If you're like me, you want to be used by God. You want your life to count. You want to change, grow and make a difference. You want to help make a difference in other people’s lives.We want to know that what we say and do really counts. And, we want to make a difference for the people around us, and to be there for them when they are having trials and problems. Knowing the Lord and being used by Him is a big part of that keeps us satisfied and fulfilled. I don't want to be one of those unhappy, unfulfilled Christians! I know you don't want that, either.
I always think about what can I do to help my friends and the people around me to find the only One who can fill their inner emptiness? How can you make a difference in the lives of your friends? First of all, we need to keep excited about life, optimistic, positive, hopeful. That's more important than you might think. Nehemiah 8:10 tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength. You're literally stronger in your spirit when you have the joy of the Lord operating in you. One of the first things that helps you to help others is for you to demonstrate that YOU have been helped. They want to see that knowing the Lord works in YOUR life, before they want to get what YOU’VE got. Jesus talked about this, about keeping full of wonder, full of hope and full of joy. That's all part of what comes when you're walking close with God every day.
When you walk close with Him, life isn’t drab, it's not boring, it's not “same old same old.” Jesus said in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.” In Matthew 18:3, He said, “unless you get converted and become as little children, you won't enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” I don't have to tell you that most people aren’t thrilled about their lives anymore. They've been through so much, and done so many things and have been hurt and disappointed so many times.They get cynical, skeptical and mistrustful. They get tired, broken, angry, scared and disappointed. People need to have the seeds of Heaven planted in them so they can become child-like again. Part of the child-likeness that Jesus was talking about included the joy and happiness, the friendliness and wonder that comes naturally to most small children.
It’s only as we get older that we become self-conscious, anti-social and withdrawn. Many Christians and most churches have lost this quality of childlike happiness, joy and exuberance. I can tell you that, in my experience, ALL Christians and churches THINK they’re friendly, warm and welcoming. Actually, a lot of them DO come off as just marginally friendly, but many times THAT’S mostly just to each other! A lot of churches want to grow but they only want to increase their size with other people who are just like them! When God is bringing people in, we'd better be ready for people who AREN'T like us, who have different problems than us, or look different from us. That's why the Bible tells us that we need to be transformed, to be changed, by renewing our minds to the word of God. That's in Romans 12, verses 1 and 2.
When we look at the world around us, we can tell that there are still a lot of great needs, and there is still a lot of people who need to be reached with this life-changing Gospel. And that's another reason it's important to be close enough to the Lord that we're excited about what He's doing in our lives, and there's enough going on in our spiritual life that we WANT to tell other people about what He's doing. It’s only NATURAL to share good news and new discoveries. We all like to tell others when we get a new car, or discover a new restaurant. When the Lord does something good in your life, it's natural that you will want people to know about it! An answered prayer, a healing in your body, a promotion on the job or some other thing that He has done in answer to prayer. When you meet Jesus as Lord and have Him in your life, amazing things begin to happen. You always have SOMETHING going on that He’s doing! And, you’ll naturally find yourself telling other people! That’s one of the most powerful ways God grows a church. Your testimony about what God is doing is one of the most powerful tools you have!
There are six steps we need to take in our lives, to bring about this kind of change. None of them are very hard.
First, it takes faith; believing God. Faith, real faith is the beginning of all things with God. We get saved by faith, and the Bible says that those who are justified LIVE by faith. So, it's about YOU personally to begin to REALLY believe the Gospel and apply it in your own life. When that happens, you'll be transformed! Then, you’ll be energized, enthusiastic and caring. You'll want to be around the people of God, your brothers and sisters in Christ. You’ll find that being in the various church services and opportunities are so helpful, so life-changing, that you won’t WANT to miss them. Not only will YOUR faith grow, but through your participation, you’ll have a genuine opportunity to help change someone’s life. That’ll get you feeling alive again.
Remember Andrew, one of Jesus’ first disciples? He got so excited after hearing John the Baptist that he went and got his brother, Peter. Peter ended up being one of the most fruitful and productive disciples. He became a leader among God's people, and was responsible for literally thousands of people coming to the Lord! Plus, he was used by the Spirit of God to write First and Second Peter, in the New Testament!
