Date: November 3, 1935
Acquaint now thyself with God and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee. – Job 22:21
God, our Refuge and our Strength: We come before Thee to receive comfort and guidance for the sorrows of this troubled day. Penitently do we confess our own unworthiness and acknowledge the sins that abound in our thoughts and actions. But clinging to Thy promises of grace through the blood of our Savior, we beseech Thee to grant us not only pardon and forgiveness, but also the renewing power of Thy Spirit, so that we may daily walk more closely with Thee and particularly in adversity and sickness, in loneliness and privation, in old age and infirmity, and amid all the disappointments of this earthly pilgrimage find the evidence of Thy love and sustaining protection. Bless these broadcasts, heavenly Father, so that men may be turned to Thee and fortified by faith in Thy Son, our only, but ever-blessed Redeemer. Scatter the forces of evil that retard the coming of Thy kingdom and the spread of its saving message and preserve us in faith, courage, and conviction as witnesses unto Thy grace: through Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior. Amen.
IF some of you, saddened by the downward pull of many sorrows, ask us, as we are repeatedly asked, “What can the Church of Jesus Christ do for us in the present crisis?” we could counter: “What can anything else do for you?” For, if there is one unescapable truth that has come out of this welter of financial collapse and industrial stagnation, it is the basic fact that the human forces heretofore drafted to solve men’s perplexities have crashed.
“What permanent pledge can you find in the promises of any political party?” we could ask, addressing ourselves to the grim army of the ten million and more unemployed, victims of the avaricious greed of their own fellow-men. What are you offered by the communistic call to arms which seeks to rally the discontented workers of the world for the overthrow of the present order? For eighteen years the Red flag has waved uncontested over the territorially greatest nation on earth, and the principles of Karl Marx have had ample time and space to demonstrate their true character. But that diabolical attack on God, on the home, on representative government, with its murders and massacres, its legalized multiple divorces and its subsidized abortions, its perversions of parenthood and its neglect of childhood, its social diseases and its moral decay,—this reign of Red terrorism has turned into a bloody scourge; and instead of casting longing eyes toward this putrid cancer, American workers should hate it for the malignant destruction that it is; American Christians should pray fervently that, whatever God may send to this nation, He would spare us this communistic ruin.
“What can science offer for the solution of our basic problems?” we could continue, turning to a more promising source of help. “What can our technical schools, our laboratories of natural science, with their self-sacrificing leaders of research, offer to you, sorely beset with debts and mortgages and dwindling incomes, buffeted from the pillars of failure to the posts of defeat?” Not even the most startling inventions of this century can comfort agonized souls. What advantage will there ultimately be if our generation enjoys the marvels of television and yet be deprived of the power of spiritual vision? Or what will the nation be profited if we generate stores of energy at Muscle Shoals and Boulder Dam and yet do not apply the divine energy that cleanses human souls?
We could pursue this questioning and ask: “What can our widely publicized agitators give us, these glib-tongued soothsayers who promise the rainbows of wealth and prosperity, but whose theories must lead the nation into an impenetrable fog? What can diplomacy and statecraft contribute to the permanent tranquility of our age, when the vicious dogs of war are now straining at their leashes, when profiteers in blood anticipate further international slaughter with delight?” In short, take the very best that men can offer for the adjustment of our chaotic conditions; ask yourselves what all these proposals can do for the permanent relief of troubled hearts, and who is there that can produce a single definite assurance of inner peace and permanent blessing for grief-stricken men?
We could ask all these questions and more; but instead of pointing to the futility of man-made remedies, we offer the everlasting hope of our Christian faith and deliberately assert that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to the extent that it is believed and its tenets practised, is the only effective antidote to the poison that has laid the nation low and brought millions to the verge of despair. I admit without apology that we cannot answer the query “What can Christianity do for me?” by promising that faith in Christ will give you a stream-line automobile, that church-membership will offer desirable business contacts, or that the Bible is a secret key to the prominence of Who’s Who or to a high Bradstreet rating. Thank God, Christianity disavows this scramble for the baubles and trinkets of life and instead directs men to the holiest of life’s blessings.
WHAT CAN THE CHURCH OFFER IN THE PRESENT CRISIS
to you who have never joined the Church, who have become indifferent to the demands of your soul, who would be blessed by a mightier benediction in your faith and walk? We read the words of Job 22, 21: “Acquaint, now, thyself with God and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee,” and answer: What must the Church offer if not the merciful God and with Him peace and happiness?
