#Faith and the Tears of Suffering

February 11, 2020

“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 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 suffer 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, but 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 lives are yielding for Him.

I sometimes think God is more real and works more effectively in the lives of people in waiting rooms outside operating theaters in 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


#Faith and (Abounding) #Grace

February 7, 2020

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve and the grace of God bestows on us all kinds of wonderful blessings we do not deserve. Grace is also the dynamic we must receive from God to do what God calls and leads us to do. 2 Corinthians 9:8 is the most superlative verse about grace in the Bible.

It tells us that God is able to make all grace, not just some grace, abound toward us, not just trickle in our direction. Then we may have all sufficiency, not just some sufficiency, in all things, not just some things.

We are then equipped to abound, not just do our duty, as we do every good work God leads us to do, not just the works we like to do, ALWAYS!

Twice in this verse Paul emphasizes the reality that this grace is for you – not just for the pastor or the missionary – but you!

Is this grace a reality in your journey of faith?

I once heard Dr. A. W. Tozer preach on this verse. After he read it there was an eloquent pause before he said, “Sometimes you cannot help but allow the thought that God oversold grace in the New Testament.” He then preached a powerful message challenging us to believe God has not oversold His grace but that we need to learn how to access His grace.

The hymn writer wrote, “The favor God shows and the joy He bestows are for those who will trust and obey…”

That is a good place to start.

Dick Woodward, 10 February 2012


God’s #Mercy & Unconditional #Love

February 4, 2020

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

The reality that God loves us unconditionally is often described in the Bible by one word: “mercy.” This word is found 366 times in the Bible. That’s one for every day of the year – and even leap year – because God knows we need His mercy every day. 280 of these references to God’s mercy are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite is the last verse of the 23rd Psalm where David wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the word “follow” can be translated as “pursue.” This means that David believed the unconditional love of God pursued him all the days of his life.

What a dynamic truth. God not only loves us unconditionally, He pursues us with His unconditional love all the days of our lives.

Does that mean our Heavenly Father loves us when He is cutting us back or chastening us? Absolutely! The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that if God did not chasten us we would be like illegitimate children and not His sons and daughters.

Chastening confirms the reality that God loves us.

When we are experiencing one of those cutbacks, rather than thinking that God does not love us anymore – the opposite is true.

God is pursuing us with His unconditional love.

Dick Woodward, 06 February 2009


(Always!) Pray About Everything

January 28, 2020

“…tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6)

It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them? The Apostle Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum when he prescribed: “Pray about everything!”

The Word of God exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate reading in the New Standard version, “God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places.” God delivered Paul from many tight places. We should therefore always pray in a crisis: “When it’s hardest to pray, pray the hardest!”

However, from personal experience Paul knew that God doesn’t always take our problems away. He had a physical condition that he described as a thorn in the flesh.” Three times he asked God to take it away. Paul saw many people miraculously healed as he ministered the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them. Yet, when he asked God to solve his own health problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.”

But God also responded, “My grace is sufficient for you and that is all you need. My strength looks good on weak people.” (2 Corinthians 12) His weakness drove Paul to discover the strength of God. When he did, he not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so the power of God might be showcased in him.

As Paul accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he learned that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul exhorts us from his personal experience that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or prayer may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray.

Always pray about everything!

 Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


God’s Peace: Thanksgiving & Grateful Worship

January 21, 2020

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Observe that the Apostle Paul prescribed “earnest and thankful prayer.” Do you know what thankful prayer is? My definition of thankful prayer is grateful worship.

I have found an effective peace therapy in a litany of thanksgiving that has evolved in my devotional life over the last thirty years of praying through Paul’s peace prescription while accepting the hard reality of my limitations.

When we are thankful, we automatically move our minds from the negative to the positive issues in our lives. When suffering from a condition or illness that is causing us to lose our faculties one by one, we have two choices: we can continuously think about what we have lost, or are losing, or we can think about what we still have and be thankful.

As I experienced the loss of my physical ability, I found that I get more mileage out of this condition for peace than any of Paul’s other conditions. I have so many blessings for which to be thankful. I discover regularly that when I begin to focus on my blessings, the peace of God is in place.

As I think of all the problems I have because nothing works from my neck down, mentally I put those challenges on one side of a scale, while on the other side I place my blessings. I always find that the good stuff far outweighs my bad stuff – and the peace of God returns.

I highly recommend this thanksgiving therapy, which is a vital part of Paul’s prescription for peace.

Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


Patience: Faith-Waiting & Love-Waiting

January 17, 2020

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances may be.” (Philippians 4:11)

Paul includes patience as part of his prescription for peace. Throughout the history of the church, patience has been considered a great virtue by spiritual heavyweights like Augustine, Thomas à Kempis and Francis of Assisi. Why is patience such an important virtue? For starters, patience is one of the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit profiled in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Throughout the Bible we are continuously exhorted to “wait on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) In our relationship with God we might call patience faith-waiting. Nothing will test and grow our faith like waiting on the Lord. When we are praying for something and receiving no answer, God may be teaching us that there are times when faith waits.

In our relationships with people, patience can be called love-waiting. I had no idea how selfish I am until I got married. I had no idea how impatient I am until I became a father waiting for teenage children to grow up. I find the Lord wants to grow two dimensions of patience in us: vertical patience, by teaching us to have a faith that waits on God, and horizontal patience, by teaching us that in relationships, love waits. Love is the primary virtue through which the Holy Spirit wants to express the life of God through us.

While impatience is a peace thief, vertical and horizontal patience are supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit that give us the grace to accept the things we cannot control. Patience is the virtue God plants and grows in our lives while teaching us to wait on God and trust God to do what only God can do about the things we cannot control.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


Spiritual Gentleness and Meekness

January 14, 2020

“…have a reputation for gentleness…” (Philippians 4:5)

When the Apostle Paul writes of gentleness, he does not mean milquetoast weakness. The Greek word for gentleness used here actually means meekness. Meekness is not weakness. Biblical meekness is closer in meaning to tameness. When a powerful stallion finally takes the bit and yields to the control of bridle and rider, it is not weak. That powerful animal can be described as “strength under control.” That is what biblical meekness means.

Gentleness is also listed as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Another way of describing this concept is acceptance and unconditional surrender. The well-known serenity prayer then becomes an expression of this condition for God’s peace:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In Romans 8:28, Paul is not suggesting that everything that happens to those who love God is good. There may be nothing good at all about many things that happen to us. His claim simply is that God can fit everything into a pattern of good, if we love God and are called according to God’s purposes.

Paul teaches us by example that we must accept the will of God until we are so meek we experience gentleness. He says, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One Who lives within me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Paul learned that it is safe to surrender unconditionally to our loving God. Therefore, gentleness and meekness prescribe acceptance to the will of God, one circumstance at a time.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace