand the nature of the potential principle: Potential is not what you have done, but what you can do. Not what is, but what could be.
What is potential? Dormant ability. Untapped strength. Unused success. Hidden talents. Capped capability.
There’s a wealth of potential within you. But you must decide if you will deprive the world or bless it with the valuable, potent, untapped resources locked away within you. Most men and women never realize their full potential because they do not understand the keys to a fulfilled, effective life.
Every manufacturer establishes the specifications, environment, conditions and operational standards for attaining the maximum performance level of his or her product. God our Creator and Manufacturer has also established a plan for the maximum performance and release of your potential. Violation of these requirements will result in the malfunction, distortion, misuse and abuse of your precious potential.
After careful study of the Bible—the Manufacturer’s Handbook—I have identified 10 major keys to releasing your full potential:
1. You must know (be related to) your Source. It is essential that you understand the nature, composition and consistency of your Source, for this is the key to understanding the potency of your potential. If you had a wooden table in your house, for example, you would be aware that the table is made of wood from a tree. The strength, durability and nature of the table can only be as strong and durable as the tree. If the tree is weak, the table will be the same. Therefore, the potential of the table is determined by the potential of the source from which it came.
The same is true for you. To understand how much potential you possess, you must understand the Source from which you came. You and I possess the qualities and nature of our Source and are capable of manifesting these qualities. We also possess an eternal spirit just like our Source. We will live forever—not because He allows us to, but because it’s our nature.
A manufacturer’s product must remain related to its source in order to be maintained and supplied with genuine parts and authorized service. Manufacturing companies call this relationship the warranty/guarantee agreement.
This agreement requires that the owner of the product be subjected to the conditions, specifications and operational standards if the manufacturer is to take responsibility for the maximum performance, maintenance and servicing of the product. Violation of the manufacturer’s conditions and standards cancels the warranty/guarantee relationship and places the product at the mercy of unauthorized dealers.
The same relationship exists between God and humanity. God guarantees the maximum performance of our potential if we remain related to Him and submit to the conditions, specifications and standards set by Him. A personal relationship with our Creator is a key to the releasing of our full potential.
2. You must understand how the product was designed to function. Every manufacturer designs, develops and produces his or her product to function in a specific manner. Automobile manufacturers, for instance, design their products to function with gasoline, spark plugs, batteries, pistons, oil, water and so forth. No matter what you do, if you do not supply the elements required for the operational function of the product, it will not perform and maximize its potential.
God designed human beings to function as He does. You and I were created to function by faith and love. These are the fuels on which we run.
The just live—operate—by faith (Rom. 1:17). Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). And faith works through love (Gal. 5:6) because God is love, and those who operate in love abide in God and God abides in them (1 John 4:16).
Our potential cannot be released without faith and love. Fear and hatred short-circuit our potential.
3. You must know your purpose. Every product exists for a specific purpose. That reason is the original intent of its existence—the purpose for which the manufacturer made it. Knowing the manufacturer’s intent is essential because the purpose for which something was made determines its design, nature and potential.
God created you and gave you life for a purpose. Whatever that purpose is, you possess the potential to fulfill it. No matter how big the dream God gave you, your potential is equal to the assignment. Purpose gives birth to responsibility, and responsibility makes demands on potential.
4. You must understand your resources. All manufacturers provide access to the necessary resources for the proper maintenance, sustenance and operation of their products. Resources and provisions are to help sustain the product while its potential is being maximized.
God, in His great wisdom, provided human beings with tremendous material and physical resources to sustain and maintain us as we proceed in realizing, developing and maximizing our potential. We are never to worship the resources, nor are we to become controlled by them. Idolatry and substance abuse are violations of the Manufacturer’s specifications and will lead to the destruction of potential.
5. You must have the right environment. Environment consists of the conditions that have a direct or indirect effect on the performance, function and development of a thing. Every manufacturer specifies the proper conditions under which he or she guarantees the maximum performance of the product. In the manual, the manufacturer will caution against violation of that specified environment for maximum performance. The right environment is the ideal conditions needed to maximize the true potential.
God created everything to flourish within a specific environment. Plants and animals all need a specific environment in order to live. When the proper environment is violated, the potential for life is disrupted and possibly destroyed. This is also true of humans.
God designed humans to function in the garden of His presence, in relationship with Him, free from sin and in daily communion with His Spirit. Human potential needs this positive environment of fellowship, relationship, love and challenge in order to be maximized. You can never be all you could be in any other environment.
Humanity’s fall contaminated our environment and poisoned the atmosphere of our potential. It produced abnormal behavior and the malfunction of the human factor. The key to releasing your true potential is the restoration of God’s original environment. Jesus came to restore us to the Father. He sent the Holy Spirit to restore our internal environment.
6. You must work out your potential. Potential is dormant ability. But ability is useless until it is given responsibility. When God created Adam, He planted in him the potential to subdue, rule over and care for the earth and everything in it. His potential was predetermined by this purpose. Adam had inside of him all the potential necessary to fulfill the assignment. But he was not aware of his potential, even as you may not be aware of what you can do.
So the first thing God gave Adam was not a wife, but work (Gen. 2:15). He made demands on the potential of Adam’s mind by commanding him to name the animals and stimulated the potential of his body by commanding him to cultivate the garden. The Lord gave Adam insight into the potential of his spirit by commanding him to dominate the whole earth for God’s glory.
Work is a major key to releasing your potential. Claiming a promise does not make it happen. You must apply the principle of work. The land was promised to the children of Israel, but they had to walk it out to possess it (Deut. 11:24). Good ideas do not bring success. Good hard work does. To release your true potential, you must be willing to work.
7. You must cultivate your potential. Potential is like a seed. It is a hidden ability that needs to be cultivated. You must feed your potential the fertilizer of positive company, give it the environment of encouragement, drench it with the water of God’s Word and bathe it in the sunshine of personal prayer. Read materials that stimulate your faith and nourish your dream.
8. You must guard your potential. It’s tragic when a tree dies in a seed or a person dies in childhood. It’s sad when what could have been becomes what should have been. With all the wealth of your potential, you must be careful to guard and protect it.
The Bible calls your potential a treasure in an earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7). You must guard your visions and dreams from sin, discouragement, procrastination, failures, opinions, distractions, traditions and compromise. Satan is after your potential. Be on guard.
9. You must share your potential. God created the heavens and the earth to operate on this principle: Potential can only be fulfilled when it is shared. Nature abounds with this truth. The sun does not exist for itself. Plants release oxygen for us, and we provide carbon dioxide for the plants. The bee receives nectar as it pollinates the flowers.
No potential exists for itself. This is also true of human potential. The true measure of fulfilled potential is not what is accomplished, but who receives benefit from the accomplishment. Your deposit was given to enrich and inspire the lives of others. Remember, the great law is love.
10. You must know and understand the laws of limitation. Freedom and power are two of the most important elements in our lives. Potential is the essence of both. Potential is power. But freedom needs law to be enjoyed, and power needs responsibility to be effective. One without the other produces self-destruction.
Every manufacturer establishes laws of limitations. These laws are not given to restrict, but to protect—not to hinder, but to assist and guarantee the maximum performance of potential.
God has set laws and standards to protect our potential and to secure our success. Violating these laws limits the release of your potential. Obedience ensures protection and maximization.
Commit yourself to obeying the Manufacturer. Then watch your life unfold as you discover the hidden ability that was always within you.