Experience authentic community.  Authentic community occurs when the real you shows up and meets real needs for the right reason in the right way.  Serving other people in love is a vital part of God's will for you.  So break away from isolation and superficial relationships.  Pursue meaningful, growing, Christ-centered relationships with at least a few people.  Ask God to reveal any hidden sins in your life.  Then confess and repent of them so they won't interfere with your relationships with God and other people. Tell God that you're willing to make real sacrifices to meet whatever needs He calls you to meet. Then pay attention to the needs you encounter and pray for His guidance about them. 

Be willing to take action to give others what they need the most, even when they deserve it the least and it comes at great personal cost to you. Do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Check your motives, though: Make sure you're not just fulfilling obligations, but expressing your love for God.

Overcome the evil aimed at you.  Don't let evil overcome you; instead, overcome evil by responding to it with good. Choose to follow God's call to forgive the people who have hurt or wronged you.  Don't wait until you feel like forgiving; you likely never will. But once you decide to obey and go through the forgiveness process with God's help, your feelings will gradually change. Pray for the people who have mistreated you, and always be willing to be kind to them.  If you do, they'll see the reality of God's power working through you.  Never retaliate against people who have hurt or wronged you; paying back evil for evil will only cause evil to multiply. Instead, trust God to bring about justice in His way and timing. Do whatever you can to live at peace with everyone. In all situations, keep in mind that good is more powerful than evil.

Adapted from Living on the Edge: Dare to Experience True Spirituality, copyright 2009 by Chip Ingram.  Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Brentwood, Tn., www.christian.simonandschuster.com
Chip Ingram is president and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry.  His passion is to help everyday "Christians" actually live like Christians by raising the bar of discipleship. Chip has been a pastor for more than 25 years and has a unique ability to communicate truth and winsomely challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of 10 books, including Good to Great in God's Eyes; Love, Sex & Lasting Relationships; God: As He Longs for You to See Him; and The Invisible War. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four children and six grandchildren.

Original publication date: March 8, 2010