“I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.’” – Isaiah 45:7
“For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” – Lamentations 3:33
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” – Romans 8:28
What have we learned as a nation, as a people, since the 9/11 terror attacks? Doesn’t seem like we’ve learned a whole lot. We are violently divided as a nation. Groups like Antifa use intimidation and terror tactics to squash any opposing views. It’s unsafe to wear red hats or anything that would be interpreted as a symbol of patriotism or wanting to make America great again. We are arguably more immoral, more blatantly sinful and proud about it than ever before. It seems like the Left is competing with Sodom and Gomorrah for first place on a sin list. Our government is more infested with political vermin than ever. And citizens are not only lied to and being victimized by fake news, but those who see truth are disheartened by an apparent two- tier justice system void of any equal justice under the law. And all some can come up with as a solution is to push socialism, a system of government that would be appalling to our Founding Fathers and historically has always ended in failure, more hardship and deeper-rooted self-indulgent corruption. At least we don’t have any new wars to worry about. But the Iranian and North Korean geopolitical problems are an ever-present threat to our relative “peace.” No, in the eighteen years since the original attacks, we haven’t changed that much. If anything, we’ve gotten progressively worse.
When 9/11 first occurred, there was an initial glimmer of hope. Shortly after the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, U.S. House Joint Resolution 71 was passed by a vote of 407 to 0 on October 25th 2001. This resolution was an almost unprecedented show of unity and requested that the President designate September 11th of each year as Patriot’s Day. President Bush signed this resolution into law on December 18th, 2001. The day had been originally referred to as The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks.
But any glimmer of hope gleaned from that initial national tragedy, has evaporated. The initial unity our nation experienced has completely dissolved. Left is fighting Right. Progressive is fighting conservative. Haters of America are opposing patriots who love America. There’s a Deep State cabal of corruption characterized by entitlement, self-indulgence, self-promotion and self-service. It’s hard to find any genuine public servants. Our government has degenerated into a swamp of despond. Those in that swamp see any tragedy as fair game to promote their pet political positions. There’s been an epidemic of mass shootings. Political pundits on the left see this as an opportunity to further prey on and weaken the populace by calling for the confiscation of guns and abrogation of the Second Amendment. They do this ignoring arguably the real problem endemic to perpetrators of such murder, fatherless homes and dehumanizing medications. I say “arguably” because those on the Left deny such factors as insignificant in mass shooters. I have learned it’s wise to check the fact checkers to see if they are objective and truthful or not. It’s pretty hard to find “truth” and separate the real from the “fake” in our world today. That’s just one more problem we haven’t solved since 9/11.
Misinformation proliferates everywhere. Truth is missing. Truth is willfully ignored and rejected. Truth is purposely hidden. Some are trying to change that but it’s a long row to hoe and the outcome is in doubt. Those of us that know the Lord cling to 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Truly our only reliable hope is heaven sent. We are seeking God’s help. We see a glimmer of hope. We continue to pray. We especially pray on fateful memorial days like 9/11.
The present administration has made great progress in the War on Terror. ISIS is all but squashed. Major terror attacks have greatly diminished in the last few years. But there was a backlash to all the initial patriotic responses. Those who hate this country, who serve more as insurgents for our enemies than loyal citizens of our country, they have pushed forward in misguided righteous indignation to shout out and emphasize the injustices of America. They say things like, “America is an imperialistic nation that stomps on the weak and victimizes the helpless all to get more land and resources.” They say, “America is unjust! . . .America is unfair! . . . America is filled with bigots! . . . America is wrong! . . . America needs to be brought down!. . . Down with America!” They redact history to support their destructive views. No one is going to say that America is perfect or that it hasn’t had injustices. But an objective view of history shows a nation that deals with its injustices and works to right them. We’ve come a very long way to righting our wrongs. But the enemies of this nation don’t want to acknowledge that. They want their pound of flesh. They want to rape America for their own lurid treasonous reasons.
