Tom’s Example

At Winford Lee’s funeral in March, 2007 I asked Tom Woody, editor of this paper at the time, if he thought it would be suitable for me to write about Winford as my article for the April issue, which I had already agreed to write. Tom said it would be entirely appropriate.

I thought of that conversation when Tom’s faithful wife called with the not unexpected news that Tom himself had passed from this world. With the consent of the present editor, as my article for this year, I would like to write about the man who edited this paper longer than any other man to date.

There is nothing new to be said of Tom Woody. He was a constant among us. He was steadfast, approachable, reliable and available to any and to all who needed his help. Tom loved people, and he loved the assemblies of the saints. His life was bound up in the lives of others. Most who are reading this knew Tom. Those who didn’t know him missed something good.

Tom’s love for the Lord and his desire to please Him was the mainspring of his existence. His focus has always been on going home to be with Him. The end of his emails reminded all recipients that “one thing is needed.”

One who knew Tom well said he was the carefulest man they knew. I can understand that. Tom was careful about the way he spoke. He did not abuse words or wear them out. He was careful about the way he drove. He did not break laws. He wanted to do right. He wanted to be right.

Tom perhaps came as close to fully developing and utilizing the gifts God gave him, as anyone I’ve known. Many have remarked on the growth he manifested in the several years since being diagnosed with cancer.

Generally, in the arc of an evangelist’s work, he probably helps the church the most from about ages fifty to seventy. Tom died at fifty-eight. This death is a victory for Tom, but in my view it is not a victory for the church on earth. Tom had grown into a good evangelist. He wanted the Bible taught clearly, accurately and completely. I would have preferred to have had him working among us through his sixties at least. That was not to be, but we still have the fruits of his labor, and the memory of his example.

Last summer he contrasted the long life of Methuselah with the shorter life of Enoch. He said, “People say, ‘Oh, Enoch didn’t get to live as long.’ What a break that was for Enoch! . . . This life is not worth holding onto. This life is something we should give to God. Give him all you’ve got left.”

Tom ran track in high school. I have heard him say that a birthday is another lap of the race completed. Now he has crossed the finish line, and we can all rejoice with him in his victory. I can almost see him in Abraham’s bosom.

We sorrow not as others which have no hope. I’m not worried about Tom. His race is run. He fought a good fight. He finished his course. He kept the faith. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).

Tom has gone to a loving God. I want to hold up Tom’s example to the rest of us. We should follow Tom as he followed Christ. The writer of the Hebrew letter tells us to take note of worthy leaders among us, who have spoken to us the word of God, and follow their faith, considering the purpose of their course of life (Hebrews 13:7). The aim of Tom’s life was to be saved, and to see us saved. When we see such a living embodiment of faith, we need to emulate in our lives the things in his life that were acceptable in God’s sight.

It is God’s intention to link our lives through His church. If the Lord had not built his church, most of us would have probably never met Tom, or one another. What a shame it would have been to have missed our shared times in Christ. What precious memories God has given us!

In 2 Corinthians 5:1, Paul talks about the tent of our body being dissolved. Tom pushed his tent body as far as it would go. In her poem to Tom, Byrl Rhoads wrote,

We know there were times when your body was saying, I don’t think I can do this today. But you had control and you pushed yourself onward, And your body had to go anyway.

Tom, like Paul, looked for a building, his resurrected body, which never sickens and cannot die. Earth life is short, even at the longest. In Adam, all die (1 Corinthians 15:22). It is appointed unto man once to die (Hebrews 9:27). The living know that they shall die (Ecclesiastes 9:5). There is a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:2). The death rate is one per person. Let’s wear ourselves out in the work of the Lord, and like Tom, glorify God in the way we live, and in the way we die. We were made for heaven, and nearly everything we hold dear is there.

~ Rick Sparks