I would like to give a shout-out to Altus, Martha Road. Last week, I had the privilege of preaching a revival for its congregation. Martha Road is one of those churches where you feel instantly at home. They are a group of gracious, responsive and real people trying their best to follow God. We had an incredible four days of looking at God’s Word together.
I had never been to Altus before. If you asked, I would say that it is 60 miles past the Great Commission. Go to the end of the world, take a left, go 60 miles down the road and you end up in Altus. The town has an Air Force base, along with lots and lots of cotton. In fact, a number of people in the church grow cotton. The last night I was there, the church presented me with a miniature bale of cotton as a gift.
I have learned so much from this tiny bale of cotton. The tag says there are eight ounces in this bale, enough to make a man’s shirt or a bath towel. Of course, I don’t know how to take the bale and make either one. The other side says that a real bale of cotton weights 480 pounds and lists what you can do with a bale that size.
First, you can make 215 pairs of jeans. I don’t need 215, but a couple of pairs would be nice. You can make 2,419 pairs of men’s underwear. Just think: one bale would provide a lifetime’s worth of underwear for all the male members of my family. Then I read the next line, which says that this same bale could produce 6,636 pairs of women’s knit briefs. In other words, that one bale of cotton would provide the female members of my family with a century’s worth of undergarments.
The list continues on to say that the bale could also be used to make 3,085 diapers or 313,600 hundred-dollar bills. One bale of cotton can become $31,360,000. That is thirty-one million, three hundred and sixty thousand dollars and no change. If my figures are right, one ounce is worth $4,083, and my miniature, eight-ounce cotton bale can produce $32,667 worth of $100 bills.
After all these calculations, I no longer look at that tiny bale the same way. I don’t see a miniature, burlap-wrapped bag of cotton, but $32,667. This bale of cotton has changed my prayer life. I knew that Jesus turned water into wine, but do you believe He can turn an eight-ounce bale of cotton into $32,000? I’ll let you know.
What changed the value of this bale in my eyes? Its potential. Someone can see past what it is and take it into what it can become. No, I can’t turn eight ounces of cotton into a pair of jeans, underwear or a diaper. I can’t even thread a needle very well. But someone else can look past the cotton we see in the field and help it reach its potential as all kinds of products we encounter every day.
The process works the same way for your children. What do you see when you look into their eyes: “just a kid” or the potential for greatness? I am thankful I had folks in my life who saw my potential long before I realized I had any. They cast into me the idea that God was going to do something incredible with my life. When I looked into the mirror, all I saw was a plain old bale of cotton. They saw something much greater because they knew the Creator who had the capacity to do . . . more.
After God began to use my life, one of my schoolteachers apologized to me because she hadn’t seen me as a person of potential. I never forgot what she said afterwards: “I forgot to take into account what God could do in an individual’s life.” That day, my wife bought me a ring that I wear on my right hand to remind me to look for the potential. We all have a tendency to look more at what someone is than what that person can become. And I never want to forget what God can do in an individual’s life.
Dear Father, I thank you today for those who saw me through Your eyes instead of their own. Help me to see the God-potential in my children, my friends and those with whom I come in contact. I know you intend to astound the world by using the least of these. Amen.
P.S. Lord, I do have this little bale of cotton on my desk . . .