Adversity vs. Atrophy

October 16, 2020

“… Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress…”  (Psalm 4:1)

Just about every emotional challenge we experience today was faced by the psalmist many years ago. If we observe what he did when he struggled, and receive from God the grace to respond as the hymn writer responded, we can often overcome our emotional challenges.

In Psalm 4 the psalmist faces the emotional challenge of distress. If you drop the first two letters, the word becomes stress. We all have stress. If we do not have stress we atrophy. I have not put stress on my legs for 30 years. Consequently, my legs are the size of your arms. “If you don’t use it you lose it” is the way physical therapists describe atrophy.

Our loving Father God knows that what is true for our bodies is also true in our spiritual lives. God is fiercely committed to the proposition that we are going to grow spiritually. If we have no spiritual stress we will experience spiritual atrophy. God therefore will not only permit, but direct into our lives stress that will grow us as God gives us the grace to cope with that stress.

Many of us trust God for the good things that comfort and sustain us. But do we have the faith and the knowledge of God to seek God in the challenges that make the difference for us between spiritual growth and atrophy?

The Greek compound word hupomone, translated as “perseverance” in our English Bibles, literally means “to abide under.”  To apply hupomone, we should ask God for the grace to abide under stress, grow spiritually, and not atrophy.

Dick Woodward, 15 October 2013


#FAITH: WHERE IS YOUR CONFIDENCE?

October 6, 2020

“… Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ…for it is God at work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 1:6; 2:13)

When he wrote these words the Apostle Paul was in prison chained between two Roman soldiers. He was not able to shepherd the believers he loved. Is he stressed out because he fears that they will fall away from their faith? No, he has confidence that they will continue in their faith until the day of Christ.

The source of Paul’s confidence is found in two realities: he knows that the risen Christ has begun the miracle of regeneration in them, and he is completely convinced that Jesus Christ will continue the miracle work of salvation He begins. Paul’s confidence is not in the fact that he has led these people to Christ. His confidence is in Christ!

Paul adds that his confidence is in God Who is at work in them giving them the will and the power to do that which pleases God.

Where is your confidence that you will continue what Christ has begun in your life? Where is your confidence that those you love will continue what Christ has begun in their lives? Is your hope in them? Is your hope in your ability to shepherd and mentor them?

Or is your hope in Christ Who began that miracle and in God Who gives us the will and the power to do what pleases Him?

Dick Woodward, 09 October 2009


Balm from The Psalms

August 7, 2020

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1 KJV)

One of my favorite Scripture verses is the first verse of Psalm 4. David is in a wringer and he is talking to God about it. Almost parenthetically he drops this thought, “You have enlarged me when I was in distress.” As I reflect upon my wringer years of disability and I think of the growth I have experienced while in the wringer, that little phrase says it for me.

Truly God has grown me in my time of distress.

Psalm 46 is also a great psalm that applies to servants of the Lord when they are living on the edge and the whole world seems to be coming unraveled like a cheap sweater.

The opening verse could be interpreted this way, “God is my refuge and strength. God is abundantly available for help in tight places.” It can be applied devotionally to believers who live in difficult contexts. The punchline comes when the Psalmist instructs the believer in the midst of chaos to “Be still and know that I am… and that I will be.”

I hope you have a chance to check out Psalm 143. David cries to God, “Answer me speedily because my spirit fails. Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning. Cause me to know the way in which I should walk.”

I like the last part when David prays, “Revive me.” The old King James reads “quicken me.” That word, quicken, means something like “give me a touch from You that will spring to life the work of the Spirit in my heart and life.”

…Recently I heard someone say, “When saying goodbye to a fellow soldier of Jesus Christ, we should never say, “Take it easy.” We should say, “Hang tough and fight the good fight.”

Hang in there!

Dick Woodward, (1997 fax to his daughter)


#LOVE ONE ANOTHER!!

July 10, 2020

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God Whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20)

Tradition tells us that the Apostle John escaped from the Isle of Patmos by swimming out to a ship that was bound for the city of Ephesus where he lived to a very old age and was buried. With white hair and a long white beard he was so feeble they had to carry him to the meetings.

While at the meetings he would bless those who attended and cry:

“Little children, love one another, little children, love one another!”

As we have seen in this chapter, John gives us ten reasons why we must love one another. One reason is that God is love and if we plug into the love God is we make contact with God, and as we become a conduit of God’s love God makes contact with us.

John gives us a second reason that if we say we love God and we hate our brother we are liars. Because if we do not love the brother we can see how can we love God Whom we cannot see?

His point is that it’s not easy to love God because we cannot hug a Spirit. There is an inseparable vertical and horizontal dimension of this love that God is.

These two dimensions form a cross.

We cannot say we love God if we do not love one another.

Dick Woodward, 09 July 2010


A Prayer for God’s Peace

July 3, 2020

“Heavenly Father, You tell us in Your Word that You can keep us in a state of perfect peace if we meet Your conditions for peace. Please give me the wisdom to worry about nothing, and the faith to pray about everything.

May I receive from You the discipline to think about good things and the integrity to do the right things.

May I always have an incurable optimism that believes in goodness, and such an insight into what You are doing in my life and in my world that I will give thanks in all things.

May I never try to push You or run before You, but always wait on You, experiencing the gentleness and patience that are the evidence of Your Holy Spirit living in me.

As I sort out my priorities, may I always value Your approval of who and what I am, and not walk before others to be seen by them or to please them.

Never let me forget how near You are to me as I draw near to You, worshiping and enjoying You each day and forever.

