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Asking the Right Questions

So many people live way below their full potential, including many Christians. How can we reach higher? What holds us back? Learn more about it in Asking the Right Questions the first of our new series Unlocking Your Full Potential.

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Today we’re starting a new series. It’s called Unlocking Your Full Potential.

I see so many people in my church and in my counseling practice who are lost, floundering, aimless, distracted, majoring in the minors. They’re very unhappy when they’re like that, because human beings are designed for purpose. Many of these people are incredibly talented and intelligent, yet their problems, outlooks and attitudes prevent them from using all the talent they have – all that potential locked up and unused. They’re so unhappy. There’s plenty of research out there and in the Bible – the scriptures – to demonstrate that humans are not as happy as they could be when floundering aimlessly.

We’re going to approach this issue from a psychologically sound and Christian prospective at the same time. I’ve noticed that there are three basic approaches when covering the topic of human potential. And I want to delineate them so that you’re aware of what we’re doing. One is a strictly secular approach. The goals for unlocking potential are to be happy and make money. There may be others as well, but those are the things that I notice the most.

The next is what I call cloaked Christianity. Stephen Covey could serve as a good example here. He wrote a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. It was all based on biblical principles, yet he didn’t present it that way at all. Instead, he presented the principles of things that work – principles that are axiomatic. Do them and be successful. Break them and they’ll break you. Now I’m not knocking this approach at all. I got a lot of benefit from that book and I’m eternally grateful to Stephen Covey for writing it. He succeeded in helping many Christians, and many people who are not Christians, align themselves with Godly behaviors and ways of thinking. And that’s always a good thing. It was a gift that he gave to many people. He also made a lot of money doing it. You know how you see the New York Times bestseller list – 100,000 copies sold? He sold 29,000,000 copies.

But we’re not going to take the cloaked approach today. We never do, actually. We always label biblical principles as such, because we intend to integrate sound psychological principles with the Bible and show that when psychology works, it’s because it is rooted in biblical principles, whether the people that developed the psychology knew it or not. We want to help Christians become more aligned with God’s way of life. That’s why we attempt to integrate the two.

This is not to say that we’re the only ones taking this approach. You may have heard of The Purpose Driven Life, a book by Rick Warren. He lays it out there from a completely Christian perspective also. Rick Warren’s book sold 32,000,000 copies and it’s the second most read book in human history – after the Bible. What does that tell us? Well, it tells me that a whole of people have detected that they could be happier if that had a purpose – a focus – and they are out there actively looking for it.

So to the point of our series, how does one unlock his or her full potential from a Christian perspective? I think the way we would like to approach this is to ask the right questions. We might think they would be questions like, “What am I good at?” or “What would I like to do?” or “What would make me happy or more fulfilled?” And those questions are probably relevant. We’ll probably cover some of those questions in this, but they are not the key questions or the things that should be put at the beginning. For Christians, those questions need to come way down the list. Why is that? Well, because Christians know that God is working out a great overarching purpose. And we can come to that purpose by asking the question, “Why was I born?”

We can look around and wonder, “Why the universe?” and “Why human life on earth?” and “How we came to be sentient beings?” We can read the Bible – that God is creating a family. He is the Father and we are the children. It’s God’s objective to bring us into that eternal family and to live with Him in that family forever in peace.

While God has created many people and will create many more, it’s natural to think that God works with large groups of people the way humans do. I mean, it’s how we relate to it. How do we do that? Well, we assign them a number and then process them in large groups impersonally. It’s easy to think that God works like that, too. But He doesn’t. He’s not like we are. He works with each one of us individually, even though there are billions of us. He has the capability of doing that, while we don’t. He watches over each one of us as though we were the only person in the world. He has a salvation plan for each one of us that’s different from the plan for every other person. He wants a personal relationship with us now, as well as later, when we’re in His eternal family. We can approach that understanding in the question, “How did God call me?”

If we think about the apostle Paul for a moment, we can see that it was easy for him to answer to that question for himself. The story of his calling is included in much detail in the book of Acts. He was struck blind on the Damascus Road and God told him in person to stop persecuting His people. But for most of us, it’s not that easy. We have to think about it.

Were we called to God by a relationship with our parents? Or did God work with us first through other people? Or perhaps some other intervention? I’ve told my story before about how my mother had some seventy-eight records, and she’d play them on her old Philco radio. One of the songs was Give Me That Old Time Religion – you know, “it was good enough for Paul and Silas, so it’s good enough for me.” So I always wondered why religion changed over time that was supposed to be the same as in the beginning. I remember asking my parents, “Why do people keep Sunday when the Bible says to keep Saturday?” It’s not the first day of the week. It’s the seventh. I think God was actually working with me way before I was old enough to conceptualize God in a very accurate way.