THE ACQUAINTANCE WITH GOD IN CHRIST
It is no modern discovery, this prescription of divine love for the aching hearts, the sore bodies of humanity. Back in those hoary days when palsied Job wrestled with the problems of his afflictions, a consoling friend directed this advice to him: “Acquaint, now, thyself with God.” And today when men cope with their perplexities, the Church must repeat this ancient counsel and cry out: “Acquaint, now, thyself with God.” In these five short words there is more of deliverance and blessing, temporal and eternal, than in lengthy barrages of oratory, findings of trade experts, Congressional discussions, and legislative proposals combined; for by the knowledge or the wilful ignorance of God is the welfare or the disaster of individuals and nations decisively regulated. So it is the first duty of the Church to acquaint men, not with the Italo-Ethiopian situation, not with the sanctions of the League of Nations, not with the widely discussed authors and actors in the dramas of present-day history, but with their heavenly Father, to lift up a holy voice with strength and without fear, to say unto the cities of America, “Behold your God!”
Today, more than ever before, men speak volubly and repeatedly of God; but how vague and impersonal their opinions often are! If we are to rely on a God who is an indefinable force, a hazy idea, a benign patriarch, far removed from the burdens of this distant world; if you think that you have found the full revelation of God in any creed that speaks of Him as the great Father, the supreme Architect, the eternal Spirit, or gives Him any other grandiloquent title that rests this acquaintance on human knowledge, you do not yet know the true and holy God. The full knowledge of our Lord and God is not to be found in the constellations that declare His glory nor in the rise and fall of the tides that are moved by His hand nor in the everlasting mountains that are the handiwork of His omnipotence. All these are monuments to God, eloquent tokens of His universal might. But to acquaint ourselves with God in His mercies, in His love, in His pardoning grace,—and who is there that would face Him in any other way?—we need the Heaven-sent revelation of Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls, who tells the world of our day: “I and My Father are one.” “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”
When men today, seeking after God, demand as Philip did even on the night of the Savior’s betrayal “Show us the Father,” we offer no misty, ethereal figure; but in the strong, clear lines of God’s own Word we point to Jesus Christ. We plead with men to acquaint themselves with the merciful God in that Savior’s life and love, to behold Him first as the virgin-born Babe of Bethlehem, then as the unparalleled Preacher, the merciful Benefactor, the fearless Prophet, the divine Physician; again, as the scorned Sufferer, the bleeding Redeemer of Calvary, and finally as the resurrected Victor at the open grave, the glorious King of heaven and earth in His ascended and never-ending exaltation. That Christ, sinless, yet sin-atoning; eternal, yet dying; Son of God, yet Son of man; Lord of lords, yet Servant of servants; the Savior who gave Himself in that limitless self-giving, who with His own blood atones for your sins and mine, the Christ of the Scriptures,—not the reconstructed figure of present-day infidelity, not the caricature of modern unbelief, but the Christ before whom, as we point to His nail-scarred hands and feet, we bow in contrition and faith and confess, “My Lord and my God!”—that Christ the Church presents to the world in answer to the pointed question, “What can Christianity offer in the present crisis?”
Here, then, is the sovereign question of your life, Do you know God in Christ? A hundred other queries may clamor for recognition. Push them aside until you have answered this question of destiny. A hundred impulses may rise within you to postpone your decision. Tear them out of your heart until you have answered this pointed issue, which involves heaven or hell, life or death. Do not say that you know God because you belong to a church; for there are thousands of churches throughout the land that have rejected Christ. Even outward membership in a true Christian church is in itself no evidence of your personal, saving knowledge of God. Do not say that you know God outside the Church, that you can get along without the Church; for if you know the full love of Christ, you will not rest until you have joined us to help spread the Savior’s message of mercy. Let me tell you that to know God as your God means that you know yourself, with all the rankling envy, the irrepressible jealousies, the unworthy motives, the sordid impulses, and the long rows of sin that thrive within every heart and seek to choke off your faith and your devotion to your fellow-men. But to know God means to know with an unconquerable faith that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”; that the Cross is Heaven’s holy answer to every sin and misery of earth; that by the blood of the Crucified we have the free and unrestricted approach to the mercy-seat and the all-pardoning grace. To hear Jesus plead, “Come unto Me,” and to come; to hear Him ask, “Believe . . . in Me,” and to believe; to hear Him promise, “Where I am, there shall also My servant be,” and to have the confidence, beyond quibble or question, that heaven is yours,—this is to know God. For the sake of your blood-bought souls I ask you once more: Do you know God in Christ?
THE PRICELESS BLESSING OF PEACE
If you do, you have the priceless gift of peace, just as afflicted Job was strengthened by the promise: “Acquaint, now, thyself with God and be at peace.” Other religions may bind men in the shackles of fear; other creeds may brandish the sword and scream for bloodshed; but peace is the benediction carved into the keystone of Christ’s blessings. When “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” breaks the tyranny of sin in our lives; when by the peace treaty between heaven and earth, written in the blood of Christ, we can stifle the accusing voice of our conscience and exult: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us”; when the Crucified becomes the First and the Last in our lives, the Ultimate in our hopes, the Goal of our devotion, the Focus in our faith, then we have peace.
