Luther on temptation and comfort

Highly recommended
Highly recommended

Just finished this book for an essay I’m writing on the pastoral implications of Luther’s doctrine of  justification by faith alone. It is Luther as Spiritual Advisor by Dennis Ngien. In it Dennis Ngien gives as excellent summary from Luther of how to respond when tempted and facing any kind of mental anguish. I thought they were very comforting and worth sharing…

1.‘The person who is being tempted should consider only God’s word offered to him in God’s name, and not be affected by their inner feelings.’

2. The person who is being tempted should recognise that they are not alone in their trials, but are surrounded by the entire body of Christ.

3. The believer should not wish for a swift deliverance from temptations, but cheerfully and willingly submit to God’s fatherly will in the same way that Christ did: ‘If I am to drink this cup, dear Father, may your will, not mine, be done’.

4. The believer should look up to God, in the firm belief that there is ‘no stronger medicine’ than praising the God hidden by the suffering of the believer. This is borne out of David’s sweey words, ‘I will call upon the Lord and praise him, and so shall I be saved from all that assails me’ (Ps 18:3) Praising God dispels the evil Spirit of gloom and makes the heart leap for joy.

5. The believer should count these trials a privilege, of which many have been deprived….for God’s blessings are given to those he deems worthy of such assaults. Here Luther returned to the principle of the theology of the cross, in which God hides his blessings under the appearance of what appears as contrary to those blessings.

6. Finally, the believer should lay hold of the constancy and reliability of God’s triune character. Luther cited Mt 21:22, Mark 11:24. It is divine to give us gifts extravagantly, as a good Father does to his beloved children.

My experience is that these pieces of advice hit the nail on the head, though no trial is pleasant at the time. What do people think? Any other useful tips to share? It may not be appropriate to share the points directly, but could we help people in many pastoral situations, just by keeping these simple points in mind?

Point 1 resonates particularly strongly for me and Luther has a great deal to say on resisting looking inwards on ourselves and instead looking to Christ. Maybe a post for another day!

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