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Decide to Make a Difference

I was fortunate that early in life, I was exposed to other people’s needs that were much greater than my own. Traveling in the developing world, I saw that I could make a difference in their lives. The paradox is that in focusing on helping meet their needs, my own life was enriched. We’ve…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I was fortunate that early in life, I was exposed to other people’s needs that were much greater than my own. Traveling in the developing world, I saw that I could make a difference in their lives. The paradox is that in focusing on helping meet their needs, my own life was enriched.

We’ve been created to make a difference. We dream of doing so. God made us with an inner urge to come alongside those who are struggling and to help them. It’s what truly makes us happy. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” He should know – he wired us that way.

Don’t you feel good when you make a difference in someone’s life? If you were feeling like a dim lightbulb, doesn’t your light shine a little brighter?

The problem is, a world full of obligations and distractions weighs us down, isolates and keeps us locked down. School loans, car payments, mortgages, and the jobs that help us pay those bills, all limit our sense of possibilities.

In the fight to breathe life into our dreams, the enemy of your soul has two main strategies to keep you from making a difference in the lives of others.

1. Redirect your commitment elsewhere

If most people dream about how they could make a difference, why is it that they don’t do their dream?

Because dreams require commitment. If we’re already committed elsewhere, our dreams whither and eventually die.

The enemy strategy is “death by a thousand cuts” – get you to commit to someone else’s agenda and you postpone your own dreams of helping others.  At your place of work, if you perform, you’ll be rewarded – a quid pro quo. It’s called “building your career.”

A career says, “You need to keep climbing.  If you’re not climbing, you’re not OK. Do what’s prudent.” 

Careers mortgage your dreams for someone else’s.  They take your natural generosity and starch it and press it into a mold that looks enough like you that you stay in the game.

2. Make you more cautious

A second thing that slowly kills our dreams is that we become more cautious over time. We start out in life with an appetite for risk. The soul longs for freedom; God built us to make a difference.

But as we acquire stuff and responsibility, our risks cost more and we begin to hedge our bets. It’s our hedging that kills our dreams. The corporate life and the careers that it produces harness you to a set of policies and procedures that can slowly choke the life out of you.  And so we cling to what we find safe and predictable.  

The trouble is that the best stuff you ever do in life will probably require some risk.  The best stories are the ones where people showed courage in the face of risk.

Ten years ago, when the idea of going to Africa to help address the AIDS problem came to me, it required that I basically take a sabbatical from my regular life.  It was crazy, but I did it.  I took Karen and three of our kids along and we put everything else on hold. I could do it because that’s the kind of life-altering risk I ask others to take all the time.

It seemed reckless in that I had to embrace risk over security. But I realized that when considering whether to take a risk or not, the biggest risk lay in not pursuing the dream God had given me. 

How to make a difference

The way to break out of the cycle that keeps you from making a difference is to first of all recognize what God has called you to do. Maybe you’re right where he has called you now. Maybe paying off your debt is exactly what you need to be doing. But if you’re going to delay doing your dream, at least make sure it’s connected to the big picture.

What is the big picture? Where could you make a difference? Spend time thinking about that. Cultivate your dream in your thoughts and conversations and prayers.

Don’t let your current circumstances smother your righteous dreams. There is more for you, but you have to nurture your dream. Set aside time to see in your mind’s eye what God has called you to do. Then seek him for the plan to realize it.

And when you can see your dream, commit to it. Decide to make a difference. That decision is the most important step you’ll take. It will help you take the kind of faith steps that God will reward.

Comments (14)

  • Seth this is just stellar. Godly insights. Good motivation for all of us. Classic “Barnes” apologetic for living a life which matters and one you and Karen model. In the spirit of that I have some updates for you on some matters we have discussed and will call this week.

    Love to your tribe.

  • We are “wired” this way and it explains why we are pulled in this direction. The difference is are you pushed or pulled? For me it was simple as you can see…WWW.heartsinhands.org, Love you Seth and Love your Heart, FHB III

  • I checked out your labor of love, Hearts in Hands. The story about the person who died because from, ‘failure to thrive’ was poignant.

    I’ll be seeing your son next week in Ireland. He’s thriving there!

  • Thanks for this. Yes so important to be bold in our choices and trust the ‘inner whisperings’ that we will be supported in our growth by our loving Father in Heaven.

    Change is invigorating as well as scary! And we are here to manifest the kingdom through good works and service and supporting those who temporarily have less.

    Its a happy union when our need for growth moves us into a new situation, one in which our actions bear fruit for all our brothers and sisters.

  • Brilliant Seth!

    I love this simple but precise break down. I feel this type of work gives me life. Seeing others getting activated.

    It also touches those places where I often find myself questioning. I’ve followed with reckless abandon but can’t help the longing for security of a steady job. Or the lure of a sense of accomplishment in a long career. Even the simple idea of having enough money to buy clothes when I want or eat out when I want.

    I love how you blog points directly to heart to keep in mind with all these things. What’s the big picture?

    I have a dream and I’ll feel most fulfilled making a difference.

    Focus on the big picture. Not that there wont be season where I can make some money but the have to align with the big picture.

  • Seth! This really helped me quite a bit today as I job search. I’m starting work with Marty tomorrow at Springgate and really praying about the dream that I have and what to do with it.

    I feel like I’m supposed to pay off my debt but I wonder if that’s just my “cultural” thinking instead of Kingdom thinking. Maybe I’m supposed to be doing something else, I don’t really know right now but I’m going to seek God’s face on it.

    I do know and what God’s been speaking to me about is to surround myself with the community and people who I can receive training spiritually for the gifts and to constantly grow me in those regards.

    Great blog.

  • Great to hear, Hugh. As regards debt, the issues are “what is practical and what is optimal.” Practically speaking, if your debt service is $200/mo – that is less than a lot of car payments. Economize elsewhere in your personal budget and begin working toward your dream now.

  • Seth, Many people believe that they dont have what it takes to make a difference in the world. They believe only people like Mother Theresa, The Pope, Bill Gates, and the likes, are capable of making a difference. The truth is, every one of us can contribute and make a difference in our own unique way. You have definitely answered the call and are truly an inspiration!

  • Before the worldrace to get involved and make a difference seemed like a big task. I thought I didn’t have enough time to really make a difference so why even try. The race has shown me that investing a hour in a child’s life can make a huge impact on them. Saying hello to the people that you meet buying coffee every day and learning their name will make them feel wanted and Loved. Buying a pencil for a child in Africa is like giving them a piece of gold. Making a difference looks different in each of our lives but taking one step towards God’s Justice will impact your life and others lives for the better.

  • Thanks for the encouragement, Bobby. Heidi Baker is the best I know at this. Her mantra is, “take time for the one.” It’s not about the masses, it’s about the one person who you could touch today.

  • Christina,

    Like you, we have four girls and one boy in our family. I just read your blog and saw that you had lost both your parents. I’m so sorry. If I can help you figure out how to make a difference, feel free to email me and I’ll try.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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