Seeds of Suffering

July 19, 2016

“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 inspired 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 are suffering 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.  It is rather 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 life is yielding for Him.

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


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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Faith in Time of Crisis

June 14, 2016

“So do not throw away your faith; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised… For he that is righteous shall live by faith.” (Hebrews 10:35-38)

As the author of the book of Hebrews continues giving doubting disciples reasons why they should not throw away their faith, he says they should keep the faith because they need faith for living.  Authentic disciples know they are saved by faith, but the disciples to whom he was writing had forgotten that they are also called to live by faith.

He quotes the key verse of Habakkuk’s prophecy written to suffering people.  When we are suffering we need reminders that God has given us the faith to persevere and do the will of God in our crisis – until we receive what God has given us, the faith to believe will ultimately happen according to His promises.

I have observed a direct correlation between spiritual growth and suffering.  The Greek word translated “persevere” in these verses is a quality God grows in those who are living by faith while they are suffering, according to the Apostle Paul (Romans 5: 3-5).  Other authors of the New Testament agree with Paul.

The immediate response of many authentic disciples when they find themselves in a difficult situation is: “Lord, get me out of here!” When that doesn’t happen they are sometimes tempted to throw away their faith.  The message conveyed by these verses is “Don’t throw away your faith.  You need your faith to live through your crisis.”

Is this a message you need to hear today?

Dick Woodward, 03 December 2010


God Comforts Us (if we ask!)

June 10, 2016

“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort.  For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2Corinthians 1:3-4, J. B. Phillips)

Suffering can drive us to God in such a way that we make this great discovery: God is there and God can comfort us.

There is supernatural quality of comfort that can be found in simply knowing God. God does not want us to go through life and never discover that God is there for us and will comfort us.  When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can possibly experience in this lifetime.

As a pastor, I have frequently heard believers say that God met them in a supernatural and intimate way while they were going through a medical crisis.  Two weeks ago a man for whom I’ve been praying for twenty years wrote from another part of the country to say he has now come to faith.  God gave him that absolute assurance while he was undergoing a critical life-threatening surgery.

Many of us have known people we loved very much who are depressed and oppressed. They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want any of the caring people in their lives to be with them.

Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in a self-imposed solitary confinement.  If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this great discovery: God is there, and God can comfort you!

Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort.  Comfort me in my pain, and when I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are there, You are real, and You can comfort me.  I pray in Christ name, Amen.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


Too Weak To Pray…

June 16, 2015

“Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’”  (Mark 2: 4, 5)

When my wife was critically ill after the birth of our first child she reached a crisis on a Friday morning at ten o’clock.  Her eyes were moving back into her head and we thought we were losing her.  While several doctors did a spinal tap to relieve pressure on her brain, two precious sisters in the Lord were burdened to pray for her that morning at ten o’clock – not knowing anything about her crisis.  She pulled through that crisis and her life was saved.

While having her quiet time after returning from the hospital, she read the verses quoted above. She was moved to tears to realize that when she was too weak to pray for herself her sisters in the Lord were praying for her, and when the Lord saw their faith He ministered healing to her.

In our life span there are sure to be times when we will be too weak to pray for ourselves.  That’s one reason it is wise to be in spiritual community with other believers who know the Lord and love Him and who know you and love you.  If you had an accident or a sudden illness do you have anyone who would pray for you when you are too weak to pray for yourself?

The wisest man who ever lived wrote: “Two are better than one, because… if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4: 10, 11 NIV)

Dick Woodward, 18 September 2011

Editor’s Note: After Hospice care started here in our home last week, Dick’s precious Ginny is now too weak to pray for herself. We (the extended Woodward family) are so grateful for the faithful prayers of the spiritual community lifting her (and us) up at this time.


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


Faith: Testing and Trusting

November 20, 2014

“…whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance… If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting.”   James 1:2-6

When you encounter a storm in your life, that trial will often bring you to the place where you just don’t know what to do.  You realize you need more wisdom than you have.  James writes that we must let the test of faith lead us to the trust of faith.  When we lack wisdom, we must ask God, Who will be delighted to share His wisdom with us.  It the Old Testament when the people of God were fighting against overwhelming numbers, their frantic prayer of faith was, “nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You!” (2Chronicles 20:12) … Ask God for the wisdom we do not have, and believe our loving Heavenly Father wants to give us that wisdom.

The JB Phillips translation writes that we should not treat our trials as intruders but welcome them as friends. The process of working through our trials will teach us the test of faith, which leads to the trust of faith and brings us to the triumph of faith.  I have been in a wheelchair since 1984 and a bedfast quadriplegic since the mid 1990’s.  I have, therefore, thought much about the suffering of disciples.  God is not in denial about the hard reality His people suffer.

In the Bible we are warned that God does not think as we think, nor does He do as we do.  (Isaiah 55) If the desire of my heart is to know God’s will and to live my life in alignment with the will and ways of God, wouldn’t it logically follow that I should not always expect to understand the way I’m going?  Obviously, that includes our suffering.

…Where did we ever get the idea we should expect to understand everything that happens to us? If God gave us an explanation for everything and the answers to all of our why questions, the very essence of faith, the need for faith, would be eliminated.

Almighty God has willed that without faith, we cannot please Him or come to Him (Hebrews 1:6.)  God is pleased when we come to Him in our crucibles of suffering and cry, “if you heal me, that’s all right.  But, if You don’t heal me, that’s all right too, because YOU are all right!”

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p.278-281)