theology learned in the flames of adversity

Posted by barello at 2020-04-08

On July 6, another attack struck Luther. He was entertaining friends for dinner when he felt an intense buzzing in his left ear. He had to be carried to bed, where he frantically called for water or else, he believed, he would die. Luther became so chilled that he was convinced he had seen his last night. In a desperate prayer, he surrendered himself to the will of God and prepared to meet his Maker. Though Luther remained seriously ill for days, he eventually regained hisstrength. In August, the Black Plague rapidly spread among the people in Wittenberg. Many died, and others fled for their lives. The University of Wittenberg moved to Jena, Germany. Frederick urged Luther to escape to spare his own life. Adding to the danger, Katie was pregnant and they had a one-year-old child, Hans. Luther, however, considered it his moral duty to remain and minister to thesick. Weighty trials rested heavily upon Luther’s shoulders. Death surrounded him on every side. He watched people die in his house and in the streets. He chose to transform his spacious house into a hospital to care for those suffering from the plague. Hans became desperately ill, and Luther became so heavily burdened that he could not eat for eleven days. He was deeply concerned for Katie’s safety and grew weak withdespair. In a letter to his trusted friend and coworker Philip Melanchthon, Luther acknowledged his increasing bouts ofdepression: In November, Luther wrote a theological tract titled Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague. He argued that a spiritual leader must stay with the community of believers under his care during a time of extreme duress. Certainly, the outbreak of the plague qualified as such a crisis, as extreme stress weighed heavy upon his heart and drained his body of strength. But in his weakness, Luther found new strength inGod. Concerning the singing of this favorite psalm, Luthersaid: The 1520s proved to be a turbulent time for Martin Luther, one in which he found himself engaged in many battles. In the face of mounting struggles, Luther fought the good fight and remained unwavering in his devotion to the truth of the Bible. Through these sufferings, he grew deeper in the truth and stronger infaith. Luther believed that trials in the life of any believer, especially a theologian, are necessary in order to grow in the truth. He said that affliction “teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom.” In other words, Luther maintained that theology is not learned only in the safety of a lecture hall, but in the flames of adversity. In fiery trials, one is humbled and broken. It is then that a leader is made most teachable. In difficult times, the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit often shines brightest. Broken hearts make for receptiveminds. Amid his mounting conflicts, Luther stands as a towering example of the steadfast loyalty to the gospel that is required by God. Ministry is never without its difficulties. There are no easy places to serve the Lord. In perilous times, Luther demonstrated the unwavering devotion needed topersevere.