SUFFERING: PERSEVERANCE, CHARACTER & HOPE

October 20, 2017

Let us rejoice in our sufferings because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

If you study the original language in which these verses were written, you will discover that Paul is saying essentially this: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces the quality of character that will not run when things get difficult.”

The Greek word Paul used for character conveys a meaning similar to various patches military people wear that show they have been tested and proven. Paul told us suffering produces endurance, and receiving from the Lord the grace to endure our suffering produces proven character. When you have been tested and proved, the caliber of character that testing produces is often grown in the soil of suffering.

Paul also writes that proven character leads to confidence and hope. When you have developed character that perseveres, you will not be put to flight. While visiting missionaries on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, I learned that one of the most important abilities for missionaries is stickability. Can you go to a foreign culture, and stay for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years?  Can you live out your life there as a fragrance of Christ, an irrefutable statement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are hostile toward Jesus and His followers?

Most missionary work is living Christ until the people you desire to reach “see Christ in your mortal flesh,” to borrow the words of one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. (2Corinthians 4:11)

Perseverance is stickability: the ability to hang in there, and keep hanging in there. That is how an orange gets to be an orange; it just keeps hanging in there until it becomes an orange.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


When God Does a New Thing

October 17, 2017

“…but the Lord brought us out from there to bring us in…”  (Deuteronomy 6:23)

God often wants to do a new thing in our lives. This strategy is profiled in Deuteronomy where we read that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, to then bring them in the Promised Land of Canaan.

When God wants to do a new thing in our lives God has three challenges. First, God must get us out of the old to then lead us into the new thing God has for us. That’s not easy because we are often bound by security issues and don’t want to come out of the old. God, therefore, sometimes has to blast us out of the old to bring us into the new thing. That is why the will of God often involves a pull from the front and a boot from the rear.

God’s next challenge is to keep us going through the transition time between the old and the new. Transitions can often be difficult, so we need a lot of grace to get through them, especially when transitions take years of time.

God’s third challenge is to get us right so God can settle us into the new thing God has in store for us. This could happen because we are burned out in a dead-end job of an old place and God has something much better for us.

There are many reasons why God may want to do a new thing in your life. Have you cooperated, or are you cooperating, as God takes you through these three challenges?

Dick Woodward, 05 October 2010


Keeping Our Eyes On Jesus

October 13, 2017

 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

When the ultimate terminal illness comes to an eagle, it climbs to the highest possible elevation and looks into the sun for an entire day. When the sun goes down that evening, the eagle dies.

Have you ever seen an eagle disciple of Jesus Christ die? I first started believing the Gospel when I watched my mother die. She died looking right into the Son. Our godly pastor, who had seen scores of saintly ones go home, said he never had seen anything like what he witnessed with us that night.

At the age of 49, my mother left behind six daughters, five sons and a husband. She spent the last two hours of her life with us, but she was already in heaven. She was talking to Jesus. She often said she never had any peace. We had a little house of thirteen hundred square feet with 13 people living in it, so you can understand why she had precious little peace and quiet. In those last hours she kept saying, “Oh, this peace, this peace!” Several times she started to share something but said, “I can’t tell you about that.”

The Apostle Paul described something similar in 2 Corinthians 12, when he tells us he was caught up into the third heaven, saw many things, but said essentially, “I can’t tell you about that.”

I believed intellectually at my mother’s death when I was 14, but I did not become a disciple of Jesus Christ for several years. I delayed my decision because I knew believing involved commitment. I knew this because my mother had said to me:

“If Jesus Christ is anything to you, Dick, He is everything to you. Because, until Jesus is everything to you, He isn’t really anything to you.”

My life changed forever because she lived and died as an eagle disciple of Jesus Christ. Those closest to us may also become believers as they see us live and die with our eyes on Jesus Christ.

Dick Woodward, As Eagles: How to Be an Eagle Disciple


Opening Our Agendas to God’s Agenda (daily!)

October 10, 2017

“… All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

I find it intriguing to know that in little genes that cannot be seen with the naked eye the genetic heritage of a human being is determined: how high heads will be from the sidewalk, eye color, hair color, the capacity for intellectual gifts, athleticism, and even mannerisms are all wrapped up in microscopic genes.

