Not for Ladies - Just for Men
Living To Fight Another Day
by Dr. Dan Woodward
Daniel Woodward is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dwight, Illinois.
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.”
(Ephesians 4: 26-27)
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle….” (Ephesians 6: 10-12)
Brother Corle, those two words “we wrestle” mean something to me. I get it. I was a wrestler, you were a wrestler. That means two opposing forces are going to come in very close contact and push and shove and exert all their strength, doing everything they can do to topple the opponent. That, my friend, is exactly what the devil wants to do to us. We wrestle; not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of darkness in this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Verse 13 says, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6: 13)
I want to talk to you on this subject: Living to Fight Another Day. We live in very dark days, but where sin abounds, grace does so much more abound. I want to say this, far too much fussing and fighting goes on in the home between a husband and a wife, and in a church, within the family of God. We have forgotten that we are to act like children of God. I must never forget that as a child of God, I belong to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as His child. We must, listen to me, we must, if we are going to fight another day, we must have grace and forgiveness with one another.
Most relationships in life fold because of interpersonal conflicts that go unresolved. I am going to tell you, I am glad that the Bible gives us the answer on how to move past that, so that we are able and ready to fight another day.
What are the answers to overcoming these conflicts that we face on a daily basis, so that we can live to fight another day and not get bogged down? Listen, we are seeing men fall by the wayside. I am talking about preachers. I am talking about good laymen. I am talking about preacher’s wives. I am talking about good godly women in the church, but something happens along the way, and they are done. I love when the Apostle Paul talks about co-labourers. I’ve got some good co-labourers. I’ve got some good fellow soldiers, and I need them, and you need yours.
But, if we are going to live to fight another day, first of all, we must be strong in God’s grace. We are to be strong in God’s grace! Here is the situation. We have stopped applying Bible doctrine and principles to the problems and situations that we face in life. The Grace of God is real, my friend. God’s grace and mercy and forgiveness have been extended to me, but it’s not suppose to stop there. I’m suppose to extend the same mercy and grace and forgiveness to others.
Why do these marriages fail? Why do churches come apart at the seams, and they are destroyed, when seemingly these are folks who love the Lord? They profess to know him, and they have showed evidence of walking with him. I am going to tell you the answer. They failed to live according to the grace of God. Instead of living according to His grace, we have become abusers of His grace. Brother Corle, you preached one of the best messages I’ve ever heard on that subject of abusing the grace of God. I am going to say this: It could happen to you or me, to anyone. God is no respecter of persons. And, by the way, if He is not a respecter, I guarantee you the devil is no respecter of persons. We are all at risk.
Secondly, listen to me, there must be a doctrinal foundation laid. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” (II Peter 1:2,3) I like this! I like that first phrase, right out of the gate, in laying the foundation. Grace. I mean, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord. Boy don’t miss this. This is very powerful as we are to understand and be a part of multiplied grace, and it comes according to the knowledge. Look at verse 4. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (II Peter 1:4) Those doctrinal promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption the corruption that is in the world through lust. Look at this, “And beside this, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (II Peter 1:5-7)
Paul tells Timothy to be strong. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” (II Timothy 2:1) Be strong! By the way, we saw this in II Peter, that it is a divine nature that we must tap into. This grace is not of us. Not just, “Well, I’m just going to be gracious here.” You know, we can’t be gracious. See, I know this: in Dan Woodward there is no good thing. Paul said it about himself, too. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18) It’s the same struggle we all face. We don’t have it in ourselves. I’ve got to tap into His grace.
What does it mean to be strong in grace? Well, I can define grace, of course. We have all heard that it means the unmerited favor of God. We have seen the acrostic definition as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” But, oh listen, how can I actually live by grace and avoid all the pitfalls of confusion and fighting, and fussing and troubles within my marriage?
One day, Brother Gomez and I were listening to an old preacher, and I’m not going to call his name, but he said, “My wife and I have never had a fight in 45 years.” Brother Gomez looked over at me and said, “God bless his heart. He’s just so old he can’t remember!” Every marriage has things to work through. Am I right?
