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 Amazing AMAZING Grace

February 7, 2017

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5)

In Paul’s letter to Roman believers, he writes that God has given us access, by faith, to a quality of grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Jesus Christ in this world and live our lives to glorify Him. Paul writes that we should rejoice in our tribulation, because it is our suffering that forces us to access the grace God makes available to us.

In another verse about grace from the pen of Apostle Paul, we read: “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.” (2Corinthians 9:8) This is the most emphatic verse in the Bible about the grace God makes available to us.

According to Paul, God is able to make all grace (not just a little bit of grace), abound (not just trickle), toward you (not just Billy Graham, your pastor, missionaries, but toward you), that you (he repeats you for emphasis), always (not just sometimes), having all sufficiency (not just some sufficiency), in all things (not just some things), may abound (not just limp along), unto every good work (not just some good works).

All grace, abounding, always, all of you, I mean all of you, all sufficiency, all things, always abounding in all the good works God wants to do through you!

The New Testament church turned the world right side up because they believed and experienced the truth Paul was proclaiming in this extraordinary proclamation about God’s amazing grace.

Do you believe in the amazing grace of God?

Dick Woodward, 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer (p.21)


The Christmas That Shall Be (Part II)

December 23, 2015

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  (Psalm 27:13)

The Old Testament people of God lived their lives believing it was possible to ‘see the Good.’  In Psalm 34 King David challenges hopeless fugitives to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good,’ and the Lord is the Good they have been seeking all their lives.

In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us the three lasting, eternal values in life are faith, hope, and love (I Cor. 13:13).  Love is the greatest of these eternal values because God is Love.  Faith is an eternal value because faith brings us to God.  Hope is also one of the three great eternal values because hope brings us to the faith that brings us to God.  In the heart of every human being, God plants hope – the conviction that something good exists in this life and someday that good is going to intersect our lives.  That is what the author of Hebrews means when he tells us that faith gives substance to the things for which we have been hoping. (Hebrews 11:1)

Every year, approximately 30,000 people commit suicide.  Research by sociologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists tells us they commit suicide because they lose hope.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have the Good News that can give hope to the hopeless.  Because we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share it with the people Jesus came to seek and to save.  (Luke 19:10).  We show that we really believe in the Christmas that shall be when we tell hopeless people that God is going to give us another Christmas.

Like the wise men we should ask the question, “Where is He?,” seek Him until we find Him, worship Him, and give the gift of our lives to Him.  Then, like the shepherds, we should tell everybody the very Good News that Christmas has come and Christmas is coming again to this otherwise hopeless world!

Dick Woodward, A Christmas Prescription


The Christmas That Shall Be (Part 1)

December 18, 2015

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”  (Matthew 25:31)

More than 300 times in the New Testament God tells us He is going to affect another intervention in human history.  Read Scriptures like Matthew 24 and 25, I Corinthians 15, II Peter 3 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18.  You will also find this Good News in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets.

You will discover that all these Scriptures proclaim the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which is the blessed hope of authentic followers of Jesus Christ and hope for this world.  Almighty God is coming to earth again!  This time He is not just telling a few chosen people such as a priest, a peasant girl, a carpenter, a few wise men and some shepherds.  God is telling anyone who reads the Bible.

The famous oratorio by Handel, which is sung every Christmas, compiles the Scriptures in the Old and News Testaments that describe the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be.  This magnificent sacred music is simply called, “The Messiah.”

As you reflect on this beautiful music and the Christmas that is yet to be, if you do not believe the 318 New Testament Scriptures, or the many Old Testament prophetic Scriptures concerning the future Christmas, then, like Zacharias in the first chapter of Luke, your mouth is shut by your unbelief.  You know the Good News that could give hope to hopeless people all around you, but your unbelief silences you.

Knowing about the Christmas that shall be would give hope to your sphere of acquaintances who are living without hope.  Do you know, or do you remember, what it is like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope?

