Date: January 24, 1943
Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God. – John 11:25-27
Graciously send us Thine enlightening Spirit to help us truly believe that Thou art our only but all-atoning Savior! Strengthen us to trust Thee wholly, knowing that since our sins are removed through faith in Thy life-giving death, we who love Thee are constantly under Thy guidance and protection! By Thy compassion and power Thou canst graciously provide our every need and conquer each affliction. Mercifully forgive us our doubting of Thy grace, our indifference toward Thy marvelous compassion, our lukewarmness in testifying to Thy redemption! Equip us with the courage required to acknowledge Thee before men, so that we, in turn, on the glorious day of the resurrection will be acknowledged by Thee before our heavenly Father! Direct the course of our beloved nation toward Thee! Endow the President, the Congress, those in authority, with wisdom! Shield our armed forces with Thy protecting power and send our embattled youth back to us soon with blessed, building peace! Come to us now, O Christ, and bring many to Thee through this broadcast! We ask it, believing Thy promise. Amen.
HOW much longer will this war last? When will the last shot be fired, the last bomb be dropped? Who is right—those who predict that victory will be ours before this year is over or those who grimly insist that we must fight through a decade of the bitterest, bloodiest battles in history?—These are the questions of the day, repeated by millions in our country. Daily they view the horrors of this conflict, cities destroyed, ships sunk by the hundreds, the very foundations of civilization attacked, our peacetime industry reorganized into a mighty system with the pointed purpose to kill, kill, kill. As they think of their dear ones on the battle fronts or on the high seas, continually confronted by the danger of death, they plead: “When will this stop? When will our sons, husbands, brothers come back? When will the all-clear signal sound over the whole world with the destruction of evil and the victory of truth, righteousness, justice?”
Only God knows. More than ever before should we penitently repeat Jehoshaphat’s prayer, “Our eyes are upon Thee,” O Lord—not on our own vaunted greatness. More than all else we need the Almighty on our side, so that we can exult, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
We must constantly keep in mind, however, for our nation, our churches, our homes, ourselves, that God is for those only who serve Him in true faith, and that a question of far greater importance even than the wondering about the war’s end confronts everyone of us, soldiers and civilians, youth and the aged, the influential and the impoverished; it is a question the response to which can be a decisive factor in shaping the nation’s course, in bringing courage, comfort, and conviction into your heart and life. It is, my countrymen, the question of heaven or hell, life or death—the question of all questions:
DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST?—
the pointed issue raised by our Lord Himself in the text for this Sunday (Saint John, chapter eleven, verses twenty-five to twenty-seven): “Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”
WHAT YOU SHOULD BELIEVE CONCERNING CHRIST
Jesus spoke these words at Bethany, a village only two short miles from Jerusalem. He was on the way to the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, the dwelling where He often found peace and quiet apart from the strife and turmoil of a selfish world. Sorrow had entered this household, and the Lord was bringing reassurance and help.—When you pray to the Savior, as I know many of you do, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest,” and when you plead with faith and sincerity, the same heavenly Friend who entered the Bethany household will come into your family circle, no matter how difficult your problems may seem. If misunderstanding threatens to destroy the peace and joy in your home; if you feel the pinch of poverty, while others worry only over the heavy income taxes they must pay as evidence of their prosperity; if sickness has crossed your threshold; if a child of yours suffers from infantile paralysis—and, as annually, our broadcast asks you to get solidly behind the humanitarian effort now waged to help the victims of this plague; if broken marriage vows have shattered your dreams of happiness, remember that Jesus can mightily comfort you! Hard though such afflictions may be, they are far lighter than the sorrow which encircled that Bethany cottage—death. Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had died, and Martha thought the Savior had come too late; but she was wrong, as His miracle-working mercy proved, and it is never too late for Christ to bring you help and hope.