This backlash to patriotism resulted in a time after 9/11 when our national leaders felt it their duty to do a world tour apologizing for our nation. As a consequence, on the world stage, our nation was blamed for the problems of the world. There was a lot of apologizing and diminishing of national pride, all, it seems, for the sake of pushing a globalist agenda. This was a very low point for our nation. It seemed like our leaders were more against us than for us and our nation. But the Make America Great Again movement led by President Trump has been instrumental in a global movement away from a one world government and back to a sovereign nation system. People are waking up. People are beginning to see behind the veil of corrupt governments and a privileged elite class of people.
However, if we believe Bible prophecy, this is only a temporary bump in the road toward the one world government that is part of the End Times. There will be a global government in the Last Days (Revelation 13). But that doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up in the air in surrender. Our job as followers of Jesus is to witness to the truth like Jesus did (e.g. John 18:37; Romans 8:29; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). We are called to resist the darkness and expose it (Ephesians 5:11). The true Church, filled, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to serve God by being a restraining force for God’s good in this dark, fallen and sinful world (2 Thessalonians 2:7). And at the heart of all we do is the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). We serve God by promoting His good and truth in the sovereign nation He has placed us.
Do you remember how, after the attacks of 9/11, the churches throughout the country were packed? People were flowing from the streets of America into sanctuaries of our churches. That turned out to be a very brief surface change of heart for our country. In the eighteen years since the first 9/11, it seems many have rejected God substituting government (i.e. socialism) as their god. Since 9/11/01 this move away from God has led to a proliferation of pornography, desecration of marriage, legitimizing immoral lifestyles, and even most recently a consideration of pedophilia as a legitimate and acceptable “choice” for some. And all of this filth is being promoted as “normal” in the school curriculums of public schools in many areas of the country today. You can’t get much lower than dirtying the pure and innocent minds of the young.
But such moves have awakened in some a sense of wrongness and that “enough is enough.” We’ve seen this reflected in elections. Despite a “mainstream media” that for the most part supports all things unholy, there seems to be an awakening, a wave of resistance that is rising up. I pray it is led by God. I pray it continues and grows. I pray it begins on our knees and ends in praise of God. We will see.
As the years since 9/11/01 pass by, what can we learn? The Christian can glean good from all of this by taking a Biblical perspective. The events we see unfolding before us are a part of a historical maneuvering into position for God’s prophetic plan. One day the entire world will come to bow before Jesus. Then all will understand truly that No Jesus; No Peace – Know Jesus Know Peace. For many that awareness will come too late. They will come to know Jesus as Lord much the same as the demons do, as the Judge who will enforce their eternal damnable destiny (James 2:19). I pray they heed God’s gracious gospel offer and are saved from such a fate before it’s too late.
This date of the year always brings a sadness to my heart. It’s a date that brings a sadness to many people, to our nation, to the world. I still find myself fighting back the tears. I still remember the shock of seeing the Towers collapse and imagining the cries of those inside as the building came down. They still echo in my ears sometimes. I still feel the anger as many in the Middle East and elsewhere danced in the streets because they felt finally America had got her comeuppance. I still remember the effects of evil. No politicking will ever erase that memory. There’s a lot I remember.
I still remember walking in downtown Manhattan just days after the attack. I still remember the makeshift memorials in the City made with candles and surrounded with the photos of lost loved ones. I remember the melted wax of those candles. I still remember firemen’s funerals. I remember policemen’s, EMT, and Port Authority police funerals. I remember a lot of funerals. I remember giant flags draped over roadways for the funerals of the lost in our Long Island suburbs. I remember the days and months afterward of smoldering, incessant billowing smoldering smoke from Ground Zero. I remember going to my spot for prayer on the South Shore of Long Island, some fifty miles away, and still being able to see that sad, sad smoldering.