And finally, Heavenly Father, realizing that it is not who I am, but who You are that is important; acknowledging that it is not what I can do, but what You can do that really matters; agreeing that it should never be what I want, but always what You want; and remembering that in the final analysis it will not be what I did, but what You did that will have lasting eternal results, give me that absolute trust in You and total dependence on You that will truly rest my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, and for Your glory. Amen.”

Dick Woodward, (“A Prescription for Peace”)


A Prayer for Peace (in times of crisis)

June 30, 2020

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

When I was in a very difficult situation, the prayer of Saint Francis had great meaning for me. I memorized it and prayed it every night for several months. I know you are very familiar with it but in case you don’t have a copy there, here it is:

 “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Dick Woodward (email to his daughter, 2005)


Misery vs. Peace & Joy

June 12, 2020

“Delight yourselves in the Lord; yes, find your joy in him at all times.” (Philippians 4:4)

“While pain and suffering are inevitable, misery is optional.” These are the words of a man who lives every day with excruciating pain.

How can misery be optional for someone in agonizing pain? How do we explain Paul mentioning joy seventeen times in the short letter he wrote from prison to the Philippians?

Paul explains that for those who experience a relationship with the risen, living Christ there is peace and joy that are not controlled by our circumstances. The peace and joy Paul experienced could be called, “Peace that doesn’t make good sense” and “Happiness that doesn’t make good sense.”

According to Paul, the foundation of our peace and joy should be Jesus Himself. He therefore prescribed that we are to delight ourselves in Jesus and find our peace and joy in Him at all times.

What is your foundation for serenity and joy? If your foundation is the relationship with a loved one, do you realize there is no relationship with people here in this life that cannot be removed?

If your foundation is your health, youth, or athleticism, many thousands of people who had those foundations before age, illness, or injury destroyed them, will join me in warning you that they are fragile foundations for the peace and joy Paul is describing.

“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Dick Woodward, 23 June 2009


Holy Spirit PATIENCE!!

June 9, 2020

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

Patience is part of Paul’s prescription for peace in Philippians. Throughout the history of the church, patience has always been considered a great virtue by spiritual heavyweights.

Why is patience such an important virtue?

For starters, patience is one of the nine fruit of the Spirit we find listed in the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, one of the ways the Spirit manifests in us is through a supernatural quality of patience.

In the Bible we are continuously exhorted to “Wait on the Lord.” In our relationship with God we might call patience “faith waiting.” Nothing will test and grow our faith like waiting. When we think God is not responding to our prayers, it may be that what God is doing in us while we are waiting – like growing the virtue of patience in us – is more important than that for which we are waiting.

In our relationships with people, patience can be called “love waiting.” I have found that the Lord wants to grow two dimensions of patience in us. He wants to grow “vertical patience” in us by teaching us to have a faith that waits. And He is growing “horizontal patience” in us by teaching us that in relationships, love waits.

Love is the first and primary virtue through which the Holy Spirit wants to express the life of Jesus Christ in us.

While impatience is a “peace thief,” vertical and horizontal patience are supernatural, God-given virtues that maintain the peace of God in our lives.

Dick Woodward, 09 June 2009


GOD: “Let’s Go to Ninevah!”

June 2, 2020

“…The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” (Jonah 3:1)

In the story Jonah tells us, he is not the hero. God is.

A paraphrased summary of Jonah’s truth looks something like this:

“When I went Nineveh, I was not agape love, but God was. I told the Lord, ‘I can’t love Ninevites, Lord.’ But God said to me, ‘I can, Jonah, so let’s go to Nineveh!’

I told the Lord, ‘I don’t want to go. I don’t want to love Ninevites, Lord!’

The Lord said to me, ‘I know that, Jonah. But, you see, I want to love Ninevites, so let’s go to Nineveh!’

When I went to Nineveh, I did not love Ninevites. When I was in the city of Nineveh, however, God loved the entire population of Nineveh through me.”

Miracle of miracles, God saved the entire population of Nineveh through the preaching of this prophet who hated the people God wanted to save.

…To be “prejudiced” means to “pre-judge.” Is God’s work through you being blocked because of your prejudice? Are there people with whom you do not share the Gospel because you have animosity toward them?

Or because they are above or below your level of education, wealth and social status? Do you fear apathy, ridicule, hostility or embarrassment?

Are you joining Jonah saying, “I will not?”

When are you going to let the love and power of Christ cut through your conscious and unconscious prejudice and say to God, “I will?”

It’s not a matter of what you can do, but of what God can do.

Faithfulness is your responsibility; fruitfulness is God’s responsibility.

Dick Woodward, Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet

#Jonah #hope #love #peace #faith #inspiration #grace


Thinking about #PEACE!

May 26, 2020

“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Someone once said: “Five percent of people think. Ten percent think they think, and eighty five percent would rather die than think. And the ten percent who think they’re thinking are just rearranging their prejudices.”

In his letter to the Philippians Paul challenges us to join the five percent and think. He also tells us specifically how to think. It’s as if our thoughts are sheep and we are the shepherd.

Paul challenges us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good news. We naturally seem to think about things that are not true, dishonorable, unjust, impure, ugly, and bad news.

Paul’s prescription for peace agrees with the teaching of Jesus. Jesus taught us not to worry about the things we cannot control. He highly valued prayer in His own life and taught His disciples that we should always pray.

Jesus also taught that the difference between a life filled with light and a life filled with darkness is how we see things. His greatest discourse was eight attitudes that can make us one of His solutions in this world.

According to Paul, having and maintaining “the peace of God” is largely a matter of what we worry and think about all day.

What do you think about all day?

Dick Woodward, 26 May 2009