"When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled; for such things must needs be.." — Saint Mark 13:7
Father, Lord of the Nations:
A crucial moment has come for our country, with the reports of enemy bombardment; and we flee to Thee for refuge, strength, and the hope of victory. Humbly we bow before Thee, in Jesus' name, to beseech Thy guidance during the heavy days before us. Direct the President, the Congress, and all responsible for the nation's future course along paths pleasing to Thee! Teach us individually to understand that we may be called to sacrifice life's most precious possessions for the defense of America and for the defeat of those who threaten to bring destruction within our borders! O God, who canst still break the bow and cut the enemies' spear asunder, we commit our cause to Thee, as we humble ourselves to confess our sins and for Jesus' sake beseech the pardon sealed on His blood. Help us in this crisis hour to love Thy truth! We know from Thy blessed Word which never makes a mistake that Thou canst deliver us and, clinging more resolutely to our Savior, we declare, "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Therefore, O Lord of hosts, be with us now as Thou wast with our fathers! We ask it contritely because we pray in Jesus' blessed name. Amen.
If God be for us, who can be against us?" May this divine truth strengthen the souls of millions throughout America as our beloved nation finds itself treacherously attacked in the first week of a destructive war. We dare not make the fatal mistake of assuming that we can succeed without God or be victorious against Him! Our enemies are numerous, powerful, prepared; they will wage a long- drawn, hard-fought contest. Those who only a few days ago predicted that the Japanese Empire would be smashed within six weeks will be forced to revise their opinion. This struggle may last six years or more. Before us, my countrymen, is a heavily weighted future, the end of which can be foreseen by no scientist, however learned, no statesman, however experienced, no economic expert, however renowned. Earnest appeals are made to patriotism; and may the love for America now ring clear and true in every heart! But patriotism will not be enough. We will be called upon to practice self- denial, and because of the rich blessings the United States has granted each one of us, we should be eager to forego luxuries and non essentials; but self denial will not be enough. As the struggle continues, we will be asked to sacrifice time, energies, money, perhaps even our lives; and who, reflecting on the privileges, the opportunities, the freedoms which are ours, will shrink from doing whatever is humanly possible to transmit the heritage of liberty, received from our fathers, to our children? But even sacrifice will not be enough. We need the Almighty. Spiritual defense is as vital as military defense. We must turn to the Lord and exult, "A mighty Fortress is our God, a trusty Shield and Weapon!" Millions from coast to coast will require redoubled soul comfort and guidance during the heavy sieges of this conflict. As the Old Testament prophets during periods of national visitation were commanded, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people," so the consolations and strengthening which comes from faith in the redemption purchased by Jesus Christ, not the message of any counterfeit gospel, must be the keynote of wartime preaching.
then, on National Bible Sunday
and the first Lord's day in radio history on which a vast
broadcasting system can be employed in bringing the Savior's promise to
the people of the United States at war, may God's Spirit mightily bless
His divine instruction and comfort given
in our Scripture for today (Saint Mark, chapter thirteen, verse seven),
which with heavenly understanding of our problems, individual and
says, "When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not
for such things must needs be."
Reviewing the events of the past several days we are startled by the suddenness with which war began. A weekly confidential bulletin issued by financial advisers in Washington, dated December 6, expressed the opinion that conflict with Japan might be avoided; at worst, it was some distance away. Yet, on December 7 Japanese planes attacked our island outposts. A magazine dated December 12 and purporting to give the last word in national affairs likewise predicted that hostilities, if they were declared, would be postponed for some time. Before that magazine reached its readers enemy bombs had taken their toll of American lives. On the very morning, just a week ago, when the struggle broke, a feature writer for New York's largest newspaper voiced this opinion, "Japan does not want war." But, even as people were reading these wishful thoughts, American youth was being killed on our Pacific islands. While human prediction — and there were many other similar mistakes — have collapsed notoriously, God's prophecies have never failed. Everyone among the hundreds of Scriptural predictions referring to history, past or present, has been literally, exactly fulfilled. With all the mockery evil-minded men heap on Holy Writ, they have failed to produce a single volume from the millions written since the earliest days which has foretold future events with only a fraction of the accuracy and detail found in Bible prophecies. It has always seemed to me that if men would use good, common, unbiased sense, they would come to the conclusion, on this basis of prophecy and fulfillment, that the Old and New Testaments must be, as no other book ever written or read, divine revelation. The basic trouble, however, is this" Usually the enemies of the Bible do not take time to read the writings they condemn. If they did and thus gave the Spirit a chance to work in their hearts, they could come to the conclusion reached by the famous British poet Cowper when he wrote, "If the prophecies have been fulfilled (of which there is abundant demonstration), the Scriptures must be the Word of God; and if the Scripture is the Word of God, Christianity must be true."
