Dear Praying Friends,
I reminded myself and several people lately to re-focus on Jesus Christ and His coming down for us at Christmas, His sinless life, His crucifixion and atoning death, His bodily resurrection, His eternal alive-ness, His presence with us, His ongoing help and prayers for us, and His certain return for us. All the good things we enjoy in life come to us through Christ and His work for us. If Christians help each other keep the spotlight on Christ, then we can praise God, rejoice in Him, worship Him, and give Him thanks even in the hardest and darkest times.
The Background of a Great Hymn
I am reminded of Martin Rinkart (1586-1649), a German Lutheran pastor. He served during the Thirty Years’ War (1618 to 1648) between Catholics and Protestants in Central Europe. Martin lived in the walled town of Eilenburg and many refugees poured in. Armies crossed the land pillaging shops and farms, leaving devastation and desolation behind. Most people were farmers and they couldn’t raise their crops, so there was famine. Then the plague broke out.
There were two other pastors in Eilenburg, but both of them died and Martin was left to care for the large population alone. Day after day, all day long, he went from bed to bed, visiting the sick and comforting the dying. He conducted thousands of funerals, sometimes preaching his funeral sermon over 40-50 bodies at once. One year Martin Rinkart buried 5,000 people, including his own dear wife. And one year after the war ended, Martin himself died.
There was famine, plague, and battle horror all around him. Precious human beings, made in God’s image and likeness, were dropping dead like flies. Martin Rinkart was surrounded by tragedy, bloodshed, starvation, and destruction. Yet he wrote this marvelous upbeat hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God” and 65 others! Read the hymn aloud as a prayer to Christ.
The Hymn Itself
Stanza #1 blesses the Lord for His marvelous acts of love:
Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms, Hath blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.
Stanza #2 prays for Jesus’ continued presence and guidance:
O may this bounteous God Through all our life be near us With ever joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us; And keep us in His grace, And guide us when perplexed, And free us from all ills In this world and the next.
Then Stanza #3 soars:
All praise and thanks to God, The Father, now be given, The Son, and Him (the Holy Spirit) who reigns With them in highest heaven, The one eternal God Whom earth and heav’n adore; For thus He was, is now, And shall be evermore.
Using the Hymn to Help Us
I use this hymn to encourage hurting people all year round, not just at Thanksgiving. I also use it with men in prison. Christians gain perspective by being reminded that believers in past centuries suffered also, often more than we do. If they needed to and learned to look up to our Risen and Reigning King for comfort and joy to press on in serving Christ, then we can too.
Rinkart’s hymn reminds me of a quote from my professor and friend Edmund Clowney (1917–2005): “Trials should not surprise us, or cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness. Rather, we should actually be glad for them. God sends trials to strengthen our trust in Him so that our faith will not fail. Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self confidence and drive us to Jesus our Savior.”1
The Psalmist says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”2 Some of God’s closeness to us comes through Him putting us in other people’s lives and sending others to help bear our burdens, encourage us, and build us up in Christ.3 He often uses the least likely people to carry out His plan so that all the glory goes to Him. This holiday season, please be on the lookout for new people to help and allow new people to help you love and serve Jesus. We are meant to give and to receive blessings in God’s family, His church.
Thank you again for your prayers and fellowship that help me to continue serving Christ in Houston as we watch and wait for Christ’s certain return. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Your very grateful brother in Christ, Bob
From the blog. Blogs posted since our October 2019 update:
- Magnify the Lord: Sometimes He Answers Speedily
- Magnify the Lord: Sometimes He Answers Before We Pray
- Did Christ Descend into Hell?
- Returning Home to God
- Christ is My Helper (Part 1)
- Christ is My Helper (Part 2)
- Christ is My Helper (Part 3)
Notes: 1 The Message of 1 Peter (1988). 2 Psalm 34:18. 3 Gal 6:2; 1 Thes 5:11.