by Matthew C. Harrison
Luther wrote the following while awaiting the outcome of the deliberations that produced the Augsburg Confession in 1530. I’ve provided this loose translation because, as we await the advent of Christ, we need the same consolations for our times.
When—because of God’s Word—there come upon us difficulties, troubles and persecution that bring the holy cross, we should … with God’s help, rightly console and brace ourselves. You see, in such situations, it is God’s grace and fatherly will to give us consolation, daring, courage and other good things. God’s Word promises suffering for Christians. So says St. Paul in 2 Tim. 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted …”
- First, the matter [that is the matter of the Gospel of Christ Jesus] stands in the hands of one who clearly says, “No man can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10; Matt. 16:18). …
- So if we think the matter stands within our hand and power, we are lost.
III. Thus all the consoling sayings in the Bible indeed are true!: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present hope in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
- It is absolutely true that God has given up His Son for us all, as Romans 8 says. And if that’s true, what do we accomplish with our pathetic lack of courage and worry?
- God is much, much stronger, mightier and more powerful than the devil. “He who is in us is greater and stronger than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
- If we go down, so Christ the almighty King of the world must Himself suffer with us. And we shall be much happier to go down with Christ than to stand with the highest powers on this earth.
VII. The matter does not rest only on our necks. The fact is that there are many pious Christians in many lands who, with heartfelt Christian prayer, are coming to our aid and stand by us.
VIII. So we have many rich and consoling promises and pledges of God, of which the entire Psalter and all the Gospels, indeed the entire Scriptures, are full. These are in no way to be ignored but clung to with great care … So why are we so fearful of the world, as if it’s some great conqueror? Indeed, we have been given so much by God that we should despise the world! Why are we afraid of what it can do to us?
- It’s true: Our faith is weak. Let us do but one thing: Earnestly plead with the apostles in Luke 17:5, “Lord, strengthen our faith.” And let us cry out with the father of the possessed child in Mark 9:24, “I believe, Lord; help thou my unbelief.”
- What we face was already faced in the third century … namely, the horrid persecution of Christianity and the attempt to eliminate it altogether. So also at the time of Jan Huss [c. 1372–1415] and others, there was a much greater danger than in our times.
- Though this matter before us is enormous, so is the One who is leading it and driving it—indeed, the almighty Creator of heaven and earth. This is not our matter. So why would we suffer so much for it, even martyrdom?
XII. If this matter and doctrine are false, then why don’t we recant it? But if it’s correct, as it is, we’d make God out to be a complete liar, for He promises us good things and even joy. … Psalm 145: “The Lord is near to all those who call upon him … He hears their cries and helps them.”
XIII. When we are overcome with anxiety and worry, we cannot accomplish a thing by our useless thoughts. Indeed, all we do is plague and martyr ourselves and make things all the more difficult. He desires that we recognize Him as our God and Father in Christ, that we call upon Him in all our troubles and that we be completely certain that He cares for us. … Christ Himself said in Matt. 6:31, “Do not worry.”
XIIII. Why are you worried? The devil and his crew can do no more to us than kill us physically … Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
- Christ, our dear Lord and Savior, died once for sin, as Romans 4 and 6 and Hebrews 5 and 9 state. He shall never again die for the sake of righteousness and truth. He lives and rules as one almighty Lord over all creatures. If that is true, as the Scriptures constantly witness, then what do we have to be afraid of?
XVIII. And so are we absolutely assured by God’s Word, that after this miserable, passing life, during which we have not a moment of security, there will be an eternal, blessed life and kingdom. …
- If God were to send an angel to proclaim this to us, we would certainly not flip-flop in the wind and despise what God promises, as we so often do. And even if we don’t believe the preaching we hear, still we should not despise Christ Himself and the apostles, who so richly preach to us—and all with wonderful words of consolation, friendly admonitions and enticing promises, which verily spill over when they say: “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you!” (Deut. 31:6). … Now if we fail to believe such overflowing divine consolation, it wouldn’t make any difference if an angel himself came and preached it to us!
XXII. In this matter of God’s Word, we need only take heart! It is Christ Himself who stands against the devil’s poison and the false tyranny of the world. And Christ Himself preserves those who confess Him before this evil, adulterous generation and have to suffer much for it. And Christ Himself will confess them before His heavenly Father and turn their suffering into eternal joy in heaven (Matt. 10:32).
God Himself says in 1 Sam. 2:30: “He who honors me, I will honor.” So whether the waves before us are huge, horrid and threatening, and it looks as though we are all sunk, the Lord is on high! The Lord began His kingdom, which is as wide as the whole world. And He has directed that it shall remain, become larger—indeed, that things shall go well for the kingdom in the end. Amen.
Excerpted and translated from Martin Luther, “Etliche tröstliche vermanungen in sachen des heilige Göttliche Wort betreffend.” [Certain consoling admonitions in matters concerning the Holy Divine Word, 1530.] WA 30/2, 700–10. Scripture translations are from Luther.