More than 35 years after Marty McFly hit the big screen, millions of people can readily identify the blockbuster starring Michael J. Fox: Back to the Future. The film grossed $381 million worldwide its first year and earned three Academy Award nominations. In addition to two sequels, it sparked a theme park ride, an animated series and several video games.
However, my point isn’t to recap how Marty McFly transported himself 30 years back in time. It’s to discuss the device he used to get there: a flux capacitor. Once Marty’s DeLorean hit 88 miles per hour, it could travel through time—past or future.
It so intrigued me I came up with the term “flux capacity.” Then I found a definition online in Urban Dictionary: “Your flux capacity is your ability to take action in the present to positively impact your future.”
Action. The drive to turn dreams into reality can spell the difference between success and failure. It’s like two kids who are raised in the same family by the same parents and attend the same schools, but one goes on to achieve success while the other drinks his life away. Both had the potential, but only one capitalized on it.
I think of people’s potential as starting at the base of an inverted pyramid. The future rises as far as the eye can see. The only questions are: What do you want to be? What do you want to do? Where do you want to go? The same is as true for a millionaire as a rocket scientist, a professor or an entrepreneur. It’s up to you.
Yet, somewhere along the way, as we grow up someone flips the pyramid of our life. Somehow, we believe our potential lies behind us. Whether 25, 45, 65 or older, how many languages can you learn to speak? All of them?
Okay, maybe that’s too many. But you can master a new tongue or two. Your potential has never changed; it’s your capacity. You have curtailed your choices, shut down your options, and limited your possibilities.
One of the most moving parables appears in Matthew 25:14–30, where Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a man traveling to a far country. First, the master called his servants together and gave them his goods to trade with while he went away—five talents to one, two to another, and one to another.
When the master returned, he learned the servant who had received five talents traded with them and earned five more. Same for the servant who received two. But the one who had received a single talent buried it.
The master praised the first two servants, but to the one who had done nothing, he said, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest” (vv. 26-27).
Bad enough that the master called him “wicked” and “lazy,” but then he orders the one talent taken away and given to the one with 10. Unfair? Not when you consider the master distributed the talents according to each person’s abilities. Each had the potential for increase, but not all had the same capacity.
One insight we can glean here is that nothing is impossible to the person who believes in their potential. I hear people say things (often with a sigh) like, “I don’t know if I’m helping anybody,” “I don’t know that I have that much ability,” or, “Well, pastor, I just retired.”
I respond that their potential is ahead of them, not behind them. I urge you as well to stop limiting what God can do through your life. Stop limiting your capacity.
I want to see you flip the pyramid. Instead of living a small life, take the teaching of Jesus in verse 21 to heart: you were faithful over little, so He will set you over much. You were faithful to use what you had when folks were talking behind your back, second-guessing you, or commenting that you’ll “never make it.”
The secret to overcoming the naysayers is to think outside the box. Instead of complaining about what you don’t have, why not thank God for what you do have? Make the most of it.
Don’t whine about wishing you could go to college when you have four dozen books sitting idle on your bookshelf. Recently I read about a retired pastor learning to play the guitar by watching YouTube videos. If you can’t afford to go to school, you can afford to go to YouTube.
As a leader, I don’t want to limit the blessings of God because I have not increased my capacity. Leaders should especially be striving to increase their capacity. God’s definition of “faithful” is not “playing it safe.”
Nor is it doing nothing. The parable of the talents shows that God is not just looking for faithful but fruitful. The kind of person who takes risks, believes in Him, and lives by faith. God placed gifts inside of you. He wants you to be fruitful in whatever endeavor to which you feel called.
There are some theologians who believe the talent in Jesus’s day would now be valued at more than a million dollars. That means the master gave the first man more than five million dollars. Even the last one got a million.
Forget about money, though. A good translation of “talent” is “opportunity.” What the Lord put in these servants’ hands was opportunity.
Every person has received some form of opportunity. Whatever yours, it’s what you do with them that spells the difference. Only you can multiply your opportunities. Imagine praying, “God, give me more opportunities” and He says, “I’ve already placed one in your hand and you’re not doing anything with it.”
That might prompt the question: What about me is keeping me from becoming all God wants me to be? If you constantly blame others for why you can’t do more, then you are limiting your capacity—not them.
