Date: May 5, 1935
Thou art my God. My times are in Thy hand. – Psalm 31:14-15
THESE months of broadcasting the eternal Gospel of Christ, months which at their beginning seemed to stretch out into a distant future, this afternoon draw to their inevitable close. If I may give expression to the emotions shared by those in charge of the broadcast, let me say that we today raise grateful hearts to our heavenly Father, who beyond our most roseate hopes endowed this Sunday afternoon half hour with large and responsive circles of friends throughout the greater part of the nation. We know from the thousands of letters which bespeak the conviction of your hearts that there are myriads in the land who have not bowed down before the Baals of unbelief, the Mammon of materialism, and the caricatures of the blessed Christ; myriads who, in the face of sinister infidelity, continue to build their hope on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. And as we review these far-reaching opportunities for proclaiming the sure mercies of Christ during problematical and disappointing days, there is a word of thanks on our lips for your friendship, your encouragement, your support, and a prayer of petition in our hearts that the Spirit of God may bless with His power the Word which we have proclaimed in our weakness, that the seed sown in your hearts may bring forth the bounty of its hundredfold harvest.
Yet we hope that this afternoon marks no final valedictory; for it is our intention to resume the broadcasting of these winged words of Christ’s love in the fall, perhaps on a larger scale and with the hope of even greater support. If, then, it be God’s will and your earnest desire that this exaltation of Christ through the all but limitless reaches of the ether continue and expand, we are only temporarily interrupting these broadcasts. A few short months will pass into history, and God helping us, we shall once more be ready to continue the radio testimony to His grace and power.
As short as these intervening weeks are, however, they may prove a critical, pivotal period in your life or in mine. No one who has not blinded his eyes to the screaming evidence on all sides can escape the conviction that we have reached decisive days, which will speak either curse or blessing for the future. Rumors of war are persistently rising in Europe, where nations, anemic because of lifeblood drained away in the World War, are conscripting their large armies, laying the keels for supercruisers or new-type submarines, planning air armadas of unprecedented power, and raising, bankrupt as they are, military expenditures to horrifying heights. In our own country an oppressive pall continues to hang over our Government, our commerce and industries, and our homes. National indebtedness pyramids itself into towering, toppling heights. Cool judgment recedes as hot passions clash in industrial warfare and political skirmishes, while the regiments of discontent are daily swollen by new recruits. If now we add to the total of world disturbances the realization of our own personal insecurity and the abruptness with which our plans may be frustrated and our happiness shattered, it may be that some of you are disturbed by this panorama of uncertainty with its foreboding specters, disquieted by the realization of your own helplessness in the grinding crush of these world-changing movements.
It is to you, then, who disconsolately scan the unformed horizon of the future for the dawn of a single ray of hope; to you who, lingering on beds of protracted illness, doubt whether you will survive another summer; to all whose hearts plead for an antidote to the penetrating poison of doubt, for an answer to the profound questions of your own life’s happiness, that I direct this farewell radio message, which may strengthen us all until we meet again. On the basis of David’s immortal words “Thou art my God; my times are in Thy hand,” let me show you
THE CHRISTIAN’S UNDAUNTED COURAGE
In the trials of sorrow and persecution David raises his eyes heavenward, reaffirms his full, undiminished trust in God, and pronounces this credo of his faith: “Thou art my God.” Some might seek surcease from sorrow in a self-reliant will to conquer; others might distractedly rack their brains and mobilize their resources to provide an escape from the clutching toils of adversity; but David turns to God.
His experience had taught him the lesson which this generation must yet learn: we need God, for we dare not trust in ourselves. Every failure in the present debacle must ultimately be traced to the tragedy that men have not sought strength and refuge in their heavenly Father through the confident faith that confesses: “Thou art my God,” but that we have turned to ourselves and leaned on the arms of flesh. Bleeding and bruised by the body blows of adversity, our groggy, dizzy, staggering age rises stubbornly, but futilely after each new fall to hammer down its opposition single-handed.
