Thirdly, it is also highly necessary that we suffer not only that God may prove his honor, power, and strength against the devil, but also in order that when we are not in trouble and suffering this excellent treasure which we have may not merely make us sleepy and secure. We see so many people, unfortunately it is all too common, so misusing the gospel that it is a sin and a shame, as if now of course they have been so liberated by the gospel that there is no further need to do anything, give anything, or suffer anything.
This kind of wickedness our God cannot check except through suffering. Hence he must keep disciplining and driving us, that our faith may increase and grow stronger and thus bring the Savior more deeply into our hearts. For just as we cannot get along without eating and drinking so we cannot get along without affliction and suffering. Therefore we must necessarily be afflicted of the devil by persecution or else by a secret thorn which thrusts into the heart, as also St. Paul laments [cf. II Cor. 12:7]. Therefore, since it is better to have a cross than to be without one, nobody should dread or be afraid of it. After all, you have a good strong promise with which to comfort yourself. Besides, the gospel cannot come to the fore except through and in suffering and cross. (Luther’s Works, v.51, p.207)
Picture: Fall of Babylon from Das Newe Testament Deuotzsch.
The image is from Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) September Testament. The image is based on Revelation chapter 18. Two angels drop a giant millstone as Babylon (Rome) burns in the background. Woodcut designed by Lucas Cranach, the Elder (1472-1553), a close friend of Martin Luther. http://pitts.emory.edu/