Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
In 1936, the Olympics were held in Berlin. A stunned Adolf Hitler witnessed the victory of Jesse Owens on the track below. Then, a race against time, the rise and fall of Hitler.
How could it have happened? Was God in charge? Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, this series sounds eerily familiar as we see very disturbing changes happening here in America. And Dave, of course, we see changes not only here in America, but really around the world. We're thinking, for example, of what has happened between Russia and the Ukraine. We've seen war on our television screens. We've seen its devastation really beyond belief. The question is, how do we continue to trust God in the midst of such evil? This series of messages is different from some of the others that I have preached because this is really looking at history through a biblical lens, specifically what happened in Nazi Germany. Because we need to be able to learn lessons that the church in Germany teaches us, some lessons of success, some lessons of failure. And so I think it's important that this series of messages be carefully heard and that we respond appropriately.
So I want you to just sit back now. I want you to listen to the introduction to this series, and then we'll see some of its implications for our own future. Today, it seems to me providential that fate would have chosen Braunau on the inn, that is on the inn river, as my birthplace. That's the opening line of Hitler's famous book, Mein Kampf, which means my struggle. Don't you find it interesting, as I do, that this man, who perhaps was the most notorious dictator who ever lived, attributed virtually everything in his life to fate or providence? Speaking to people in Vienna, he said that it was fate that decreed that he would capture Austria, and he says, I believe it was God's will to send a youth from here to the Reich, that is to the rule or the kingdom, to raise him to be the leader of the nation, to lead his homeland into the Reich.
He says, there is a higher ordering. I felt the call of providence. To the people in Munich, he said, we knew that we were carrying out the will of providence.
We were being guided by higher powers. Recently, as I've been reading Mein Kampf, I've been underlining all the references to fate and to providence, and I discover that there's a reference to it on almost every other page. In fact, when you stop to think of Hitler's call into politics, it is interesting indeed.
The final confirmation came on November the 10th, 1918. He was in a hospital suffering because of some mustard gas that had come to his eyes, and while he was there, a pastor came to say that Germany had lost World War I and that a republic would now be formed, and Hitler went into deep despair that all this effort had been for naught, and it was at that time, he says, I became one with the universe, in a mystical union with the universe. Also, he says, he felt the pressure of destiny, and now get this, he said, I was summoned by providence to do the will of providence and go into politics. You know, it's interesting that Hitler in his writings and in his diaries referred to the fact that his life was a series of miracles, and a series of miracles it was.
What I'd like to do is to do something that I normally don't do in a message, and that is to give you just a little bit of history so that we might understand why it is that he believed so strongly his life was determined by fate. For example, regarding his birth, did you know that by all accounts Adolf Hitler should have grown up being called Adolf Schickelgruber? The story behind it is a little complicated, but I think I can summarize it very briefly. His father, Alois, was actually Alois Schickelgruber for the first 39 years of his life. He was an illegitimate child, and even though his mother married, the man whom she married never did legitimatize the union, and because of that he never did recognize this boy as his, and so he grew up with that name. Well, as fate would have it, that man wandered around for 30 years, having left the family, comes back at the age of 84, recognizes the paternity of this boy who is now 39 years old, and changes his name to Alois Hitler, who of course turned out to be the father of Adolf Hitler.
Why is that interesting or necessary? Well, historians have debated whether or not it would have even been possible for Hitler to achieve the dizzy heights in Germany that he did with a name like Schickelgruber. Do you really think that those crowds would have said, Heil Schickelgruber, which in German is a comical name?
I doubt it very much. Hitler was actually the third child of the third marriage of Alois, and of the first two children of that union died. Adolf, of course, was the third child spared by Providence, and then another child died.
In all, only two out of the five lived. Have you ever thought of how much different history had been if Hitler had died in his infancy with his brothers and sisters? Have you ever thought of the change that that would have wrought in Europe without a Hitler to come to power? No wonder Hitler looked at the change of name and even his birth as a mark of providence.
But now let's fast forward the video camera and go to World War I. He volunteered in the German army, and because he was Austrian, he needed special permission to do so. In the very first battle, there were 3,500 men in his regiment. Of those, all were killed except 600.
He, of course, was among the 600. He became a messenger during the war and always volunteered for some very difficult communication runs. Sometimes, in fact, he would run through a hail of bullets and shells would be exploding around him. I know that he was decorated for bravery, but actually, it turns out that he was trying to tempt fate. He was trying to prove already then his indestructibility, the fact that he believed that he was called to play a great role in the world, and to confirm that he wanted to show that no matter what he did, he would always live. His life would be spared by providence or by fate. One time in World War I, he was sitting there in a mess hall eating with soldiers, and something came over him that made him realize that he should leave, and he picked up his plate and he went to eat alone. Moments later, a bomb fell, and all those at the table with whom he had been eating were killed.
