Martin Luther - Augustinian monk, priest, Professor of theology - had devoted years of his life to the study of the Bible. On his life as a monk, he remarked, "If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would certainly have done so." Yet, he later described this time in his life as one of deep spiritual despair, stating that, "I lost touch with Christ the Savior and Comforter, and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul." It was during this time that a superior advised to cease focusing on his failures and sins and instead reflect on the merits of Christ and this would later bring him the spiritual guidance that he sought.
'In 1513, while preparing lectures, Luther read Psalm 22, which recounts Christ’s cry for mercy on the cross, a cry similar to his own disillusionment with God and religion. Two years later, while preparing a lecture on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, he read, “The just will live by faith.” He dwelt on this statement for some time. Finally, he realized the key to spiritual salvation was not to fear God or be enslaved by religious dogma but to believe that faith alone would bring salvation. This period marked a major change in his life and set in motion the Reformation.'
It is this very fact that gives us much of the religious freedom we enjoy today.
10-12 years after the day that he nailed his 95 Theses on the door, Luther wrote what is the best known today of all the hymns he wrote - a hymn we know today as A Mighty Fortress is Our God. It has been called one of the best-loved hymns of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions, and was called by some, 'The Battle-Hymn of the Reformation". Luther wrote the song as somewhat of a paraphrase of Psalm 46, the first seven verses of which read:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Though the song was written nearly 500 years ago, its words are still relevant for us today. Much as in Luther's day, sin is rampant. Even the so-called religious leaders are proclaiming that sin today is not what we used to think it. Things that, once, were thought of as abominable by even the non-religious, are now accepted as cultural norms. Governmental leaders are promoting those that would like to see Christianity gone for good, and telling anyone who will listen that that group of people that are categorized as 'Evangelical Christians' are nothing more than terrorists.
Never more than today does it seem that we need a refuge, a fortress to protect from those that are out to destroy the cause of Christ. And, thankfully, the same Refuge that the Psalmist wrote about, the same 'Mighty Fortress' that Martin Luther leaned upon, is still ours today.
Our foe is great - but our God is greater.
"We will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us!"
Take courage! We have 'the Right Man' on our side, and 'He must win the battle'!
A Mighty Fortress is Our God
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
(Words and music by Martin Luther, circa 1520-1530 AD)