By Dr. Jodie Nelson Chiricosta
Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice; rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
Joy’s life was joyless. She had endured heavy doses of anger and abuse from her father, which she tried to escape by going away to college. Drowning her sorrows by drinking got her expelled from school. She was haunted by her past and her life was in shambles. Tormented by suicidal and self-destructive thoughts, Joy turned to relationships, alcohol, and psychiatric medication. Soon she found herself homeless and living in a shelter. That is where Lori Jane found her. As part of a Christian Coffee Posse that served up coffee and prayers in front of the shelter at 6:00AM every Thursday morning, Lori Jane became familiar with Joy’s anger and mockery. Each week, Joy scurried past the coffee crew as quickly as possible. After a few weeks, she began to speak with them, but only to taunt them and mock God. Undaunted, the Coffee Posse from Somebody Cares New England and CCF Street Church persisted in both prayer and compassion, and God used them to draw Joy to Himself. “I pretended I didn’t want what those Christians had, but I really did!” she confesses now. “The Wiccans and atheists were all cooped up in the shelter, chronically homeless and plagued with sickness and depression. But the Christian Coffee Posse had true JOY and PEACE! Still I hid and ran from my issues—I didn’t have the strength to deal with them.” Tragically, two days before Thanksgiving Joy was sexually assaulted. The staff at the shelter knew she needed more than they could offer so sent her to a crisis-response facility. Joy shared, “On Thanksgiving Day, Lori Jane showed up and loved me as I was: broken, beaten, and battle-worn. When she invited me to CCF Street Church, I was so impressed with her compassion that I went. Everything from the worship music to the message filled me with HOPE and encouragement and fueled my empty soul. I accepted JESUS as my Savior—and EVERYTHING CHANGED!” Seven years later she continues to grow in the Lord. Joy shares that God healed her mind and cleansed her of her sins. She finished college, is Lori Jane’s roommate, and works for a newspaper. She even volunteers with the coffee ministry to the homeless as she can. God met Joy through the faithful prayers, compassion actions and Gospel witness of that small group of Christians in Haverhill, MA. He wants to reach others like her through every Believer. That type of life, however, doesn’t come naturally to us. As Isaiah declares in chapter 1, verse 17, we must “learn to do good!” In the busyness of life and the crush of increasing crises it is easy to anesthetize the nudges of the Holy Spirit with a quick prayer, a small donation or an internal promise to do something later. In fact in our pressed lives, it is even easy to overlook the needs of friends and co-workers who are devastated by personal crisis and searching for answers. It is sinful human nature to focus on our needs, wants and desires with little regard for others. This is the same struggle that Christians have had throughout time. But as Believers we must put on a new nature, God’s nature, which teaches us to live differently. We no longer look out for our needs alone, but also for the needs of others. The Apostle Paul addresses this clearly and repeatedly in his letter to Titus (Titus 2:7, 11-14; 3:1, 8, 14) as he explains that Christ wants us to “long to do what is good” (Titus 2:14B NIRV). In his closing Paul writes, “Let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14 NIV). Paul understands the struggle between our flesh and the Spirit of God. So, Paul says we must practice doing good; we must practice meeting pressing needs! We must cultivate a life of doing good. If we don’t, we will be unfruitful. To do that requires us to intentionally reorder our lives. We must prepare ourselves to be available for God’s use on a daily basis. If we do, we will see fruit in our lives that we never imaged possible. Of course with the increase of natural and man-made disasters that is predicted in Scripture and we see played out in the headlines every day, Christians must be ready to be God’s witness during times of corporate crisis too. Cultivating a lifestyle of doing good will better prepare us for God’s use when larger crises occur. In Luke, Jesus taught His disciples that wars, natural disasters, and every kind of human crisis “will lead to an opportunity for your testimony” (Luke 21:13). If we are not ready for the opportunities, we may miss them. So what should we do? The beautiful and challenging thing about the Body of Christ is that everyone has a unique role to play. There is no “one size fit all” answer!
- Lori Jane and the Christian Coffee Posse served coffee, prayed for the homeless, and shared Jesus every Thursday morning in Massachusetts; and people came to Christ.
- Samantha volunteered with a local jail ministry in Virginia for a season where God gave her a deep love for women suffering from the same addictions and brokenness that plagued her own mother. She prayed for them, loved them, shared the love and forgiveness of Jesus; and women were freed from spiritual bondage.
- Mike serves as chaplain for a professional basketball team. He prays with them, counsels them through personal crises anytime of day or night, and shares God’s Word with them without ever trying to manipulate them for personal gain; and lives and families are being saved.
- Several Christian men in Texas started a business together based on and committed to Biblical values. As a company they leave margins in their budget to support God’s work. After Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian Earthquake, Somebody Cares needed a quick way for assessment teams and immediate relief items to get to the disaster zone. Massive infrastructure damage eliminated commercial transportation. They made their commercial jet available for the team, free of charge; and countless lives were impacted with the tangible expression of God’s love.
- Dorothy moved from Canada to Haiti a number of years ago to care for AIDS orphans. When the earthquake struck God spared her compound, which she opened for families who lost homes in the quake. She provided them a safe place to stay with their children, food, water and most of all the Good News of Jesus. She literally saved hundreds of lives physically and brought many more to Christ!