Listen, there is something here for the child of God. Deeper, yet practical and doctrinal. Let me give you some insight into strong grace. What amazed me, as I began to look at it, is how down to earth this is. I am a simple bread-and-butter preacher. I have always been a bread-and-butter preacher. (My wife fusses at me for using too much butter, but I was raised on a dairy farm, so it will be alright!) But the answer is down to earth.
When we understand God’s unconditional forgiveness to others, it starts right here at the cross. We tend to forget about the cross. We forget what was done on the cross. We forget the judgment and eternal destiny that we were delivered from. It is more than just an event in history. It is a reflection of what Christ has done for you and for me. It represents the very foundation of God’s grace, ‘for God so loved.’
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) “ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8,9) Listen to me, He sought me out when I was rebellious and away from God. I was saved as a 5-year-old boy in church. Old Pastor Seamons preached on Hell, and I was sitting on this side, and he had long fingers. Have you ever seen Oliver Araiza’s fingers? Oliver has the longest fingers of any preacher I know! Every time he preaches, I’m reminded of the day I got saved. That preacher’s fingers were long, and no matter where I moved as a 5-year-old boy, the fickle-finger-of-faith followed me, and pointed right at me.
At last, I admitted to myself that I needed to get saved. I remember walking the aisle after they played 100 verses of “Just As I Am.” That’s just the kind of church I grew up in. But, oh listen to me, I got away from the Lord. I actually violated what I am talking about right here. There were some youth group kids that weren’t living for God, and they were ungodly, and carried on, but they came to church, and acted like they were the best kids in the world. Just wonderful Christians. I would see them and know what they were really up to. I determined that I was not going to be a fake like that, to my own downfall. Just because someone else is a fake does not give me an excuse not to live for God, and I became a prodigal son and walked away from church and the way my parents raised me. But He sought me, praise the Lord. I was called to preach as a 14-year-old boy.
By the way, my mother was born in India, a missionary kid. Her daddy died when she was a little girl. There is a whole story about my mother. My mother prays for preachers all over this country for four hours a day. She loves men of God. She prays for them. She prays for me, and is praying for me right now. But listen, oh listen, my mother and father prayed for their prodigal son who was away from God. My dad would tell stories (he was a truck driver). In fact, some of you all can’t understand Brother Woodward being crude, so you can just remember I was raised by a truck driver!
But my dad told this story, and said, “Son, I was driving down the road, and I was weeping and begging God for you to get right with God. I had to pull my truck over because I couldn’t see anymore, just crying and praying!” Let me say something to you. You parents that have a prodigal, don’t give up praying for them. You can’t give up. You don’t know what God is going to do. You don’t know what God is going to do!!! God did get hold of my heart and brought me back to Himself.
Now, because I am so deeply grateful for the grace that God extended to me, I need to extend in the giving of grace to others, because I know what He has done for me. Giving grace to others is simply to forgive them. By the way, especially when it comes to our spouse. The devil attacks you preachers, your marriage. He does. I am going to tell you that I have a wife that doesn’t fight. I am a fighter. I’ll yell and go on and on about what made me angry, and she says to me, “Are you finished yet?” You are no fun, woman! She has never thrown anything at me. She has never threatened me. Its always, “Are you done yet?”
Unconditionally, just as God forgave us through Christ. That’s how we are suppose to forgive each other, too. “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32) ‘Even as’ rings out in my heart and mind. That’s a tall order to fill. “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13) We are going to have to step over that when we have got to give an account to God about when we needed to get things right with somebody, but refused. “...even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Some of you here say, “Well you don’t know how much they hurt me. I can’t forgive them.” God had a verse for you too. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13) By the way, there is no middle ground when it comes to forgiveness. The person forgiving needs to reply with a specific, “I forgive you.” Hey, listen to me, we have gotten way too good at skirting on these things. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.” Why is it so hard to say, “I forgive you,” or “Please forgive me.”?