Dick Woodward, A Christmas Prescription


Hope-filled “Hupomone” Love

May 19, 2015

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”  (I Corinthians 13:7-8, J.B. Phillips)

We read in the book of Hebrews:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.”  The inspired author of the great faith chapter means that the object of faith is always unseen, and faith gives substance to our hope that the object of our faith exists.  In other words, faith puts a foundation under our hope.  We hope until faith gives us reason to believe. (Hebrews 11:1)

When faith cannot place a foundation under our hope for the ones we love, all we can do is hope for them.  According to the love hymn of Paul, the one applying the love of Christ will hope for them. Love joyfully awaits for the fulfillment of what it prayerfully desires, imagines, dreams and hopes concerning the potential of the ones we love.

When Paul writes, “Love endures all things,” he means love perseveres while it awaits the fulfillment of what it hopes and believes to see in the lives of the ones being loved.  The Greek word translated as ‘endurance’ is ‘hupomone.”  It is a combination of two Greek words, to ‘abide‘ and ‘under,‘ whatever is required to love someone.

This is especially important when we love a person who is not responding to our loving, positive reinforcement.  This quality of loving perseverance equips believers to love and pray loved ones through their addictions to alcohol, chemical substances, pornography, gambling, eating disorders and the seemingly endless list of compulsive habits.

These ‘chains’ of the evil one can only be broken with supernatural assistance from God, often using, as conduits, those who love with this love that hopes, believes, and endures all things.  By their actions they make this statement to those they love:  “Nothing you do or say can make me stop loving you because I’m loving you with the love of Christ.  The love of Christ is tough love.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


Sharing Hope @ Christmas

December 16, 2014

“And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  (I Corinthians 13:13)

Do you know, or do you remember what it is like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope? In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us the three lasting, eternal values in life are faith, hope and love.  Love is the greatest of these eternal values because God is love.  Faith is an eternal value because faith brings us to God.  Hope is also one of the three great eternal values because hope brings us to the faith that brings us to God.  In the heart of every human being, God plants hope, the conviction that something good exists in this life and someday that good will intersect our lives.  That is what the author of the Book of Hebrews means when he tells us that faith gives substance to the things for which we have been hoping. (Hebrews 11:1).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have Good News that can give hope to the hopeless, and we must not let unbelief silence us.  If we never share the Good News of the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be, we should ask ourselves if we really believe the essence of the Gospel of Christmas.  Because we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share that Good News with the people Jesus told us He came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10).  We show that we really do believe in the Christmas that shall be, when we tell hopeless people that God is going to give us another Christmas.

Like the wise men, we should ask the question, “Where is He?,” seek Him until we find Him, and then worship Him and give the gift of our lives to Him.  Then, like those shepherds, we should tell everybody the Good News that Christmas has come and Christmas is coming again to this otherwise hopeless world.

Dick Woodward, from A Christmas Prescription

 


Hope Challenged People

December 24, 2013

“There are three things that will last — faith, hope, and love…”  (1Corinthians 13:13)

When Paul tells us there are three things that will endure, have you ever wondered why one of them is hope?  The other two are love and faith: love will last because God is love, and faith is the way we know God.  But why is hope one of the three?

Hope is the conviction that something good exists in this world and we are going to experience it.  God plants hope in the hearts of people and it keeps them going.  While studying psychology in college we analyzed the 25,000 suicides in 1952.  Psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and sociologists determined that those people committed suicide because they lost hope.  That same year a man committed suicide by jumping off the top of my dormitory which was located where Hope Street ended in front of the Los Angeles Public Library.  The newspaper reported that he jumped to his death at the end of Hope Street.  That accentuated what we learned in the classroom, big time!

Tonight is Christmas Eve.  Millions of people will gather in families and extended families to celebrate, but many millions more will be alone.  Pastors and those who work with people know that life is unspeakably sad and millions are hope-challenged because they have experienced nothing good.

In his famous carol Philips Brooks wrote that the hopes and fears of all the years were met in Bethlehem when Christ was born.  God intersected human history that night but what the Bible calls the blessed hope of the church and the only hope for the world is that God is going to do that again when Christ returns.

Are you guilty of criminal negligence because you are not sharing that hope with hope-challenged people?