Ability and Availability

September 19, 2017

“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9)

A myth often believed today goes something like this: “God uses super-duper people to do super-duper things because they are super-duper people.” The truth is the exact opposite. Throughout Scriptures God uses many ordinary people to do extraordinary things because they are available.

As a pastor I’ve often observed people who are long on ability are often short on availability, while people who are short on ability are often long on availability. The exhortation in Scripture comes down to this: whether we are long or short on ability, the important thing is that we become long on availability.

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, we find the miracle of the “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” As Jesus fed this great multitude, He passed the fragments of bread and fish through the hands of His disciples to all the hungry people.

Where did Jesus get the bread and fish? Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, discovered a little boy who was willing to give up his lunch, something like five little biscuits and two sardines. “What are they among so many?” In the hands of Jesus, enough.

When God is in something, little is much when placed in the hands of Jesus.

I challenge you with the vision of a little boy who placed what little he had in the hands of Jesus. Many of us say we would give to the cause of Christ and serve Him if we had much to give or great abilities to serve. We must see, however, that our stewardship is not based upon what we do not have, but upon what we have.

God is looking for people who can take whatever they have and place it in the hands of Jesus.

Dick Woodward, (MBC Report, Fall 1993)


Patterns for Good: God’s Good!!

September 12, 2017

“Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to His plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.” (Romans 8:28, JB Phillips)

This is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied verses in the Bible. Paul is not teaching that all the events of our lives are good. He is teaching that if we meet two prerequisites, God will fit into a pattern for good everything that happens to us – the good and bad.

The first prerequisite is that we love God. The Apostle John asked the question, “If a man does not love his brother whom he can see, how can he love God Whom he cannot see?” (I John 4:20) John is teaching that it’s not easy to love God because it’s not easy to love what we cannot see. How then do we love God? Jesus answered that question when He taught the apostles: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)

The second prerequisite: if we show our love by being passionately called according to God’s plan, God will fit all the events of our lives into a pattern for good – God’s good, which will be the only good that interests us if we truly love God.

There is nothing good about being a bedfast quadriplegic. But as I look back from the finish line over the events of my life, I realize I never would have done my most fruitful work for God as an able-bodied human being with strength of my own.

When the foundations of your life are breaking up, don’t let those events drive you inward into a pity party. Look up and ask God to fit everything into a pattern for God’s good, God’s plan and God’s Glory.

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


Making Our Lives Count

August 18, 2017

“Teach us to count our days, that we may gain a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12)

“Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.”  (NLT)

According to Moses, we should realize that life is like a game of Monopoly. Each year we begin with the same amount of currency: 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week and 8,760 hours for the year. We often hear the remark: “I haven’t got time for that!” This implies that we are not given the same amount of time. It would be more accurate to say: “I don’t value that activity enough to spend some of my time in that way.”

Dictionaries tell us a value is “that quality of any certain thing by which it is determined by us to be more or less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable.” We all have a set of values. We spend our time on the things we consider important, useful, profitable and desirable.

When we ask God to teach us how to spend our time He will challenge us to consider the values of Jesus Christ. One of the many reasons Jesus became flesh and lived among us for 33 years was to show us how to live. He did that by presenting us with a set of values. As we read the four Gospels and follow Jesus every time He models and teaches a value, that spiritual discipline will revolutionize the way we spend our time.

I challenge you to ask God, “How should I spend my time?” I also challenge you to let the values of Christ revolutionize the way you spend your time.

Dick Woodward, 03 January 2014


Waiting and Leaping (by Faith!)

August 9, 2017

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Picture an eagle sitting on the side of its nest, waiting for the velocity of the wind to become strong. In the same way, we must “wait on the Lord.” We are not to go charging ahead into life without clear direction from the Lord. We are exhorted to follow the example of the eagle by waiting until the wind of the Spirit builds up to a certain velocity to direct, support and empower us.

Then we should follow the example of the eagle and take a leap of faith directly into the adversity that is challenging us. As the power of the Holy Spirit drives us into the strong winds of the storm, the energizing unction of the Holy Spirit will give us the spiritual aerodynamics needed to lift up and soar over the storm.

