Date: April 20, 1941
The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen. – 2 Timothy 4:18, 22
God, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier:
Accept the praise of our thankful hearts for Thy protecting watchfulness over our lives and for the love by which all things, even the hardest blows of adversity, work together for good, became we are Thine, purchased forever by the Savior’s redeeming blood! Especially, O Triune God of power, mercy, and strength, do we beseech Thee: keep us constantly grateful for the victory over sin and death won by Jesus in His crucifixion and glorious resurrection. Preserve the saving Gospel to our country, our homes, our churches! Let it be a light for every darkened pathway before us, a heavenly comfort in the hour of personal or national suffering! As we plead with Thee for honorable peace among the nations, we know not what the approaching weeks may bring; yet teach us always to find courage in Christ, inner peace for our distressed souls at the cross and His empty grave! Bless this broadcast and this congregation of the air! May Thy Holy Spirit employ the message, hymns, and prayer to call sinners from their evil ways, bring back those who have wandered from Thy truth, comfort the afflicted, and grant us all the joy of life; through Christ, our only Savior, both now and forever! Amen.
TODAY we broadcast the last message in our present series. We had fervently hoped to continue this Mission of the Air unbroken through the whole year; for during the critical period before us the masses in our country will need Christ’s Gospel above all else. The cost of maintaining our network intact for the entire summer would be at least $100,000 additional, and our heavenly Father has not yet shown us how we can secure this immense sum.
We thank God nevertheless that much of our radio testimony will continue. In scores of large cities these Bringing-Christ-to-the-Nations messages, transcribed to reduce expense, will be heard Sunday after Sunday. Our foreign program in twenty-four countries outside the United States will uninterruptedly send the Savior’s truth from continent to continent. We ask your prayers and support in a greater degree than previously, so that, our broadcasting richly blessed through the summer, we may return in the fall over an even greater hookup and more closely approach our ultimate objective, a year-round, worldwide radio system which will proclaim the eternal Gospel in dozens of languages to the very ends of the earth.
This may therefore be the last time I speak to you. Before the ninth Lutheran Hour begins about 750,000 people in the United States and Canada will have died. What assurance have we, in the uncertainty of modern existence, that next October you and I will still be numbered among the living? Who can forecast the tragic changes which may occur in a brief half year? Do you think that six months ago people in Belgrade believed their city would be swept by a devastation which would leave 10,000 corpses covered by the smoldering ruins of their own homes? Did King Peter anticipate on the Sunday before last that he would reign less than two weeks before fleeing into exile? If an army of a million men surrenders unconditionally after only twelve days of warfare; if a thousand lives are crushed out during a single night’s bombing; if in a few seconds aerial torpedoes can irreparably shatter the toil of long years, even centuries, how terrifying the destruction which can intervene before we are privileged to resume our testimony to Christ!
Don’t make the mistake of denying that disaster can come or imagine the United States secure from all perils! We are closer to war than at any other time since the conflagration started in September, 1939. A review of the past months reveals a gradual, day-after-day edging closer to actual fighting. Even if divine mercy prevails and we are spared the horrors of active participation, our beloved, God-blessed country may face trying days, with financial, industrial, social, moral, political, religious difficulties the like of which this nation has never witnessed. Add to this uncertainty the pressing weight of personal problems, inner sorrows, invisible griefs, insistent conscience claims, and you will agree that multitudes inside our borders face question-marked weeks, a fear-freighted future.
Yet—praise be to God!—you can meet with immovable calm the worst the veiled months may produce. Whatever the approaching crisis brings, however crushing your individual trials, I offer you in this season’s last broadcast an unfailing source of strength. For all darkened hours, each sudden reverse, every collapse of cherished plans; for war and bloodshed, pain and agony, desertion and loneliness, sin and sorrow; for the crowded moment of life and the lonely hour of death, there is
COURAGE IN CHRIST—
help for earth’s cruelties, hope for heaven’s happiness. This double promise is found in the glorious confidence at the close of Saint Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (chapter four, verses eighteen and twenty-two): “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.”
