A lot of us want to make a difference in the world. But when you see the overwhelming needs around you, you can feel paralyzed. Where do you start? What can you do? The truth is, on our own, we can’t make a difference. But don’t get discouraged. What if making a difference isn’t actually about what we can do after all?
What if we’re busy trying to make a difference in the world around us, but God is trying to do a work in us?
Jesus talked about that in John 15:5 ESV when He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Abiding in Christ means depending on Him and allowing Him to meet our needs. To “abide,” we must learn to surrender our own abilities, our own strength, and our own pride, and instead learn to rely on and trust in God. We stop trying to do things ourselves and start turning to the Vine—trusting that He will use us right where we are with what we have.
The beautiful thing is that making a difference isn’t about us, but God often uses us to accomplish His mission in the world. So how can we be a part of changing the world right where we are, right now?
In November 2013, Branch 15 opened. We walk with women coming out of difficult life situations such as domestic violence, human trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, and incarceration by providing a safe, Christ-centered community on their journey to wholeness and sustainable living. To put it simply, we’re about fresh starts, pure hope, and amazing grace.
From the beginning, our purpose and mission was rooted in John 15. We abide in Christ because without Him, we as staff, volunteers, and clients can do nothing. What’s especially powerful about that is that we don’t wait to serve until we feel like we have it all together. In fact, when we are willing to be used in our weakness, it’s the perfect opportunity for God to meet us in His strength.
At Branch 15, four of our six current staff members are actually graduates of the program themselves. What’s amazing about that is that no pain or tragedy is ever wasted with God. Many times, our passion for serving comes from pain. But God’s capacity for restoring our lives is beyond our understanding. That’s why, to make a difference in the world, we must first allow Jesus to make us new.
When we remain connected to Jesus, He equips us to use our passion, our gifts, our talents, and our pain and tragedy to show the love of Christ to others right in our communities. What a privilege it is to allow Christ to fill us with His Spirit day by day. And as we spend time with God, the people in our lives will soon see His love in us.
Trying to make a difference in our own strength will leave us feeling depleted. But when we choose not to struggle in our own power and instead rely on the strength, peace, and love of Christ within us, we’ll be able to live out God’s plan for us as His children. We won’t be doing works to earn love. We’ll be making a difference because of His love at work within us.
Remember, it is not our job to serve so others can see us and our accomplishments; we are called to serve so that, through us, others can see Jesus. So, how can you start making a difference with God’s help? Consider what God has impressed upon your heart. This may point you toward what you’re called to do—even if you don’t know exactly what that looks like.
Here are some tips on how you can start serving today:
1. Seek God. Pray and then listen. When seeking Him, He will reveal His desire for you. Think about what burdens are on your heart. Maybe you’ll see a pattern emerge. Maybe you’ll realize your passion for a certain cause or group of people. When you ask God for wisdom about how you can help, He will be faithful to give it to you.
2. Step out in faith. We may not feel equipped to serve, but the Vine is the one who equips. God is a master at using those the world rejects to accomplish His divine purpose.
3. Take a spiritual gifts test. God has given each of us unique gifts and talents to serve the people around us. Discover what yours are and learn how you can put them to work in your family, your community, and your world.
4. Serve with others. Serving God with other people is one of the greatest joys in life. Gather your LifeGroup or some friends and start serving together.
God created us for a purpose and with good works in mind for us to do. And you have no idea the beautiful work that the Lord will do in and through your heart and through others when you’re faithful to say yes and to serve with what you have.