What generates this kind of zeal, this kind of energy? It’s when what’s happening is so life-changing, so meaningful, that you want to come back for more. Your needs are met, you feel better, you encounter the Lord, you experience His energy and a peace. Your conscience becomes clear and clean. That's something that you experience and it just keeps you energized and feeling alive. Something else that does that, is when you see someone else's life change in good and noticeable ways. I LOVE that, when I can watch someone's life turn around. We all know people who are struggling and hurting, and there's nothing like it, when they begin to experience the hand of the Lord in their life and they begin to transform. Even if nothing spectacular is happening to you right now, just knowing it’s happening for someone else makes you want to draw closer to God and His people. And, if you know that you can contribute something good to someone else’s life, you’ll get excited and be available for the Holy Spirit to use you in people's lives. According to 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12, EVERYBODY has some sort of ministry. Even you!
Something else that I found is that giving of your time, energy, effort and even money to benefit someone other than yourself will actually cause you to grow closer to God and help you to be happy and fulfilled in life. We like to receive, I don't know anybody who doesn't like to receive. But God designed us so that the way we grow and increase is by giving, helping, contributing, serving and lifting up other people. We all know people who just want to be fed and never really want to serve or contribute to others. There's a name for those who just want to get fed, fed and fed. We call them gluttons, and it's incredibly unhealthy! That’s not what the Kingdom of God is about. The Kingdom of God is about giving, serving, sharing, looking out for others. Even Jesus - that's what He came to earth to do!
Second, PRAY for God to reach people and to bring them into the Kingdom of God. Pray for your friends, and co-workers. Pray for your neighbors and family members. Pray for your community and for your country. That's what Jesus said to do. He said in Matthew 9:28, “Pray to the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest." Prayer is a BIG part of advancing the Kingdom of God. Also, part of that prayer is being willing to BE one of those laborers! Ask God to show YOU opportunities to grow the Kingdom.
Third, PREPARE yourself to receive new people in your life. Ask God to help you talk and engage with someone who isn't so much like you, or who may hold different politics or have different ideas than you. Ask God to give you a heart for them. Practice being a good listener, without interrupting, and without having to correct everything they say that you don't agree with. Listen like Jesus would, and get to understand them, where they're coming from, and what are their hurts, their pains and their hopes. We want to be prepared to receive the people God is bringing into our lives.
Fourth, LOOK around you. Look for opportunities to reach out to another person. Begin to notice if there is a person around you who looks hurt, or sad and lonely. A person who might need someone to listen to them. Ask God to give you eyes that really see. To see as He sees. What can you do that would help someone to want to come to the Lord? Look around the church, and see if there's any place that you could serve, and meet people. Volunteering as a Greeter or being at the Welcome Desk, serving as an usher, or helping with building maintenance or the lawn and garden a church. There might be a ministry opportunity for you there.
Fifth, SUPPORT what God is doing in and among His people. Being stable and dependable is a really important quality that God wants to develop in our lives. Financially helping out is important, too! When God gives a vision or calling, it is always beyond whatever available financing we have! Sometimes our vision is too small, and God is wanting to build a team and to bring together people with different gifts, abilities and financial capabilities.
For me, I found that the only way to get the excitement that comes from serving God is to actually serve! You’ll NEVER know the people and some of the newest ones God is sending in, if you’re not here enough to get to KNOW them! You’ll never know the thrill of how God is working in people’s lives, unless you’re with them and getting to have friendships with them. It's all just theory until YOU have a heavy involvement with them.
Distance creates distortion, proximity creates compassion. What that means is that when we don't personally know someone with a particular problem, we get judgy and critical of them. When we actually get to know them and their situations, we begin to have compassion on them. I think about how Jesus came down from Heaven, to move among us, to get to know us, and the Bible says He was moved with compassion for people, with their struggles, hurts and problems. There's an old saying, "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."
People want to know that you care about them. They want to know that you don't look down on them. When they come to a church, they think, “What do I feel when I come to this church? How do they treat me? How do they treat each other? How do they talk about people outside the church? Am I sensing the love of God here? Is this a place that I can grow closer to God and get to know Him better?”
I was reading that in a survey of people coming to a church, that the most common thing that made them want to come back is what they called the ATMOSPHERE in the church. What makes up the atmosphere? The presence of the Holy Spirit. The people being loving, caring, positive and open. YOU have a major part in that! You can have an impact on somebody's life, just by being close to the Lord and faithful.
Sixth is ENJOY watching God at work in YOUR life and in the lives of those around you. We can see God at work when people’s lives are being changed. You can see God at work when broken lives are being fixed and put back together. There are few things more thrilling than being a witness of God working in a person's life. Jesus wants to renew you and fill you with His joy and His love. He wants to pour out on you a fresh and deeper love for God, a love for other people, a love for His people, and a love for the NEW you, the born again you, the recreated you! And those are some of the things that cause you to be one of those who makes a difference, a real difference in the lives of other people…and also in the Kingdom of God!