On Saturday, November 2, 2013 a friend and student of mine abruptly made his journey to meet the Lord. While none of us knows how much time we have in His service here, the unexpected death of a loved one is always jarring and difficult. I know Ray Woody’s family is heartbroken being without him, even as they rejoice that he is home with his Lord and that they will see him again one day. Life on this earth is bittersweet for a Christian, but I thank God that the bitter part is only temporary and the joy lasts forever.
I know Ray Woody as a giant of a man with a heart to match. His generosity matches his diligence in the Lord’s service, but perhaps his perseverance excels even more. I watched him grow from a new student who struggled to articulate his faith into a confident teacher who helped others to study God’s word. When he started his studies, he probably never envisioned that he would one day stand before churches helping them to understand the word of God. These victories in Ray’s life are testimony to God’s grace, indeed (as are all victories). As inspiring as Ray’s growth was to many, he most impressed me in his allowing God’s word to shape how he dealt with personal tragedy. His last few years on earth were punctuated with unimaginable sorrows – more than most of us could bear. Yet, by abiding in the word of Christ, he maintained true joy and found comfort in Him, being enabled to stand selflessly by others in their own times of tragedy. He betrayed no bitterness, instead showing kindness and compassion in every instance I observed him. This is a truly remarkable and beautiful thing, and perhaps far too rare in our days. I thank God He allowed me to see Ray’s example in that respect.
In this way (among others) Ray exemplifies the principle that Biblical learning is not simply about learning, but it is also about being, doing, and teaching. He is about being what God wanted him to be, about doing what God had designed him to do, and about teaching whenever and wherever God gave him opportunity.
You may have noticed that I keep referring to Ray in the present, rather than the past tense. That is simply because his change in geography has not relegated him to the past. In fact, I suspect he is pretty busy right about now. Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 5:6-9:
6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Ray is absent from the body for now, and is pleasing the Lord in His presence at this moment. I will miss my friend until we meet again one day, but in the meantime, I rejoice in knowing that he has finished his course – a difficult course – by keeping his eyes focused on the Author and Perfector of the faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). I pray for his family, knowing they can share in Ray’s endurance, and find their strength and comfort in that same One who provided strength, hope, and joy for Ray during his tour of duty on this earth.