Christ addressed these words to Martha who had run to meet Him; and today Jesus similarly would speak to all American women. They are divinely appointed supporters of morality, home happiness, and domestic honesty—these women who never lose the power of true womanhood, who regard marriage as sacred; the mothers who, despite the sacrifices they make in defense industries, find their vital activity at home, rearing the children, which God has given them, in true faith, with full devotion to Christ and country; women, married or unmarried, young and old, who, following the example of the saintly figures on the New Testament pages, first learn “to show piety at home” and then find time to work for the salvation of souls and for the Church’s interests. Because mothers with such faith are vital for a better nation, their high principles are being assailed with a viciousness and vehemence hitherto unknown in our country. Two courses confront every woman in the United States today: the one is followed by the pleasure-chasing, cocktail-drinking, notoriety-seeking, home-neglecting, divorce-exalting, sin-loving, Christ-denying; and the other is chosen by the Scripture-loving, home-building, sinhating, clean-living, Christ-exalting. Women of America, as you ask yourselves pointedly, “Which path am I to take?” may God’s Holy Spirit give you the devotion of Martha who ran to meet the Savior!
Once before when Jesus was a Guest in Bethany, Martha had been overbusy in preparing for His comfort and entertainment. While her sister Mary sat at the Savior’s feet to catch every word of divine instruction, Martha was running between kitchen and dining room, so to speak, in preparing the best she could for Christ. Then our Lord reminded her that the “one thing . . . needful” is not food and drink, but the hearing of God’s Word. Martha learned this lesson gratefully and quickly. But there are many women, even in churches, who must change their whole attitude toward the Gospel, as Martha did. Too often people actually believe it is the prime, outstanding work of the Church to arrange socials, meals, teas, theatricals, and to attract people by such methods. Correspondingly, many women think they are doing the Lord’s chief work when they spend hours over a hot stove in preparing church suppers, waiting on tables, or engaging in other activities designed to make money for religious purposes, and when, as a result, they are robbed of the time required personally to testify for Christ. Think also of the destructive features which claim religious support. Some of you sent me church programs showing that on last New Year’s Eve, at a time when American soldiers faced death on a dozen different battle fronts, your congregations sponsored dances in their halls and urged their parishioners to dance their way into this burdened year. Recall also the public scandal of the gambling conducted under church auspices! In New York, where the city officials declared bingo illegal—think of it!—some religious groups went before the legislative authorities, requesting that the ban be lifted. We need not look far afield for the reason why some churches have lost the respect and support of the masses.—If you are in a congregation suffering from this gambling craze, stop this violation of God’s law and man’s!
Now, when Jesus, comforting Martha in her bereavement, unfolds the glorious promise which has given many of you new hope at the side of caskets or in the cold cemetery, He declares, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” Then He looks directly at Martha and asks, “Believest thou this?”—the very question He now puts before you. Jesus wants to know how you stand. He does not inquire first of all: “Do the 130,000,000 in the United States believe? Do your parents believe? Do your children believe?” The important issue is, “Do you believe?”
You ask, “What must I believe?” and Martha gives you this glorious answer, “Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art . . . the Son of God.” To you, too, Jesus must be more than a great man, a good man, a gifted man; more than just a mighty leader, a miraculous leader, a martyred leader; more than a helpful teacher, a strengthening teacher, a heavenly teacher; more than a high example, a noble example, a holy example; more than godly, Godsent, godlike. He must be God Himself, God fully, God truly, God eternal, God almighty, God all-knowing. He lived as God; He thought as God; He spoke as God; He was God; He is God; He ever will be God!
Do not let anyone tell you that it matters little whether you accept Christ as God-man or only as a godly man! It makes all the difference in this world and the next. Do not be misled by the tragic fact that some denominations have sought to dethrone Him! The true Church, from Old Testament days, has been united in acclaiming Jesus one with the Father and the Spirit, “God blessed forever.” Do not pay any attention to the unbelief of modern religious leaders who publicly reject the Savior’s deity! He was worshiped as God by the angels, acclaimed God by the prophets, proclaimed as God by the Gospels, exalted as God by the Apostles, acknowledged as God even by His heavenly Father. Believe with Martha that because Jesus is “the Son of God,” nothing is too hard for Him! No help you may need is too difficult for Him to grant; no problem of any disturbed soul too heavy for solution by His divine power. You can trust Him, since as your God He cannot fail. You can discover daily help through Him, because as God His is “all power . . . in heaven and in earth.” You can find guidance in Christ, since He knows the future and directs it. You can come to Him anywhere or any time, because as God He is not limited by time nor restricted by space. Let me tell you again: Jesus is more than any or all the myriads of men. He is your God.
