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A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

Good morning, listeners. Together we will look into the Scriptures to hear, heed and have God in our every day lives.  What will this new year bring, good, bad, success, failure?  Like most every year, it will include struggles and triumphs, ups and downs, whatever it is. Like each new day, it is a new beginning for each of us.  Let’s all strive to make this year better than the last, especially internally, to better and deeper include God in our every day experiences.

Martin Luther, the reformer, had many ups and downs. He wrote that he often sang to find encouragement against discouragement. Luther was gifted in music. And he wrote the lyrics or the words and even the tune, the music to a church hymn sung over the centuries and still sung today.

This hymn is entitled A Might Fortress is Our God. The first stanza of the hymn is:

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 pow’r are great,

And, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

In Martin Luther’s words we can hear the conflict, the contrast between our great God and our arch enemy Satan. We can also hear the tension. God is our mighty fortress, never failing, helper against a flood of mortal ills, against woe, against cruel hate.  It was Scripture that stirred his heart to write the words of this encouraging hymn.  Martin Luther was deep in the Scriptures. He saturated his heart and mind with the Scriptures, an example to all of us.

It was especially Psalm 46 that moved him to write A Mighty Fortress is our God. Listen to some portions of God’s inspired and inspiring words from Psalm 46 in the King James Version: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea….. The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved; he uttered his voice, the earth melted…..Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge or fortress.’

Martin Luther had intense troubles and struggles as well as victories in his life. He once wrote, “Next to the word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our hearts, minds and spirits. And to regard music is to regard it as a marvelous creation of God.”

This year let’s all allow the Holy Spirit of God to make himself truly our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  God deeply desires to be our protection, our shelter, our haven, our relief, our refuge when troubles strike. This does not mean that nothing hurtful or harmful will befall us.  It does mean if we genuinely trust God, ultimately we will find refuge in him. God is and can be personally for each of us a mighty fortress against the fiery darts thrown at us.

Notice, God is our refuge.  ‘Our’ is a personal plural pronoun and needs to genuinely refer to our personal faith, trust, reliance, leaning upon God, our knowing by individual faith that God, indeed, is always with us, that God cares about each and every one of us individually and that God can carry us through each and every trial. It is by a deep and abiding faith that each of us needs to refocus from the trouble and turmoil all around us, seeking to devour us, and instead focus, with the help and power of the Holy Spirit, to be still and to know that he is God. God is for us and if God be for us, ultimately what can man do to us?

God is always in control of every situation and circumstance. In Psalm 46 we also find these words, ‘Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea’, here describing the most cataclysmic of natural catastrophes that can befall us including terrible tornados, torrential floods or huge hurricanes, by faith we know God is still our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Likewise, though the nations rage and the kingdoms be moved—here describing the most unstable man made national confrontations and conflicts the world over. From the tinder box and tension of the Middle East today to the terrorism cropping up from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, crackdowns to meltdowns, the nations are in an uproar. But yet by faith God can still be our refuge and strength. A very present help in trouble.

Therefore on a world wide scale, God can and will handle everything from natural to national catastrophes. So, likewise, God can and will also handle and help us in our individual and family lives.  No one or no thing is too hard for almighty God to handle.  Our part needs to be faith, trusting God, striving to rest, be still and know that he is God.  The Lord is with us.  God is our refuge and fortress.

Our challenge is to grow, to mature in our faith. We can reinforce this by daily communicating earnestly with God. We call this prayer, even supplication and sometimes even crying out to God.  God continues to communicate with us and we need to avail ourselves of the Scriptures. It helps us also to keep a song, a hymn in our hearts which can add a bounce to our step.

So often we even as believers are plagued with the why of our troubles and the why of our disciplines.  More often than not we will not find a personally satisfactory answer to our question of why, at least not in this life. But we strive for God to actually become genuinely our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, even our mighty fortress, never failing. Therefore, eventually it is by faith that we shift from our troubling questions of why and replace them with the Almighty that we must trust, we must rely on, we must lean on. Then we can genuinely be still and know that he is God. He is our refuge and our fortress.

Finally, as believers, we need not dwell on a world view, but shift our view to heaven, our eventual destination, our view of heaven even from afar.  You see, even in the midst of Psalm 46 between trouble and wars we find these words, ‘There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved’.

The psalmist, inspired of God, here gives us a picture, a peek into the believer’s destination and destiny. It is paradise regained. We have the river and the streams of water that point to eternal richness of life and lushness, as in the Garden of Eden. There and then versus the here and now.

In Psalm 46 whereby waters can roar and be troubled. There and then, believers shall be glad in the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the most high God, versus the here and now troubles such as the mountains shaking and the nations raging. Yet the Lord is still with us. But in that future believers will have God in the midst of his holy city and his holy city shall not be moved, versus the here and now.

Will the earth be removed or give way and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, what a contrast.  What a difference is the place of our ultimate destination and destiny as believers. But our future destiny is determined by the person in whom we put our trust, our faith, a genuine abiding, saving faith brings us peace, not only with God, but here and now also the peace of God. Now we can truly say and feel and know that we can be still and know that he is God. The Lord of hosts is with us.  The God of Jacob is truly our refuge.  And then we can certainly enjoy as believers not only salvation, not only security, but the serenity of God. We can have the peace of God that passeth all understanding and always to the praise and honor and glory of our mighty fortress, even our great God. Amen.

 

-David Johnson is the minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ in Southern Indiana.

 

 




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4