That’s right. Today celebrates 499 years since a German monk named Martin Luther said, “Hang on a minute”, and nailed his 95 Theses to a church door. The world has quite literally never been the same.
Luther wasn’t just debating theology – he was striking at the very heart of the fabric of society, which was woven at the time almost exclusively by the Roman Catholic Church. The suggestion that the Bible is the final and only authority, and that people cannot be saved by their own merits, and only through grace and by faith in Jesus was to suggest that the Pope’s power was far less than what most people thought.
At our Prayer @ 6 prayer meeting last night, we reflected on Luther’s God-given courage to challenge the religious authority of his day, and to instead trust completely in the word of God.
Before being brought before a church and civil counsel (known as the Diet of Worms, in 1521) where Luther would be called to recant his statements, he wrestled in prayer over what he ought to do. The night before the council, he prayed this prayer:
Almighty, eternal God! How dreadful is the world! Behold how its mouth opens to swallow me up, and how small is my faith in You!
O the weakness of the flesh and the power of Satan! If I am to depend upon any strength from this world, all is lost. O my God! Help me against all the wisdom of this world. Do this, I beg You.
The work is not mine, but Yours. I have no business here. I have nothing to contend for with these great men of the world! I would gladly pass my days in happiness and peace. But the cause is Yours, my Lord; and it is righteous and everlasting! Stand by me! O faithful and unchangeable God! I lean not upon man. It would be vain!
You have chosen me for this work. I know it! Therefore, O God, accomplish Your own will! Stand by me in the name of Jesus Christ, who will be my shelter and my shield, yes, my mighty fortress, through the might and strengthening of the Holy Spirit.
I am ready, even to lay down my life for this cause, patient as a little lamb. For the cause is holy. It is Your own. Though this world be filled with devils, and though my body, originally the work and creation of Your hands, go to destruction in this cause — yes, though it be shattered into pieces — Your Word and Your Spirit they are good to me still! It concerns only the body. The soul is Yours. It belongs to You and will also remain with You forever. God help me. Amen.
Compare this to the prayer prayed by the Christians in Acts 4:18-31 when they were also facing hostility from the religious establishment of their day.
We live in a time where we are facing increasing opposition not just from society, but also from the established ‘church’. Let’s learn from Martin Luther, and the Christians in Acts to pray that we may be given courage to speak God’s truth with boldness.