Faith Outreaches: Part 3
Challenges and Expectations
It is hard to prepare people for all the challenges they are likely to face during a Faith Outreach. However, just knowing that we will be challenged is part of the preparation. If we act in faith then God provides us with the means and strength in order to meet these challenges head-on, and to come out the other side both stronger and wiser.
On a practical level, we have often found that the first 2 to 3 days of a Faith Outreach can be the hardest, during which time we may be most likely to think about giving up. Challenges can range from going through caffeine withdrawals… to struggling to get a clear sense of how God may be leading us… to coldness at night… and the list goes on. However, before throwing in the towel, we would encourage people to at least think twice about doing so. Very little in life is worth having if it comes too easily, and on the other side of challenges are rewards which we usually find are well worth going through the challenges for.
Changing our circumstances, our diet, our normal routine, or whatever, can be challenging… but it can also help us to develop more resourcefulness while enabling us to get a more balanced view of our lives. It is important to be aware of our limits, but it is equally important not to place limits on ourselves which are not helpful. God knows our limits a lot more than we do, and being stretched is usually the way we find out just what we’re capable of… with God’s help, of course!
Something we commonly find on Faith Outreaches is how thankful we are for any little kindness shown to us, or form of provision that comes our way. The other side of the coin of letting go and forsaking something, is immense gratitude when something lands on our plate. Gandhi said that we appreciate our food when we are hungry (“Hunger is the best sauce!”). How very true. We also develop more empathy for those people in the world who go without on a more regular basis. Another highlight of Faith Outreaches is the strengthening of emotional and spiritual bonds between the people who go on them. Witnessing these treasures first-hand can help us develop an earnest expectation for any future Faith Outreaches we go on, which can help us through any challenging times we may face on those too.
‘Seek First The Kingdom’ (aka Being Useful!)
Being useful has more to do with following God’s promptings, rather than necessarily doing something… although it often does result in us helping people out in some way. The main issues to get clear are, what are the needs of the situation, and how are we being called to best fill these?
There have been some Faith Outreaches where we have felt led to focus more on ‘inreach’ time together, working on interpersonal relationships. However, often the spirit has prompted us to do some form of ‘reaching out’ to people together, hence the term ‘Faith Outreach’. There are many forms this outreach has taken in the past, and it’s likely there will be many different forms that future Faith Outreaches take as well: Experimentation, openness and flexibility are key here.
There is a time to draw on the experience of what has worked well in the past… however this can also get in the way of things working well in the present, if we are not open to hearing God saying something different to us. There have been times when God has left it up to us to decide the means through which we help people, and how we set about communicating this opportunity to them… although in other circumstances we have found that God has given us clear pointers about a particular approach to take.
Some past means have included making signboards (often using cardboard thrown out on the street) offering free work, free hugs, or even counseling. On other occasions we have used chalk to draw catchy images, or write meaningful slogans on pavements or walls. Sometimes we just look for ways to be useful in a local community – e.g. collecting rubbish from communal areas and discarding it responsibly, or visiting drop-in centres and asking if they need any help. As you can imagine, the possibilities are endless…
We have found that it is usually best to say less about our beliefs to the people whom we are helping and to let the action do most, if not all, of the ‘preaching’ for us. However, because it is (sadly) quite rare for someone to have a complete stranger volunteer to help them with no strings attached, this often leads to them feeling curious about what we’re doing, which in turn prompts them to ask us questions… which can end up naturally revealing more about why we are doing what we are doing.
The beauty of the Seek-First-The-Kingdom principle is that helping and loving others is its own intrinsic reward. We are given immense satisfaction from seeing people’s lives touched when we choose to help them out, without thought of getting something in return from them. And the additional reward is that we usually find our own needs get looked after as well. Often, but not always, this comes from the people whom we are helping, who feel inspired to offer us food, drink, clothing, shelter, showers etc.. However, on many occasions it does not come through the people we help, but through some other means. For example, on the Faith Outreach mentioned earlier, the four of us walked past a BBQ area late one evening, after we had done a free work project elsewhere, and exactly the right amount of food for four people had been left on a table there, seemingly just waiting for us!
It is impossible to create a system out of Living-By-Faith. If it were possible, it wouldn’t be faith! Human nature likes to worry about how we are going to survive. The more we can work at not worrying, the better… as the more we worry, the more we restrict God’s provision… which usually leads to us worrying even more.