Our daughters all married preachers. I tried to help them. I did! Brother Noonan, you and I were talking about this at length.” People ask, “Are your kids all living for God?” Again, the girls married preachers, boys in the ministry. People ask us, “How did all your kids turn out? What did you do?” I look at them, and say, “I don’t know.” Then I say, “Well, it must have been their mother.” But let me give you something that I know made a difference with my girls. “Hey, dad kind of blew that one. Sorry girls, would you forgive me?” Kids are so resilient. They can bounce right back. But if you let that slide, if it simmers and grows, there’s trouble brewing.
Listen, when I blow a gasket, it’s serious!!!! You know, being raised in a preacher’s home, you don’t just get yelled at, you get a sermon with 24 points! “Point number one! Point number two! Point number three!” That is how it is in a preacher’s home. My wife would say, “Hey, you blew that one! You didn’t have all your facts together before you went to preaching.”
I’d say, “Do you have a Bible verse for what you are saying.” She would say, “No, you didn’t have this, this, and this. You didn’t know!”
Uh oh. “Hey girls, Dad is sorry. I’m sorry I got so mad. Please forgive me.” We are so full of pride, aren’t we? We need to be willing to admit when we are wrong, and ask for forgiveness. “But I’m the Papa!!!” I wrote a song for my grandkids. Want to hear it? “Who is the most fun when you go to see him, and you want to have some fun? The Papa. The Papa.” They all look at me with their eyes real big and want to know what I am going to give them.
Listen to me, the opposite of forgiving can be so tragic. We, as preachers, see tragedy all the time. We see tragedy in marriage. We see tragedy in friendships. We see tragedy in our churches. We see tragedy with our brethren. I have seen this preachers, over and over, our children part of the broken pieces. We lose a generation, and they walk away from God and the Bible and church.
By the way, there is no middle ground in forgiveness. We either apply God’s grace and hold to that great doctrine, or we follow down a road of bitterness. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;” (Hebrews 12:15) Not to forgive means to fall short of the grace of God. Not God falling short. Not God’s grace coming up short. It’s not God’s grace not being enough. It’s that we didn’t go far enough to grab hold of the wonderful, beautiful doctrine of the grace of God. Don’t settle for bitterness and tragedy. Learn to forgive and extend the grace to others that God has extended to you.
If we are going to live to fight another day, we’ve got to grab hold of God’s far reaching forgiveness. For me, personally, learning to extend forgiveness towards others unconditionally has been one of the most important things I have ever learned in my life. I’m listening, and God is still teaching me. No doubt, Brother Corle, I have missed many a tackle on this one, when I should have made the tackle, but I didn’t. I missed it. Often, I fall short in my relationships and my responsibilities with my wife, my family, and my coworkers, and my friends and acquaintances. When I do, I must humbly come and ask for forgiveness. Are we just too proud today? People go a lifetime severed from one another, either being unwilling to forgive or unwilling to ask for forgiveness. Likewise, I must be forgiving with my wife, and children, and friends and staff when they fail or hurt me.
In my role as a leader and pastor, 34 years in Dwight, Illinois, Preacher you sat with me on a couple of those situations when my heart was crushed. I didn’t think I would live to fight another day, and a few times I thought, “What’s the use of fighting? Does anybody really care? Does anybody really know what we are trying to do here?” I remember Brother Gomez taking me to northern Wisconsin after a terrible heartbreak. I am not going to give the devil any glory at all, but it was a disaster. Our church emptied out with people who were on all sides of the issue, and the truth is, I didn’t do anything wrong. I was pastoring my church. Something happened within the church that was a disaster.
About a year had gone by, and Brother Gomez said, “Come on, we are going to go up to Minocqua. We are going snowmobiling, you and me.” I grew up on a snowmobile. I love anything outdoors, but snowmobiling is a passion. I took Brother Gomez out on his first snowmobile ride, and he was following. We were still in Bible College. We were out on the farm. He was following me, and I was power sliding all the corners. He was kind of just taking it easy, but he said, “I can do that.” He rode motorcycles. He didn’t understand that you’ve got to get the edge of that belt on that snowmobile up above the snow and kind of kick it out with your feet, and you can slide the corners. He just turned it without kicking the back end out, and the snow got on the belt, and he toppled over, and over, and over. I was like, “Where is Brother Gomez?” I turned around, and I went back. The snow was stuck up into his helmet, and he couldn’t see. He was not happy.
