Ask almost any Christian believer, and they will say Yes to the question, “Are you interested in becoming more like Jesus?” (See Romans 8:29) That is God’s ultimate purpose for you. But at some point it’s up to you to put what you learn into practice and actually DO what Jesus asks of you. And it’s in this context that loving others changes you.
Recently we talked about the Five Catalysts for Spiritual Growth. Bible reading, prayer, study, and being in relationship with other Christians are indispensable pieces in the process of spiritual transformation. But unless Personal Ministry is included – you ministering to others who need you – your spirituality will become self-absorbed and begin to stink.
Think of your heart as a pool of water. You absolutely must regularly take in refreshing nourishment from outside yourself or you will run dry. But if there is no outflow, if you try to keep it all for yourself, you will get muddy and algae-filled, begin to stink, and be of no use to anyone. The only formula for life is both taking in and giving out.
This principle is not unique to spiritual growth. Seth Godin, a premier marketing guru, says that the best way to have someone learn something is to have them do it, and then to teach others to do it. Taking action changes you in ways learning information never can. The twelfth step of Alcoholics Anonymous includes the phrase “we tried to carry this message to alcoholics.” There comes a time when helping others is the only way to move forward.
Andy Stanley in his new book Irresistible asserts that this is the whole ethic of the New Testament, that which Jesus came to call us to. When talking to His followers, Jesus’ “primary concern was not that they believe something. He insisted that they do something. They were to love as he had loved.” (p. 197)
How Loving Others Changes You
Here are a few powerful ways in which personal ministry – you loving others with action – changes you from the inside out.
- Increases Your Reliance on God. When you start giving of yourself to others you quickly realize you don’t have everything it takes on your own. You come to the end of yourself and realize how desperately you need the Holy Spirit working in you to really be of any use to anyone. That realization is a very good thing!
- Shows You Yourself. If you care at all, ministering to others will uncover aspects of your own character that need transformation; selfishness, anger, pride, fear, and many others. Your transformation is stimulated when that realization drives you back into your prayers closet with the Holy Spirit for the further heart work you need to love well.
- Improves Your Mental Health. Keeping your eyes on yourself is sure to make you frustrated, entitled, and/or depressed. Lifting your sights and truly seeing others is one of the very best ways to improve your spirits.
Dr. Karl Menninger, the prominent psychiatrist, was asked what he would say to a man about to have a nervous breakdown. He replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, and find someone in need and do something for him.”
- Gives You Significance. Have you ever noticed when you feel most satisfied, most energetic, most significant? It’s likely to be when God has worked through you in blessing someone else. There’s nothing quite like the joy, even exhilaration, of working alongside God and experiencing being in the flow of what He is doing.
- Teaches You to Love Well. Our purpose in this life is not to find comfort or success; it’s to learn to love well. The only way that happens is through actually loving. It’s messy, uncomfortable, countercultural, and impossible on your own. But it’s also fulfilling, and allows you to experience being like Jesus in a way nothing else does.
Where To Start
If you’re already ministering to other people regularly, awesome! Keep it up. If you’re not, there’s no time like the present to begin.
There’s something you have that others desperately need. That may be time, understanding, skills, material things, attention, or any number of things. Here are a few ideas that may stimulate your thinking of where you can love others.
- Call someone who has lost a loved one to say, “I’m thinking of you.”
- Send an encouraging text message to an acquaintance you know is having a hard time.
- Visit someone lonely – in a nursing home, a hospice, a hospital, a senior center, a homeless shelter, prison, etc.
- Volunteer for the Salvation Army, a food bank, a literacy center, or some other organization.
- Join a team of volunteers at your church fulfilling some need.
- Invite a few people to your home for a meal who could not invite you back.
- Be a mentor to an at risk young person. (Many juvenile courts offer mentoring and need adults to volunteer.)
- Offer your tech skills to a church or non-profit.
- Take a single parent’s child(ren) on an outing (with parent’s permission!) – a sporting event, a museum, a hike, etc.
- Form a small group supporting others in overcoming a challenge you have overcome (or need help with yourself).
These are only a few of the unending possibilities. Your offer may not always be met with gratitude; don’t give up. Remember to make this about the other person, not about you.
This holiday season is the perfect time to give the gift of yourself in a way beyond what you’re used to.
Isn’t that what Jesus would do?
Your Turn: Are you consistently ministering to others? How has loving others changed you? Who are you going to help next? Leave a comment below.
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- Loving others in practical ways changes you as nothing else can. It lifts your spirits, teaches you to rely on God, helps you learn how to love, and more. Try it! Tweet that.
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