There is an invisible work going on here which can be a bit hard to put into words. It is something we can’t double-bluff as well. For example, if we go into a free work opportunity secretly hoping that we’re going to get something in return, this usually backfires in some way. If we are doing something with a motivation other than love, we won’t actually enjoy what we are doing, and it will feel just like a system job. In addition to this, the person we are helping is more likely to pick up at some level that our intention is not pure… or God may decide to set up a situation where we don’t receive the thing we’re secretly hoping for… probably to show us the wisdom of trusting Him more fully!
This work of trust and motivation is something which is natural for us to struggle with, but which we are likely to make improvements with over time, the more we experiment with Faith Outreaches, and with the Seek-First-The-Kingdom principle in different aspects of our lives.
Faith Outreaches in Relation to Prophecy & Future World Events
While there are many individuals (and communities) who have opted out of mainstream society to varying degrees, there is a shortage of people who are willing to forsake all their possessions and attachments in order to go wherever the Spirit leads. Doing so is not only ‘good news’: The freedom and fulfillment of being led by God is, quite literally, ‘out of this world’ (while being in it at the same time!): It is also helpful preparation for an eventuality we are already seeing the beginnings of, which we’ll look at a bit more closely here.
There is a prophecy in The Revelation (chapter 13:16-18) about a final ‘Antichrist’ system which forces people to wear a mark in their right hand or forehead if they wish to buy and sell anything. In 2004 a human implantable microchip called “VeriChip” was offered to clubbers in the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona for buying and selling of drinks. Only around 10,000 people worldwide ended up allowing themselves to be implanted with this device (used for a variety of medical, financial and security applications) before it was discontinued. However, what this showed is that for the first time ever technology now exists to enable this prophecy about the ‘cashless society’ to come to pass.
What is seriously concerning to us is that the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) are not being prepared for this. For believers, one reason for this lack of preparation is down to a teaching that believers are all ‘raptured’ (taken out of harms way) before the ‘Great Tribulation’, during which the prophecy about the cashless society is fulfilled. So, in these people’s minds, there is no need to prepare for this eventuality. It doesn’t take much to see that this belief is based more on wishful thinking than on sound doctrine. A lot of professing Christians today don’t want to consider that God may allow them to be put in a situation where they will actually suffer for their faith. This has led to the Church denying that we will go through the predicted ‘Great Tribulation’ because of a verse that says we are “spared from wrath”. However, it is worth pointing out that there is a big difference between a time of testing for all (the ‘Great Tribulation’), and the time when God pours out his anger (the 7 vials of Wrath) on those who have rejected him, which happens soon after the Great Tribulation.
It is understood from scripture that the period of ‘Great Tribulation’ is marked by 7 trumpets and Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that the rapture occurs with the “trumpet of God”. In 1 Corinthians 15 we get a more accurate picture of when this trumpet is… it is at the last trumpet. So, it is clear that, if the Tribulation is marked by 7 trumpets, and that the rapture is at the last trumpet, then this occurs at the end of the Tribulation. This fits in with what Jesus said himself in Matthew 24:29-31: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days…”
It follows, that if believers are called to go through the period during which this prophecy about the cashless society comes to pass, they will need to do everything they can to prepare to live without buying and selling ahead of time. So, why is not more being done to teach people (both in and out of the church) about this urgent need and eventuality?
In light of this, we believe that Faith Outreaches are helpful in bringing into sharper focus the reality of God’s supernatural provision, when we choose to step out in faith and seek to serve other people… but they are also a form of necessary preparation for what is destined to come, quite possibly in our own lifetime.
If we are serious about not wanting to get micro-chipped in future, we are probably just kidding ourselves if we are not willing to take the necessary steps to learn to live without money ahead of time. This is worth praying about further when considering whether to experiment with Faith Outreaches… and Living By Faith in general.
(Please find more info on issues relating to the ‘Endtimes’ by clicking on the link button at the bottom of this page)
To Sum Up…
Faith Outreaches provide an excellent means for testing and increasing our faith. Stepping out of the comfort zone encourages us to earnestly seek God’s will and then look for ways in how to apply it. When we enlist God’s help in this way, we benefit from the intrinsic rewards gained as a result of fulfilling our purpose of helping others, but also from seeing our material needs being met at the same time.
Faith Outreaches are a helpful tool for realising the practical and spiritual benefits of Living-By-Faith… and following God on a daily basis in all aspects of our lives. Finally, Faith Outreaches are a great way to prepare us for some of the core challenges we are likely to face in the years that lie ahead, as a result of world developments.
If you would like to find out more about Faith Outreaches, or if you would like to accompany us on a Faith Outreach at some point, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org