Some helpful, challenging words from Tim Chester's You Can Change:
We often think of service as the fruit or sign of change. But it’s also a means of grace that God uses to change us. Sin is fundamentally an orientation toward self. Many of us suffer from self-absorption. We’re preoccupied with our problems and successes. We bring every conversation around to our favorite subject: me. Or we develop habits of self-centeredness in which we live for our own comfort and security. Serving God and other people can help redirect us outward, taking our attention away from ourselves. It’s a great prescription for people suffering from negative emotions. Paul’s advice to a thief is not just to stop stealing, but to do “something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need” (Ephesians 4: 28, NIV). He wants people to stop thinking about their wants and start thinking about other people’s needs.
All sorts of things can happen when we start serving others. We learn from them. We see God at work in their lives. We find joy in serving God. We see prayer being answered. We face situations we can’t cope with and discover God’s strength. We discover the excitement of seeing God glorified in people’s lives. If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58: 10–11) What is God’s promise to us when we are gloomy, uncertain, dissatisfied, weary, or dry? He will lift the gloom, guide our way, satisfy our desires, strengthen our bones, and water our hearts if we give ourselves in the service of the poor. God made us to love him and love others. We become the people we were meant to be by serving others. When we “pour ourselves out,” we find ourselves filled up. If we “satisfy the desire of the afflicted,” God will “satisfy our desires in scorched places.”