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Wednesday, August 30, 2006 

Luther on Fighting Temptation
Topic: The Long War

Martin Luther on Comfort When Facing Grave Temptations[1]

First, such a person must by no means rely on himself, nor must he be guided by his own feelings. Rather, he must lay hold of the words offered to him in God's name, cling to them, place his trust in them, and direct all the thoughts and feelings of his heart to them.

Second, he must not imagine that he is the only one assailed about his salvation, but he must be aware (as St. Peter declares) that there are many more people in the world passing through the same trials (I Peter 5:9). How often does David lament and cry out in the Psalms, "O God, I am driven far from Thy sight" (31:22) and, "I became like those who go into hell" (28:1). These trials are not rare among the godly. They hurt, to be sure, but that is also in order, etc.

Third, he should by no means insist on deliverance from these trials without yielding to the divine will. He should address God cheerfully and firmly and say, "If I am to drink this cup, dear Father, may Your will, not mine, be done" (Luke 22:42).

Fourth, there is no stronger medicine for this than to begin with words such as David used when he said in Psalm 18:3, "I will call upon the Lord and praise Him, and so shall I be saved from all that assails me." For the evil spirit of gloom cannot be driven away by sadness and lamentation and anxiety, but by praising God, which makes the heart glad.

Fifth, he must thank God diligently for deeming him worthy of such a visitation, of which many thousands of people remain deprived.[2] It would be neither good nor useful for man to know what great blessings lie hidden under such trials. Some have wanted to fathom this and have thereby done themselves much harm. Therefore, we should willingly endure the hand of God in this and in all suffering. Do not be worried; indeed, such a trial is the very best sign of God's grace and love for a man. At such a time it is well to pray, read, or sing Psalm 142, which is especially helpful at this point.
Psalm 142
With my voice I cry out to the LORD; with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. When my spirit faints within me, you know my way! In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. I cry to you, O LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living." Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me. Amen.
Sixth, it is necessary that one never doubt the promise of the truthful and faithful God. He promised to hear us' yes, He commanded us to pray, for the very reason that we might know and firmly believe that our petition will be heard. Thus Christ says in Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24, "Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you shall receive it, and you surely will." Also in Luke 11:9 - 13, "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. What son is there among you who would ask his father for bread, and he would offer him a stone instead? etc. If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?"

Such a person must also know Christ aright and know that by Him alone are all our sins paid and God's grace given to us, lest he presume to deal directly with God and without this mediator.

But if the inner assaults should become more severe after this medicine, he should do nothing else but abide by the above advice. For this grave temptation is a good omen that this will soon end and the devil is very nearly vanquished. He is merely making his strongest temptation now. Pharoah, too, never persecuted the children of Israel as severly as he did toward the end. One can also see this in a physical illness. Just before the medicine begins to help and heal the person, it makes him extremely sick. Therefore this person should be hopeful and of good cheer.


[1]Taken from Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther edited by Thornton & Varenne (Random House, 2002) pp. 63 - 67. Back

[2]Luther says elsewhere that the most dangerous trial is when there is none. Back

[Luther] | [sanctification]



Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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