I also remember sitting down and prayerfully asking the Lord to help me make sense of it all. Lord, give me a message to send out that will help the people who are hurting so badly. Lord give me a word; help me to apply Your word to this terrible event. The Lord did give me a teaching to send out. And I’m returning to it on the eighteenth anniversary of this fateful day. I thought it might be helpful to send it out in part again. I’ve made some editions as those of you who have seen this piece before can see. But I pray it helps us all ask and answer the question What Does Tragedy Teach Us?
Eighteen years ago, I was moved by God to introduce the first What Does Tragedy Teach Us? with the words:
“On September 11th, 2001, the World Trade Center was destroyed with most of its occupants, by two hijacked jetliners (and their occupants), which cut through the concrete and steel of those buildings like a flaming arrow shot at the heart of this nation. The terrorist plane hijackings (4) and attack at the World Trade Center and Pentagon has shocked this nation. The NY Stock Exchange, the hub of the finance of this country, and really, the world’s finances, is shut down. Baseball games and Broadway plays are stopped. The Emmys have been cancelled. Airports across the nation have been shutdown. TV programming has been tuned to newscasts covering the events surrounding this tragic terrorist attack. Many have likened it to Pearl Harbor. This is a day in history that will go down as a day of infamy.”
But what can we learn from this tragedy? What does tragedy teach us? Well, besides the obvious need for greater national security, . . . there are personal lessons to be learned along with lessons for our nation.
What follows is based for the most part on what the Lord impressed upon me to answer those questions along with some updates since the message was first delivered.
First, God Allowed This to Happen – He Is in Control
We might be tempted to think that life is out of control when such tragedies hit us. But this is not true. God is in control. But if God is in control, wouldn’t He have stopped such a tragedy and loss of life? We might find this difficult to accept, but God allowed the attack and tragedy that happened at the World Trade Center. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, it states the following:
- Isaiah 45:5-7 – “I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me,6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other;7 I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.’”
God is sovereign even in times of tragedy. We should remember, for instance, that Satan was not allowed to bring trials into Job’s life until he had secured permission from God to do so (Job 1-2). What happens, happens, because God allows it to happen. But why would God allow tragedy? The answer to that question is multifaceted.
Second, God Hates Tragedy and Calamity
The Bible tells us that though God allows tragedy to happen, He hates it:
- Lamentations 3:31-33 – “For the Lord will not cast off forever.32 Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies.33 For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
God takes no pleasure in allowing tragedy to occur. In fact, no One grieves over the pain and suffering caused by sin as much as God does. Sin is not bad because God forbids it. God forbids sin because it is bad. And sin is bad. It victimizes people. Sin destroys relationships. Sin separates us first from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and then from each other. Sin pollutes our mind making us think incorrectly. Sin blinds us, binds us and grinds us down. Sin addicts us to self and that causes us to devalue others and break relational bonds. Sin in extreme destroys relationships by literally destroying people. It can do this through such acts as careless manslaughter, homicide and genocide. God hates sin. He knows that those with sin in them, those overtaken with sin, are capable of horrifically heartless sinful acts, like 9/11.
But why does God, if He is Almighty, allow such tragedy to happen? Why doesn’t He just step in and stop it all? Sometimes God does step in and prevent evil. The problem is that humanity takes such intervention for granted. Complacency leads to neglect of God and relating to Him. And the further we are from God, the less sensitive and resistant to sin we become. And when sin becomes no big deal to us, we indulge it, we practice it, we even get to a point where we promote it. Sin harms and hurts, it causes sorrow and death. Sin destroys. God is eternally opposed to sin. Therefore, if need be, He is willing to take drastic measures to deal with it. Those drastic measures sometimes include tragedy.