WE TAKE COURAGE BECAUSE CHRIST WILL “DELIVER US FROM ALL EVIL”
These were the last words of Scripture Saint Paul wrote. During the reign of blood-crazed Nero the apostle was rearrested and again brought to Rome. Deserted by most of his friends, he defended himself alone against malicious accusations, including perhaps the charge that he, a Christian leader, had conspired to burn Rome. The hearing concluded, he was sent back to prison to await judgment. There in bonds this Second Letter to Timothy was composed. Paul knew that he would not be acquitted, for he asserted: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.” Peering into the darkened future, dictating the final lines of his farewell epistle, the preeminent apostle (author of the Letter to the Romans, with its unparalleled explanation of justification by faith, the Letter to the Galatians, with its marvelous emphasis on Gospel freedom, and other sacred writings which have stirred the souls of millions since his day) declared resolutely, “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work.”
May God give us the same courage, for we in the United States also face a trying future! What I say now will find little applause, but the Church dare not cater to the popularity that blindly sets divine truth aside. Every minister of Jesus Christ is to be a watchman who, studying the trends of his times, warns and comforts his people. Therefore, when disturbed Christians, repeating the ancient Bible question, ask, “Watchman, what of the night?” we must be guided by complete honesty and absolute indifference to public acclaim. Under this conviction I tell you that in the deliberate opinion of many sober-minded investigators, within the Church as without, the United States faces the possibility of more numerous, more subtle, more imminent disasters than in our entire previous history. The most dangerous perils arise not from without but from within. Small countries may be overrun by military machines, but rich, powerful peoples succumb to internal treachery, the consequences of their own sins, the disregard of God’s Word. As Christians we must wholeheartedly do our share in building and strengthening the nation’s defenses; but we dare not overlook the truth that the contempt of divine will in American life can become a hundred times more destructive than any foreign invasion.
As Saint Paul, looking out on an age of rebellion against God, knew that evil would confront him, so present-day followers of Christ must have discerning eyes to recognize the uprisings against the Almighty continually flaunted before them. We should think, for example, of the antireligious, atheistic tendency in American culture. For years unbelievers have boasted that the overthrow of our democratic life would spring from academic circles. They have systematically endeavored to tear the love for God from the hearts of our young people. Denying man’s divine origin and his divine destiny in Jesus, they have deliberately reduced the human race to the animal level. University professors who tell their students that the Ten Commandments are as out of date as the 4,000-year-old Code of Hammurabi; that the Bible is full of mistakes, contradictions, even immoralities; that Jesus, if He ever existed, was a misguided, mistaken idealist—these men constitute a far greater menace to our country than Hitler. The United States can repel any foreign foe, but if youthful hearts are mobilized against Christ, the Bible, the Church, we can only plead: God help America!
Another national weakness is found in many godless homes. Easy, quick, cheap divorce; willfully childless marriages; condoned unfaithfulness in wedlock; children without reverence for God and respect for parents, suffering from spiritual malnutrition but overdosed with sordid dramas, underworld stories, gangster romances—all this foreshadows disastrous consequences.
A third national sin is our notorious crime record. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington reveals that one of every twenty-eight Americans is a criminal. Almost five million criminals are in this country, at present a greater army, doubtless, than any invading forces which will ever assail us. About one and one half million serious crimes—murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, burglary, assault—are annually committed in the United States. We lead the world in lawmaking as in lawbreaking; and we ought to be intelligent enough to understand the retribution that a holy God may demand.
We are similarly depressed by the corruption of justice, according to the Old Testament, a definite cause for national collapse. Eminent jurists have admitted that collusion is widely practiced, particularly before domestic courts. In some cities it is impossible to convict those who manufacture or distribute immoral books and pictures. Judges have repeatedly been the puppets of politicians. Their decisions could be bought and sold.
An additional liability is class conflict. The violent battle between the employee and the working-man; the atheistic, Communist leadership in some sectors of organized labor and the selfishness of certain capitalists; the growing disdain of hard work, thrift, economy; the clash of color, with cruel discrimination against the Negro—these are conditions that God will not tolerate indefinitely.
We must further condemn the greed and oppression by which the poor are continually becoming poorer. The number of those without the proper food, clothing, and shelter is alarming, while some on the top rung of the financial ladder have steadily exploited the masses.
Deeply significant is the current world philosophy that nations can get along without God. We must help bar this delusion from our country. It should be a basic principle that nothing in American law or administration contradicts the divide code of governmental morality; but legislatures legalize gambling and champion the disruption of the home. Civic affairs, according to the admission of authorities, are often controlled by corrupt leaders allied with the underworld.