when Jesus tells us in our text,
"Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars," that prediction, now 1900
old, has never been realized as forcefully as now in the most
of all wars. For years unbelieving men, with their little prides and
prejudices, sought to discount this forecast of "wars and rumors of
In opposition they taught that the race was constantly on the upgrade,
steadily elevating itself by its own bootstraps. As the "human animals"
— for so are men called by this delusion — steadfastly lifted
from the lower beast level, crime would be checked, lusts restricted,
controlled, hatreds removed, and, this is the repeated promise,
completely banished. I submit to you that no other generation in
American history should be more ready than ours to cast aside
these rosy promises, dangerous and destructive, everyone of them,
they contradict divine truth. At a time when culture, education,
science, and invention have reached their height, international morals
are at their lowest, international strife at its widest.
years ago the first world conflict was concluded, the war that was to
all wars; but while that struggle involved sixteen nations, the present
list of belligerents already numbers thirty-six, and many more may
be added before the victory is ours. Thus, while men, wise in
own conceit, have prophesied, "Peace, peace!" His Word alone is
immovable, unalterable, unbreakable Truth of all truths.
believe with all your hearts that the thunderous denunciations of God's
Law: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." "The wages of sin is
"Ye shall die in your sins," are not theory, guesswork, speculation.
and earth shall pass away" before "one jot or one tittle" of these
is proved false. By the same heavenly power every promise of grace,
pledge of mercy that Jesus, God's Son and the world's Savior, offers
— assurances like these beloved passages: "God so loved the world that
He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should
perish but have everlasting life." "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." "If a man keep My saying,
shall never see death." "I am the Resurrection and the Life" — these
are the sure, eternal, triumphant truth of "Jesus Christ, the same
and today and forever." My countrymen, turn to Him for His changeless
for everlasting verity!
The Savior also declares in our text that wars "must needs be." In explanation, the Bible, honored throughout America today, asks pointedly, "From whence come wars and fightings among you?" and answers, "Come they not hence, even of your lusts?" In other words, Scripture teaches that bloodshed is provoked by sin. Examine every conflict since the cradle days of humanity, and behind each struggle you will find overreaching greed, the desire for more territory, more trade, more natural resources, more profit, more power and with it, envy, jealousy, race prejudice, hatred, oppression, conquest.
Besides, God often uses war as a chastening and a visitation of His outraged justice. If people live in the unbroken peace and the carnal security that forgets the Almighty; if atheism flourishes in universities, unbelief in high schools, disregard of the Creator even in grammar schools; if pulpits are polluted with the denial of God and His Christ; if the Scriptures fall into neglect within buildings once dedicated to their teaching; if even homes are marked by irreligion, families forsake the faith, live in legalized lust with utter disregard of the divine standards for domestic honesty — then he whose justice and righteousness prevent the sins of an individual, as of a nation, from remaining unrebuked often intervenes and the horror of war begins its devastation.
"Such things must needs bel" the Scriptures echo, also in the United States. This is not the hour, with American shore-cities darkened by blackout, American defense seriously threatened and American lives at stake, to speak in boastful, boisterous tones as though this nation did not need the Almighty. But it is the time, high time, for masses in America to approach God, to fall on their knees before Him in full confession of their sins, to find pardon and power through Christ. Over the clamor of this disturbed hour, at the beginning of a war that will cost us more in men and money, toil and tears, than we now can measure, the momentous call, from heaven itself, resounds across the land, "America, get right with God!" We must understand that this conflict did not break on us simply through our enemies' planning and treachery. All the seat and sorrow, the blighted hopes and bitter bereavements this struggle can produce, are to remind us as individuals, families, church groups, as a nation, how repeatedly we have disregarded God's Word, rebelled against His instruction, rejected the precious Gospel, ridiculed the message of Christ's cross and His blood. Instead of shouting, whistling, screaming as many did last Monday when war was declared, Christians in this country know that for them the cry of this crisis is: "On your knees, America!" "Pray, America, pray!" With their reconciliation assured through faith in Christ's atoning love they can rise, ready to battle courageously for the defeat of our enemies. For God Himself promises, "If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways' then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
In another sense this conflict "must needs be," for in the chapter from which our text has been chosen Jesus reveals that "wars and rumors of wars" are to foreshadow the beginning of the end for mankind. It is Bible truth that this old, sin-encrusted world will not, yes, cannot endure forever. Since the days of Cain, the earth on which men walk is too soaked with the blood of the legions murdered by their brothers, of the myriads killed on battlefields or cut down in brutal massacres; the clean air God gave us has been breathed by too many who are moved by hatred, lust covetousness, degenerate passions; the skies above have looked down the vileness and depravity of the whole race too long to permit a world like ours to last eternally. It must end. Indeed, the Scriptures foretell in scores of clear passages that this entire globe, with everything on and in it, will be destroyed when Christ at His second coming appears to judge the quick and the dead.
