Unimaginable Grace
Tony Cooke

2020 has been an unsettling and disconcerting year for many, and yet it has also been a time of great grace being poured out by God. There is nothing that this world can throw at us that is more powerful than God’s ability! In the last half of the year, I have shared at several events for leaders, and I have encouraged pastors and other ministers to consider the events this year in three perspectives: global, historical, and eternal. I don’t mean to minimize anyone’s losses or suffering, and yet in the overall scope of things, we really are a very blessed people.

I want to share a story with you regarding a pastor who faced and ministered through an unimaginable time, and yet the grace of God operating in his life was even more profound than the challenges he faced.

Everyone knows the hymn by Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Traditionally, it is the most widely sung hymn in Germany. People in the States are probably less familiar with the second most popular hymn in the German church, Now Thank We All Our God. You can see the lyrics to this triumphant and victorious hymn later in this article, but I want to share with you the amazing story behind its composition.

The hymn’s author is Martin Rinkart who led a Lutheran Church in Eilenburg, Germany during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Not only did war ravage the land during this time, but plagues and famine did as well. So many people died during this time that the population of Germany declined by approximately 60%.

Pastors were under tremendous pressure as they endeavored to provide spiritual leadership and care, and because of the abundance of death, some of them were doing dozens of funerals daily. Rinkart’s own wife died from the plague, as did several area pastors, and Rinkart ended up doing as many as fifty funerals in one day. In one year (1637), Rinkart conducted nearly 4,500 funerals for people who had died in his community.

I am not writing this to glorify the disease, destruction, and death that ravaged his native land during those decades, but rather, to magnify the mighty grace of God that empowered him to stand as a beacon of light, hope, and comfort to his own congregation and to his community. When the Thirty Years’ War was over, Rinkart wrote the following hymn of praise to God who had sustained them during such a terrible season. Please notice especially the second verse.


Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

I am not trying to compare what this pastor went through to what we are facing today. What they encountered was undoubtedly far worse. Yet pastors and believers still face pressure today, and every individual’s losses are still very significant.

The point I hope to make is this: The grace of God that Martin Rinkart experienced to be full of praise and thanksgiving at the end of such a horrific time is truly unimaginable. But God’s grace is no less available for us today. Remember that we serve the One who “sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Hebrews 1:3, NLT).

As we approach Christmas, remember the line from “Joy to the World,” another great hymn:

He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found

Jesus came into this world and now his blessings flow. May you receive them and fully enjoy them this Holiday Season.

Bible teacher and author Tony Cooke graduated from RHEMA Bible Training Center in 1980 and received degrees from North Central University (Bachelor’s in Church Ministries) and Liberty University (Master’s in Theological Studies/Church History).

His ministerial background includes pastoral ministry, teaching in Bible schools, and directing a ministerial association. Tony’s passion for teaching the Bible has taken him to more than thirty nations and nearly all fifty states. He is the author of a dozen books, of which, various titles have been translated and published in eight other languages. Tony and his wife, Lisa, reside in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and are the parents of two adult children.