“Be all you can be.” The U.S. Army introduced this popular recruitment slogan in 1980 and kept it in service for more than 20 years. It worked well for them, and why not? What ambitious, career-minded young adult doesn’t want to achieve his or her potential?
It’s a good slogan for the church too. What faithful follower of Christ doesn’t want to be the best disciple possible?
I’ve been thinking about that recently. About what it means to achieve our potential as children of God. Naturally, we want to be the best followers of Christ we’re capable of being. We want our lives to honor God in the best possible way.
We resonate with Paul who wrote, “So we make it our goal to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9) and “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).
We long for a heart like that of David Brainerd, 18th-century missionary to native Americans, who wrote in his journal in the spring of 1742,
“I withdrew to my usual place of retirement, in great tranquility. I knew only to breathe out my desire for a perfect conformity to [God] in all things. God was so precious that the world with all its enjoyments seemed infinitely vile. I had no more desire for the favor of men than for pebbles . . . Had the most ardent longings after God which I ever felt in my life. At noon, in my secret retirement, I could do nothing but tell my dear Lord in a sweet calm, that he knew I desired nothing but himself, nothing but holiness; that he had given me these desires and he only could give me the thing desired. I never seemed to be so unhinged from myself, and to be so wholly devoted to God. My heart was swallowed up in God most of the day.
It’s hard to put a finger on, though. As much as we want to live at our potential as Christians, we don’t really know what our potential is, at least not fully. And I doubt we would realize it when we reach it. Even so, the knowledge exists in the mind of God; each of us has a defined potential we’re capable of achieving in God’s power.
Believing it’s possible, why wouldn’t we pray, “Lord, help me achieve my potential—as you alone know it”?
As we pray, we trust God to do what we’ve asked. We have his word on it, according to 1 John 5:14, 15. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Since we know it’s God’s will that we conform to the image of Christ, we can pray our “potential prayer” confidently and expectantly.
As we pray and trust, we act. We spend time in the Word and in prayer. We examine ourselves in the mirror of Scripture, asking God to search us, to know our hearts and thoughts (see Psalm 139:23). We draw near to God and he draws near to us (see James 4:8). We come to know him intimately and love him deeply. Our knowledge of God and our love for him stir our hearts to share his love with others.
And with God’s help, we live like this. Every day.
Then, when we stand before the Lord and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we may also hear, “who honored me by being all you could be.”