In order that believers, instead of being caught unawares when Jesus comes, may be fully prepared to meet Him, the Scriptures present a long list of signs, describing in detail church and world conditions which are to precede Christ's return in glory. Particularly prominent is Jesus' warning of "wars and rumors of wars" with His explanation that "nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom" — a prophecy now more clearly fulfilled than ever in past ages. We witness other evidences of this approaching end. Famines are predicted, and impoverished people by the millions in the small occupied countries of Europe, not to mention multitudes more in China, will not have enough to eat during the coming winter Pestilences are foretold; physicians are forecasting epidemics which will sweep across nations after this conflict just as the dread influenza scourge accompanied World War I. Earthquakes are to come; and it is on record that recent years have witnessed the most disastrous of such upheavals. In these last times, we are warned, "false prophets shall rise." Have they ever been as numerous before? "Iniquity shall abound." — Our crime records are at their highest figure. "The love of many shall wax cold" — How true, when we see the worldliness in many churches or survey the number of those who have turned from Christ! Listen to Saint Paul's description of conditions before judgment breaks upon us: "This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,... ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." A score of sermons can be based on these twenty charges. How readily we should conclude that if the primitive Christian Church proclaimed, "The Lord is at hand," then assuredly today, after 1900 years, His Second Advent is upon us. He will come at any time.
He not find us unprepared! The lessons
of last week's attack at Pearl Harbor showed us how destructive it is
imagine danger far off. Therefore, as God's Word calls out: "America,
to Jesus! He is coming soon!" let us keep ourselves in constant
for that hour which will bring terrifying rejection to those who have
Jesus, but a home-coming in joy and unspeakable glory, a day of release
from worry and war, an eternity of bliss beyond compare for all who
sincerely, trustingly acclaim Christ their Savior! If we could only
what indescribably radiant blessings Christ's return will bring those
are His, every heart throughout this broad land would constantly repeat
the prayer of the early Church, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
Until this glorious Advent we must work and hope, watch and pray amid life's sorrows and its joys. If this conflict continues to rage, year after year, we must be ready — and the Government has issued this warning - to give up many comforts and luxuries, to adopt a lower standard of living. Who knows whether that will be the end? Grave questions of inflation, serious problems of postwar reconstruction, the whole readjustment of our American life — all this puts everyone before the most deep-rooted difficulties we, as a nation, have ever faced. More penetrating will be the personal grief, when war demands the limb or the life of a son, a father, a brother. The first days of fighting have made many gold-star mothers and brought bereavement into hundreds of American homes. While we pay tribute to the devotion and heroism of those who have died fighting our battles and resolve that, God helping us, their sacrifice will not have been made in vain, we must expect that as the war progresses casualty lists will be far longer and more of the sons to whom you parents waved a brave farewell will never return.
Now, where can we find unfailing solace, unchanging consolation, unfaltering assurance? Where, if not in Him who is the Hope of the ages, the Help in every need, the Comforter for every distressed soul — Jesus, our Christ, who today tells us, "When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled"?
Had anyone else written this, "Be ye not troubled!"; were this the claim of a mortal leader, the wishful thinking of a social expert, we would shake our heads and turn away, unconvinced. Too often have men been tortured by the glib promises and false predictions which abound in our age. But take heart! Remember who spoke these words! No dreamer, no enthusiast, no mistaken optimist, no irresponsible fanatic! This is the pledge of Jesus Christ, who is more than all men, saints, or angels; He is the very God together with the Father and the Spirit, the ever-blessed Trinity in ever-holy Unity. The modern denial which makes our Lord only an exalted teacher can help us nothing. The suffering world cries out for divine comfort and direction. And here it is in the words of One who never spoke an empty promise nor raised an unfulfilled hope, Jesus, who declares, "When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled!" America, turn to that Christ, the King of kings, Sovereign of sovereigns, Lord of lords, the very God of very God!