God chooses to hold back and permit this fallen world to continue in its fallen sinful state because He loves us. What? That sounds absurd. But it isn’t. God desires none to perish but all to come to repentance and a saving state of salvation in His Son Jesus Christ (e.g. 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Its true that the further we are from God, the easier it is for us to sin. But the alternative is also true. The closer we come to God, the clearer we see our sin and the truth about it and the reason we should resist it. And the closer we come to God, the more power we have to resist and fight against sin. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
But there’s another reason why God puts up with the present fallen tragic state of His creation. Sin separates us from God. God wants us close to Him for an eternity. In order for that to happen, in order to provide more time for more people to be saved from their sin, He waits. God allows things to continue in their fallen state to give people more time to turn from their sin to Him. He is willing to do that even if it risks the pains and turmoil caused by sin. God waits. All the while He is beckoning to the lost and seeking to draw them to Himself (John 6:44). He has a time set when He will finally intervene. But He is waiting for people, more and more people to come to eternal life through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
Don’t blame God for 9/11 or tragedy in general. This is a human made problem (cf. Genesis 3). God is not a sadist or tyrant who has a lust for power and indiscriminately shows it. God is not capricious. He has purpose in that which He does and in what He allows to happen. He is waiting for more people to turn to Him through faith in Jesus so that they can be forgiven their sins and spend eternity with Him. Dealing with disease can be painful. Sin in this world is at epidemic proportions. We need spiritual surgery. We need to go to God for healing.
Third, God Allows Tragedy to Get Our Attention, To Get Us to Search Our Ways
Sometimes a people become so hardened toward God that they need to be shaken to be awakened from their spiritual sleep. The psalmist tells us that God does orchestrate hardship at times with an aim to bring us to Himself:
- Psalm 66:10-12 – “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs.12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” (See also James 1:2f.)
God tested Israel with affliction and hardship, but His aim in doing so was, to bring them out to rich fulfillment. That is God’s aim and purpose and He will do whatever it takes to bring us to that point. God wants us with Him in eternity. God’s ultimate purpose for us is to conform us to the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). God wants us glorified, not deified, but like Jesus, in an eternal life kind of way. But to become like Jesus is so often way down on our list of priorities, (if it is on our list or in our hearts and minds at all). We need to be awakened to our needs. We need to be awakened to God’s possibilities for us.
God uses trials to get our attention. Tribulation wakes us up. We see an example of this on a national scale in the history of Israel. The book of Lamentations is a funeral-like dirge inspired by God through the prophet Jeremiah. In chapter one of Lamentations God through Jeremiah points out that her captivity and affliction is the result of her persistent sinfulness:
- Lamentations 1:5, 8, 9 – “Her adversaries have become the master, her enemies prosper; For the Lord has afflicted her Because of the multitude of her transgressions. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy. . . 8 Jerusalem has sinned gravely, therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness; Yes, she sighs and turns away. . . .9 Her uncleanness is in her skirts; She did not consider her destiny; therefore her collapse was awesome; She had no comforter. “O Lord, behold my affliction, For the enemy is exalted!”
While tragedy is not always the result of personal sin, it always serves to wake people up. There are objective planetary sins that take the form of natural disaster and disease. Sin causes creation to groan (Romans 8:22). There are personal sins of our choosing that have consequences. Whatever type of sin, planetary or personal, the cause of our pain and suffering, our tragedy, it usually serves to wake us up.
In the case of America, is there any doubt that we have brought this tragedy upon ourselves. We are a nation that is not only asleep spiritually, but defiantly seeking to eliminate God from our schools and every way of life. We like to think that this nation is great because of democracy, or even because of being a federal republic with an incredible constitution, but that is false. This nation is great because those who founded it were faithful to God. That is the truth. Haters of America can try to redact that truth out of our heritage, but it is too deeply ingrained in us. Just walk around Washington DC and take note of the myriad of Biblical chiseled into the stone of our monuments. But we have lost our bearings and foundation in God. We need to be awakened to that fact.
