I recently read a blog post by Chris Brown, a pastor at North Coast Church. In it he said something that rocked the way I have programmed myself to think. Pastor Brown said we should, “Seek to fulfill your calling, not your potential.” For years I have read and taught that each of us should be doing everything we could in order to maximize our potential. I always thought that was what Emerson meant when he said, “Don’t die with your music still inside you.” Now I see that piece of wisdom a little differently. Think about Emerson’s quote in regards to calling, not potential. How might that change the way you live?
As I have often written, I do not see calling as a specific individualized blueprint for each person’s life. Rather, I believe the calling of every follower of Christ is to serve others, love others, and glorify God. It is to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, care for the sick, visit those in prisons, give to the poor, look after the homeless, come alongside of single mothers, and all the while tell them the beautiful truth of the good news of Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46; James 1:27; Matthew 28:19-20). This is God’s will for each of our lives, and it is our calling.
What if we spent our lives doing everything we could to fulfill that calling instead of trying to maximize our own talents and gifts. Instead of focusing on how we might improve, what if our emphasis was on our mission rather than on our pursuits? I firmly believe that God has created each one of us with a unique combination of passions and talents. His intent is that we use these gifts to further His mission and bring about his Kingdom here on earth. Life is not supposed to be about how much we can get out of it, but rather how much we can pour into it.
The difference between fulfilling our calling and maximizing our potential is the target of our focus. When we seek to fulfill our calling, our eyes are on Jesus and those in need of His love. We devote our lives to serving others with the gifts God has entrusted to us. If instead our goal is to maximize our potential, everything we do will be to increase our natural talents and abilities. Our time will be consumed with refining our skills and smoothing the rough edges off our talents. Our focus will be on ourselves and how accomplished we can become.
When all is said and done, a life focused only on maximizing your potential will be hollow and empty. In contrast, if we reach our final hour having spent every preceding day fulfilling our calling as disciples of Jesus, our lives will be full and rich. We will know what it is to hear God say, “Well done faithful servant. Enter into my joy (Matthew 25:23).” Could there be any higher goal? Let’s forget about maximizing our potential and live instead to fulfill our calling.