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


God’s Comfort in Our Suffering

July 14, 2017

“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort.  For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, J. B. Phillips)

Suffering can drive us to God in such a way that we make this discovery: God is there and God can comfort us.

There is a supernatural quality of comfort that can be found in knowing God. God does not want us to go through life and never discover that God is there for us and will comfort us. When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can possibly experience in this life.

Many of us have known people we loved who are depressed and oppressed. They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want any of the caring people in their lives to be with them.

Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in a self-imposed solitary confinement. If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this great discovery: God is there, and God can comfort you!

Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort.  Comfort me in my pain. When I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are there, You are real, and You can comfort me.  I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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


Seeds of Suffering

July 19, 2016

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”  (Psalm 126:5-6)

The ancient inspired hymn writer is describing a father who is sowing seeds his family desperately needs because they are hungry.  As a provider he knows that if he does not plant these seeds, there will be no food for them and they will starve to death.  He therefore sows these precious seeds with tears streaming down his face.

The Holy Spirit leads the author to a beautiful application after he paints this solemn picture for us: sometimes when we are suffering to the point of tears, those tears are precious seeds our heavenly Father is sowing in the soil of our suffering.  When that is the case, we will doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing the fruitful results of our suffering with us.

This is a truth that is often shared in the Bible.  Sometimes suffering is not the setback it appears to be.  It is rather the cutback of our Heavenly Father who is like a divine vineyard keeper.  He cuts us back to increase the quality and the quantity of the fruit our life is yielding for Him.

I sometimes think God is more real and works more effectively in the lives of people in waiting rooms outside the operating theaters of our hospitals than He does in the sanctuaries of our churches.  God does not waste our sorrows and we should not waste them either.

Listen to the wisdom of the hymn writer when he tells us our tears are precious seeds that will ultimately rejoice our hearts.

Dick Woodward, 15 February 2013


Seeds of Suffering

February 15, 2013

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”  (Psalm 126:5-6)

The ancient inspired hymn writer is describing a father who is sowing seeds his family desperately needs because they are hungry.  As a provider he knows that if he does not plant these seeds, there will be no food for them and they will starve to death.  He therefore sows these precious seeds with tears streaming down his face.

The Holy Spirit leads the author to a beautiful application after he paints this solemn picture for us: sometimes when we are suffering to the point of tears, those tears are precious seeds our heavenly Father is sowing in the soil of our suffering.  When that is the case, we will doubtless come again rejoicing and bringing the fruitful results of our suffering with us.

This is a truth that is often shared in the Bible.  Sometimes suffering is not the setback it appears to be.  It is rather the cutback of our heavenly Father who is like a divine Vineyard keeper.  He cuts us back to increase the quality and the quantity of the fruit our life is yielding for Him.

I sometimes think God is more real and works more effectively in the lives of people while they are in the waiting rooms outside the operating theaters of our hospitals than He does in the sanctuaries of our churches.  God does not waste our sorrows and we should not waste them either.

Listen to the wisdom of the hymn writer when he tells us our tears are precious seeds that will ultimately rejoice our hearts.


Another Reason for Suffering

August 5, 2011

 “…  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces…”   (Romans 5: 2, 3)

When Paul writes his theological masterpiece to the believers in Rome, he states that God has given us access by faith into all the grace we need to live a life that glorifies Him as we stand for Him in this world.  When he wrote to the Corinthians he declared: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).  That is the most superlative verse in the New Testament regarding the grace God has made available to authentic believers.

Can you and I imagine how God must feel when He knows how much grace He has made available to us as He observes us moving through our life in Christ without implementing that grace?  In these wonderful verses Paul was telling us that we should rejoice in our sufferings because they force us to access the wonderful grace of which he was writing to the Romans and the Corinthians.  In this context suffering produces.

One of my favorite mentors wrote that sometimes when we read verses like this we must allow the thought that God oversold the product in the New Testament.  God has not oversold grace.  We simply do not know how to access that grace. As you rejoice in your salvation, are you also willing to rejoice in your sufferings as they force you to access the grace of God?


A Meaning of Suffering

July 27, 2011

“ … who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

When the Apostle Paul wrote these words he had just been through a terrible time of suffering.  When he regained consciousness he was surrounded by a circle of disciples who were praying for him.  He then revived and went back into the city (Acts 14: 19, 20).  Some scholars believe this was when he was caught up into the third heaven which he described in 2 Corinthians Chapter 12.

He is writing to the Corinthians about that awful suffering in the verse quoted above.  He is declaring that at least one purpose of that suffering was that he might be equipped to comfort others with the comfort he found when that experience of suffering drove him to the place where he discovered the comfort in God Himself.

An evangelist is one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is, and a minister of comfort is one hurting heart telling another hurting heart where the comfort is. When you need help with a problem your best counselor will be a believer who has experienced that same problem and victoriously worked their way through that problem.

