James E. Woods

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The Experience of a Lifetime! (Your $400.00 Blackfriday gift is waiting…)


The Experience of a Lifetime!

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
— Matthew 10:39

When our family first arrived in the former USSR, we disembarked the airplane to find Soviet soldiers standing all around the landing strip with machine guns in arm — a brand-new sight for our family! Those soldiers tried to rush us along to leave the runway area and get inside the terminal. But I had predetermined that when we landed, the first thing we were going to do was drop to our knees, kiss the ground, and ask God to put a love in our hearts for this new homeland where He had called us.

With soldiers watching very cautiously, I led my family in dropping to our knees. We joined hands and leaned down together to literally kiss the ground! Then I led us in a prayer of committal for protection and provision. And I earnestly asked God to put a love in our hearts for this new part of the world and the people who lived here.

At that time, Denise and I thought we would be living here for a one-year period. Nevertheless, we intended to pour ourselves into the work for that span of time, and we desired to be filled by God in our hearts for these precious souls. So we kissed the ground and prayed.

When we finally stood to our feet, those soldiers with machine guns had nearly encircled us. I’m sure they had never seen anything like that before. Using their guns to point the way, they directed us toward the terminal, and we understood that it was time for us to get moving. But that moment of bowing to the ground on our knees in prayer was such a divine moment for our family. We were accepting God’s call and asking for His favor to do what He had commissioned us to do with power and grace.

 

Inside the airport, the luggage belts were broken, so suitcases and boxes were being thrown upward through a hole in the floor into the luggage area. We had brought suitcases plus 32 boxes, many of which were filled with breakable items. So I was running around as quickly as I could to try to catch our items as they were being tossed into the air.

When we were finally allowed to leave the airport, we were escorted to a decrepit van, and a driver drove us over bumpy, broken roads to a grey-looking, neglected little town that would be our first home in the USSR. As we unloaded our luggage and the boxes from the vehicle and carried everything into the house, we discovered the house that had been provided for us had no heat — and this was during a very cold Russian winter. We were freezing in that ice-cold house! We were so cold during those first nights, until the heat finally came on, that all five of us crammed into one tiny bed to try to stay warm.

As I look back on it, I realize that if we had not dropped to our knees immediately and surrendered our lives to this new place, we could have become quickly discouraged. But instead, we found each challenge invigorating and fun. When we discovered the grocery stores were void of food and that finding basic necessities would be a serious challenge, we didn’t let it discourage us. Instead, every day turned into an adventurous scavenger hunt! God amazingly filled our hearts with rejoicing, and every difficulty became an opportunity for another joy-filled experience.

Our sons didn’t groan or complain that life was difficult, and Denise and I were not sorry that we had led our family to this part of the world. Although we faced serious challenges, we decided to make each one a fun learning experience. As a result, we fell in love with all of it — with the people, the land, and even the problems and the challenges. That moment of kissing the ground and consecrating this new season of our lives to the Father on the runway had really done something in our hearts. Regardless of how broken and neglected everything around us seemed to be, we fell in love with that country and the people who lived there.

Within two months, we realized that God had given us a life commitment to this part of the world, not a simple one-year engagement. At the time of this writing, we have lived in the former Soviet Union multiple decades and have seen the Holy Spirit’s supernatural fruit as thousands have received Christ, grown in the Spirit, and found their places in local churches — many of which we helped start. It has been the experience of a lifetime! And our sons — now full-grown men with families of their own — grew up experiencing a book of Acts kind of childhood by living in this spiritual environment.

Especially at the beginning, we could have tucked our tails and run back home to the United States because even just basic living in the former USSR was extremely challenging. But because we had surrendered to God — and had given Him our all to do what He wanted with our lives in that part of the world — what would have been hard and burdensome became a daily adventure that continues to enrich our lives today.

I want to ask you today: Have you surrendered to what God has called you to do?

Let me remind you of the words of Jesus in the second half of Matthew 10:39: “…He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Pay close attention to these words, for they are so very important if you really want to experience God’s fullness during your life journey.

The word “loseth” was translated from the Greek word apollumi, which literally means to release — as to release one’s rights to something. It is the picture of the full surrender of one’s life. But the key is not just forfeiting your own dreams and desires, but rather doing it “for Jesus’ sake.”

