Reaching our potential requires paying the price. But, paying the price requires commitment. I am reminded of the old story about Henrietta the hen and Pattie the pig. They were walking along together in the countryside one day and happened upon a half-starved traveler. After pondering the situation for a moment, Henrietta (being a benevolent hen) suggested to Pattie how nice it would be for them to provide the stranger with a meal of bacon and eggs. To which the astonished Pattie squealing replied: “Henrietta, that may involve a small sacrifice for You, but for Me that is Total Commitment.” Reaching our potential as Christians requires total commitment.
Consider, the price we pay to reach our potential is more important than the talent we possess. King Hezekiah “did what was good and right and was true before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began … he did it with all his heart” (2Chrn. 31:20-21). Hezekiah paid the price, but what was the price? He had a change of lifestyle. He could not live the way his father lived. He paid the price of loneliness. He stepped out in obedience, and certainly was alone in the beginning. Hezekiah had faith in God. He believed that God would bless his efforts. He faced criticism. He weathered the harsh questions of an older generation. He had to work hard and give up his money. He had to give up time and energy to reach his goal. Hezekiah had to daily discipline himself, he had to instill a daily regimen to bring about reform. He faced constant pressure. As king he endured the pressure of potential failure and misunderstanding.
Further, those who are willing to pay the price will always be criticized by those who are not. One of the great tests of paying the price is how we handle criticism. Nehemiah faced the usual tactics of the opposition: ridicule (Neh. 4:1-3); resistance (Neh. 4:7,8); and rumor (Neh. 4:11,12). He modeled the right response to all three of these challenges. He first relied on God (Neh. 4:4,5). Then, he respected the opposition (Neh. 4:9). Also, he reinforced his weak points (Neh. 4:13). Further, he reassured the people (Neh. 4: 14). Additionally, he refused to quit (Neh. 4:15). Finally, he renewed the people’s strength continually (Neh. 4:16-23). Nehemiah chapter 4 addresses problems from without; chapter 5 deals with problems from within – disputes about food, property, and taxes. Persistence is the ultimate gauge of commitment. It is the secret to out lasting the critics. Nehemiah never wavered from his purpose.
Next, the price we are willing to pay to reach our potential never decreases. Jehu was a man with a mission (2Kings 10:28-29). He accepted the charge from God to lead Israel as king. He also embraced divine instructions to destroy the house of Ahab and the worship of Baal. God told him not to spare anyone from Ahab’s family and to eliminate all traces of Baal worship in Israel. Jehu led brilliantly in fulfilling God’s commands, and God commended him for carrying out his mission, even promising him great blessings because of his obedience, but a problem eventually arose. While Jehu obeyed God to the last detail concerning the destruction of Ahab and the worship of Baal, he compromised his devotion to God by leaving some of the idols from Israel’s past. Even after such great success, “Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord of Israel with all his heart.” Jehu accomplished great things for the Lord and the kingdom of Israel, but his compromise led to another vile form of idolatry. In the end, his disobedience overshadowed his accomplishments as a leader.
Also, the price we pay increases when we desire to change, improve or keep on winning (1 Cor 9:25). We live in a society with destination disease. Too many people want to do enough to “arrive,” and then they want to retire. We all want a quick fix, but what we really need is fitness. People who look for fixes stop doing what is right when pressure is removed. People who are constantly improving themselves do three things well. First, they prepare. When people are intentional about learning something every day, then they become better prepared to handle whatever challenges they meet. John Wooden said, “When opportunity comes, it is too late.” Second, they spend time in contemplation. Time alone is essential to self-improvement. It allows us to gain perspective on our failures and successes so that we can learn from them. It gives us the time and the space to sharpen our personal vision. It further enables us to plan how we can improve in the future. Third, is application. There comes a time when we must stop calling the play in the huddle and execute the play.
We will not be able to make up tomorrow what we fail to pay for today. Again, John Wooden said, “Make every day a masterpiece.” We often exaggerate yesterday. We overestimate tomorrow and we underestimate today. But everyone who has accomplished great things for God has paid an extraordinary price. Consider Paul, he was castigated by the very folks he had brought to Christ. Look at the cost of his personal journey: judged by his fellow believers, condemned to death, a spectacle to others, a fool for Christ, weak, without honor, hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless, toiled with his own hands, persecuted, slandered, viewed as scum and the dregs of the earth (1 Cor. 4:3-5, 9-13).
Now, are we willing to the price? Praise those who are willing to pay the price. We must keep them in our lives.
by Rickie Jenkins