Martha’s faith went farther. When her divine Instructor looked at her and asked, “Believest thou this?” she also answered, “Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ,” that is, God’s Anointed, the promised Deliverer, the atoning Redeemer, the sin-conquering, sinremoving Savior. God grant that you, too, may say, “Yea, Lord; I believe that Thou art the Christ”! It is not enough to believe merely that Jesus lived a model life; for His purity serves to emphasize our impurity. It is not enough to recognize how forcefully He proclaimed the message of love, for your own heart feels too much hatred; not enough to concede that He died a noble death—millions of soldiers today are ready to lay down their lives for their fellow countrymen. You must know that Jesus, and He alone, is “the Christ” who was crucified—and so may everyone of you say—for “my” sins.
Believe also that Jesus saves completely, that no one is too vile to be accepted, no transgression too vicious to be remitted by the Lord of limitless love! Last week a Michigan woman wrote me in deep concern over her soul. A friend had warned her that her sins could not be pardoned, stating that if a Christian, knowing any act to be wrong, nevertheless commits it, he can never be forgiven; and she based her claim on a Bible edition and commentary which unfortunately has gained wide circulation. What a destructive denial such limiting of our Lord’s all-embracing mercy! Reject every restriction of His redemption! Trust this plain promise of Scripture, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”!
Believe that Jesus saves everyone who comes to Him in faith! Nothing but your own unbelief can keep you from His love. There are no bars but your own refusal to accept His mercy. A few days ago death came to George Washington Carver, the Negro scientist whose parents were slaves and who as a boy was sold for a race horse valued at $300. Later, in his laboratory he developed more than three hundred useful products from the lowly peanut and more than two hundred byproducts from the sweet potato. But the Bible meant as much to him as the laboratory, and he showed his childlike faith in the Savior by choosing as one of his favorite passages Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” I hold up Dr. Carver, Bible student, Bible teacher, Bible lover, to my colored friends as an example of the spiritual victories which can be won by those of a race often persecuted and oppressed. The words of a Sakalave tribal chief in Madagascar ring in my ears: “You see us Negroes, victims of ignorance and drunkenness; but who brought to our village the first little pieces of candy filled with liquor? The white man. Who is it that today calls us ‘lazy beasts,’ who mocks at our way of living? The white man. Who tells that there is no God in heaven to reign over the earth? The white man.”—As I ask you in the Savior’s name to forgive the cruelties inflicted by members of my race, I also invite you, whatever the color of your skin may be, to believe that Christ has compassion on every human being and often loves those most who suffer most.
Believe chiefly that Jesus saves freely; that pardon, which the combined wealth of all nations could never purchase, is granted you by pure grace, without any price or payment! This glorious compassion separates Christianity from all other creeds, as it shows that God did everything in redeeming you through Jesus. John Ruskin, British man of letters, declared: “The root of almost every schism and heresy from which the Christian Church has ever suffered has been the effort by men to earn rather than to receive their salvation, and the reason that preaching is so commonly ineffectual is that it calls upon men oftener to work for God than to behold God working for them.” Ruskin is right. Among the hundreds of religions which claim men’s worship, fundamentally there are only two different beliefs. The one holds that man must work for his own salvation. The other—the creed of this broadcast—exalts the Christ who by the shedding of His blood has earned salvation for us. Which will you accept?
God grant that you women may secure and safeguard Martha’s faith, “Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God”! Oh, that His Spirit would give you soldiers the courage of the centurion beneath the cross, “Truly, this was the Son of God”! you men, the confidence of Saint John, “This is the true God and eternal Life”! you doubters, the conviction of Thomas, “My Lord and my God”; you sin-burdened, the comfort of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”! May that enlightening Spirit lead many this day to proclaim this deathless declaration of 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”!
If you have this faith, wholly, sincerely, reverently, then, whatever your denomination—Protestant or Catholic, Lutheran or Reformed, Low-Church or High-Church—you are a Christian. But if you reject Jesus, if you contradict the Gospel promises and think that you must earn your own salvation, then you may belong to a large, imposing congregation; you may hold a high, responsible position; you may be a church officer, even a clergyman, but you are not a Christian. You are still without the saving faith.