The two faithful servants didn’t let the lazy one limit them. They didn’t care what he was doing because they were going to multiply the opportunity that God had given them. Don’t let people limit what God wants to do in your life.
A person with capacity will see 10 opportunities in a situation where the average person sees one. One way to define capacity is the maximum amount that something can contain, but also the amount that something can produce. You can only produce what you have received.
If you are not producing a lot, it’s because you have not received a lot. If you are not receiving a lot, it’s because you don’t have much capacity.
As a practical example, imagine I have a Dixie cup, a coffee mug, and a bucket, ready to receive water from a huge pitcher. All have the ability to hold water, but when I pour water into the Dixie cup, it barely makes a dent. It doesn’t have much capacity. The coffee mug takes a little more, but I can drain the pitcher in the bucket.
What frustrates me is people who are like that Dixie cup, blaming God for why they don’t have more. Instead, recognize that the pitcher can only pour out what you are able to receive. If you wonder why God seems to be blessing someone else with more, examine your receptivity to opportunities.
Don’t be like the person running around, talking about how stressed out they are because they just got a new job and, well, they can’t come to church, can’t pay attention to their kids, and don’t have much time for anything else. They’re what I call a Dixie cup individual.
Then there are the bucket folks. They travel four days a week and still manage to raise children, volunteer in their off-hours, and show up early Sunday to help at church. What’s the difference? Capacity.
A BUCKET LIST
Imagine praying for a new car because your old one has 250,000 miles, needs never-ending maintenance, and leaves you wondering if the engine will turn over on cold mornings. One can sense the desperation.
But it isn’t just the inner mechanics that leave a lot to be desired. It looks like a wreck. It hasn’t been vacuumed in three years, has sand on the floor from your last visit to the beach, and McDonald’s wrappers and stiff french fries scattered around the back seat. What makes you think that God will entrust you with more?
People love to say, “God will never put more on me than I can bear,” but that can work both ways—positive or negative. He’s not going to give you more blessings than you can handle, either.
You may ask, “So how do I get more blessings?” Increase your capacity. If you want a coffee cup blessing, you have to move beyond Dixie cup thinking. But realize that you are never going to increase your capacity by using your own strength. Pray to God to help you increase.
Start hanging around people who have a greater capacity too. When you see how they handle things, you may learn how to handle them. Then, God will be able to trust you with more.
By the way, you shouldn’t want more for the sake of having more. A prime reason God blesses us is so we can bless others. Nor should we want more just to kick back and take it easy. Become complacent and God will say, “You can’t handle any more. You’re already full.”
Still, you may wonder how to step into God’s opportunities. My first suggestion is to shut the door on fear of failure. Fear is why the slothful servant didn’t do what the other two did. Realize that trying means you are likely to fail. But so what? You learn something and go back and try again as you stretch your capacity.
One interesting aspect of the parable of the talents is the servant with the least to risk wouldn’t take a risk and lost it, while the servant with the most to lose risked it and gained great rewards.
I believe in looking for the goodness of God. He’s not out to get you or hurt, but for an excuse to bless you. He’s waiting for you to increase your capacity so He can give you more.
Be like the hummingbird.
While there are a few dozen birds that can survive in the desert, two leading examples of opposites are the vulture and the hummingbird. The vulture lives on dead things, but the hummingbird on tasty sap—namely, sweet nectar from cactus flowers. In a desert where there is little food, both of these birds find what they’re looking for.
LOOKING FOR GOODNESS
While you look for the good in God, remember this truth: we control our capacity. There are things in life that you have no control over. You can’t control the family you’re born into or what happened in the past. But your capacity is not predetermined; you can choose to increase it.
One way to do this is to identify your lids. Everyone has them. It might be the way you think, the words you speak, or the people you hang out with. Part of taking the lids off your life is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Capacity is determined by your tolerance for pain. Proverbs 24:10 warns, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”
When the pressure starts hitting your life, if you start falling apart, your strength is small. The amount of pain you can withstand is equivalent to your strength and capacity. Remember, the movie script for Back to the Future was rejected more than 40 times.
Why not just go out on a limb of faith? If people in Hollywood can, surely God’s people can. Faith is nothing more than the capacity to believe God. Stretch your capacity so God can show Himself strong in your life. He will work better than Marty’s flux capacitator.
This article was extracted from Issue 4 (Winter 2021) of the AVAIL Journal. Claim your free annual subscription here.
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