Never in his life did Noah do anything for somebody else. He was completely self-focused. In every moment of life Noah thought about his needs and what he wanted. When he did not get his way he let everyone know that he was not happy. In his mind the world revolved around him and the people in his life were just characters in his world positioned for his fulfillment, his pleasure and his personal entertainment. Day in and day out Noah made it very clear that he came first in his mind. He never did anything to meet the needs of others, but expected others to meet his every need.
Question: Have you ever encountered someone like Noah? How do people like Noah make you feel? Is there any hope for Noah?
One thing that you might not fully realize about Noah is that he is just a three month old baby boy. His mother and father have spent many a restless night caring for his needs.
Over time, Noah starts to recognize more and more his surroundings. He is realizing that he has a brother and a sister in his family. The family also has a dog and a parrot.
Months later Noah is starting to learn how to feed himself with the food that his mommy gives him. Occasionally he even stretches his hand out to the doggie with an offering of some of his food.
Noah is now two years old. He is walking and is able to fetch his diaper and wipes for mommy when it is time for a changing.
Noah is in preschool now and is learning how to play and share with other children. He helps mommy clean his room and even pitches in to help his big sister pick up toys in her room.
Noah just turned five. Each week he puts a nickel in the offering plate at Sunday School. Last week when Noah’s daddy hit his finger with a hammer in the garage, Noah offered up the most eloquent and sincere prayer, “Jesus, please make my daddy’s boo boo all better.”
Noah is now nine years old. Every morning after he brushes his teeth, gets dressed and eats his cereal he feeds the dog and the lizard that he got for his birthday this past year. Every Saturday, along with his brother and sister and his new younger brother, Noah helps his mom vacuum and pick-up the house and works with his dad in the yard.
Noah is twelve now. He just got back from a missions trip to Mexico with his youth group. Noah volunteers at school to be a big friend to younger elementary school age kids.
Noah is now finishing High School and preparing to go to college. He plans to major in early childhood development and wants to work with kids who have learning disabilities. He has been volunteering to team teach Children’s Church on Sundays at his church. Every other Saturday Noah is a part of a team that goes to a neighborhood park in the downtown area of his city to do a Sidewalk Sunday School, which is a fun interactive Children’s Church for kids in underprivileged areas. Noah has a job tutoring elementary school kids and he tithes ten percent of his paycheck to His Church every month. Noah is entering college, with his whole life ahead of him. He has developed into a young man who embodies the characteristics of a selfless servant.
Question: What kind of potential do you see in Noah? Before you realized that the “Selfish Noah” was a baby what kind of potential did you see in him?
The truth is that God sees great potential in all people. God sees us as His children with great promise. An example of this is the Apostle Paul. Before Paul became the great missionary, church planter and author of two-thirds of the New Testament – He was a pious, murderer and persecutor of the church and its people. Paul shared this in his own words...
Acts 22:2-5, 19-21 (NIV)
2 … Paul said:
3 "I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was…zealous…
4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,
5 as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
19 "… I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you.
20 And when the blood of…Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.'
Question: What kind of a person was Saul (Paul) before he met Jesus? Is this earlier version of Paul the kind of person that you would pick to represent the good news of Jesus forgiveness to people?
Paul experienced a miraculous conversion to Christ. He had set out to Damascus to hunt down and capture Christians. On this trip the risen Jesus visited him and changed His life and mission. Paul told the story…
Acts 22:6-8, 10-16 (NIV)
6 "About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.
7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?'
8 "'Who are you, Lord?' I asked. "'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied.
10 "'What shall I do, Lord?' I asked. "'Get up,' the Lord said, 'and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.'
12 "A man named Ananias came to see me…
14 …he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.
15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
When early believers saw Saul (Paul) they were terrified. He represented persecution, imprisonment or death for their faith. What Jesus saw though was an evangelist who would take His message of the gospel to the known world. When Jesus looked at Saul the persecutor he saw the potential for Paul the Apostle. Jesus saw potential in Paul despite his past or his reputation. Paul was not invalidated by these things in Jesus eyes. He was sought out and affirmed by the love and grace of Jesus Christ.
Question: If Jesus could see the potential in Paul despite the fact that he was killing Christians what does that say about the way that God views you and I? What does that say about the potential that God sees in others?
2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not willing that any person should perish. Jesus has a plan for each of us and unrealized potential in His creation is something that goes against His desired will. Jesus said in John 10:10 that he has come to give us life to its fullest potential. This was the mission of His life to provide freedom to us by His great sacrifice and resurrection. He saw this potential in Paul, He sees this potential in you and He sees this potential in every person He created.
Jesus very clearly called us to take on His mission. He saw the potential in Paul to carry out His will and He sees that same potential in us, as well. Jesus last words summarize the potential that He sees in us (His disciples) and the people who He desires to reach through us…
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Acts 1:8 (NIV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Question: What did Jesus call us to do?
Jesus said that we are to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Jesus was talking to His disciples who were from Jerusalem and were living in Jerusalem. This was their home and it was where they were most familiar. Judea and Samaria are the regions surrounding Jerusalem. Jerusalem was a city in the region of Judea and Samaria was a region adjacent to Judea. To put this in our language it would be like saying, “Be my witnesses in the city of Paragould, then Greene County, and to the ends of the earth.” Your Jerusalem is your immediate surroundings; your neighbors, your friends and family. Your Judea and Samaria is your expanded community. You are also called to reach out to the ends of the world.
Question: What is “your world”? “Your Jerusalem”? “Your Judea and Samaria”?
Question: How does our recognizing the potential that People have help us to fulfill Jesus mandate for us to Love the People of Our World?
Question: If every person was created with purpose what should be our perspective toward them?
Jeanne Mayo, a long-time Youth Ministry veteran from Illinois, said that she teaches her leaders to be “Frog Kissers”. She explained that the fairytale of the frog and the princess reveals this truth about hidden potential. In the story the princess sees in the frog that he is merely that way due to a curse that can only be broken through her sacrifice of affection. Once she kisses the frog the spell is broken and the frog becomes all that he was intended to be. He turns back into a great prince. As followers of Jesus we need to take on His perspective and see past a person’s flaws and warts to their potential. God has a plan for them. His plan for you and I is to look hard and help people to discover who they really are underneath their frog layer. Jesus was able to look past the flaws and warts that Paul had to see this great witness for Him. He sees past your flaws today and recognizes the special way that he created you and He calls you to see past the warts in others and help them to see their ultimate potential in Jesus Christ. As a believer we represent Jesus and His mission. We are ambassadors to the people of our world bearing his message of love, grace and hope.