Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Salt: Martin Luther Takes Aim at Anxiety

Just about everyone knows something about Martin Luther, but there are so many common ideas about him that they sometimes distort or obscure his real work and his real character. A good introduction to his life can be found here, and a short overview (albeit with typos) is available here. Many of his works can be read for free online, thanks to resources like Project Wittenberg.

One of Luther's great gifts - and great stumbling blocks - was his passion and boldness. The following quote from a letter he wrote to Philip Melanchthon in 1530 shows how he pulled no punches and cut straight through all the anxieties and cares that were preoccupying Melanchthon. Luther reminds him that the best way to defeat anxiety (instead of being defeated by it) is to take our eyes off our cares and fix them on God Himself (see Matthew 6:33).

"What good do you expect to accomplish by these vain worries of yours? What can the devil do more than slay us? What? I beg you, who are so pugnacious in everything else, fight against yourself, your own worst enemy, for you furnish Satan with too many weapons against yourself. Christ died once for our sins. He will not die again for truth and justice, but will live and reign. If this be true, and if He reigns, why should you be afraid for the truth? Perhaps you are afraid that it will be destroyed by God's wrath. Even if we should ourselves be destroyed, let it not be by our own hands. He who is Our Father will also be the Father of our children. I pray for you very earnestly, and I am deeply pained that you keep sucking up cares like a leech and thus rendering my prayers vain. Christ knows whether it comes from stupidity or the Spirit, but I for my part am not very much troubled about our cause. Indeed, I am more hopeful than I expected to be. God who is able to raise the dead is also able to uphold His cause when it is falling or to raise it up again when it has fallen or to move it forward when it is standing. If we are not worthy instruments to accomplish His purpose, He will find others. If we are not strengthened by His promises, where in all the world are the people to whom these promises apply?"

I came across this quote in a message from Dr. Al Mohler on courage in Christian ministry, and I recommend the three-part series as a good way to check whether we have true courage based on faith in the God who can do all things, or whether we are lowering our expectations and being too timid because we aren't trusting deeply enough in God's ability to overcome ever obstacle. Dr. Mohler recommended Luther's Letters of Spiritual Counsel as a great place to find encouragement from Luther's words. Many of the pages are available online at Google books.

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