When God called Paul, He not only told him stop persecuting God’s people, but He gave him a new job. Instead of killing Christians, he was now to make them in the Gentile world. He was turning him into an evangelist instead of a Christian persecutor. No question about the task he was to do. But for most of us, God doesn’t work with us so directly. Part of figuring out what God wants us to do is to look at how He called us. We’re told in scripture that God has a mission for each of us. This is easy to see in the Bible. Jesus told the church to make disciples. That’s the church’s mission. He told the leaders to serve instead of lording it over others. So that’s the way they’re supposed to go about doing their mission – to serve instead of lording over. He told the ministers to equip the members for works of service. So that’s what a minister is supposed to do. More than just preaching at people, he’s supposed to teach them how to serve the church and the world. He’s called us to do something for Him that no one else is doing just the way we can.

We can discuss this aspect of our potential with a question, “What earthly mission has God given me?” That leads us to consider the tools He’s given us to do what He has in mind for us. It’s natural to ask, “What resources did God give me to accomplish my mission?” once we know we have one. Once we see what we have to work with, it’s often a big clue about how we ought to proceed. For example, let’s say that you know your mission is to connect people with God, like Paul’s was. But let’s say that you don’t know the most about the Bible of anybody, and you’re not a good public speaker, and you’re kind of shy and bashful at times, so it doesn’t seem like there’s really a way to do that, except for the fact that you have an amazing singing voice. What does that tell you about what you ought to do? Or let’s say that the thing you do best is cooking. What should you be doing? How can I accomplish my earthly mission?

This examination of resources often answers the question, “How can I accomplish my earthly mission? So I can sing. How will I be able to use this to complete the mission God gave me? Well, I could start singing in the church choir and see what happens.” Or if you’re a great cook, you could say, “I guess I should start cooking up some really awesome food for the potlucks. Who knows what will happen from that? It’s my way of serving.”

Let’s look at our last question now. I was talking to a man who was in his fifties recently, whose life took an unexpected turn and threw him into a fog of confusion for a time. When he came out of the fog, he found himself on a different career path. He was rehearsing his thinking about his new purpose with me. And, as he contemplated how to go about accomplishing his new purpose, he became visibly excited. And as he become excited, I became excited with him. I could feel his depression lifting and his excitement for the challenge rising. Humans were created with the tools to seek and attain goals. And his story leads us to another question as we move through life. Has the mission changed?

For thirty years of his life – his working life – he did one thing, but then, something totally outside of his control happened, and his path took a turn. His mission had changed. It was still somewhat the same in basis, but he had to do it a new way.

So this progression of six questions is a brief outline of our series on unlocking our full potential. And we will develop each of them in this series, because once we get the questions right, clarity follows.

Let’s go back to the very first things we discussed today – the difference between a secular and a faith-based approach to potential. The secular approach is based on evolution and the idea of an end of life – first you live and then you die. So, life is to be lived simply for the experience of living it, so go out and make it a good day! We’re biological algorithms, according to this approach. We can’t do anything to change really. We’re already programmed. So just do what feels good. Do what pleases you. Make money. Have sex. Control people. See how far you can go before you die. Be happy. It’s really a self-serving and self-oriented approach to life.

By way of comparison, the Christian approach is to see and accept God’s overarching purpose, to find our individual role in it, and to work toward accomplishment of it. Christians don’t see themselves as a central focus, but a part of something outside of and greater than themselves. With that focus comes an awareness that we need to seek guidance to detect what God wants for us. But look what happens when we take on that position. Let’s look at our only scripture for the day. We’re going to look at lots of scriptures in this series, but this is the only one for today. It’s in Psalms 16:11.

Psalms 16:11 – You make known to me the path of life. In Your presence there is fullness of joy. At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Besides living forever with God, Christians can be fulfilled, happy, and even wealthy. But they believe the way to get there is not by focusing on fulfillment, happiness or wealth, but instead, by focusing on walking down the path of life with God and on taking care of others. In that, we become like Christ, who contributed His life that we could have life with Him. And our needs, then, will be met by God. It’s a promise.

If you wish to unlock your full potential in Jesus Christ, you may want to follow this series as we produce it. If so, check back in two weeks for the next installment or sign up for our Website to be notified by email or snail mail, if you prefer. Or you can subscribe to this YouTube channel and be notified that way, as well.

We hope to see you back here in two weeks when we will explore the first question on the road to our full potential – “Why was I born?”