At the time God called my family to the Soviet Union, I had personal dreams of what I wanted to accomplish through our ministry in the United States. But God called me to lay that down — that is, to release it. He beckoned me to surrender my dream for His greater dream for my life — and to do it for His sake.

To be honest, I couldn’t begin to imagine how great a dream and life God had planned for me. I didn’t understand it. All I knew was that the Spirit of God was asking me to release my own preconceived dream and to follow Him into the unknown plan He had for my life.

Now I understand that if I had refused to release my own dream and had rejected God’s call to fulfill His dream, I would have missed the amazing adventure He had not only for me, but also for our whole family and the millions of lives He has touched as a result of our obedience. But because I released my plans for Jesus’ sake and for His purposes, we found something far greater than anything we had ever dreamed or imagined.

Jesus promised, “…He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” The word “find” is the Greek word eurisko, which means to find or to discover, and it is where we get the word eureka! This word pictures the euphoric feeling a person experiences when he discovers something magnificent. His heart and soul, and perhaps even his mouth, exclaim, “Eureka!” It is the jubilant expression of one who shouts out, “I found it!”

For multiple decades, my heart has been exclaiming, “Eureka!” regarding this treasured call God has placed on our lives to reach the Russian-speaking peoples of this part of the world. When I think of what life would be like if we had rejected the Lord’s call and simply stayed with our ministry in the U.S., it nearly breaks my heart. We would have missed the amazing adventure that God had planned for our lives.

By asking us to release or surrender — apollumi — our dreams to Him, He was never trying to take something from us; He wanted to give us something wonderful. But to receive what He desired to give, we first had to release what we were holding on to and surrender to what He wanted to do in and through us. As a result of trusting Him and doing what He asked — instead of stubbornly holding on to what we wanted to do — God has gloriously allowed us to be part of one of the greatest missions epochs in the history of the Church.

When this all started, I didn’t understand what exactly Jesus had in mind for us. All I knew was that He wanted me to release my own plans and surrender to His plan for our lives. Ever since we yielded and obeyed, we’ve been rejoicing, even in hard times! What a grand and glorious adventure God had in store for us, and I’m so thankful we didn’t miss it!

What about you? What is God asking you to release so He can give you something far greater? I assure you that God is not trying to deprive you of anything. He wants to give you something bigger and better than your imagination could ever conceive. He simply needs your agreement to release your own ideas and to surrender to what He has waiting for you. Jesus Himself said, “… He that loseth his life for my sake, shall find it.” When you step out of your own realm into Jesus’ realm of possibilities, you’ll find yourself forever grateful that He gave you the courage to say yes when His call to “lose,” or surrender, your life came to you!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY


F
ather, I don’t want to hold on to my life and, as a result, miss the great adventure You have planned for me and my family. Forgive me for not trusting You — and help me put all fear and doubt aside as I “kiss the ground” of my calling. Help me allow Your power and love to sink deep into my heart for what You are asking me to do. I repent for hesitating and holding back out of a sense of self-preservation and a fear of the unknown. Today I fully surrender my life and my future to You.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY


I confess that I will not hold back on the Lord any longer. Whatever He wants me to do, that is what I will do. In the past, fear of an uncertain future has hindered me, but now I know that God has only a wonderful adventure in store for me and my family. I rebuke the spirit of fear that has restrained me, and I put my trust fully in the Lord as I step forward by faith to kiss the ground of God’s calling on my life. I declare that God will put a deep-seated love in my heart for what He has called me to do. I’ll never look back in regret but will only rejoice that I finally and fully surrendered to the call with which He has entrusted to me.

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Denise and I made a deliberate choice to fully surrender to the call of God on our lives in the former USSR. It was a big decision and a huge step of surrender, but it was essential in order for us to begin the exciting journey God had planned for us and our family. Have you fully yielded to the call of God on your life, or is there something holding you back? If there is something hindering your full surrender, what are you going to do about it?
  2. Have you been honest with God about your feelings — your fears, your concerns, and your questions — regarding this step of faith He is asking you to take? If you’ll open your heart and cast your cares on Him, the Father promises to lift that burden and give you peace. Why don’t you stop right now, and for the next few minutes, cast all of your cares and concerns onto Jesus? Let Him give you His peace that surpasses all natural understanding (see Philippians 4:7)!
  3. Do you actually think Jesus would lead you where He wouldn’t provide for you? If you’re worried about provision, put that worry away once and for all — for where God calls, He also provides!

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