Another moral danger is the selfish promotion of war either for personal gain or for national conquest. The Bible emphatically denounces such bloodshed, as the psalmist asks God, “Scatter Thou the people that delight in war!” Yet there are those who would cast this country into conflict (regardless of the disasters which can follow even a complete victory) and seek the same private profits (through the blood of our American youth) that in the last hostilities created an army of war millionaires, but left masses destitute.
More dangerous, however, is the spiritual tragedy in many churches, which by maintaining loyalty to Christ and the Scriptures should prove a defense against national peril but have lost their allegiance to the Savior. Not merely from hundreds but thousands of American pulpits sermons are preached each Sunday in which the Trinity, Christ’s deity and atonement, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and every foundation truth of our faith are deliberately assaulted.
This religious treachery, in turn, contributes to widespread irreligion and unbelief. More than half of our people belong to no church whatever, and among those officially listed on congregational rosters a lamentably large percentage gives God only occasional lip-service.
As we thus survey the future with Saint Paul in our text, we, too, must be aware of the threat to our national and individual welfare exerted by those menacing forces. Unless a wave of religious reawakening and repentance sweeps across the country (of which we can see no signs at present); unless churches undertake an intense, all-out preaching of the crucified and risen Christ, we must be prepared to face the most difficult days that have ever dawned on America. No people can continually prosper in disregard of the Almighty. No country is rich enough to purchase exemption from the consequences of its sins. God is too holy to permit evil to flourish unrebuked. With prospects of heavy, continued taxes; confronted by the serious financial problems of a postwar and practically bankrupt world; face to face with the astounding growth of anti-American radicalism, we should not be surprised if startling upheavals shake this country and impose new restrictions on the Church’s work.
The Holy Spirit help us to use the power of our faith in bringing America closer to the Almighty! The Christian walking humbly before God is a greater asset to the country than all the gold stored in subterranean treasuries at Fort Knox. Followers of Jesus on their knees in fervent prayer for their homeland can defeat hostile hordes. A spiritually prepared people, armed in a soul-defense program, can succeed where armaments fail.
Yet, come what may, we should find courage in Christ. We can join the Apostle’s triumph over doubt, “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work!” This assurance is grounded in God’s eternal mercy as revealed in the Savior’s crucifixion and resurrection. Christ loved every one of us with a heavenly devotion. He suffered the punishment of our sins, shed His blood to wash our iniquities away, died on the cross to pay the penalties of our transgressions with His death, so that we, pure and holy in God’s sight, might be reawakened by the power of His Easter victory into the glories of eternal life. Now assuredly the heavenly Father, who, sacrificing His Son for our sins, proved His divine compassion, will not leave those who approach Him in faith without hope and help in this world. He cannot look on indifferently when we are tossed about by the hurricanes of hatred nor sit by unconcernedly while we are ground under the heel of hatred. Strikingly the apostle argues, “God, who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” If our Father has offered us the treasures of eternity, He will not refuse the comparative trifles of this world. If He enriches our souls with the Bread of Life and the Living Water, He will not permit our bodies to starve. Granting the greater, He will not withhold the lesser.
Millions of Christians know, as Saint Paul did, that God can and does answer their prayer, “Deliver us from evil!” Last Sunday we told you of a woman in Oregon, discharged from the WPA, completely destitute, with a dependent eighty-year-old mother. Her trust in Christ soared over despair, and during the past week her prayers were remarkably answered. Someone who had borrowed money from her twenty-one years ago unexpectedly came to make a small payment. Friends, entirely unsolicited, offered their help. Daily the Lord shows similar grace to multitudes as He fulfills His promise, “call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee!” Every hour Christ’s love binds up the soul-wounds of thousands who, bowed down under repeated adversity, accept His invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” Every moment the Holy Spirit, called “the Comforter” because He can give our souls peace, changes darkness into light, sorrow into joy. While Christians hope, pray, and work for better times and blessings on their country, they know that, even if these problem years bring their worst, if their own lives, quite apart from such world-moving issues, are afflicted with sorrows that cut to the quick, they can always find courage in Christ.