But he took me to Wisconsin, and he said, “Hey, it is time to get over this. It is time to move on. You have got to forgive, and you have got to move on because there are people depending on you.” That was a tough time in the early days, before Football Camp, before Man Camp. What if I would have quit over that heartbreak? What if I had gotten discouraged and said, “No way!” Now these 25 years of young men coming through Man Camp, the devil would have destroyed that before it ever got started. I had no idea what God had planned for the future. I would have missed it.
Listen, these truths of giving grace to others, and not harboring the root of bitterness have preserved and protected me for 34 years in a small town. I am going to tell you this morning that the choice is very clear, and extremely serious. I am determined not to fall short of the grace of God! Determined! We must remember that Christ forgave us far beyond what we deserve, and we must forgive others, ‘even as.’
One last story, and I am done. I was at the Revival Fires Conference. Mrs. Carla Gomez had just died. Brother Gomez did not come that year, if I remember right. Dewayne Nichols preached a message about “Charge Not God Foolishly.” He started preaching, and I was thinking, “Wow, what a good message.”
All of a sudden, Pastor Woodward’s heart smote him, and the Holy Spirit said, “You’re angry at me!!!”
I said, “Well, what am I angry at you for?”
He said, “Oh yeah, you are angry. You have just done a good job of hiding it.”
All of a sudden it brought to mind the fact that I was mad because I didn’t understand, when God took Carla Gomez home to be with the Lord. When that happened, I thought, “Lord, why would you take a good woman like that?” I knew Carla and Brother Gomez very close, and I loved them dearly. I thought, “Why didn’t you take that mean old woman over there that treats her husband terribly and isn’t a good mother? Why would you take a good lady like that?”
By the way, when you charge God foolishly by asking why and arguing with God, don’t miss this, it moves you further away from God when you open that doorway. Brother Mattingly, it was at Revival Fires National Conference when I got that right, and I won’t forget it. I said, “God forgive me for ever doubting what You have done. Forgive me!” That day changed the direction of my life.
There was a point when I was thinking about changing ministries. I wanted to get involved in Medical Missions and Construction Missions, organizing and taking groups to the mission field. I had it all laid out on paper, and thought I had it all worked out. At the time I had Phil Cavanaugh on my staff. For seven years, I trained him to take First Baptist Church of Dwight. Little did we know that was preparing him to be Co-Co Cavanaugh at Northwest Bible Baptist Church.
I came to this conference that year, and God said, “Would you quit messing around. You need to do a better job with what you have right now and just stay put. I am not done with you in Dwight, Illinois.” Then, on this altar right over here, I determined I was going to die in Dwight, Illinois, and do whatever God wants me to do. There are moments I think I wish I would have died there, not knowing what I was getting into! He didn’t tell me about Brother Gomez and Kyte River Revival Campground. Thank God for this conference, and for how God uses the preaching of the Bible to speak to our hearts.
I have stayed in my place for 34 years because I have practiced these principles. I have kept my friendships because I have practiced these principles. I don’t claim this morning to be something special, but I learned some basic doctrine about the Christian life, and applied it to my life.
The stakes are high. Listen to me, it is time to give up that grudge of bitterness and forgive that family member. Forgive that church member, Pastor, that hurt you or took a cheap shot at your child. How about that friend, co-worker? How about any person you have a problem with? As I said, the stakes are too high for you to fail to grow strong in grace, and be unwilling to forgive. If you choose to stay there, you have chosen a path of pain and heartache, not for others, but for yourself and those you love most.
I just want to finish strong. I want to finish strong as a preacher, as a husband and father, as a Christian and servant of God. My dear friend and I prayed every Sunday morning together, and our last words are always, “Finish strong!” Finish strong, my brother!