Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on January 26, 2018
Are you familiar with the story of Martin Niemoller? Niemoller was awarded the Iron Cross as a German U-Boat commander during World War I. After the war, he sensed the call to preach and became a Lutheran pastor. Like many Germans, Niemoller was hopeful in 1933 that new Chancellor Hitler would lead Germany to overcome the many problems of the Weimar government. Within a few years, however, pastors like Niemoller and Dietrich Bonhoeffer began to speak out against the disturbing ideas and policies of Hitler. In 1937 Niemoller found himself in prison. After his release, he was arrested again in 1938 and would remain in prison camps like Dachau until the end of the war in 1945.
From his Nazi prison camp he wrote, “In the old days I used to be a bearer of the gospel, now the gospel is bearing me.”
I wonder what bears you in the midst of the “prisons” and hardships of your life. Have you discovered, like Niemoller, that the gospel is more than a religious system or moral code? Rather, the gospel is the power of God to sustain and bear us through the most difficult times and circumstances.
The word “gospel” means “good news.” The “good news” that sustained Niemoller in prison is birthed in the story of Jesus Christ who the Scriptures declare to be the “Son of God.” It is the story of sacrificial love, faith, and hope. It is the story of salvation made possible to those who believe and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The need for “gospel” is great, because the bad news is great. Cancer. Disease. Tragic accidents. Death. Violence. Racism. Prison. Addictions. Unfaithfulness. Trafficking. Domestic abuse. The list goes on. . .
What bears you in those moments? Self-medicating through drugs and alcohol only compounds the bad news. Pleasure is just a momentary distraction. Work may bear you during the day, but offers nothing in the still of the night.
In a prison cell in Nazi Germany with the threat of execution at any moment, Niemoller discovered that the gospel of Jesus sustained and carried him through each day. Have you discovered the sustaining strength of the gospel?
The gospel bears us through the love of Christ and calls us to love our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves. This love frees us from the bitterness of unforgiveness and the vengeful pursuit of hatred.
The gospel bears us through faith in Christ. God is faithful and true. Thus, we can be faithful, even when those around us are faithless. Faith means that we can be confident in the things we cannot see.
The gospel bears us through the hope of Christ. The darkness of bad news can be overwhelming at times. Sin and disease can cripple and even take life from us. But, hope shines into the darkness. No matter how dark the darkness, the hope of Christ promises life and enables us to endure.
Finally, the gospel bears us through salvation. The saving work of Christ means that we are always being redeemed. We are always being transformed. We are always being made new. God is always at work to save us both today and forever.
The Apostle Paul wrote from his prison cell in Rome, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul and Niemoller testify to the same truth. In life and in death, the gospel bears us. In prison or in freedom, the gospel bears us. In sickness and in health, the gospel bears us. The Gospel of Jesus Christ bears us through it all. Indeed, this is good news!