Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Max Lucado's recent book, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, (Thomas Nelson, 2010).
What do you want to accomplish before you die? If you invite God to use your life, the world will be a better place because you lived. Saying "yes" to God when He wants to do great works through you will create a positive legacy that will outlive your earthly life. Here's how you can outlive your life by serving God while you're still here:
Ask God to empower you. Be confident that when God calls you to serve, He will help you do whatever He calls you to do. Don't worry about whether or not you think you're qualified. God doesn't call only the qualified; He qualifies the called. Pray for the ability to recognize the needs around you that God wants you to see. Ask God to give you the wisdom to discern which needs you should help meet, and the strength to faithfully respond and carry out each task.
Get out of your shell. Don't try to isolate yourself from the world's problems or avoid other people's suffering. Remember that God took the initiative to reach out to you with love and salvation. Ask God to give you the courage to face the pain in this fallen world head on, and the compassion to move you to do something about it. Consider the types of problems that stir the most compassion within you, as well as the types of people with whom you most enjoy working. Then, using that information as clues, explore how you can best get started serving others in volunteer work.
Become a good ambassador. Realize that, as a Christian, you represent Jesus to the people you serve who don't yet have saving relationships with Him. So keep that in mind when you're serving. Always give your best effort to whatever service you undertake, so you can represent Jesus well and inspire others to draw closer to Him.
Work together with other believers. Jesus works powerfully when those who follow Him are working together in community with each other. While no one person can do everything, everyone can do something. So join other believers at your church and elsewhere to help change the world. Intercede in prayer together for people who are suffering. Form a team to tackle service projects in your local area together.
Offer hospitality to people. A powerful way to let people know that they matter to you and God is by offering them hospitality. Open your heart and your home to people, inviting them regularly to come over for meals and conversation that will draw them closer to God.
Do small things and trust God to do the big things. Whenever you see a need you sense God leading you to meet or a hurt God urges you to help heal, reach out to do so. Trust in the fact that as you remain faithful to tackle lots of small assignments each day, God will use your efforts to accomplish something big - drawing people into relationships with Him.
Prepare for persecution and resist it when it comes. As a Christian in this fallen world, you can expect to encounter persecution. It may come in many forms, from people who pressure you to abandon your convictions to those who mock you for what you believe. Pray for the boldness you need to stand strong in your faith when persecution comes your way. Spend plenty of time with Jesus in prayer, and read God's promises in the Bible often to strengthen your faith so you can remain focused on what matters most when you're enduring persecution.
Do your good work quietly. Whenever you help someone through good deeds like volunteer work or financial contributions, be sure to do so quietly. Calling attention to your good deeds shifts the spotlight away from Jesus to you. Check your motives before you help others, and ask God to purify them.
Stand up for the poor. Build relationships with poor people. Pray for them often. Help them in whatever practical ways God leads you to do so, such as starting an inner-city Bible study or building houses in towns where low-income housing has been destroyed by hurricanes.
Be humble. Remember that you're not doing anything for God that He couldn't do alone, but because He loves you, He invites you to join Him in His work. Never boast about the way you're serving God and other people. Keep in mind that even Jesus was humble as He served.
Break down walls that separate God's children from each other. God accepts all people and He wants all of the people He has made to accept each other. Also, fellow Christians are part of your same spiritual family. So don't label people who are different from you. Instead, talk with them, listen to them, and come to understand and respect their points of view while loving them unconditionally.
Don't give up on anyone. Even when people seem to be hopeless cases who'll never change unhealthy behavior or decide to trust Jesus, God is still at work in their lives. So never write anyone off. View people as opportunities, not problems. Keep praying for people and giving them fresh chances to improve their lives.
Pray first and most. Pray first before starting a new service project. Pray the most you possibly can about whatever concerns are on your mind; God is always listening and ready to answer your prayers.
Recognize Jesus' reflection in needy people. Jesus has said that when you love people in need, you're really loving Him, as well. Ask Him to make you aware of His reflection in the people you encounter, and to give you the motivation you need to serve them with love.
Adapted from Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference, copyright 2010 by Max Lucado. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tn., www.thomasnelson.com.
Max Lucado is a minister who writes and a writer who preaches. He and his wife, Denalyn, serve the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. They have three grown daughters, Jenna, Andrea, and Sara; one son-in-law, Brett; and one sweet but lazy golden retriever, Molly.
Publication date: October 25, 2010