THIS COURAGE TRUSTS IN GOD
We should have realized, as every crisis of history emphasizes, that human power, raised to its highest degree, is but a pitiful gesture in comparison with the mysterious and overwhelming forces that surround us. We build Boulder Dams with a purpose of increasing and controlling the agricultural yield; but grasshoppers and the blight of small insects can cut their swath of destruction in our farmlands and overnight put to naught the plans of crop experts. We mobilize the resources of our brains and wealth to provide health, culture, and opportunity for our children; but bacteria, so small that only a high-powered microscope can detect them, strike thousands of our boys, and girls with paralysis, while a cruel collapse of our complicated financial system leaves them deprived of many opportunities which we have come to accept as self-understood. We solve problems of business on paper; we build elaborate commercial houses of cards; we devise the most comprehensive plans for the advancement of culture and progress and the promotion of cooperation and peace; but the cruel realities of life nullify our best proposals, and a gust of an ill wind blows our fragile creations into shapeless ruins. As a leaf that dances with the gale, as a twig that floats passively with the currents of the river, as a cloud that moves on fitfully until it dissolves into sky-blue nothingness, so our puny plans and ambitions are buffeted by overshadowing forces.
In the narrow spheres of our own affairs you and I, besieged as we are by treacherous and tyrannical influences, must learn to rid ourselves of the delusion that we are the masters of our own fate and that by our own resources we can blaze the path to destiny. Do not build the foundation of your life’s hope on your money, if you have any; for inflation, dishonesty, bad investments, theft, can snatch away the accumulations of years in a single hour; and even if you escape from all this, how much of real peace of mind, of true happiness, of permanent blessings can you purchase by the sum total of every dollar that has ever passed through your hands? Do not rely on your own strength, physical or mental, and proclaim with swelling pride that you are a self-made man. What assurance have you that you can escape a swift and sudden end? During the half hour of this broadcast 2,500 of your fellow-men have succumbed to death, according to the average daily mortality rates of the world, many of them snatched away in the prime of life by the clutching grip of the skeletal hand that may reach out when it is least expected. Do not look for the hope of happiness or the pledge of the permanency for life among the fleeting delusions that parade before you in the procession of our twentieth-century follies. Instead, hear the admonition of your God: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me,” and in conformity with this command from heaven come before our heavenly Father, the God of our Bible, and cry out in confidence: “Thou art my God.”
Let me repeat: Only in the God of our Bible can there be an abiding hope. There is a feeling current in much of modem thought that any kind of religion, however vague, any conception of God, however crude, will suffice. Never before have there been as many hazy and contradictory conceptions of God, never as many different names for the true Lord of lords, never as many hopeless creeds, false altars, misplaced confidences, as in this hour. If you keep only one truth from all these broadcasts, let it be this basic verity of all time and eternity: The only true God is that sovereign Deity who comes to us in the Bible and who, as the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of our lives, is revealed in the person and in the teachings of Jesus Christ. All other gods, no matter how attractively they may be pictured, how ceremoniously they may be worshiped, how frantically they may be proclaimed, or how deceptively they may be substituted in modernistic churches for the verity of Scripture, are only the morbid creations of compromise, the products of spiritually stunted minds, the lying phantoms of destruction. The verdict of Christ is final: “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” If you would see God without seeing Christ, if your theology pictures to you a supreme being of many titles and multiplied honors, but omits this decisive identification, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” you are worshiping an idol that is just as helpless as the tin gods of China and the totem poles of Alaska.
