Have you ever known someone (maybe a family member) and thought,

“Oh, they have so much potential…if only they would apply themselves, or practice self-discipline, or give up that bad habit, or care enough to work hard and make a difference…”?

It seems clear to you that some specific thing is holding them back. I imagine it’s easier to see that in others than it is in ourselves. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Even the apostle Paul lamented, “I don’t understand what I’m doing.” There were times when he wanted to do what was good but didn’t do it (Rom. 7:15ff). Surely we all need and want to grow in our godly roles. Perhaps the first step is to take an honest look to see if anything is keeping us from reaching our potential. What can hold us back?

An Earthly Perspective

God had such great plans for His people. He said He wanted them to be a people for “renown, praise, and glory” (Jer. 13:10-11). What held them back? They didn’t listen to His Word or seek His will. They were too caught up in the world around them. They walked according to their own hearts, and, as a result, their works became “worthless.”

The world is clamoring for our attention. The ruler of this world wants us to follow our own desires because he is vying for our hearts. Sometimes, what holds us back is simply a matter of forgetting why we’re here. We need to remember that everything in this life is temporary. Our focus should be on things that will matter in eternity.

If this is something you find yourself struggling with, here are some Scriptures to help get you back on track:

Colossians 3:1-2

Romans 12:1-2

Ephesians 6:12-13

James 4:4

1 John 2:15-17


Perhaps you find yourself in a rut. You are just going through the motions. Instead of coming up with ways to make a difference, you’re barely able to drum up any enthusiasm at all for participating. Apathy is indifference. It’s a lack of interest or concern or enthusiasm.

Nehemiah had to shake God’s people out of their apathy. He reminded them of the importance of their work and urged them to get to it. It worked! They “put their hands to the good work” (Neh. 2:18) because they had a “mind to work(4:6).

If you could use a little nudge, revive yourself with these Words:

Romans 12:11

1 Corinthians 15:58

Colossians 3:23

A Bad Attitude

God gave us His plan for men and women in His church. In any Bible class/ study or worship setting where men are present, God wants the men to lead and teach (1 Tim. 2:8-12; 1 Cor. 14:34-35). Some women struggle with this. They may cry out for “gender justice” or question whether or not God values women. They resent this one area of restriction even though there are countless ways women can serve.

We can make a difference in the kingdom!

We can lead other women and teach and study and help and comfort and encourage… Perhaps the struggle some women have comes from wanting to serve in a way that looks more important. This is a heart problem. We need to make sure we’re determined to glorify God instead of self. There are so many ways to be involved that we shouldn’t have time to be worried about what we “can’t” do.

You can trust that God’s way is always best for you and for His church. If you’re wrestling with this, allow His Word to convict your heart:

Psalm 18:30

Proverbs 3:5

Philippians 2:14-15

1 Peter 5:6

We all have things that can keep us from our spiritual potential. If we’re having a hard time acknowledging our own baggage or stumbling blocks, we can ask a trusted friend or family member to be honest and help us. That’s a scary proposition! Remember, we are weakest when we look to ourselves but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13)!

Kathy Pollard
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Kathy is married to Neal Pollard, who preaches for the Lehman Ave. church of Christ in Bowling Green, KY. They have three grown sons, all married, and 2 new grandsons with another grandchild on the way! Kathy attended Faulkner University and Bear Valley Bible Institute and has a bachelor’s degree in Bible. She is the author of the book, Return to Me…What to Do When Loved Ones Fall Away. She and Carla Moore host a weekly podcast for Christian women called Looking Up. Kathy enjoys spending time with family, traveling to Israel, tending her gardens, and getting to know her new dairy cow, Peaches.