Dog provides Example of Concentration

When Martin Luther’s puppy happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, Martin said, “Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat!  All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope.”  Behold, the heart of the pious dog was also lacking in this, that he could not pray without thoughts.

Death Is Caused by Satan, Not by God

“The devil slays us all, for the scripture states that he causes death and is the author of death (John 8:44).  Satan put God’s Son to death.”…”Who would love our Lord God if He Himself had a mind to kill us?  He won’t be a murderer because He commanded, ‘You shall not kill'(Exodus 20:13).  If our Lord God wanted to kill me, it wouldn’t matter inasmuch as I can expect good neither in heaven nor on earth.  Besides, snakes, adders, toads, wolves, bears, lions-they all kill.  What am I to expect?  Everything that God makes He creates for life.  He created things that they might be, and He called into being things that didn’t exist, as if they did (Romans 4:17).  This means that life belongs to God’s purpose.  But death has been introduced into the world through the devil’s envy, and on this account the devil is called the author of death.  For what else does Satan do then seduce from true religion, provoke sedition, cause wars, pestilence, etc., and bring about every evil?”

Comforting Sayings

There are times when, for the sake of God’s Word, we must endure the hardship, anguish, and persecution which the holy cross brings upon us.  In such times we can rightfully bestir and strengthen ourselves with God’s help in such a way that we can be bold, alert, and cheerful, committing our cause to God’s gracious and fatherly will.  Thus St. Paul says, 2 Tim. 3:12, “All who desire to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted,” and Acts 14:22, “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God,” and Philippians 2:12, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

Our cause rests in the hand of Him who distinctly tells us, “No one can snatch them out of My hand,” John 10:28.  Furthermore, the gates of hell shall not prevail against My church,” Matt. 16:18.  And Isa. 46:4, “Even to your old age and to gray hairs I will bear you.  I will do it, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”

It would be neither good nor prudent to take matters into our own hands because we could and would easily be defeated.

These comforting sayings are all true and surely do not deceive us: Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a great help in the trouble which besets us.” Sirach (Ecclus. 2:10), that wise man, said, “What man who has put his trust in God has ever perished?” And 1 Macc. 2:61, None who puts his trust in Him will lack strength.  Again, Psalm 9:10, “Lord, Thou hast not forsaken those who seek Thee.”

In any case, it is true that God gave up His own Son for us all, Rom. 8:32.  If that be true, why do we falter, or worry, or hang our heads?  If God gave up His own Son for us all, how could He ever intend to forsake us in less important things?

Truly God is very much stronger and more powerful than the devil, as 1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

If we perish, then Christ the Almighty Ruler of the world Himself must suffer with us.  Even if this cause were to collapse, I would much rather be ruined with Christ than rule with Caesar.

Furthermore, this cause does not depend just on us, but there are many devout Christian people in other lands who make common cause with us and uphold us with heartfelt sighs and Christian prayer.

We possess God’s many encouraging promises and rich assurances.  In fact the entire psalter, all the gospels—yes, all Scripture is filled with them and they are by no means to be scorned but should be highly valued, such as Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.”  And Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be of good cheer; do not despair and wait for the Lord!”  Furthermore Christ Himself says, John 16:33, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  This cannot be wrong—I’m sure of it—that Christ, the Son of God, has overcome the world.  Why do we tremble before the world as before a triumphant conqueror?  It is worth going to Rome or Jerusalem on one’s knees to obtain those words of Christ.  Just because we have so many such words we pay no attention to them.  That is not good.

Though our faith is weak, let us pray earnestly along with the apostles, Luke 17:5, “Lord, increase our faith,” and with the child’s father in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe: help my unbelief!”

Though the cause be great, He who has brought it about, who directs and guides it, is great too, yes, the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth.  This is by no means our cause, so why should we keep on tormenting ourselves over it or plaguing ourselves to death?

If this cause, this doctrine, be a mistaken one, why do we not recant?  But if it be a righteous cause—and as true as God lives and will remain in eternity, it is such—why do we make lies out of God’s many comforting, unchanging, and eternal promises?  He bids us be of good cheer and joyful, Psalm 32:11, “Be glad in the Lord,” and Psalm 145:18-19, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.  He fulfills the desire of all who fear Him.  He hears their cry, and saves them.”  And Psalm 91:14-16 “Because he cleaves to Me, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows My name.  I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him.  With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

Even though we worry and fret so much, such needless anxiety will avail us nothing.  We only plague and trouble ourselves and make matters worse.  God wants us to look to Him as our God and Father in Christ, to call upon Him in every time of need quoting Psalm 55:22, “Cast all your anxieties on Him for He cares about you” (1 Pet. 5:7), and as Christ Himself says, Matt. 6:31, “You should not be anxious.”

The devil and his cohorts can do no worse than slay us bodily.  They cannot touch our souls at all, as Christ says when He comforted His own, Matt. 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”

Christ, our dear Lord and Savior, died once for our sin, as it is written in Rom. 4:25 and 6:10, Heb.5:3 and 9:28.  Henceforth He will not die again for the sake of righteousness and truth, but rules as all-powerful Lord over every creature.  If this be true, as scripture continually testifies, what are we afraid of?

Though, if God so ordains, we ourselves might be destroyed for the sake of His Word, the Almighty and Merciful God, who in Christ has become our Father, will then be a kind and gracious father and guardian, defender and protector for our wives and children, our widows and orphans, and He will manage matters a thousand times better than we could if we were living.