But—wonder of heaven’s high mercies—when we know God through Christ, we have the irremovable confidence that, selfish, short-sighted, sinful mortals though we be, puny, powerless atoms of humanity that we are, subject to a thousand crushing forces, we can approach the holiness of our heavenly Father, not by our own ingenuity, not in our own strength, not as a reward of our own merits (for what have we that can demand and find recognition before God?), but by the reconciliation through the cross of Jesus Christ, by His enduring the chastisement for our sins, by the shedding of His precious blood in atonement for the world’s iniquities, by that abysmal death which He died for every one of us, and by the power and the glory of His resurrection. If you have that faith as you cry, “Thou art my God!” you may be underprivileged, destitute, forlorn; you may shrink each morning from the fear of new terrors that the day can bring forth and be grateful at night when no new miseries have been added to your burden; or you may be blessed by abundance, by health, by peace and prosperity; yet in strength or in weakness, in honor or in disgrace, in safety or in danger, in rising or in falling, in the flush of success or in the twilight of failure, always, under all circumstances, at all times and in all places, at home or on the highway, by day or by night, at work or at play, in youth or in age, in life or in death, you can have the holy benediction, too precious to be paid for by lifelong labors or vast treasures of gold, too impenetrable for the analysis of laboratories or the acumen of science, too divine to be understood and fully appreciated by the most enlightened mind—the sacred gift of pure grace in Christ by which we can draw near to our heavenly Father and declare: “Thou art my God. My times are in Thy hand.”
THIS COURAGE IS BLESSED BY GOD’S OMNIPOTENT HAND
Let us pause to estimate—as far as we can—the comfort of the words “My times are in Thy hand.” The hand that created the world and ordained the heavens with the immensity that passes comprehension, the precision that makes us gasp in astonishment; the hand that rules the vibrant forces of nature, that shakes the earth and moves its mountains, that lifts the tides and controls the raging seas; the hand that shifts the scenes of human history, topples thrones, cuts off dynasties, and leads armies to victory or to defeat, that hand directs the destiny of your life; that hand is never lost in the all but endless reaches of a universe, nor is it too omnipotent to bestow its guiding power upon the small problems and the trivial issues of your fleeting life. For that hand of God’s power, which not all the regiments of a world in arms, not all the explosives and ammunition stored in grim arsenals, not all the accumulated energy of our dynamos and turbines, not all the laws of legislatures and the tyranny of dictators, can restrain or frustrate,—that hand of power will protect you when the last line of human defense gives way. The hand of God’s wisdom, which marks the flight of His creatures, so that not a sparrow falls to the ground without His will, which scatters the seed and unfolds the fragrant flowers,—that hand of wisdom will direct the small, everyday affairs of your life and number the very hairs of your head. The hand of God’s love, which could send His Son into a sincursed world and lay upon Him all the woe of human misery; the hand for which not even all the precious metals and the costly gems of the world could fashion a ring of worthy adornment,—that hand of love extends in its open palm the redeeming grace that can keep you in the eternal mercies of Christ.
God’s hands may sometimes be raised in rebuke when in our self-focused desires we plead for that which would oppose His will. Amid the misleading sign-posts on our life’s road we are often too prone to prefer the smooth, broad boulevards of carnal security and self-indulgent ease to the pathway of penitent faith, the narrow road of selfdenial, of protest against sin, of consecrated devotion to our Savior. In those soul hazards, God’s hand, as contradictory as all this may appear, will be raised in chastisement as He draws us back to the pilgrim’s pathway, the steep, uphill climb through adversity, disappointment, and anxiety, but always, like the Savior’s death march to Calvary, from cross to crown.
With this firm-founded faith we entrust “our times” to divine guardianship. They may be prosperous times or adverse; cloudless days or storm-swept; joy-filled hours or desperate moments of agonized terror; but whether our times are lengthened or shortened, joy-charged or embittered, whether they be a lifetime of earth’s choicest endowments or an existence of pain, suffering, opposition, and reproach, our times—every moment of our divinely ordained space of years—are shaped and sheltered in the hand of our heavenly Father. Above all the confusion of our earth-born existence He whose hand creates the harmonies of the universe will blend the discords of your lives into a symphony of salvation, the prelude to the sacred theme that reechoes throughout the eternities, the everlasting doxology of the ten thousand times ten thousand, the ransomed saints in white. Into His hand, my fellowredeemed, I commend your bodies and souls. Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.