Saturday, April 2, 2011

Potential vs. Calling

It was probably a few months ago that I saw this video of Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church*. It caught my attention because of the distinction between potential and calling.

Pursue Your Calling, Not Your Potential

As I had mention in my previous post (Culture's Obsession with Self-Help), if man is the determiner of his own purpose, and man has a desire for purpose, then when a purpose is complete, he will find another, greater purpose. This will continue until the person dies. It is an endless pursuit with no real satisfaction.

This seems a lot like the "potential" that I hear so much about from people today. We know that we have potential to do just about anything. We are constantly striving to reach that potential. But potential is illusive by nature. Where ever we are, there is always more potential to chase down.

Potential has become the purpose and god of humanity. Potential will never be accomplished. If man has to create his own purposes, it is a never-ending battle to reach full potential. Even worse, if man creates his own purposes, and those purposes are cut short by circumstances (including but not limited to: finances, injury, and death), then the purpose was never accomplished, and the potential was never met. It is left hanging, unfulfilled and unfulfillable. There is no satisfaction for the one who determined the purpose or potential.

Unfortunately, the "pursuit of potential" this is mentality of most worldviews. Atheism, for instance, is purposeless, so man has to create his own purposes. The process plays out. In any works-based religion, man's potential is 100% moral perfection (required for "salvation" in most cases). However, everyone knows, by the content of their own thoughts, that 100% moral perfect is impossible. If that is the potential, then the potential is also impossible.

Christianity, though, offers a much better solution to the trivial pursuit of potential. The "calling" is a purpose that has been given by God to a person to complete. God knows what we are capable of, while keeping focus not on ourselves (the prideful pursuit of potential), but Him and His Kingdom. God may call us to do different things throughout our lives, but He will never call us to do something that will necessitate our focus to be placed back on ourselves (although, that temptation will always be present).

Further, when our capabilities are limited (by, but not only: finances, injury, and death) we know that our purpose and particular calling have been both completed and fulfilled. If death is not the circumstance that signaled the completion of the particular calling, then we know that God has a new goal for us to strive for. For the Christian, there is no such thing as an unfulfilled purpose. The calling is never left hanging. A calling has a conclusion. A purpose has a end. Reaching those provides much satisfaction to the One who determined the purpose and calling

Now, does this mean that we are not to strive to be the best we can be at something? Not at all. If you have been called to a specific task or vocation, you strive to do it the best that you can. "Potential" is extremely broad. People have potential to do many things. The beauty of a calling is that the Caller knows which potential is best for the called to focus on. The called does not have the responsibility or stress of trying to investigate the minutia of different potentials. God (as the Caller) has already done that. The called can focus on reaching his(her) specific potential that God has already determined is the best for the time.

I've seen many people (including myself) who have argued with God about what we want to do. He called me to one thing, but I didn't like it. When I followed my own path, I was trying to take responsibility to determine a better potential- lots of time and other resources were wasted. I had to let go of my pride and realize that God knows what is going on. If I would just stop resisting Him, my potential would be accomplished. I don't have to worry about "if" it will happen; I can rest assured that it will. My purposes and potential in life will be left neither hanging nor unfulfilled as my circumstances change or my earthly life is brought to a conclusion.

Here's a short article from Rick Warren about identifying a calling: How to Recognize God's Voice- The Fourth Test 

Clay Jones talks a little about the issue with trying to reach potential in this article: Ayn Rand: The Bad
*With the recent controversy surrounding Emergent Church Pastor Rob Bell, I feel it necessary to prevent any confusion by noting that this is not Rob Bell's Mars Hill.

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