"Divine Potential or Internal Pressure?"

Ps Jeremy Barkley

“And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Definitions matter. There is no way around it. The way in which we interpret our context, circumstances, and the narrative are being constantly transmitted around us daily can determine not only our perspective, but ultimately our hope and destiny. Over the last 20 years (of ministering to young people) I have witnessed the shift in the hearts and expectations of the next generation as they navigate the tension between their potential and the pressures placed on them both externally and internally. I’ve preached, counseled, coached, and prayed with students who are lost in seas of expectation that the world has placed on their lives, futures, and even callings.
We now live in a world of Youtube channels, highlights reels, and “branding” self promotion. We are constantly faced with impressions of everyone else’s “best life”, while we seemingly spin our wheels in comparison and constant competition with those we are “connected” to on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Maxpreps, etc.
I recently had the opportunity to share with a local FCA huddle on this very topic. After observing this disconnect not only within student athletes over the previous seasons, but also within the actions of parents, or with myself in relationship with my own children, I felt compelled to redirect the conversation back to the truth within the Word of God. In our attempts to release those young people that we love into their potential we are intentionally and unintentionally applying a pressure to perform.
Whether it’s in the coaches pre-game motivational speech, or in the “coaching” we attempt to give our children as spectators from the sidelines, we never cease in modeling values and priorities that have consumed within our own hearts. We are therefore imparting those same truths and values into the soil of perspective of the young lives are are given access to. That’s pretty humbling when you think about it. We are shaping hearts as much in our frustration as we are in our affirmation.
Here are a few thoughts and truths:

1. The best is yet to come!

The Lord promises that we are in a process of moving from Glory to Glory! Scripture identifies us as Children of God, a royal priesthood, commissioned, created, charged, and anointed by God for the work of the Kingdom. Only Jesus knows the end from the beginning because He IS the “beginning and the end”.  Please do not believe the lie that your best days are behind you or as many coaches and parents wrongly prophesy over their children, “These are the best days of your life!”. We are on a trajectory towards Glory! Ultimate glory in heaven, and abundant life here on earth. If we as parents and leaders do not believe this…the next generation will never receive it.
As much as I loved playing sports in my younger years, I would never trade them for seeing my wife come down the aisle on our wedding day, witnessing the birth of my three children, or observing their love for Jesus grow profoundly over the last few years. I cannot help but look forward to what God has in store for all areas of my life and their own. Sure…with more responsibility their is more weight to carry… but hey! I’m not carrying that weight alone. I’m yoked to the one who overcame the world! (John 16:33)
When we try to motivate our young people by raising the stakes of the current moment we are actually sabotaging their vision for their own destiny. If every moment is life or death in our narrative, the return will ultimately be that none of them will be in the formation of their (our children’s) own narrative. The response within a young heart and mind when their performance doesn’t meet the expectation of the mentors is disappointment, regret, depression, and the loss of gratitude in the presence of entitlement.
Young people…God has more for you than you are experiencing. Trust him in today and place your hope in him for tomorrow.

2. Pressure reveals the contents.

When you apply pressure to anything, whatever is inside comes out. This is not only true for students…but parents and mentors as well. When our child’s lack of success in performing exasperates our own heart, doing the necessary inventories to assess the “leaks” within us can ultimately be preventative in the negative impartation of the same malfunctions within those entrusted to us for shaping. I have had students that believe the word “Potential” is now a dirty word. Like I said,”definitions do matter”. This generation longs for intimacy affirmation and acceptance. When they continuously hear about their potential…it is less about promise and more about “I’m not there yet.”
I’m all about guiding and even giving the necessary “push” in the right direction. In the book of 2nd Timothy… we are charged to “rebuke, correct, and restore.” If you are not willing to remain as a consistent support in the process of restoration, then please forfeit your desire to rebuke. If you are not aware of the correction that is necessary, seek it before wrongly applying it in the form of pressure.
If we as fathers and mothers can become so unhinged by the performance of our children…then we may need to assess the contents of our own hearts before leaving impressions on theirs. Pressure reveals the contents not only in the young immature heart, but the older mature one as well.

3. Enjoy where you are while believing for what is to come.

We will never get today back. You are where you are and so are your children. Modeling a trusting relationship with the maker of tomorrow is much more influential and transformative than attempting to manipulate the path to success for your young person. As believers in Jesus we are assured that “It’s not for nothing.” Romans assures us that “All things work together for the good of those who LOVE God and are CALLED according to his purposes.” My assignment is to love God and live into my calling. I have no authority in the working together process.
I heard a pastor say that “Our job is obedience, God’s job is the results.” This needs to become a declaration over our lives, marriages, homes, jobs, and communities. As a parent I will never again have my children at home or in my ministry in the current season that they are right now. Loving them where they are will encourage them to seek the Lord in where they are going.
So in conclusion…
There is more! Live fully in today as a leader, parent, and student as you trust the Lord for where he is taking you, your family, and your team.
Water the seeds of potential within the next generation with the grace and love of Jesus as often as you can.
There is a world that is trying to uproot what the Lord has plowed and sown in the good soil of their potential.
Breathe a little before you overreact in the moment. Be intentional with the seed to cast for the future.
Always be as patient with them as you desire(d) others to be with you.
Enjoy them. Live in today. Expect for tomorrow. ♦

For more by Pastor Jeremy Barkley, visit his blog.