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 Calamity Strikes

July 6, 2016

“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

These familiar words of consolation and exhortation are found in the context of a great calamity described by the psalmist. Many believe this calamity is prophetic and relates to the great and terrible Day of the Lord. By application these words, and other words of consolation in this psalm, can be related to any calamity we experience as the people of God.

As the hymn writer declares the total devastation of this calamity, he exclaims that in the midst, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in times of trouble.”  Since Hebrew is not as precise as Greek, our study Bibles offer helpful alternate readings in the margins throughout this psalm. The alternate reading offered here consoles us with the thought that God can be a very present help to us in our “tight places.”

The alternate reading presented alongside verse 10 is: “Relax, let go and prove that God is – and what His will is. He is God and He wills to be exalted among the nations and in the earth.”

When you find yourself experiencing calamity be still enough to experience these great realities: that God is God, that He is there for you, and that He can help you in the tight places of your calamity. So relax, let go, and prove Him. Then ask yourself how your response to your calamity aligns with what He wills:  that He might be exalted among the nations and in the earth through the way you live your life here on earth for His Glory.

Dick Woodward, 13 March 2009

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Waiting on the Lord

February 19, 2016

“They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.  They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

We must learn from the eagle how to access the wind of the Holy Spirit the way the eagle trusts the wind currents. We must learn the difference between what we can do and what only God can do.  We must have faith to wait on the Lord until He empowers and enables us to do what He desires.

I have summarized waiting on the Lord in my ‘Four Spiritual Secrets’: I’m not, but He is; I can’t, but He can; I don’t want to, but He want to; and I didn’t, but He did.’  These spiritual secrets affirm that it is not a matter of who we are, but Who God is; it’s not a matter of what we can do, but what He can do; it’s not a matter of what we want, but what He wants.  If these first three secrets are in place, we will know the joy of one day looking back and affirming it was not a matter of what we did, but what God did through us.

When I first began learning these spiritual secrets, I’d say, “I can’t, but He can.” Then, as a mover and shaker, I’d look at my watch, “I’ll give Him five minutes, and if He doesn’t, I will!”  It took 40 years and a bush to teach Moses how to wait on the Lord, and it has taken 40 years for me to learn how to wait on the Lord the way and eagle waits on the wind.

I call the unique experience of Jacob, described in Genesis 32, the “Cripple Crown Blessing.” God had to cripple Jacob before He could crown him with His blessing.  After all, when a man is crippled, what else can he do but wait on the Lord?

I identify with Jacob’s experience because I received from the Lord my greatest anointing after a crippling disease put me in a wheelchair in 1983. My crippling made it possible to do what God had called me to do for 45 years.

In Romans 12, Paul says, “Let him who teaches give all that he has to his teaching.” As a pastor of a large church, I found that hard to implement.  As a consequence of my ‘cripple crown blessing,’ however, I give all to my teaching which is now nurturing believers in 24* languages all around the world.

Waiting on the Lord was not my style until my illness forced me to learn why an eagle sits on the side of its nest and waits until the wind currents are strong enough to soar over the winds of a storm.

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

Editor’s Note: The MBC has now been translated into 36 languages. Currently over 52,500 small groups are using solar powered audio players to study the Bible in their languages. 


God Loves You!!

January 29, 2016

“…and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”   (John 17:23)

I learned from studying psychology that we are all a great network of needs.  From the Bible I learned that God is love. His Son, Jesus, was ‘God with skin on.’  Love was the most mesmerizing dynamic of His life on this earth.  The people who met Jesus were loved as they had never been loved before.

We are also designed to be ‘God with skin on.’  The Holy Spirit can be described as Love Incarnate: the love of God with skin on, yours and mine. Love is the primary fruit of the Spirit and evidence of the Spirit’s residence in us.  When people are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit, they are always conduits of the love of Christ.

We should all ask God to make us conduits of His love. We should also ask to experience the love of God. In two places Jesus tells us to ask, seek and knock continuously with perseverance.  (Luke 11:9-13; Matthew 7:7-11)  Jesus described knowing God at a deeper level when He gave us this teaching.  When that happens we will not only be conduits of God’s love, we will know that God loves us by experiencing His love in our hearts.

Do you know and believe that God loves you?  Many people don’t feel worthy of being loved by anybody – not even God.  When someone says, “I love you,” a negative tape begins to play that says, “No, you don’t.  If you really knew me you wouldn’t!”

The two beautiful Gospel words mercy and grace declare that God does not love us if and when we are worthy, because He loves us even while we are sinners.  (Romans 5:6-10)

Jesus prayed that those who make up the Church would live in such a way that this world of hurting people will know and believe God loves them as much as He loves His only begotten Son.  If you do not know that God loves you, then we who are part of the Church have failed you. God does love you!

…Because by the grace and mercy of God, I know that He loves me.

Dick Woodward, from Happiness That Doesn’t Make Good Sense


Grace & Perseverance …

March 6, 2015

“…rejoice in your sufferings knowing…” (Romans 5:3 NIV)

Rejoice in your sufferings, knowing what? In the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul begins by writing that God has given us access, by faith, into grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ in this world and live a life that glorifies God.

Imagine how it must make God feel when He has given us access to all the grace we need to live for Christ in this world and we never access that grace. According to Paul, because God loves us He permits suffering to enter our lives that we cannot bear without drawing on the grace we have access to by faith.

Paul writes that as we receive the grace to endure our suffering God produces mature Christ-like character in our lives such as perseverance. When you ask the question, “How does an orange get to be an orange?” The answer is “By hanging in there.”  That is the essence of the meaning of this character trait called perseverance.

When some followers of Christ find themselves suffering, their immediate response is: “Lord, deliver me from this, immediately!” He can, and sometimes He does, deliver us. But He often does not. When He does not it may be because it is His will to grow spiritual character in the life of His follower. When that is what God is doing Paul is telling us we should rejoice in our sufferings, access grace by faith, and then grow spiritually.

Dick Woodward, 19 March 2009


Faithful Labors & Laborers

October 31, 2014

“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10)

The devotional and practical application of this Scripture shows us that these thoughts are directed to people who have labored long and hard in the ministry without much visible affirmation, encouragement or reward.  These words are instructing them to think about the One for Whom they were doing this ministry to God’s people.

Abraham heard three words from God which are recorded in Genesis 17:1.  “Walk before Me.”  These three words remind us that we need to know Who we’re doing it for and we need to know how He feels about everything we do in the way of ministry to His people.  When there is not much fruit and very few encouraging accolades, it can be a great consolation for faithful servants of the Lord to be reminded of the glorious reality that God has seen and He will never forget our faithful labors.

The story is told of two elderly missionaries who returned to New York after nearly half a century serving in Africa.  They had lost their wives in Africa and were very, very lonely in that large city.   Sharing their discouragement when they met at the YMCA where they were staying, one of them said to the other, “We are not home yet, George.”

Sometimes the recognition and the reward for faithful service may only come when these words are heard: “Well done good and faithful servant.”

If you are a faithful servant without much affirmation or encouragement let these words console you today.

Dick Woodward, 04 June 2010