Designed to Make a Difference

You were put on earth to make a contribution.

You weren't created just to consume resources - to eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference with your life. This is one of God's purposes for your life, and it's called your "ministry" - or service.

The Bible says, "God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10b, TEV). These "good deeds" are your service to the world. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God and fulfilling one of your purposes. You were placed on this planet for a special assignment.

The apostle John taught that our loving service to others shows that we are truly saved. He said, "Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life" (1 John 3:14, CEV). If I have no love for others, no desire to serve others, and I'm only concerned about my needs, I should question whether Christ is really in my life. A saved heart is one that wants to serve.

Another term for serving God - one that's misunderstood by most people - is the word ministry. When most people hear "ministry," they think of pastors, priests, and professional clergy, but God says every member of his family is a minister.

In the Bible, the words servant and minister are synonyms, as are service and ministry. If you are a Christian, you are a minister, and when you're serving, you're ministering. God has a ministry for you in his church and a mission for you in the world.

Serving is the opposite of our natural inclination. Most of the time we're more interested in "serve us" than service. We say, "I'm looking for a church that meets my needs and blesses me," not "I'm looking for a place to serve and be a blessing." We expect others to serve us, not vice versa.

But as we mature in Christ, the focus of our lives should increasingly shift to living a life of service. The mature follower of Jesus stops asking, "Who's going to meet my needs?" and starts asking, "Whose needs can I meet?"

Do you ever ask that question?

At the end of your life on earth you will stand before God, and he is going to evaluate how well you served others with your life. Think about the implications of that. One day God will compare how much time and energy we spent on ourselves compared with what we invested in serving others.

At that point, all our excuses for self-centeredness will sound hollow: "I was too busy" or "I had my own goals" or "I was preoccupied with working, having fun, or preparing for retirement."

To all excuses God will respond, "Sorry, wrong answer. I created, saved, and called you and commanded you to live a life of service. What part did you not understand?"

If you're not involved in any service or ministry, what excuse have you been using? Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid.

That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service. He will use you, too, if you stop making excuses.

Rick Warren is pastor of Saddleback Valley Community Church.

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