I have vague memories of physics lessons (over thirty-five years ago) talking about potential and kinetic energy. Apparently, energy can be in two states: either potential or kinetic. It can be transferred between objects and from one state to the other. Potential energy is ‘stored energy’, energy that is ‘ready to go’ (a ball at the top of a hill that is about to roll, for example.) Kinetic energy is the energy of movement, as when the ball actually rolls down the hill.
The diagram below shows further examples, this time with a cyclist:
The reason I have been thinking about potential and kinetic energy is because of two quotes I have read recently. The first, by James Houston, says ‘True Christianity is turning the possible into the actual’ and the second, by Nelson Mandela, says ‘Everything seems impossible until it’s done.’
Both these maxims reflect a truth about faith. There is a sense in which when we believe something God has said, it seems impossible that this can ever actually happen – certainly, impossible without God (see Luke 18:27 TNIV, Matt 19:26 TNIV). Abraham’s story shows us how he received God’s promise of a son in faith and had to work through the many years when this promise that life would come from the barrenness of his and Sarah’s bodies seemed impossible to fulfil. Once they held Isaac in their arms, it did not seem quite so impossible! Similarly, receiving God’s promises is a little like holding potential energy in our hands. We believe God can do great and mighty things through our lives. but at that stage, it is only ‘possible’ and not ‘actual.’ As we mix faith with obedience and patiently wait for God to fulfil the ‘impossible’ part of the equation, we have the joy of seeing the possible become actual.