- Barry, an attorney in Virginia, raised resources to create a child-friendly waiting room in the courthouse for children who were victims of crime or abuse so going to court wouldn’t be so scary. His action was a testimony to those working in the legal system in his city and has opened doors for sharing His faith.
- Mark in Texas and Mike in Minnesota have ordered their lives so they can take weeks away from work and family responsibilities following each major US disaster to provide hot meals on-site for survivors and first responders. They have built a mobile catering grill to pull behind a pick-up and they are usually one of the first groups to arrive and start serving in communities that have been devastated. In addition to giving disaster survivors a delicious hot meal, they also share the Good News of Jesus and connect people with local churches. Desperate people find hope again.
- Terry, a retired civil servant from Colorado, went to Texas following Hurricane Ike to offer administrative and logistical support for relief efforts. He connected with Somebody Cares and played a critical role in our housing rehabilitation projects; sharing Jesus with those struggling to recover from the storm. Lives were changed.
There are examples, too numerous to list, of how God is using His people in different ways to minister life and hope to the hurting. The opportunities to make oneself available to God are endless. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God already has some good works that He created each of us specifically to fulfill. Will you be ready to do them? If you truly desire to be one God can use to minister to hurting people who need Christ here are a few things you can do to insure you are available and listening!
- Leave margins in your schedule. This isn’t a new thought but it sure is an important one. If you schedule is jam packed full, how will you have time to respond when a need arises? Of course there are some responsibilities and appointments you cannot shirk, but if your entire day and night are filled with “must dos” there is no opportunity for ministry. Order your days so you have room to reach out when the Holy Spirit leads. And be realistic about what really is a “must do”. Coffee with a friend may be prime ministry time. It may also be a convenient way to fill an hour so you don’t have to listen to the Lord.
- Leave margins in your budget (if possible). Times are tough, people are out of work, and not everyone can make the basic ends meet. That is understandable. But if you have enough income to cover your basic needs with some leftover, consider carefully what to do with the leftover. Of course tithing is non-negotiable. Beyond that, can you set some aside each month to help others in need or participate in a ministry or mission trip?
- Practice doing good. Like Paul tells Titus, learn to do good by meeting pressing needs around you. Ask God to give you eyes to see and ears to hear needs around you. Ask Him to give you a heart to respond. Think of creative ways to help with needs on a regular basis according to the passions and gifts God has placed inside you.
- Recruit friends to raise money for a cause dear to your heart — use social media, host an event that highlights the need, or come up with some other creative way to educate others about the need and engage them in meeting it. The Piper’s five children set up a lemonade stand after the Japanese earthquake and raised over $100 to help the survivors through Somebody Cares.
- Offer to make and deliver meals to families in your church or other group who are dealing with serious illness or a death.
- Participate in Toys for Tots, Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child or other holiday outreaches in your community.
- Volunteer at a local rescue mission, after school program, food pantry or other local ministry.
- Really listen when friends are going through a hard time and see if there are practical ways to help. Offer to clean house or run errands for someone going through radiation or chemotherapy. Provide free babysitting for a couple struggling to make ends meet or whose husband or wife just returned from military deployment so they can have some alone time.
- Do basic car maintenance for those of fixed incomes – or major car repairs if you know how!
- Anything else you can think of to bless others when they need a hand.
- Spend daily time with the Lord. To be most effective, good deeds must flow out of love; love for God and for people. If you run dry spiritually, your good deeds can quickly become wearisome chores and just be one more burden for you to carry. Seek God, read His word, open your heart in prayer and listen for His voice so YOU will find refreshment for YOUR soul.
- Prepare yourself. Sometimes crisis or disaster strikes close to home. If the stores are closed, electricity is out, gas pumps have run dry and banks are shuttered can you care for yourself and your family? Is your church
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ready to be a beacon of light in your community when things go wrong? If you are not personally prepared to care for yourself should crisis or disaster strike your community, you cannot reach out and help others. There are numerous books, resources and seminars that can help you prepare personally and as a church body. Some of those resources can be found on SomebodyCares.org in the e-store.
- Get Connected. When you are facing a difficult ministry situation or times of tough crises come, you want to know whom you can trust. Develop relationships with others who are like-minded, those who are reaching out, the ones who are also cultivating a life of good deeds. Connect with a church that actively supports outreach or with a local city-reaching group to impact your neighborhood or community. Connect nationally with networks like Somebody Cares, either personally or through a partner ministry, so when the next crisis occurs you are in the loop and everyone knows what you have to offer.
If you want to be used by God, you have to be intentional in your choices. Those who cultivate a life of doing good, out of deep love for Christ, will see great fruitfulness in their lives and in the Kingdom. *Somebody Cares America is partnering with Mission America in their Love 2020 initiative: an effort to mobilize every Christ follower to embrace a pray, care, share lifestyle so every person in American can be loved by at least one Christ follower by year-end 2020. To find out how you can join Love 2020 visit Love2020.com. Dr. Jodie Nelson Chiricosta is Vice President of Somebody Cares America/International, had a DMin from West Coast Bible Seminary, consults on US and international ministry initiatives, and is a periodic contributor on various Christian media outlets.