Where Do I Find Courage?
“Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.” —Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress”
In the early 1500s, an Augustinian friar and theology professor came to reject several teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Chief among his convictions, he believed people are saved by faith, not human effort, and that Scripture, not the Church, defines truth. Pope Leo X had the man, Martin Luther, excommunicated. Emperor Charles V tried him as an outlaw.
The “heretic” was ordered to appear at Worms, Germany, in 1521. There, an assortment of powerful bishops and political representatives gathered to witness the proceedings. In the midst of it all stood a table, covered with books and papers Martin Luther had written.
When Luther appeared, an official asked, “Did you write these books, and if so, which of them will you now recant?”
Luther answered, “The books are mine, and I have written even more.” As to what he would recant, Luther asked for time to consider an answer. He was granted 24 hours.
The next evening the place was even more crowded. Asked the same question, Luther rose to speak. Just as he began, he was interrupted.
“You must give a simple, clear, and proper answer! Will you recant or not?”
Knowing his life was on the line—he could be arrested and executed for his answer—Luther replied: “Unless I can be instructed with evidence from the Holy Scriptures, I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
Luther was condemned. He was branded a heretic. An order was issued for his arrest, making it criminal for anyone in Germany to provide him with food or shelter, and allowing anyone to kill him without legal consequence.
Martin Luther is known as the father of the Protestant Reformation. There was theological conviction behind Luther’s answer, but don’t miss the reality: standing strong in that moment took a great deal of courage!
When a young man named Joshua learned he would succeed Moses in leading the Israelites—a daunting task—he was encouraged by God: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
In Psalm 91, the Psalmist found courage in trusting God despite severe adversity: “If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways” (verses 9-11).
Where in my life—at work, at home, in my community—am I being called upon to act or speak out courageously? Can I take comfort knowing God is with me and the Lord is my refuge?
My prayer this week—Lord, help me know when I should stand up for you, as well as how to do it. Will you remind me of your presence, of your strength, and of your sovereignty over all? May I find courage in you!