Steadfast Encouragement from Luther

Blessed Martin Luther’s First House Postil for The Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Luke 5:1-11) is one of the most pastoral sermons I’ve had the pleasure to read. Using the miraculous catch of fish on Lake Genessaret as the text, he delivers incredible comfort to the reader simply by reminding him to hearken to the Word of Christ over against reason.

When one hearkens to the Word of God against everything reason puts up against the Word, then God is surely well-pleased because one holds to the Word and does as the Word says. Luther continues:

If everybody would respond to God and His Word in that fashion – and we ought to! – what a great peace would reign on earth! Mobsters and heretics would not arise, and all churches would be united and agreed in doctrine. Neither war nor discord, but only peace, would reign in the nation, in men’s hearts, and in their homes. But because people do not respond in that way, the majority quibbling and disputing, not willing to build solidly upon God’s Word by obeying it implicitly, that is why we have so much false teaching and dissension.

Then comes the Kern und Stern of Luther’s postil:

When we experience what Peter did, that is, toil all night catching nothing, we tend to become anxious, start to grumble, and become so discouraged that we’re ready to run away from it all. We must not give way to such temptation but persist, no matter what, remain at our post, and let God do the worrying. We’ve often observed that nothing seems to go right, even for good, pious, obedient children. On the other hand, wicked and disobedient rascals seem to prosper and get ahead. This only seems so, however. If evil seems at first to triumph, and good to lose out, remember that in the end the situation will be completely reversed. And so if you think that life is handing you a raw deal, hang in there and don’t let it get you down. Even when things go badly for those who live in obedience to God’s Word, that’s still better than the other way around. In the final analysis, God will bring judgment upon disobedience, no matter how successful it may have seemed, and will support the one who is obedient in all of his trials, and finally provide him with the highest happiness.

All of this should encourage us to follow Peter’s splendid example. He held steadfastly to Christ’s Word, refusing to let other thoughts and doubts lead him astray. If you are a pastor engaged in preaching and teaching your people, and the response hasn’t been all that great, don’t be dismayed and diverted. Say to yourself: God has ordered me to proclaim His Word, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. If it doesn’t always prosper, God knows why; if my work does thrive, it pleases both Him and me. The same attitude should prevail in any other of life’s callings. Say to yourself: God’s Word and will are present, and so I’ll go ahead, throw out my net, and let God worry about how full it will be!

Now, even as Peter had the word to throw out the net, so also we have God’s Word and command to work at whatever our calling requires. He who diligently carries out that command, even if success is minimal and blessing delayed, will find that everything finally turns out well.

The section in bold print quoted above is taped on the wall of my study where I can easily see it when I am at work. Luther’s words on my study wall have brought me so much comfort through the years. The Ministry of the Gospel is not about me. As my District President is wont to say concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, “…when and where He wills.”

I have often considered leaving my post and leaving the Missouri Synod to serve as a pastor in another synod. I remain in Missouri. I have a Divine Call. I serve the people of God where God has called me to serve. No matter what, I remain at my post and let God do the worrying. Some wags may look at my congregation’s statistics and say my congregation is “dying” or “failing.” Not so. We are growing…growing in grace and in the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord. Should the time come when my congregation must close, so be it. Congregations come and go. “The Church shall never perish, Her dear Lord to defend.” The Means of Grace are still being distributed, whether or not there is a “full house” at every Divine Service. God knows why. Thank God I don’t.

Take heart, beloved. At His Word, the Lord provides. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

About Pastor David Juhl

The Reverend David Michael Juhl was born June 1, 1972 in Du Quoin, IL. He was born from above by water and the Holy Spirit on June 18, 1972 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Du Quoin, IL. He was confirmed on March 23, 1986 at Bethel congregation. He attended Du Quoin public schools, graduating from Du Quoin High School in 1990. He attended John A. Logan Junior College, Carterville, IL, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, graduating with the Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television in 1994. Before attending seminary, Pastor Juhl was a radio disc jockey, working for WDQN Radio in Du Quoin, IL and volunteering at WSIU/WUSI/WVSI Radio in Carbondale, IL while a student at SIU. Pastor Juhl is a 2002 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. He served his vicarage at Faith Lutheran Church, Tullahoma, TN. His first charge after graduation was Trinity Lutheran Church, Iuka, IL, where he was ordained and installed on July 7, 2002. He served Trinity until March 4, 2007, when he accepted the Divine Call to serve Our Savior Lutheran Church, Momence, IL. Pastor Juhl is married to the former Rebecca Warmuth since October 3, 2003. They have one daughter, Catherine, born September 3, 2004, and two sons, Matthew, born October 11, 2008, and Christopher, born August 12, 2010.


Steadfast Encouragement from Luther — 5 Comments

  1. While Luther’s sermons are great reading for pastors, they are a bit long by today’s sermon standards, even when compared to the sermons of Gerhard. It might be a service to the Church to follow the example of that year-long devotional volume from Luther’s sermons (I believe that is its source) and “condense” the Church and House Postils for wider use through the Church Year. Of course, the LC is itself a collection of Luther’s sermons, of varying lengths. I have always thought that the Luther the pastor we meet in his sermons is not as appreciated as Luther the theologian, even though quotations from his sermons appear in doctrinal studies, such as Walther’s Law and Gospel. Thanks to Pastor Brandos for his translation of that “missing” volume of the House Postils, and to CPH for continuing to print volumes of Luther’s sermons as part of the addition to LW.

  2. Warren, it’s Pastor Joel Baseley in Dearborn, MI who has done us a tremendous service in translating the “missing” volume. As far as length, yes, they are quite long for today’s ears.

  3. Pastor Juhl #3: My apologies! I knew that the last name started with “B,” but my “senior moments” are getting longer now that they used to be. I have almost all of Pastor Basely’s translations, and hope that he will finish translating all of Walther’s sermon books (at least two have not been translated,) and, if possible, give us a complete translation of Walther’s Pastorale to replace the late Dr. Drickamer’s very condensed translation. Before I became “WELSian” on Church & Ministry, I asked an LCMS pastor friend to translate an “Anmerkung” from the Pastorale cited by Pieper in his Dogmatics, Vol. 3, defending the “old Missouri” position on the divine-mandated local congregation, which of course the synod hasn’t upheld since the amendment to the synodical constitution in 1962 allowing “entities” other than local congregations to call pastors (Dr. Wohlrabe in his doctoral dissertation on the doctrine of the Ministry in the LCMS until 1962 does not consider that change to have made the LCMS “WELSian” on the doctrine of the Church, but I cannot see much “daylight” between the two positions in practice at this time.) Fritz’s Pastoral Theology did not give the full contents of Walther’s PASTORALE, and, judging from its size (it is supposedly now being translated) neither does the WELS’ John Schaller’s Pastoral Praxis.

    I don’t like condensations, as referred to with Dr. Drickamer’s condensed translation of Walther’s Pastorale above, but for the purposes of getting Luther’s semonic gems to a wider audience, I would certainly favor a condensed edition of Luther’s Postils.

  4. Thank you, Pastor Juhl. Don’t ever let anyone tell you “where the Kingdom of God is” based on statistics or observations. Preach Christ crucified and let God build His Church! BTW- have you ever seen a mega mosque or a mega synagogue? The reason there aren’t any (not like Willow Creek, et al) is that Muslims and Jews have such a high regard for their “god”. They won’t stoop to entertainment or “relevance” to get numbers. If our own “mega-maniacs” held such a high regard for the One, True God, they would preach Christ crucified and NOTHING MORE! My two cents! Romans 1:16

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.