In the Gospels, Peter’s leap of faith illustrates this tension between waiting on the Lord and leaping. In the middle of a great storm, Jesus came to the disciples by walking on the water. Peter said, “Lord, if it really is You, invite me to walk on the water to You.” The Lord then invited Peter to walk on the water to Him. (Matthew 14:22-32)

Peter had great faith, yet he did not get out of the boat until he was sure of two things: that it was the Lord out there in the middle of the storm, and that the Lord was inviting him to walk on the water to Him.

The obvious application is that we should never take a leap of faith until we are sure the Lord is in our faith venture, and that the Lord is leading us to take that leap of faith.

Dick Woodward, from As Eagles: How to be an Eagle Disciple


Spiritual Learning Gates: Eyes, Ears & Heart

July 18, 2017

“Now we have received… the Spirit who is from God, that we might know…” (1Corinthians 2:12)

The Apostle Paul has given us a masterpiece of spiritual educational methodology in the second chapter of First Corinthians. How do we learn? According to Paul there are several gates of learning through which we must pass if we want to know spiritual truth.

His thesis is that we learn through the eye gate, which involves everything we observe and read. We learn through the ear gate, which involves everything we hear, including lectures and interaction with others, mentors and those who are learning with us.

Then the apostle mentions the heart gate, which pertains to our volition: the desire and willingness to apply what we’re learning. Apprenticeship, a synonym for discipleship, describes learners who are doing what they’re learning and learning what they’re doing. Apprenticeship is the way Jesus trained His disciples. (John 7:17; Matthew 4:19)

The most important gate we must pass through to learn spiritual truth, according to Paul, is the gate of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s intriguingly profound illustration is that no person knows the thoughts of another person except the spirit that is in that other person. In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God but the Spirit of God. Paul is excited about the glorious reality that we have received that Spirit Who knows the very thoughts of Christ and we can therefore know Christ’s thoughts. One translation concludes this inspired chapter of First Corinthians with, “Incredible as it may seem, we actually have the very mind of Christ!”

Prayerfully meditate on this chapter and then find your way to and through these gates of learning.

Dick Woodward, 08 June 2010


Seeking God’s Will: Open Minds & Hearts

July 11, 2017

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly…”  (James 4:3)

At the heart of a counseling session, a woman once said, “Don’t confuse me with Scriptures, Pastor. My mind is made up!” Seeking God’s will for our lives is often out of reach because we have our agendas in place when we come before God. If our minds are set like concrete before we converse with God, we are actually asking God to bless our will, our agenda and the way we have decided to go.

James tells us that when we pray, we ask and do not receive because our asking is flawed by our self-willed agendas. To seek and know the will of God we must be completely open to whatever the will of God may be. Our prayer and commitment must be in the spirit of the familiar metaphor, “You are the Sculptor, I am the clay. Mold me and make me according to Your will.  I am ready to accept Your will as passively as clay in the hands of a Sculptor.”

There are two reasons to be open and unbiased as you seek to know God’s will. The first we learn from Isaiah 55: the ways and thoughts of God are as different from our ways and thoughts as the heavens are high above the earth. Another is that we become a totally new creation when we are born again.

It is tragically possible to miss the will of God for your life because you do not have the faith to believe that God can make you a new creation in Christ: a new creation with extraordinary potential.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Guidance


A Doxology Standard: God’s Power & God’s Glory

June 28, 2017

“For of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things, to Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

The Apostle Paul closes the doctrinal section of his greatest masterpiece with these words in Romans. In his writings, Paul uses the expression “all things” frequently but never casually or without great thought and inspiration. In this context, he is probably referring to all the glorious truths he has written in his letter to the Church in Rome.

To paraphrase these words, I believe Paul is writing that God is the source of all things, God is the power behind all things, and God’s glory is the purpose for all things. The Apostle Paul suffered from health challenges every day of his ministry. Suffering chronic fatigue from quadriplegia the past 30 years, I have become very discriminating about how I spend my energy and strength. I use this doxology as my criteria for deciding whether or not I get involved in a project.

I do not want to be part of anything unless I can say that God is the source of it, God is the power behind it, and God’s glory is the purpose of the project. My life and strength are in such short supply I do not want to spend it on anything unless I know God is the source of it. God must be the power behind it, because I have no strength of my own. Since everything we do should be for the glory of God I want to be certain that God’s glory is the purpose of any work I attempt to do in this life.

Are you using this standard in your life?

Dick Woodward, 10 July 2009