A man fell into a mud hole.  He was not able to pull himself out of the hole.  A friend saw his plight and jumped into the hole with him because he had been there himself and knew the way out.  Are you willing to accept this explanation as at least one reason God has permitted your suffering — that you might be equipped to be a minister of comfort?


#FAITH: No Burning, No Shining

August 9, 2019

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

The applications of the metaphors of Jesus are almost endless. One application to the metaphor above is that for our candle to give light it must be consumed. Unlighted candles are not consumed, but the candles that shine are the candles that burn.

There is no shining without burning.

In another great metaphor Jesus told us we are like branches and He is the Vine. As branches, if we are properly intersected with Him, we draw from Him the love force to be fruitful. Jesus promised if we are plugged into Him and are fruitful, we will be cut back and pruned to be made more fruitful.

Cutbacks and pruning can really hurt. They can come in the form of suffering, but they improve the quality and the quantity of our fruit.

In light of these teachings we should not be surprised when we find ourselves burning our way through suffering that our brightest light for Christ yields the best fruit.

Like many others I thought I experienced my most fruitful years when I was able bodied and active. But I am joyfully surprised to discover that my most fruitful service for Christ has been as a bedfast quadriplegic. Using voice activated computer software from my bed, 782 Bible studies have been produced and are being heard in 31 languages in 60 countries. Worldwide more than 45,000 small groups are listening to Bible studies on solar powered digital audio players.

Have you discovered there is no shining without burning?

Dick Woodward, 09 August 2013

Editor’s Note: The MBC has now been translated in more than 50 languages!


FAITH: TESTING & TRUSTING

August 2, 2019

 “…whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance… If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting.” James 1:2-6

When you encounter a storm in your life, that trial will often bring you to the place where you just don’t know what to do. You realize you need more wisdom than you have. James writes that we must let the test of faith lead us to the trust of faith.

When we lack wisdom, we must ask God, Who will be delighted to share wisdom with us. In the Old Testament when the people of God were fighting against overwhelming numbers, their frantic prayer of faith was:

Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You!” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

I have been in a wheelchair since 1984 and a bedfast quadriplegic since the mid 1990s. I have, therefore, thought much about the suffering of disciples.

In the Bible we are warned that God does not think as we think, nor does God do as we do. (Isaiah 55) If the desire of my heart is to know God’s will and to live my life in alignment with the will and ways of God, wouldn’t it logically follow that I should not always expect to understand the way I’m going?

Obviously, that includes our suffering.

If God gave us an explanation for everything and the answers to our why questions, the very essence of faith would be eliminated… God is pleased when we come in our crucibles of suffering and cry, “If you heal me, that’s all right. But, if You don’t heal me, that’s all right too, because YOU are all right!”

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p.278-281)


A Prayer for Comfort

June 11, 2019

“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Suffering can drive us to God in such a way that we make this great discovery:

God is here and God can comfort us.

There is supernatural quality of comfort that can be found in simply knowing God. When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can experience in this lifetime.

Many of us have known people we love very much who are depressed and oppressed. They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want any of the caring people in their lives to be with them.

Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in self-imposed solitary confinement.

If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this discovery: God is here, and God can comfort you.

Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort. 

Comfort me in my pain.

When I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are here, You are real, and You can comfort me. 

I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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


God’s Faithfulness (amidst our Lamentations)

June 3, 2019

“He has filled me with bitterness…my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3: 15, 16, 22-23)

When Jeremiah gets to his darkest hour, he receives a revelation of hope and salvation. Just like Job when suffering brought him to the bottom of despair’s pit and he received this Messianic revelation:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last upon the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God!”  (Job 19:25-26)

In the third chapter of his Lamentations, Jeremiah received the same kind of revelation given to Job. After World War II, Corrie ten Boom told people all over the world how, in a Nazi concentration camp, God revealed this truth to her:

“There is no pit so deep but what the love of God is deeper still.” 

This is the same truth God revealed to Jeremiah. God made Jeremiah know the truth about His unconditional love that is taught from Genesis to Revelation: God’s love is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance.

Reading the Lamentations, I am deeply touched and inspired meditating upon God’s revelation to Jeremiah, that all the horror of the Babylonian conquest and captivity did not mean that God no longer loved the people of Judah…

Another awesome possibility is that as Jeremiah received his revelation weeping in his grotto on that hill of Golgotha, he could have been sitting on the very spot God was going to pour out His love on the whole world.

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Old Testament Handbook, (pp. 500-501)

Editor’s Note: After the horrendous shooting last Friday in Virginia Beach, my prayers & love are with all those touched by this senseless violence. My father served as a pastor in Virginia Beach for over 20 years. In times like these, I know he would reiterate Corrie ten Boom’s sentiment: God’s love is deeper than the darkest times we encounter.