Will you not agree, then, that you need Jesus above all else? If up till this moment you have remained untouched by His grace, distant from His blood-bought love, may the Holy Spirit accompany the appeal of this farewell broadcast to create within you a desire to acclaim Christ yours and find in Him forgiveness and the pledge of His protection! The Savior, who died and rose again, offers all you require for the best possible life! There is no substitute for Jesus; neither wealth, position, learning, nor power can grant the trust and the joy which will be yours even in affliction through humble allegiance to the resurrected Redeemer! While the Spirit urges you, write us, so that we can help you solve your problems and send you a Christian pastor with Heaven’s own pledge for God’s help in any present trouble or for any future trial! Accept Jesus as your Savior now, and you will be blessed eternally!
Some of you, however, may protest that despite his confident assertion, “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work!” Saint Paul was not rescued; that he was taken from his Roman prison to die a martyr’s death. But this objection misunderstands entirely the extent of divine power and the wider reach of heavenly love. God could have liberated the apostle from his bonds. Remember what happened at Philippi, when in the depths of night a miracle opened the prison-doors to free the apostle! At dozens of other places Saint Paul had been in danger of destruction, yet each time the Almighty intervened to save him. Now the Lord has another deliverance, the greatest which even He can give, the end of earthly sorrow and the beginning of unending happiness.
In Christ we can find the same guidance for our lives. Hundreds of Scripture-passages assure us of His providing, sustaining, protecting love. Were it not for the fact that our God “neither slumbers nor sleeps”; that He has given “His angels charge concerning” us; that He has promised, “There shall no evil come nigh thy dwelling,” you and I would not be here today. In unnumbered instances disaster and death might have overtaken us. Often, however, situations arise when for our own good, the purifying of our desires, the strengthening of faith, the fortifying of trust, God permits reverses to check our plans, sorrows of many sorts to surround us. Despite prayers for relief the thorn in our flesh may not be immediately removed. But at His own time, in His heavenly way, always higher than ours, He will surely deliver us, if necessary by a miracle. Though He answers in His own manner, He never gives us less than we need; His help never comes at the wrong hour or place. Finally, however, the time arrives when He wants us to come home; and through the most magnificent of deliverances, the complete escape from all evil, we enter heaven’s joy. What courage in Christ, therefore, to know that, when life’s battles turn against us, the final victory still is ours; to realize that, even if our friends or family desert us, Jesus will abide with His own forever; to have the confidence that, though God permits us to lose our money, work, home, good name, health, and finally even life itself, ultimately we gain so much more that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us”! For the unspeakable joy of this eternal deliverance I beseech you once more in the name of the risen Redeemer: Acclaim Him your Savior from every sin and the Deliverer from every sorrow!
WE TAKE COURAGE BECAUSE CHRIST WILL PRESERVE US FOR HEAVEN
The bars of no Roman prison could prevent Saint Paul from looking assuredly into the open heaven and beholding, far beyond the executioner’s block, the throne of his eternal Lord. Therefore in the last recorded triumph of his trust the stalwart witness to Christ unflinchingly cries out, “The Lord . . . will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom.” No “if,” “perhaps,” “maybe,” lingered in the apostle’s mind. He was assured of his salvation. Loyal, even as death’s shadow approached, he trusted his Savior’s promise, “He that endureth unto the end shall be saved.”
The faith which can give us courage must likewise be an immovable conviction of Christ’s sustaining, preserving power. I do not want to complete this season’s broadcast and leave any of you uncertain concerning your salvation. We do not deal with guesses and wishful thinking in our Christian assurance of a blessed hereafter. We have advanced beyond the laboratory stage or the experimental level. Therefore you can do much more than hope, wish, or pray for your salvation. You can face a world arrayed against you and with Christ at your side exult confidently in the apostle’s confident challenge: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”
Here, then, you stand before the glorious climax of divine mercy. When the Savior is yours, you can say not only, “Jesus loved me. He gave Himself for me. He died on the cross for me. He rose again on that first Easter for me. He intercedes with His heavenly Father for me. He promised me help in every need”; but with Saint Paul’s confidence you should triumph, “He will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom.” Is there a more radiant reassurance than this? Can even God in His limitless might grant a more marvelous blessing than the sacred conviction that Christ will “preserve” us “unto His heavenly kingdom”? Don’t let anything keep you from this glorious hope! If you feel unworthy because your faith is small, wavering, inconsistent, ask Jesus to intensify it, and the blessed Savior who said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” will fortify your trust! Don’t think that you can assure yourself of a place in heaven by your self-sacrifice, self-denial, self-imposed penances, by your personal virtues, achievements, and accomplishments! Everything involved in our salvation is 100-per-cent pure mercy. Saint Paul says here, not, “I will preserve myself unto the heavenly kingdom,” but, “He”—the Lord Jesus—“will preserve me.” Our title to the prepared place is bestowed only by grace; it comes entirely from Christ’s undeserved love.