WHY YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IN CHRIST
No other question that can ever be directed to you has the importance, the weight in time and eternity, the urgency of this, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” With that faith comes the answer to the problem which has always disturbed human hearts, the removal of the fear which from the cradle days of history has made men cringe in fright—the terror of death. When Jesus, our God and our Savior, declares, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die,” He who can never deceive nor speak an unfulfilled promise, gives you the personal, glorious assurance that, though you must die, through Christ you will not remain in the grave. For the Christian what men call death is only the beginning of a new, incomparably greater life in eternity with Jesus.
Therefore, when He who proved His power over the grave by raising lifeless Lazarus and at Easter by bursting from His own tomb assures you, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” believe with your whole heart that through Him there is a life to come and decay is not the Christian’s final destiny. Though the time will surely come when you draw your last breath, when your body, cold, motionless, rigid, dead, begins to decompose, nevertheless by God’s might and as a believer you will be awakened in a radiant, heavenly body, perfect and painless, without flaws or faults, without marred or missing members, without any taint of disease or weakness in age.
What a sustaining comfort in this pledge! How assuredly it ought to make death easy, welcome, a glorious triumph, instead of the screaming and cursing terror it often is for unbelievers! Some of you are living your very last days. Your physicians have given you at most a week or two longer on earth. Because you have Christ, you will be indescribably better off next Sunday, if God takes you during this week. Then you will be free from all suffering; you will worship with angels and archangels; you will meet your loved ones who have preceded you in faith.
The more rabidly infidels argue against this sacred truth, the more firmly you should believe it! These words of Jesus Himself, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” are the highest truth. Christ is not only your life-restoring God and Savior; He is the only God, the one Mediator between heaven and earth, the sole Assurance of life beyond the grave. Listen to Him as He instructs especially you who may think that a dozen roads lead to a blessed eternity, a hundred different paths to Paradise above! He does not say, “I am One of the ways to the resurrection and the life.” He does not say, “He that believeth on Me or anyone else shall never die.” But He does say: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He does say, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.” His Word clearly declares, “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” No doubt remains! Jesus is your only Savior!—Do you believe this?
HOW YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IN CHRIST
I pray God that you not only accept it, but also acclaim it with the confidence of Martha, who, casting all misgivings aside, declared in exultant, confident faith, “Yea, Lord; I believe”!
We need much more of this “Yea, Lord; I believe” conviction, especially because in an age of widespread falsehood and poisoned propaganda we are told that educated people no longer accept the Bible or regard Jesus as a divine, personal Savior. There are men who deliberately spend their entire lifetime in the futile attempt to “expose” Christianity. Organizations have been established for the unholy and blasphemous purpose of discrediting the Gospel. How can anyone find happiness in tearing down the faith by which men live and die? Aside from the terrible sin of denying Christ, I would not be an atheist or a modernist because of the cruelty of robbing others of their trust, of kicking the crutch from beneath a crippled world.
How absurd the claim that the Christian truth and scientific truth are at swords’ points! The other day our newspapers reported the death of two outstanding scientists: The one was Nikola Tesla, an eminent leader in American electrical research. Editors called him “the father of radio and modern generation and transmission systems.” His inventions and discoveries as listed in Who’s Who are astonishing in their number as in their variety and stupendous achievement. Without Nikola Tesla the radio might never have been perfected; and the projects on which he was working when he died, particularly the transmission of power without wires, place him in the front ranks of America’s outstanding scientists. We ask, Was Nikola Tesla an atheist, like some of the small minds that sneer and snarl at the Bible? No! His father was a servant of God. Nikola was reared in the faith of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and he remained true to it. His priest informs me that he was indeed a Christian, that he believed the Bible, accepted the Lord Jesus, and that he showed his love for the Savior through generous support of the Serbian missions in this country.