How many of us realize in our own faith that this peace permeates the entire Scriptures? Inspired Isaiah envisioned his Messiah as “the Prince of Peace,” and on the first Christmas Day the angelic anthem rings in fulfilment “Peace on earth!” In the last days of His earthly sojourn, in the glory of His resurrection, He comes to His timid disciples with the valedictory greeting “Peace be unto you.” As the last book of the Bible draws our hearts to the promise of reopened paradise, its first verses read: “Grace be unto you and peace from Him which is and which was and which is to come.” From one cover of the Scriptures to the other there are no fewer than eighty promises of this divine peace, each distinct in its blessing, each the immovable word of everlasting truth.
In spite of these heaped assurances the world about us will have none of this soul peace. Feverish spirits have sought to create an external peace without God. Though there be many and loud voices that cry to our generation “Peace!” we know that there is no peace and that ours is a day of sorrow and growing distress, of anguish and widening dismay, of delusion and overpowering fear. Discord in American homes, strife in American industries, hatred in American daily life! 22,000 suicides every year and three and a half times as many murders in our country as at the beginning of the century! Add to this ghastly tabulation the rumble of warfare that reverberates anew over the earth. Europe poised on the edge of the smoking crater that may belch forth its deadly eruptions at a moment’s notice! Statesmen regarding the next war as an accepted and inevitable fact while we are still weeping over a crippled generation! Now I ask you, If with all our peace congresses and disarmament conferences, our courts for international amity and tribunals for international justice, we have been unable to call a halt to the legalized murder of men on the battle-field of conquest; if instead we have succeeded in producing more diabolical instruments of destruction than men have ever known before, how can we hope to establish that spiritual and intangible peace of the soul when nothing less than the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the great Sin-offering of all humanity could restore this harmony between God and man?
Where, then, is the hope for men today? Where if not in Christ and in that peace which would grant us a heavenly serenity even here on earth? Because our Christian faith is not a dead theory, but a living, vitalizing power, those whose souls have been brought into concord with the Father of mercies will be ready to show forth the fruits of peace in our strife-torn world. Show me a home in which the love of Christ is the crowning glory, and I will show you a home, be it ever so small and unimpressive, in which husband and wife live in the happiness of true love, where parents and children are not estranged by clashes of envy, a home that can weather the tempests of adversity and preserve itself as a haven of peace and rest. Show me men or women who can meet one felling blow after the other and still raise their eyes high in the unswerving confidence of ultimate victory, and I again will show you men and women who have knelt before the Savior to be blessed by His word of love “My peace I give unto you,” men and women of Christian heart and courage, like those who write to us from beds of lingering illness, from hospitals for the incurables, from public institutions for the destitute, those who have been deprived of sight or hearing, betrayed, victimized by a cruel social system, cheated of their life’s savings, bereaved by sudden death,—yet who face all this not with stolid resignation, but with calm and peace in Christ.
Through this divine peace we have the blessed assurance that Job received: “Thereby good shall come unto thee.” Our experiences of adversity remind us that the peace of God is not always a pledge of outward prosperity. It does not mean that the path of a Christian pilgrim through life will be a smooth, wide boulevard on which he approaches the heavenly homeland with little difficulty and no opposition; for the Christian, perhaps more than his godless, carnally secure fellow-men, must go down into the dark valley and climb over all but insurmountable barriers as he marches to meet his God. The Savior’s appeal still summons us to take our crosses and follow Him. Nineteen centuries of history have demonstrated that the disciple is not above his Master, and if Christ was persecuted in the days of His flesh, we who live in the days of His Spirit cannot expect to be carried to heaven on flowery beds of ease. But whatever our destiny may be, we have the priceless assurance that, if we are Christ’s, God directs our lives and that, even though we drink a cup of bitter draught; even though our ambitions crash into hopeless fragments and our most carefully outlined plans are washed away by floods of misfortune; even though we lose health, wealth, friends, family, and finally life itself,—all this, above our poor powers of comprehension, is good and helpful for our ultimate welfare. Have we not read: “He hath done all things well”? Have we not been strengthened by the promise that our affliction “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory”? Let us this afternoon, then, convince ourselves that, while other forces which would show us light in the present darkness often flash across the firmament of human experience like a short-lived meteor that falls to earth and loses its brightness as it falls, the light of faith that we find in our Bible gleams with increasing brilliance in a lighted path to Christ and to His eternal blessings.
What, then, does Christianity offer in the present crisis? God grant that you can answer: Christ and with Him peace and blessing forever. Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.