We are a nation that not only kills its unborn children in the safety of a mother’s womb, but has argued about whether or not to deliver a child partially to make killing it easier. We are a nation that is actually debating about whether or not to feed babies “accidentally” birthed alive from abortion! We actually had a movement that encouraged those who have had abortions to “Shout it out!” in support of abortions. We are immoral and lascivious. We are heartless and calloused. We are a licentious nation that legislates to approve that which is repulsive to God as revealed in His Holy Word. There is even a segment of “The Church,” which has not only been exposed for its indulgence in pedophilia, but denounces whistleblowers to that effect. They are literally paying the price for their sinful indulgences via wave after wave of lawsuits. When the Church of Jesus becomes an enemy of the child, it’s an abomination! Jesus loves the little children and heaven has no fury like a Savior whose children are abused. Jesus weeps that those who claim His name do such abhorrent things. He weeps!
In the name of tolerance, lifestyles aberrant and repulsive to God are not only allowed but promoted, and that to our youth! (Romans 1:18-32). We have schools approving transvestites in full absurd regalia teaching young children. Not only is homosexuality promoted but now the list of alternative “lifestyles” or gender choices include so many representative letters that its hard to keep up with the list. Generally speaking, the list includes LGBTTQQIAAP standing for Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual. This is the short list. I saw an article listing 71 genders! The BBC in England is telling kids there are more than 100 genders! All of this is preposterous. But it is promoted as reality. We are a very confused nation and a confused world. Why such confusion? We are confused due to having left our spiritual moorings. We are a people who are selfish and self-absorbed. We major in the minors of sports and leisure. We minor in the majors of truth, justice and the salvation of souls. And tragically, the Church is not much better than the secular.
The Church has become secularized. Segments of “the Church” have given up ministering to such confused lost people and instead affirmed their lifestyles as “normal” and acceptable to God. There have even been some who have left the church and apologized to proponents of this confusion and immorality and then joined in their sin!  Blasphemous! They have cast aside the eternal Word of God and replaced its eternal truths with the trendiness of the day. The world has given up trying to help such people, but why has the church? Where is the power of the Gospel? “To the law and the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Where is holiness? Where is the Spirit in and through us? Where is the Spirit of Christ in us? We need to break up the fallow hard ground of our hearts (Jeremiah 4). We need to repent and call the lost to do the same. The Church should be leading the way to help such lost and confused people, not condoning their sin, not aiding and abetting their lostness.
You may think these words are harsh and insensitive in a discussion involving the innocents of tragedy. You may still be stewing in your “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” mind and heart set. But the truth of the matter is that, there are no good people. All fall short of the glory of God and we need to repent and turn to Him. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). God is willing to heal us and heal our land, but we need to turn to Him and give Him our hearts (Romans 10:9-10).
We are not called by God to speak watered down truth. We are called by God to speak all His truth and speak it in His love (Ephesians 4:15). You may say, “Pastor, I read those previous paragraphs and they don’t’ sound loving.” I would say, when a house is on fire, even if its early in the morning and people would dislike being disturbed from their slumber, I’ll risk their anger to tell them truth that will save them. I’m willing to shout the truth that there is a “Fire!” And, “You better get out! You must get out!” I’ll even enter the house to save them and wake them up, to shake them up. Wouldn’t you? There is a much hotter, a much more damaging fire in eternity that we want no one to experience. Yes, this is part of the truth of the gospel. Its something that must be shared.
That is why Jesus came, to speak truth, to witness to the truth (John 18:37). God’s purpose for us is to be conformed to His likeness (Romans 8:29). Therefore, that means we too, like Him, are to testify to God’s truth. Our calling is to follow in His steps and walk as He walked (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). That means, we must love people enough to share the truth with them. It’s not loving to ignore sin and condone it. Sin leads to pain and suffering. True love speaks truth that brings salvation from sin, freedom from sin, healing.
