Religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants broke out a year later. It evolved into the Thirty Years War, which spread throughout central Europe. Fugitives poured into Eilenberg seeking refuge behind its protective walls. Overcrowding soon taxed city resources. Circumstances worsened when militants overran Eilenberg three times, killing resistors and destroying more than 800 homes.
While battles plagued the region, famine and pestilence penetrated the city’s walls in 1637. That year alone, Rinkart conducted more than four thousand funerals, including those of his wife and two fellow pastors. Only Rinkart remained to minister to the disheartened, the sick and the dying.
Even more devastation heaped on Eilenberg when once again the Swedish army surrounded the city and demanded a tribute of $30,000. Rinkart ventured beyond the safety of the city’s walls to plead for mercy. When the army general refused, Rinkart turned to the citizens who followed him and said, “We can find no mercy with men, so let us take refuge with God.” With that, he dropped to his knees and prayed so earnestly that the army general relented.
Rinkart did all that was left to do. And peace, at least for a moment, came to Eilenberg.
Despite losses and struggle to find bread and clothing even for his own children, Rinkart never stopped giving thanks to Jehovah Jira — the God who provides. Inspired by a grateful spirit, he penned a table grace for his children that became a hymn sung around the world …
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 mothers’ arms, hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love and still is ours today.
Rinkart thanked God for what was left, not for what was lost. He let the Holy Spirit of God define his faith, not the circumstances. And, when his life on earth ended one year after the close of the Thirty Years War, he joined the great cloud of witnesses. Witnesses who, with how they lived, testified to God’s presence and faithfulness.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us … Consider [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1 & 3, NIV)
*I read Martin Rinkart’s story first in David Jeremiah’s devotional, Turning Points, p. 344.
©2013 Gloria Ashby. Feel free to forward this devotion in its entirety, including this copyright line. Leave comments, ask questions, read past devotions, or subscribe to receive these devotions daily in your e-mail.