Is it any wonder that he wrote in his diary that he was actually controlled by higher powers, by fate? Let's think to 1923 during that Putsch in Munich. The word Putsch means uprising when he tried to capture the Bavarian government. When I was leading a tour to the sites of the Reformation this time that we were in Munich, we took what I call the Hitler Walk, and we went to the plaza where this happened, and I gave a brief lecture on Hitler there.
He was marching along with his brown shirts, and they came to a certain place. The police confronted them. Sixteen Nazis were put to death. Hitler was taken off in a car, and for two days, because he was so discredited, it had been so poorly planned.
It was such an embarrassment. Even his friends were embarrassed. For two days, he sat in a villa with a revolver in his hand, trying to get up enough nerve to commit suicide.
But the woman, who was the wife of a friend of his, talked him out of it, and so Hitler did not commit suicide. What is of interest to me is how he viewed this tremendous failure years later. He saw it as a very important twist of providence or fate. He says, but fate meant well with us. It did not permit an action to succeed, which, if it had succeeded, would have been the end, because, he says, the movement was too immature.
In other words, he says, it's a good thing we didn't win then, because we would not have won the big prize. If you know anything about Hitler's ascendancy to dictatorship in Europe or in Germany, you know that the twists of fate involved are absolutely incredible. You read it, and you simply say, I cannot believe this. After all, Germany, since 1918, had a republic. They had written a constitution.
They had opted for democracy, and it is true that democracy was not working, but that was the direction under which Hitler went, and through elections, eventually having an important place, and then being nominated to the role of chancellor, and then getting the Reichstag to agree that he should be the supreme ruler and that he should do away with constitutional privileges. It is mind-boggling. How else can you explain it except that it is providence or fate? One more example comes to us from 1944 and all of the attempts that were made on his life. One time, a bomb was placed in a plane by one of his generals. The bomb actually went off.
That is to say, at least the hammer went off, was inspected later, and they could not understand why it did not detonate. There was a man by the name of Gersdorf who wanted to commit suicide. He was one of Hitler's generals, and he was willing to lay down his life to get der Führer out of the way. Hitler was coming to Berlin, and so he was supposed to give a brief speech and then inspect some materials that had been gotten from the Russians, some trophies, for 30 minutes. And so the man had two bombs on him. It took 15 minutes for the bombs to detonate after they were lit. He wanted to light them after the speech so that he could be close to Hitler during this inspection, only to discover that the news was Hitler would only be staying for five minutes. So the bombs were never lit, and Hitler lived.
At the most famous time is Stauffenberg. Many of you know the story. He finally is promoted to colonel, and he takes his briefcase and puts it under the table, six feet from Hitler. He leaves to make a telephone call, or so he said. He goes away a couple of hundred yards.
He sees an explosion that rips the building apart, bodies flying all over. He sends word to Berlin that Hitler is dead. In fact, I saw the telegram that arrived in Berlin, and there it is, der Führer istort, he's dead. Well, Hitler wasn't dead. Some of you know that a colonel by the name of Brandt came along and hit his leg against that briefcase, and to get it out of the way, took it and moved it at the far end of the table, and the heavy oak table saved Hitler's life.
That night, speaking to the German nation, he said, it is obvious that nothing is going to happen to me. Undoubtedly, it is my fate to continue on my way and bring my task to completion. Everything will be brought to a good end.
Providence has decreed it. Well, I think that's enough of that, isn't it? I think I've scared up enough rabbits. It's time for me now to back up and start shooting some of them.
Wouldn't you agree? In the next few moments, what we're going to do is to look at all of this from the lens of scripture and try to figure it out. I need to tell you that I don't want you to judge this message until it is over. I will be saying some things that may be difficult for you to accept. There may be some misunderstanding in your mind as you are going through. And what I have to present is a whole piece of cloth. So no matter what reaction you have through this message or during it, save your final reaction to the end when we hope to tie it together and make some sense out of Adolf Hitler, Nazism, and Germany.
Stay with me because we're going to be navigating through some very deep waters this morning and I want all of us to end on the same side of the lake. What is Providence? You'll notice that in your bulletin today, we did print out some of the material or I should say at least an outline for you to follow. And I give there a definition of providence. It cannot be improved upon. Berkhof defines it as that continual exercise of divine energy whereby the creator preserves all of his creation, operates in all that comes to pass, and directs all things to their appointed end. The providential government of God in the universe.
How do we sort out all of the factors that we have talked about? How do we understand fate and providence in relationship to Adolf Hitler? What I'd like to do today is to give you five pillars that will build a foundation upon which we can understand providence. Five pillars that will guide us.
Five pillars upon which you can build a lighthouse to guide us, to help us to navigate through the waters of divine providence and Hitler's Germany. Number one, God rules in the affairs of men. God rules in the affairs of men. Take your Bibles, if you would please, and turn to Daniel chapter 4. Daniel chapter 4. The whole book of Daniel is a commentary on God's leadership and rule in the affairs of men. You'll notice in chapter 4 verse 17, Daniel says, this sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, and the decision is a command of the holy ones.
