The Herald Weekly Vol XV : 36


Whenever wickedness abounds there are those who will oppose it and be strong enough to do exploits in the face of the worst acts of wickedness and ungodliness. This happened in Europe 500 years ago. By this time wickedness had engulfed the Church. As worldly and evil men purchased the most coveted positions in the church, and the truth was obscured by vain traditions and doctrines of men, there seemed to be no sign of relief from the oppressive rule of sin and darkness.

But God in His great mercy brought forth light out of that darkness. He raised up men who were strong both in convictions as well as in courage. Though they faced unimaginable odds they triumphed and left behind an important legacy that still stands today. What was it that enabled these reformers to be strong and do exploits? What was the fountainhead of their spiritual strength? What was the secret of their incredible courage, their patient endurance and their undying passion to restore the purity of the Church of Jesus Christ?

The answer is found in the latter part of Daniel 11:32, which plainly tells us – the people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits!

The reformers were people who did not merely know truths and doctrines about God, but they knew Him personally. God was not merely a subject for their theological analyses; He was their most trusted Friend and Guide. They knew Him well and were fervently devoted to Him. This was where the Reformation really began.

If they had not really known the Lord, they would certainly be able to write volumes of books to criticize the abuses of the church. But would they be able to take a firm stand for the truth and die for it? Would they be able to face humiliation and fiery trials for what they believed, and preach those same beliefs with great passion? It is doubtful that the Reformation would have taken place if all they had was a ‘head knowledge’ of God.

One case in point was Erasmus, a well-known Dutch humanist and scholar. Martin Luther admired him for his superior learning, as Erasmus was the first to edit and publish the Greek New Testament. His skill in languages, his powerful pen and erudite scholarship provided the reformers with much useful knowledge. In fact some regard Erasmus as the one who ‘laid the egg that Luther hatched.’ But when he was asked to join the movement to reform the church, he absolutely refused. He said that joining the reformers would endanger his position as a leader in the movement for pure scholarship which he regarded as his purpose in life. He disliked religious controversy, even when the truth was at stake. He chose to remain neutral, and he died a Roman Catholic.

If every reformer had been like Erasmus, there would have been plenty of talk and discussion but no action, commitment or power to restore the purity of the Church, and ultimately, no Reformation. Why? Because “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Let us look at what we know of the devotional life of some reformers.

Martin Luther

Luther’s devotion was evident from the moment he became a monk. In an age when many were entering the ranks of the clergy because of the church’s power and wealth, his only motive for giving up his study of Law to enter a monastery was his own personal quest to seek after a merciful God and assurance of his own salvation. Because he sought for God with all his heart, he finally found Him. And when Luther found God, he found Him to be a mighty fortress, a defence that never fails. This became the source of Luther’s courage. His personal knowledge of God was also the source of his praise and devotions – it inspired him to write 36 hymns.

One way to tell whether a person really knows God is to see how he views himself. Those who have a true vision of God will exclaim like Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” (Isaiah 6:5). Luther’s writings reveal a deep sense of personal unworthiness. He viewed himself as God’s unworthy instrument for the proclamation of the newly recovered gospel as the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).

Neither did Luther regard the Reformation as a human act or accomplishment, much less his own private undertaking. He saw it as God’s work alone. And in the preface of the first collected edition of his works, he expressed a wish that they might all perish, and God’s Word alone be read. His passion was all for the God he knew and loved so well!

Luther’s passion for God was naturally translated into hours that he spent with Him. One of his friends, Veit Dietrich, who spent time with Luther during a conference, wrote the following to Melanchthon in 1530 – “No day passes that he does not give three hours to prayer, and those the fittest for study. Once I happened to hear him praying. Good God! how great a spirit, how great a faith, was in his very words! With such reverence did he ask, as if he felt that he was speaking with God; with such hope and faith, as with a Father and a Friend. ’I know,’ he said, ’that Thou art our Father and our God. I am certain, therefore, that Thou art about to destroy the persecutors of Thy children. If Thou doest not, then our danger is Thine too. This business is wholly Thine, we come to it under compulsion: Thou, therefore, defend.’ …In almost these words I, standing afar off, heard him praying with a clear voice. And my mind burned within me with a singular emotion when he spoke in so friendly a manner, so weightily, so reverently, to God.”

John Knox

John Knox (1514-1572) was a very short and frail man. But what he lacked physically he had in great abundance spiritually! He was truly a spiritual giant. When he preached, God moved the Scots to go around destroying every idol and image in the land. This reformation was so effective that by 1560 the Reformed faith had become the official religion of Scotland.

What was the secret of his spiritual power? Knox was known as a man who wrestled with God in prayer. One prayer he constantly made to God was, “Give me Scotland or I die!” His intense dependence on God was evident even when he was called into the ministry. Upon knowing that God was calling him, he isolated himself and spent days in prayer and meditation before assuming his great task of being a preacher of the Gospel and a reformer of the church in a time of great danger and persecution.

His prayers were so effectual that even Mary Queen of Scots who tried to bring Roman Catholicism back to Scotland confessed, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” Doesn’t this bring out the truth of Daniel 11:32? “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.” John Knox did know his God! This was evident in a treatise that he wrote on prayer, to declare what true prayer is, how we should pray, and what we should pray for. In it Knox defined prayer as “an earnest and familiar talking with God, to whom we declare our miseries, whose support and help we implore and desire in our adversities, and whom we laud and praise for our benefits received.”

May our own prayer life conform to this definition. This is the way to know God personally so that we may be strong and do exploits. And this is urgently needed today. We are living in momentous times where wickedness is abounding as never before. Our Lord Jesus had said of these end times that iniquity shall abound and the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24:12).

Where are the Luthers and Knoxes of our time? Will you be one of them? Will you be someone whose devotional life can measure up to those of the reformers, someone whom God will use to accomplish His sovereign will for this present age?

Rev Charles Seet
Source : Life B-P Church, Weekly

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