The truth of this "Be ye not troubled," is also assured us because Jesus, as approaching Christmas reminds us, is our Savior. He grants real assurance, unfailing strength, true courage, even for the worst that may confront us, because He, blessed Redeemer of our souls, has removed completely the evil responsible for fear, doubt, and dismay. It is the unspeakable glory of His love for us that while we were yet in our sins, shaking our puny fists against the Almighty, speaking words of blasphemy against His holy name, thinking thoughts of lustful desire and covetous greed against His divine law; while we were sending our souls to hell, swinging the doors of heaven closed by our repeated transgression, condemning ourselves utterly, hopelessly, and eternally, Jesus took from us all our sins, including especially those which seemed too vile to be forgiven, made each of those transgressions His own, and suffered their guilt, their curse, their punishment, their death, when He "died for all" on Golgotha's gory cross, "The Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." No matter what others tell you, no matter how vehemently the church you attended may deny this claim no matter whether high authorities protest against your repeating this Bible truth, believe Jesus when He assures you that the pardon purchased by His blood, the life restored by His death and resurrection are yours, not as a reward for your good works or anyone else's; not as a compensation for your self-denial or sacrifice; not in answer to your parents' pleadings or your pastor's prayers, but simply as God's marvelous gift, granted by Christ's unearnable, unpurchasable grace and His pure, unconditioned mercy. America, turn to that Christ of all compassion!
Particularly let every soldier or sailor who may be summoned to fight the life-and-death struggles of this war accept Jesus now, before facing the brunt of battle, so that in the midst of tumult and strife faith in His constant companionship will bestow this assurance, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God" — the inner peace "which passeth all understanding"!
"When ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be ye not troubled!" because a Christian never need be troubled. If everything else crashes about him, with increasing power he feels the Savior's closeness. We who acclaim Jesus our only Redeemer know that the Lord, without whose will not a sparrow falls to the ground, has numbered the very hairs on our head. From the moment our lives are "hid with Christ," heaven's angels in their legions are ready to protect us. Therefore I said at the beginning "If God be for us, who can be against us?" When Jesus rules your heart in a personal, pulsating faith, you can stand confidently in stormed trenches as the din of hell itself appears to loose its fury around you. You can crouch securely in blacked-out cities, while bombs seem to blast away the earth beneath you. You can face hidden perils above and below the murky ocean with a bravery that is highest when true Christian faith is strongest. This is not fatalism nor irresponsible recklessness. It is rather blessing which comes from the assurance that the Redeemer who died for us, now lives for us and with us, constantly ready to protect us.
Sometimes, of course, it may be God's inscrutable will that we fall in life's battle. Rather than accuse our Father of cruelty, question His ways, drop into unbelief or snarling blasphemy, we need the faith which guarantees us that "whether we live...or die, we are the Lord's" and which assures us that "all things," even the most terrifying disasters the war may produce, "work together for good to them that love God." In our shortsighted vision we may not be able to grasp why God took this promising young man or that exemplary young woman from our midst.
Deep-rooted reliance is required to believe that the losses this war may bring will become spiritual gain for those who are Christ's But the Almighty has compassion on us in this respect, too. He assures us, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." In heaven's hallowed bliss when we come to claim our prepared place in the many mansions — and all that we need for a title to our portion in the Father's house is this personal trust in the Lord Jesus — we will be able to survey God's marvelous dealings with us. The mists will clear, and as we see the harmony in the design of life He has helped us weave, there will be no more tears nor sorrows. We will exult, "He hath done all things well!"
It is to this faith in the crucified, redeeming, comforting, sustaining Christ that we pledge these broadcasts anew in an hour of crisis for the American nationl. With God's help we will continue to preach nothing but His Word and to apply it to our multiplied needs. We are planning to bring these Gospel messages to the military youth in ever- widening range, since in times of stress like ours young people bear the brunt of the struggle and often find themselves confronted with redoubled temptation. Our transcriptions are being heard on certain battleships and at land stations.
I plead with all you who love the Lord — who know that this broadcast, though it is called and in truth is "The Lutheran Hour - Bringing Christ to the Nations," is fighting the battle for conservative, Scriptural, fundamental Christianity throughout the land. — Stand by us during the coming months with frequent, fervent prayers, with generous financial assistance! It costs us $8,000 each week to glorify Christ over this vast radio system. If we are to answer fully the challenge of this hour, we need a larger network, more outlets, Before "the night cometh when no man can work," we must send out the message of salvation, life, hope, and a blessed eternity in the Lord Jesus Christ with greater force and penetration. Stand beside us, then, as we begin our wartime broadcasting with the plea "America, turn to Christ!" and the prayer "Christ, turn Thy mercies to America!" For in Jesus, our God and Redeemer, there is pardon, peace, and power — for the nation, for the Church, for every believing heart. — God grant you this saving faith, for the Savior's sake. Amen!
The preceeding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired on December 14th 1941, just one week after Pearl Harbor, parts of the sermon being written on the very day that Pearl Harbor was bombed.