David – a great warrior, king, man after the heart of God and hymn writer –  tells us in Psalm 139 that before we existed as genes God determined the days we will live on this planet. The Living Bible Paraphrase reads that “before we existed God had an agenda for every day we are to live on this earth.”

A few years ago my wife and I woke up one morning and prayed together that if our agenda for the day did not agree with God’s agenda, we were willing to be preempted. Later that day while having lunch with our pastor son, I realized I was having a heart attack. As the paramedics rolled me on a stretcher out our back door to the ambulance, I said to my wife, “Looks like we’re being preempted big time!”

Thankfully, the doctors turned things around before it became a full-blown heart attack. However, that experience gave my wife and me a perspective we will never forget. There is God’s agenda and there is our agenda for every day we live. How should this truth impact the way we plan our agendas each day?

Are we willing to be preempted by God’s agenda every day?

Dick Woodward, 01 October 2010


WHERE IS YOUR HEART?

October 6, 2017

 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.(Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus told us we should not lay up treasures on earth where they depreciate and where thieves can steal them from us. He told us we should lay up treasures in heaven, in the spiritual dimension, where they will not depreciate or be stolen. He added that our hearts will be where our treasures are. In other words, Jesus told us, “If you really want to know where your heart is, show me your treasures.”

A practical application of this, if you really want to know where your heart is, look over your check stubs and calendars for the past five years. Consider how you are spending your money and time. Then you will know where your treasures are, and where you heart is.

Millions of people are crushed and depressed these days because they have lost their treasures on Wall Street where greedy and corrupt men have stolen them. If their hearts were in their treasures on earth, and the way they were laying up treasures on earth, they need to listen to and understand Jesus as He tells us where our hearts should be.

Where is your heart?

Dick Woodward, 15 October 2008


VISION, FAITH & SACRIFICE

October 3, 2017

“… But for this reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”  (John 12:27-28)

When we have a vision, we must also have a plan. It has been said that without vision the people perish, but without a plan the vision perishes. Nehemiah not only had a vision to repair and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, he had a plan to do so. As an enslaved exile his plan was to present his vision to the emperor for whom he was a cup bearer.

This was extremely dangerous. At that time there was a death penalty for being sad in the presence of the emperor, or for bringing anything negative to the attention of the emperor while serving him. Nehemiah had the faith to pray silently and then present his vision to the emperor. The emperor showed empathy and compassion for Nehemiah by approving his plan and supplying everything needed to see that the plan was followed to the letter.

Has God put a vision in your heart of what He wants you to do? If you have a vision, do you have a plan? In that context consider this formula for your vision:

vision + faith + sacrifice = miracle.

If you have a vision and a plan to carry out that vision, are you willing to sacrifice for that vision? Are you willing to die for that vision?

Our Lord Jesus Christ had a vision and a plan. He was willing to sacrifice and die for His vision and plan. He mandated that we should follow His example.

Regarding your vision and plan, are you willing to pray essentially:

“Father glorify Yourself and send me the bill.

Anything Father, just glorify Yourself?”

Dick Woodward, 30 January 2010


Forgiveness: 10 Critical Words

September 29, 2017

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  (Matthew 6:12)

In the communication that flows between a husband and wife there are ten critical words that often must be spoken. These ten words have saved marriages and the lack of them has dissolved marriages.

The ten words are: “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Will you forgive me?” And they critically need this ten-word response: “You were wrong. I was hurt. But I forgive you.”

Some people will never say the words: “I was wrong.” They will never say: “I am sorry.” And they certainly would never ask for forgiveness. They would rather live alone for the rest of their lives than say these ten critical words. It may be their pride prevents them or perhaps they are driven by the myth of their own perfection. But these words can make the difference between marriage and living alone.

It is hard to imagine an unforgiving authentic disciple of Jesus Christ when the Disciple’s Prayer instructs us to forgive as we have been forgiven or we invalidate our own forgiveness. (Matthew 6:8-15) According to most translations of the Disciple’s Prayer, we are actually asking our Lord to forgive us as we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us.

Can you say these ten critical words?

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Dick Woodward, 25 September 2012

Editor’s Note: Singletons out there are not off the hook, as this teaching can also be applied to family and friendships – maintaining healthy relationships all around vs. being alone in ‘perfect’ aloneness.