"Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you." 1 Timothy 4:14
"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." 2 Timothy 1:6
Over the years, I've been witness to many of those occasions where people are given prophetic messages. Whether they be messages that another person delivers, or a minister, these kind of messages are always exciting and usually welcome. They are often words that speak about the future possibilities for someone- they can offer encouragement when someone is having a rough spell. Sometimes they are words of instruction, or sometimes words of caution- information to change a situation. But no matter what the meat of the message is, they all have one thread in common. They all speak of potential.
When a teenager goes away to Bible camp and they come home and say "I've been called to be a missionary or a Pastor" that teenager has been shown a glimpse of their potential. They have been told by someone or by God that within them is the potential for them to be a missionary or a pastor when they grow up. But then what happens with that teenager? I can tell you that if all the missionaries were active who had been "called" when I had gone to camp, there would be so, so many more missionaries on the field today- witnessing to every corner of the earth. So what happened?
So often, when people receive one of these messages from the Lord, they don't realize that those are words that speak of their potential- and that now that they have the information, it's up to them to do something about it. A teenager who is told they are called to missions, should, if they want to follow up on God's potential for them, should spend their years researching colleges who offer missions as a major. They should spend time going on short term missions trips, studying anthropology and even basic geography. When the time comes, they choose the college that best fits and they go through the proper steps to become a missionary- thus fulfilling the potential that was spoken into their life all those years ago.
The same is true for those called to pastor. People who have been called to the pastor ship have been called because of the potential that is inside of them- and if they want to see that potential fulfilled, the person must physically take the steps necessary to become a pastor. Bible college is usually the first step for that one. The thing about this potential is that it can potentially be wasted. Someone comes up to a young lady at camp, puts their arms on their shoulders, looks into her eyes and says "you are going to be a youth pastor someday". The young lady tells everyone she knows that she's been called to be a youth pastor, but when the time comes for college, she either makes a different choice, or college doesn't work so well for her. As life goes on, the young lady ages, and still remembers those words spoken, but seems to think that there is a magic moment when someone will come up to her and proclaim her a youth pastor. The truth is- she was given the words of potential, and she wasted them. The potential is still there to be a great youth pastor- but she needed to take the steps to fulfill that potential.
I was the recipient of my own word that required my action. I had a woman come up to me one time during a time of worship and tell me that I was supposed to be a part of the worship team. (Read more about that here!) At the time I was really wondering what I was supposed to do. Being on the worship team at our previous church had really just been something to do- it was more of a lark, but ended up really helping the team get organized. I wasn't so sure, though, that I was qualified to be a part of the worship team at our new church. After I had received my word of potential from this woman though, I had a choice to make. I could wait, and I could tell myself that I should pray about it, and just wait for an opportunity to be invited, or I could be proactive and see just what potential there was hiding inside of me. The very next time I saw the worship leader, I went up to him, nervous as all get out, told him I played percussion, and asked if they ever had practices.
I went to that very next practice and have been a part of the team ever since. But it took me taking physical steps to fulfill the potential that was inside of me. I'll tell you- the things that I am doing with the congas today... I had no idea I had inside of me to do! That's not said to brag, but it's said to prove the point of potential. Had I not stepped out in faith and taken action to fulfill the potential, I could still be sitting in my seat, waiting for an invitation.
When God speaks to you and gives you a goal to strive for, then by golly, you need to strive for it! If you are told that you have the potential to be in ministry, but you don't know what that is yet- then you need to, at the very least, start digging into God's Word over and over. In multiple translations and multiple commentaries. Once you show that you are in earnest, that you are a willing vessel and are willing to do the work required, maybe another piece of the puzzle will fall into place.
I posted the verses above about Timothy because he is an excellent example of potential. In Paul's letters to him, he's encouraging him, helping Timothy shape his own ministry- because Paul knows the potential that is inside of him. And God knows the potential that is inside of us- every single on of us. Whether we received that potential from the laying on of hands, or from another way- we all have our own potential of all that we can be in Christ. It's up to us to USE that potential. The last thing I want is to get to heaven and have God say to me "What about that potential I told you about? Why did you never use that." What would my response be? Because I was too lazy? Because I couldn't be bothered to pick up my Bible and read it? Maybe it was because it doesn't make sense to me- but if we take the steps- even baby steps to fulfill that potential, God will help us through. But until we take even one step- that word is just that- a word of potential. It's not a promise- it's potential, and it's up to us to see that potential become a reality.