In our American culture heroes are those who serve in the military but they are not the only heroes in life. For Christians, there are those heroes spoken of in Hebrew 12:1 who are called “a great cloud of witnesses.” They are those people of God who, by faith, told the story of God through their lives, even to the point of being persecuted unto death. Though there are not any Christians in America who, to my knowledge, are suffering such persecution for their faith, there are those heroes who, like to cloud of witnesses, lived by faith under difficult circumstances so that the story of God could be told through their lives.
One of those heroes is Ryan Woods. Ryan passed away yesterday after a battle with a rare cancer. But that is not the story. The story that Ryan, along with his wife and children, told is the story of God. Living in Vancouver, Washington as a church planter, Ryan chose to let the story of God – the story of hope and faith – be told through his illness. As the quote from Ryan in the picture says, “We’re all in the process of dying. So the question is: what kind of story are we going to live out as we’re dying?” And so, rather than speaking of despair, Ryan embodied what living hope looks like.
I did not know Ryan well. We only spoke a couple of times on the telephone several years ago about his church planting dreams and then followed each other on Facebook. But as I learned of his illness, I began to follow his story and pray for him. I was so encouraged by the way he chose to embody what living hope looks like in someone who knew they were dying.
We don’t know why suffering exists. But like many of the readers of this blog, Ryan and I share a common faith. We don’t believe death is the end of life because Christ, the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead, has been raised. Thus, our victory!
I am thankful to Ryan for his willingness to share his story so publicly so that others could hear of this God story through his story. Through his life and the terrible circumstances of cancer, he chose to turn it into God’s story of hope and so it became a beautiful story. I chose to write this piece honoring Ryan because it is a story that needs to be told. Ryan has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith, and now awaits that crown of righteousness on that coming day (cf. 2 Tim 4:7-8).
Thank you, Ryan, for your example of faithfulness and hope!
Here is the video made about Ryan’s story: “My Last Days: Meet Ryan Woods”