"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
How many apples are in an apple seed? The end is not always evident at the beginning. The leader is not always obvious in the larrikin. The preacher is not always obvious in the precocious. Potential delights itself in stunning the world. The first believers were stunned when Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle. Peter the Apostle was stunned when Cornelius and his household were dramatically saved. God sees our potential and in the New Testament we occasionally catch a glimpse of God speaking from His perspective of the end when potential has run its course.
and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus
God has potential for each local church. I suspect that too few local congregations ever learn how to realise their potential. As a result, many give up and cease to be open to what God may do in and through them. From our perspective, God's end for us is sometimes glimpsed but rarely visible. From our perspective,Saul is an enemy-for-life of the Church, Cornelius is a Roman Centurion who may well be trying to infiltrate the Church to identify its leaders for execution. But from God's perspective, Saul was always going to be Paul the Apostle and Cornelius was always a Spirit-filled Centurion follower of Christ. From God's perspective the small, struggling church on the banks of the Thames in the mide-1800s was always going to be Metropolitan Tabernacle led by the most unlikely of pastors (the 19 year-old Charles Spurgeon) with an average weekend attendance of 18,000. In a similar way, in February 1987 when a handful of sincere and newly Spirit-filled believers gathered in the Legana War Memorial Hall, God saw a significant church in what most considered to be an insignificant place where hundreds of people of all ages have come to Christ and more hurting, broken, people each week experience God's healing and wholeness, and many young men and women discover God's call on their life to preach, pastor, teach.
THROUGH THE EYES OF GOD
Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, then comes the harvest'? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.John 4:35
I've met people with the gift of helps. They can't help but help. When they see someone in need, they help. When there's something that needs doing, they offer to help. Similarly, I've met exhorters and encouragers. In fact this week I met two. One's name was Phillip Mutzelburg and the other was Rod Dymock. They can't help themselves. They are humble, considerate, positive, excellent listeners and extremely interested in others. They exude encouargement. They can't help it. And in a preeminent way, Jesus is a Redeemer. He loves to take the outcast, the failure, the broken, the desperate, the lost, the lonely, the despised, the three-times bankrupt, and the devastated - and redeem them. He delights in taking a rejected brother condemned to do the family's worst job of looking after their few smelly sheep in the far-flung fields on Winter nights and redeeming them into much-beloved Warrior-Kings! THE Redeemer takes delight in knocking arrogant Pharisees off their horses on Damascus Roads and transforming them into powerful and humble apostolic preachers who would evangelise entire cities and so the seeds for entire continents being touched by the Gospel!
Jesus continues to redeem today. He takes an abandoned single mother and opens one door after another for her to become who Christ the Redeemer had always planned for her to become - even though along the way she barely had the energy to get out of bed some mornings. He takes the abused and neglected son and transplants his heart of bitterness with a heart of love an compassion and leads him to commence an aid agency that would feed, clothe, house, and educate orphans around the globe.
We see some people as hopeless. God sees them as redeemed into their potential! We see an annoying kid who is loud and brash and yet God sees the same person as hurt and scared yet who would soon yield their life to His redeeming touch and become a world leading medical researcher responsible for finding a cure for Motor Neurone Disease. We see a church that has never been 'big' yet it has been faithful in small things for years, and then God graces them with one or two "sons of peace" as converts (see. Luke 10:6) who invite their friends and family members to church who in turn come to Christ and themselves invite their friends and families to church as well - and it appears to most that this Church is like that type of bamboo that seems to grow suddenly and rapidly. The Church that God sees is not the Church we yet see! Take a peak-
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
Perhaps this is why Paul in writing to the highly dysfunctional Corinthian Church and in the midst of his resultant discouragement could say-
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Second Corinthians 5:7
When we walk by faith we take certain steps as if the end is certain. We sow. We water. We tend. We study. We train. We take risks. We invest. We exercise. We practice. It's always the little things that give us the biggest strides toward fulfilling our potential. A wayward youthnot thinking straight prays a desperate fifteen second prayer to a God he doesn't even know to redeem his life. His journey has now begun to reaching his potential and will be advanced by many more 15 second prayers. An overworked businessman agrees to meet with a colleague who loves Jesus and they spend 15 minutes of their lunch-time once a week to read one of Christ's stories, discuss it, consider what it says about God, them, and how they might shape their lives by this knowledge and finish by praying accordingly. His journey has now begun to becoming a renowned worship leader and song-writer. A drug-taking local football hero who denies that he drinks to excess sees an ad on TV for a local church and something within him tells he must go there. The following Sunday he sets foot through their doors and his journey to a Brownlow Medal where he declares before a viewing audience of millions of his faith in, and thankfulness to, Jesus the Christ which eventually sows the seeds for thousands of adoring fans to explore faith in Christ.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.Galatians 6:9I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor."John 4:38
THE DOUBTS OF THE FIVE WISE
All of this reminds me of Christ's parable of the ten virgins - five foolish and five wise (Matthew 25). I wonder how the 'wise' virgins felt when they went to the trouble of selling all they had to buy oil for their lamps? I wonder how they felt waiting and waiting for their bride-groom to arrive? I wonder how they felt during their waiting when it looked like they had sacrificed for nothing and the 'foolish' virgins seemed to be the ones who were blessed and even wise? But then their day came! Their potential was finally realised! But in the eyes of their bride-groom, this day was always certain - not just potentially certain. The writer to the Hebrews urged his Jewish audience to adopt a similar perspective, and we too would do well to adopt the same perspective so that we do not lose heart and continue to endure with joy. And in the end, your potential is not about you - it's about the glory of God revealed through those yet to be redeemed as we each take the necessary steps toward fulfilling our potential and together as a church we also realise that God has much, much more for us.
How many apples are in an apple seed? The end is not always evident at the beginning. The leader is not always evident in the larrikin. The preacher is not always obvious in the precocious. Potential delights itself in stunning the world. There are some seeds, such as a type of bamboo, that when sown on sprouts a few centimetres, then remains seemingly stagnant for years - except that its roots have been growing deeply and rapidly all that time, so that at the right time it explodes with growth, growing centremetres an hour! That time of stagnancy involved faithful sowing, watering, and fertilising. Be very careful not to misinterpret the times of seeming 'stagnancy' in your life!