Our forefathers and ancestors did not have this glorious, noble, precious treasure, namely, the true and pure understanding of the Divine Word, which, God be praised, we now have in ample measure.  Nor did they experience these days which have brought the Word to light again, just before Judgment Day.  This indescribable blessing has been bestowed upon us as a gift of God’s kindness and grace.  This very same God will continue to be God and Creator after we are gone, as He has been before us, and to the end of the world He will not die with us or cease to exist, as we of little faith imagine.  That is what Eli the priest thought when the Philistines had wrested the ark of the covenant away from the Jews.  He thought that all of Judaism with its priesthood and monarchy would come to an end.  When Eli fell backward and broke his neck, 1 Sam. 4:18, things were better for the kingdom of the Jews by far than they had been during his lifetime.  Again, when King Saul tragically stabbed himself after his country was defeated and three of his sons had fallen in the same battle, 1 Sam. 31:4, 9), what else could one conclude than that this would be the end of the kingdom of the Jews? But afterward, in the time of David and Solomon, it came to its greatest power and glory. When the priests had burned John Hus in Constance during the council in 1416, they were triumphant and took it for granted that they had really exalted the papacy.  But the pope has never been more despised than from that time on.

Thus we are ever firmly assured by God’s Word that after this wretched and fleeting existence, in which we are never safe for even one moment, there shall be an eternal and blessed life and kingdom.  Otherwise we would have to blot out the First Commandment along with the entire gospel and Holy Scriptures.  What would be the use of a God solely for this fleeting life in which they flourish best who have no God?  But if there is a God, as all devout and pious souls firmly and steadfastly believe and in which faith they live and die, then we shall not only live here for a brief time but also eternally in the place where God is.

The First Commandment places our children and descendants under God’s protection and providence, as God Himself says, “show mercy to thousands of those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exod 20:6).  We ought rightfully to believe these exalted and comforting words of the Divine Majesty.  Though our faith be weak, we nevertheless rely on God’s honor that He can and will do what He says and promises.

If God were to announce all this through an angel we would not cast it lightly to the winds and ignore it, as unfortunately we do when it is brought to us by the spoken Word.  But though we fail to believe it when it is preached, we dare not despise the prophets, Christ Himself, or the apostles, who preach to us in such rich measure and gently admonish us with words of consolation and encouragement and shower us with such words as, “Be glad in the Lord”; “Be strong and of good courage; do not fear”;  “Put your hope in the Lord; pour out your heart before Him”;  “Give thanks to the Lord”;  “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”; “The Lord is at hand.  Have no anxiety about anything,” etc. (Ps. 32:11; Deut. 31:6; Ps. 62:8; Ps. 107:1; John 16:33; Phil. 4:5-6)  If we distrust such abundant and divine consolation, we would not believe it even if it were announced by not just one but many angels.

It is certainly true that even if our adversaries would kill all of us—if God so decreed—we should not remain unavenged.  Before long, He who said to Cain, “Where is Abel, your brother?” (Gen. 4:9) would challenge them; He would pursue them and make the world too small for them.

Let us be calmly confident in this cause which has to do with God’s Word.  Christ, whose cause it is, will staunchly defend and uphold it against the cunning of the vile devil and the tyranny of the wicked and deceitful world.  For those who confess Him before this evil and adulterous generation and must suffer much thereby, Christ in turn will confess them before His heavenly Father and requite them for their suffering with the delights of eternity (Matt. 10:32).  God Himself says 1 Sam. 2:30, “He who honors Me, I will honor.”  Even if the waves of the sea are strong and huge billows rise up and roar furiously as though they would drown us, the Lord is still on high and has begun a kingdom as wide as the world, which He now rules and has decreed that it shall endure.  He is greater, yes, almighty, and He will accomplish it.  Amen.  There is no other way—if we desire to possess Christ, to live and to rule with Him in eternity, then suffering must first be endured.  Because this is so, why should we heed the rage and fury of such deadly powers, of whom Psalm 2:4 says God in heaven laughs at them and holds them in derision.  If the eternal and omnipotent emperor whose name is God and who lives to all eternity mocks and derides them, why should we fear them, or mourn and weep?  Truly, God does not mock them in His own defense.  He will always be the one dwelling in heaven no matter how they rage against Him.  But He mocks them to encourage us, so that we may take heart and bravely laugh at their onslaughts.  Therefore the only thing necessary for us to do is to believe and to pray most confidently in Christ’s name that God will give us strength, since He has erected His kingdom and this is His doing.  It is He who without our help, counsel, thought, or effort has brought His kingdom forth and has advanced and preserved it to this day.  I have no doubt that He will consummate it without our advice or assistance.  Because “I know in whom I believe,”  as St. Paul says (2 Tim 1:12), I am certain that He will grant me more, do far more abundantly, and help and counsel us beyond all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20).  He is called the Lord who can and will help in a wonderful, glorious, and mighty way, particularly when the need is the greatest.  We are meant to be human beings, not divine.  So let us take comfort in His Word and, trusting His promise, call upon Him confidently for deliverance in time of distress and He will help.  That is all there is to it; we have no alternative; otherwise, eternal unrest would be our reward.  May God save us from that for the sake of His dear Son, our Savior and eternal Priest, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 

Finally he looked to God and asked, Have you lost your power?

And God looked at him and said, Have you lost your hearing?

 

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