From the Pulpit Article: A Bulwark Never Failing
A Bulwark Never Failing
“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwork never failing, Our helper He amid the flood, of mortal ills prevailing.” You may recognize this old song. You may not know that it is over five centuries old. Martin Luther penned this hymn during, likely, the most disastrous year of his life. By 1527 he had been through roughly over a decade of wake from the Reformation. In April of 1527 he had to retire from preaching because he could not overcome dizzy spells, sever heart problems along with other physical ailments. The next few months only added more physical ailments, just before August 1527 when the Black Plague swept across Germany. Thousands were dying and Luther decided, against the counsel of many, to stay with his family in Wittenberg and minister to the sick. Unforutnately in the process his one year old Hans became ill. Martin didn’t eat for 11 days. Within all this life disaster, Luther picked up his pen and wrote out 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. Though this world with devils filled would threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God hath will His truth to triumph through us.” Quite powerful isn’t it? It was also in these times Luther would turn to his friend, Philip Melancthon, and say, “Let us sing the 46thPsalm. Psalm 46 is the basis for the hymn. Out of Luther’s dark distress his faith shined the brightest with confidence in God.
Have you had moments or time in your life when it seemed that everything was just disastrous? Maybe the last few weeks or months your days have just been full of adversity. Some of you may say, “Forget Pumpkin Spice anything, lets just move on to 2019. Maybe a pit stop for Christmas.. but let’s get this year over with.” Life can be difficult. It may be counter Christian for some churches to preach, but as Christians we shouldn’t shy away from the reality that life is difficult and full of adversity. The whole idea of coming to Jesus for a happy, trial free rest of yoru life is really a pipe dream. We shouldn’t deny that. We need to admit that the Bible is full of stories of individuals, God-fearing, Jesus believing people, in trouble. That continues after Jesus ascended to the Father. Out of our dark distresses, faith can shine brightest with confidence in God.
It needs to be asked: What would faith be if not ever put positions to exercise such faith? How would we know better the character of whom we put faith in if we are not put into a position to see the truth of His character displayed?
When God’s path for us leads along rough terrain, how do we handle adversity? What do you think about God in that adversity? It’s through these that we become more acquainted with who He is. We see that God is a trustworthy refuge.
“God is a refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)
What or who do you find rest in during your trouble? Do you try and muster up your courage and strength? Do you rely on yourself and your own strength? We tend to think we can handle anything life throws at us. Even Christians, at times think we can bear whatever load we have because “God would never give us more than we can handle.” But is that true? I believe one could make the argument biblically and experientially that God definitely gives us more that we can handle.
Consider Gideon in Judges 7. God weans his army down to 300 men to take on 100,000 enemy soldiers. Why? To show it was not in their power but in God giving the enemy into their hand. He teaches us that we cannot, nor should not, trust in our own means. We rest and trust in God only. The greater the distress the more we need Him. He proves to be a trustworthy refuge.
That is what we see in three ways in Psalm 46. One of those we see in the first 3 verses where the Psalmist teaches us to trust God when all the world falls. When all the world falls apart, when all the waves of life’s ravenous storms hit hard, God is a trustworthy refuge and strength. He is strong. When His people are in trouble, He is a very present help.
See the verses above, God is a very present help thereforewe will not fear. We will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains slide into the sea, though the waters crash and the mountains swell and tremble. Though all the cataclysmic, apocalyptic happenings of the earth come to pass, we will not fear. The Psalmist point is not, primarily, that wewill not fear. The Psalmist point isn’t our response. His main point here is the God we have is a powerful God. He is there and He is a perfectly proven protector. He is a trustworthy refuge.
Even when the unmovable things, like mountains, move and even when the unthinkable and unfathomable happens, He is a refuge and a very present help. He can protect us against anything. God is trustworthy when all the world falls. These are circumstances that surpass our ability to overcome. They are situations, pictured, that nothing could shelter us but God Himself. God alone is a powerful refuge.
In the severest of affliction, God is near. He is the strength of your heart and portion forever. The question you must answer is: Where am I turning when all the world falls? God has everything under control. He is greater than all our circumstances. Have faith and believe in Him.
Trey McDonald is a pastoral assistant at Grace Gospel Church (M.Div. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
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