Now get this, and it could not be clearer. In order that the living may know that the most high is ruler over the realms of mankind and bestows it on whomever he wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men. God rules and bestows on it, on the kingdoms of the world, whomever he wishes. Same chapter near the end. Nebuchadnezzar has been straightened out in his theology. He has lived like an animal, and finally he is sane again, and he understands.
Middle of verse 34. He says, I bless the most high and praised and honored him who lives forever. His dominion is an everlasting dominion. His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and no one can ward off his hand or say to him, what hast thou done? God rules.
How do you like this text? Psalm 75 verses 6 and 7, promotion cometh neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south, but God is judge. He sets up one and he takes down another. One day Jesus was standing before Pilate and Pilate was so exasperated with him because Christ wasn't answering his questions. And Pilate finally looked in the eyes of Jesus and said, do you not know that I have power to put you to death? And Jesus turned to him very calmly and said, you can have no power at all against me unless it were given to you from above.
No power at all unless it were given to you from above. God rules. The people in Rome were experiencing all kinds of turmoil under Nero and the apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 13, there is no authority except from God. Those who rule, rule under God's authority. There is no rule apart from God behind the events of life, behind the headlines that you read on the newspapers with the dictators of the world as well as the good rulers of the world. God rules. God rules. He does not have a hands off policy. He rules.
That's number one. Number two, God delegates authority. God delegates authority to angels, to demons, and to men. He delegates authority. How shall we understand Hitler's voices? How shall we understand his references to fate or what he sometimes called providence? How do we understand the fact that he was in communication with the powers? Was he in communication with God?
Well, obviously the answer is no. That's very clear. First of all, he predicted that his Reich, the rule that he would begin would last a thousand years and it only lasted 12 years and six months for one thing. But for another, Hitler was a thoroughly demonized being.
He was taken through the deepest levels of occult transformation until a friend said of him that his body is but the shell for the spirit that inhabited him. If anyone was directly inhabited by Satan himself, it was Adolf Hitler. So we know what Hitler's relationship was with Satan. Hitler made a series of choices that the devil took great advantage of. But what about the relationship of Hitler and Satan and God? Who is it that granted them the authority? Who is it that created them? Who is it that delegated authority to his creation? Except God. God. I'm going to say something that is difficult to accept, but I want you to hang on and remember, don't judge this message until we get to the end.
So now that we are up in the air and we are lying, I will bring you down on a gentle landing. But think of it. Think of it. The Holocaust could not have happened unless God gave permission for it to happen. Could not have happened except God gave permission. He signed off on it. He initialed the memo.
If you're struggling with that, just hang on for a few moments. But it can be no other way. No man can rule except it be given to him of God. And Pilate instigated the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and said, yes, go ahead and crucify him. And Jesus said that could never have happened unless it were granted to you by God. Now that your Bibles are open, turn to Revelation chapter 13 for just a moment. Revelation 13, this is an awesome passage because the Bible teaches another Hitler is coming. Verse 7, and it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. This is breathtaking in its scope. And all who dwell upon the earth will worship him.
Everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb who has been slain. Wow. Think of the awesome authority that Antichrist is going to be given. There's a part of me that reads that and it recoils.
I say, oh God, how can this be? The only part that gives me hope is that it was given. And when it is taken away, Antichrist will fall and be humiliated and spend eternity in hell.
That's the only thing that gives me comfort. Well, this is Pastor Luther. And of course, I want to clarify that God himself does not do evil.
The point that I'm simply making in the message here is that he does permit it. And if you ask the ultimate question permitted for what reason, we only receive glimmers to that answer in the scripture. There's a lot of mystery connected with God's purposes. But you know, I've written a book entitled Hitler's Cross, how the cross was used as a symbol to promote the Nazi agenda. I really do believe that this book has tremendous lessons for us today. It outlines some of the failures of the church. It talks about the streams that fed the Holocaust, how it is that people are willing to give up their freedoms in exchange for security, in exchange for living. And that's what the Germans did. And all of that is relevant to us.
It's relevant to other countries in the world. But my hope is that in the midst of all this, that we see clearly that ultimately God rules. You know, the Christians in Nazi Germany who were faithful to God, they were the ones that understood that Hitler was not the final power.
Above him was God. This book is available to you. We're making this resource available to you.
We think it will be a tremendous blessing in the sense that it will give you insight into Nazi Germany, but also insight in what is happening in today's world. For a gift of any amount, it can be yours. Now, here's what you do. I hope you have a pen or a pencil. You can go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com. Or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. By the way, you can call right away, 1-888-218-9337. Or go to rtwoffer.com. And thanks in advance for helping us in this ministry.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. For Germans in the 1940s, Adolf Hitler led a nation on the road to ruin. Hitler almost destroyed Europe. Millions were killed, leaving those who survived to ask the question, why?
Why would God allow such a thing to happen? Next time in our message, God and Hitler, who was in charge, Dr. Lutzer will take us into waters too deep to tread. Plan to join us. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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