This does not mean, however, that you make your redemption automatic and boast, “Once saved, always saved!” What folly to risk your blessed eternity on the delusion that, if you have once believed on Christ, you can spend the rest of your life in sin, rebellion against God, denial of His mercy, and somehow before death be brought back to the Lord! What false comfort backsliders and nominal Christians find in this misinterpretation of Scripture! Many who once followed Jesus have deserted Him and died with unbelief, blasphemy, despair, on their lips. Therefore the Bible warns against falling from the faith, and it mentions some who believed only for a short time and then were lost. We should rather follow the Scriptures and maintain close contact with our Savior in the sacred Word by which the Holy Spirit grants us constant grace and the strength to abide in Jesus. Read the Bible, study it, hear it explained in a true church, apply it to your own life, to your family—and the Christ, who can “preserve” you “unto His heavenly kingdom,” will come constantly closer to give you more complete victory over sin! Combine with this love of God’s Word, “which is able to build you up,” your fervent, personal, penetrating prayer to God in Jesus’ name! Come before Him when temptations seek to entice you, doubts dissuade you, afflictions drive you to despair, and as He promised, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you,” you will have Heaven’s own help in securing this benediction, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life!”
To emphasize this truth, let me repeat what I have tried to tell you in each one of the more than two hundred sermons I have preached over a radio network: For this courage by which you can rejoice even in adversity you need a firm personal trust in the Savior. More books are written about religion today than at any other period in human affairs; but too much of this printed material is vague, hazy unbelief, which specializes in individual theories and manmade claims but completely rejects the true Christ. Last Sunday, on the day of the resurrection, a weekly magazine featured what was called “A Message for Easter Day” by a famous scientist and Nobel Prize winner. The article mentioned Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Sigrid Undset, Jules Romains, Franz Werfel, Maurice Maeterlinck, Thomas Edison, and other notables, some of whom deny the existence of a personal God or who have written immoral books; yet that entire Easter discussion did not once even refer to our resurrected Lord and Savior. A creed of this kind will never save anyone. It will not rescue even the American democracy which it proposes to help preserve.
So that none of you can say: “I was never warned; no one ever told me the truth,” I now solemnly assert: There is no other way to a courageous life and a blessed death than through Jesus Christ, who declares, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” There is no other volume of everlasting verity besides our Bible; no saving Gospel other than the message of Jesus’ cross, His blood, His atoning death; no possibility of your getting right with God, if you are not justified by faith in that Savior.
In this last broadcast I give you a summary of our Christian hope (which, printed on a small card, I shall be happy to send you as a constant reminder of the holy Gospel), words distilled from Scripture by that mighty hero of the Reformation, Martin Luther: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.” Cling to that Christ, and you can find courage to face both time and eternity!
I cannot close this period in our Mission of the Air without thanking God publicly for the privilege of being able to serve you in Jesus’ name nor without expressing sincere gratitude to the members of this far-flung radio congregation for their generous support, particularly their fervent intercession in my behalf. It is not easy to leave you even for a few months in times like these, but I want you, particularly those who have not yet joined the Church, to feel that we shall be happy to assist you in any way the Lord permits. Our parting appeal asks you not to postpone giving yourself wholly to Jesus. Your heavenly Father wants you now! Why delay when “all things are now ready”? God grant that you will resolve immediately to accept Jesus as your Savior!
For you, my tried and true Christian friends, I have the assurance that, though most of us will never meet personally here on earth, in Christ every one of us can say, “The Lord . . . will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever!” Glory for His mercy! Glory for His preserving guidance! Glory for His heaven! Confident that I shall stand in that celestial radiance with you who are Christ’s, I look forward through Jesus, my only Savior, to the joy of knowing personally many millions who have joined us in this worship.
If this eighth annual series of broadcasts is to conclude, as it began, with God’s Word, what passage could be more appropriate as I plead with you to keep your courageous trust in Christ than these last words in Saint Paul’s last letter, the final wish of our text, the petition with which I commend you to our Savior’s love until, God willing, we meet again in spirit, the parting prayer of this broadcast for every one of you: “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit! Grace be with you! Amen.”
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.