The other scientist mentioned on the same page, Dr. Howard A. Kelly of Johns Hopkins University, was an internationally recognized medical authority. He was made an honorary fellow by the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, London, Paris, Rome, Bucharest, Vienna, Kiev, Lima—perhaps the most widely known American surgeon and gynecologist. Now, did Dr. Howard Kelly show the anti-Bible, anti-God attitude which mark some physicians? He regularly spent from one to four hours a day reading his Bible. He wrote vigorous, convincing books and articles in behalf of his Savior. He never missed an opportunity of testifying to Christ. Though he died a few days ago, yet he lives and speaks to all doubters today as I repeat his words: “I am sure that the Bible is the Word of God, with an assurance greater than all other convictions.” “Above . . . logical deductions from philosophical and scientific premises I place the clear light of truth shining from the pages of the Bible.”
Many other outstanding scientists, leaders of the leaders, have been courageous, confessing Christians. The American culture of the past had room and recognition for “the fear of the Lord” as “the beginning of wisdom.” In 1860 246 colleges and universities flourished in the United States, and all but seventeen were directed by the churches. Of 1,700 colleges and universities today hardly one third are under religious control, and many of the rest tolerate opposition to Christ. A Yale professor reported that not one of his forty students could tell exactly who Judas Iscariot was. Another teacher there declared that a senior insisted he had never even heard of Moses. A Radcliffe girl asked her teacher: “What are the Ten Commandments? I see them referred to so often in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” The dean of Columbia University, in his last annual report, asserts that there is “a shocking degree of religious illiteracy among college students.” To protest against all this and to put more of Jesus into our education, we must stand behind Christian, church-supported colleges. Their path will become increasingly difficult during this age before us, but their part in promoting the nation’s spiritual welfare will be more vital than ever, since only by a return to the sincere, simple faith, based on the Bible and culminating in the Savior, can the masses in our country, especially our youth, find assurance for the future. If we can assist you in suggesting Christian schools for your sons or daughters, please write us! We shall be happy to counsel you.
Now, when you ask, “How can I have Martha’s firm faith?” I answer: You must meet the Savior as she did. You must read His words of encouragement and strength in the Bible, the deathless record of His life and death for your salvation. The deep-rooted trouble with many of you who oppose the Redeemer is this, that you have never actually sat down systematically to study the Word of His truth. If you would, the Holy Spirit could give you the grace He extended to Dr. David Nelson, a physician in the United States Anny. He came from a Christian home, but through his college training he began to regard God’s Word as false and Christ’s Gospel as superstition. Yet one day the thought came to him, “Why don’t you deal fairly with the Scriptures?” He did two things: He carefully reexamined the writings of Voltaire, Hume, and other skeptics, noting their inaccuracies, their unfairness, their dishonesty. At the same time, however, he began to study the Scriptures, and as he read he was brought to the full, unreserved knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. In gratitude he wrote a striking book against infidelity, which has been circulated in more than 100,000 copies. May the Spirit touch many of you today, so that you begin delving into Scripture personally, privately, and with your family!
Every day you live in unbelief adds to the peril of your soul. Who knows how long it will be before you stand at the tribunal of eternity?—One of our Lutheran chaplains, cited twice for his bravery on the Aleutian Islands, told me that for weeks he had instructed a young man in the Christian religion. The young convert was so eager to confess his Savior publicly that he wanted to be baptized in a church; yet late one night he knocked on the chaplain’s door. He had walked thirteen miles through the desolate tundra country to be baptized immediately. He could not wait any longer, and there, after midnight, in the presence of several Christian soldiers he was baptized. A few hours later he returned to his lonely post. Before that day drew to its close, the Japanese attacked, and the young man was killed. Within less than twentyfour hours he was received into the Church Militant on earth and the Church Triumphant in heaven. If within the next twenty-four hours you are summoned from life, will you be blessed by this magnificent assurance, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”? That depends on the answer to the question which Jesus Himself now puts before you: “‘Believest thou this?’ ‘Believest thou’ that I am thy God and Savior, thy Ransom and Redemption, thy Pardon and Peace, thy Resurrection and Life?” God grant that now from the four quarters of this country, from beyond its borders, in Canada to the north and Mexico to the south, from the islands and from the ships of the seas to the east and the west, there may come—in a mighty harmony of trusting faith—this confident, triumphant answer, “‘Yea, Lord,’ with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might ‘I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God’!” Amen!
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.