When He’s All You Have

I need Him. I need Him.
The closer that I grow
the more I come to know
that I need the blood of Jesus.
“All You’ll Ever Need,” Andrew Peterson (Resurrection Letters, Volume II)

I recall a moment in my first year at FLBC, then a 22-year-old college student reasonably new to Christian faith, where I uttered some version of “These people don’t think you can do ANYTHING” without Jesus. By the end of the following summer, I knew they were right.

Twenty-five years later, I stand even more convinced, but I understand why people struggle to grasp the concept of Christ’s sufficiency. We are recovering from a season where we talked about Jesus as a means of prosperity– a sunroof to make our sweet ride even sweeter rather than the powertrain, the entire car, and the road itself. Kitschy, fatalistic, popular Christianity has left us wanting, for it was Christian in garb, but not in flesh.

As of this writing, the past 18 months in our country have seen 300,000 “excess” deaths, that is to say, the number of deaths beyond what would have been anticipated. These deaths are reasonably attributed to our modern-day pandemic. About 1 in 1000 Americans have died as a direct result of COVID. Countless other lives have been ruined, both now and in the future, by our actions, reactions, overreactions, and vitriol.

All of this is bad, yet it is what we would typically expect for life between the fall and the restoration of all things. God told us that life would be like this. Many have been left with (if not nothing) much less than they had before the pandemic. Though it is little consolation to the family of the 1 in 1000 who have thus succumbed, or to those who are suffering in our society, our community suffering brings opportunity. When Jesus is all you have, you realize he is all you’ll ever need.

By 1637 (and in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War), Archdeacon Martin Rinkart had helped to bury some 8,000 plague victims in the small city of Eilenberg, Germany. The two other Lutheran pastors in town died, as did his wife. Grieving, and burying 40-50 people per day, Rinkart penned:

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 mother’s arms hath blessed us on our way;
With countless gist of love, and still is ours today.*

I don’t know how someone survives that, but I know he did, and I know that– by God’s grace– you can. When we ponder circumstances that we “could never survive,” we are really making a confession of faith about the subject of our idolatry. “If my son died, I could never make it” is an understandable sentiment, but if taken at face value it amounts to “My son is my god, and if the Living God Himself lets it happen I will reject him in a heartbeat.”

Covetousness occupies a special place in God’s accounting of human sins. “How does it come about that the Gospel and St. Paul single out greed and call it idolatry?” asks Luther.** “They do not do this in the case of other gross sins like impurity, harlotry, evil lusts and thoughts, unchastity, and many other vices opposed to God… This powerless god [money] cannot help himself or anyone else… His master must always be dancing attendance on him, taking care that he is not destroyed by fire or any other calamity. If this treasure or god consists of rich clothing or fabrics, he must also become an object of special care and guarded against the tiniest of worms and moths who might so easily spoil him and eat him up. What a shocking and accursed thing is unbelief!”

I wish that I were wise and virtuous enough to grow spiritually in times of plenty and ease, but my lot lies with the rest of humanity, who learns wisdom only when all foolishness is exhausted and all efforts vexed. Today, with all its pain or poverty, is a good day. There is a day when all things will be made new, but until that day– if you have Jesus– you have all you’ll ever need. Christ lived, died, and rose again for you, with all sufficiency.

If you’ve read this far, and have begun (at least) to embrace the sufficiency of Christ, enjoy this from a friend of FLBCS Andrew Peterson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Vt1KUx30M&list=RDh1Vt1KUx30M&index=2

*Rinkart’s story is a widely available hymn story. One resources is here: https://www.thedestinlog.com/news/20181120/story-behind-song-pastor-gives-praise-thanks-during-darkest-of-times

**Luther for the Busy Man is a soon to be reprinted as a cooperative work by Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary and Ambassador Publications, and is available for viewing at lutherforthebusyman.org and pre-order at ambassadorpublications.org.

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