The truth, the undiluted truth here is that the aim of God in allowing tragedy is to get us to search out our ways and return to Him. In Lamentations it states:
- Lamentations 3:40-41 – “Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord;41 Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.”
This is the greatest aim and lesson of tragedy; to turn to God in the midst of them.
Fourth, God Allows Tragedy to Cause Us to Call Out to Him and Repent of Our Sin
Jeremiah goes on to say:
- Lamentations 3:55-58 – “I called on Your name, O Lord, From the lowest pit.56 You have heard my voice: “Do not hide Your ear From my sighing, from my cry for help.”57 You drew near on the day I called on You, And said, “Do not fear!”58 O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.”
As we turn to God, we find a loving God of hope willing and waiting to heal us and have us personally relate to Him in an eternal relationship of love. He is able to fix that which is broken. He is able to right that which is wrong. He is able to solve that which we’ve found unsolvable. Jeremiah was inspired to write of this by saying:
- Lamentations 3:21-26 – “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord.”
In the New Testament Jesus speaks of a tragedy similar to that of the World Trade Center collapse. He says the important thing is not whether or not the tragedy happened because of the sin of the victims. God is not vindictive or cruel. The important point to get, according to Jesus, was that the tragedy should cause us, the survivors, to repent and turn to Him:
- Luke 13:1-5 – “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.4 “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?5 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Notice in these verses, Jesus does not concern Himself with assessing blame. Jesus focuses on the fragile condition of life. He focuses on the need to repent and get right with God. We are not guaranteed our next breath. Those who went to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th 2001 had no idea of what the day would hold for them. And we too likely gave no thought to our eternal destiny until grim reality slapped us in the face.
Tragedy confronts us with the fragile nature of life. Life is a vapor. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14b). Death is a certainty. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Death is caused by sin. The curse of sin is death (Galatians 3:10). But Jesus is the cure for that curse. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse” (Galatians 3:13). “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57). And because of that we can stand strong in the storms of life. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Fifth, God Allows Tragedy to Show Us We Need to Be Right with Him, NOW!
Many, if not most people of these United States of America, live as though there is no God. And we in the Church have shown a tendency to procrastinate in and neglect our walk with God. Ask yourself a question, and answer it truthfully, when are you more inclined to pray, in hard times or easy times? In good times or bad times? When the skies are blue, or when they are black with the smoke of a terrorist attack? When tragedy strikes it shakes us up from our lethargy and drops us to our knees before God. It is sad that that is what it takes to get us on our knees, but if that is what it takes, God will allow it.
Read some of the following verses which talk to us about our need to be ready and right before God, now:
- Matthew 7:24-27 – “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
“Ánd great was its fall.” The fall of the Twin Towers in New York City pale in comparison to the crash this country will suffer at the hands of her enemies and other things unless we repent. God allowed us to experience a wake-up call on 9/11. There are signs of life in our nation. There seems to be a “Great Awakening” in some quarters and to some degree. But the wake-up calls of God, if neglected, will likely get more severe. We have seen school shootings, 9/11, and other mass shootings. We have seen natural disasters like massive hurricanes and flooding. I believe God loves this nation. But, “. . . have you forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” (Hebrews 12:5-6). This is nothing new. God disciplines us, “for our profit, that we may be partakers of holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Consider this.
There seems to be a stirring in the hearts of people, a coming to truth about things and in certain ways. There seems to be a sense that all is not right in our nation. The political realm is part of the problem and will be part of the solution, but it is not the answer. We need to go beyond politics. If we settle for something less than a revival involving true repentance, what will happen next? Will a city be lost, a county, a state, a region? Will terror planes turn into terror chemical warfare, or nuclear terror? Will an earthquake split our nation in two? Will it take an asteroid from outer space to get our attention? What is it going to take to wake up this nation? What will it take to wake you up?
You may say, “Wait a minute, those verses were written thousands of years ago, they don’t apply to me.” But the Bible says as we get closer to the End of time things will get “worse and worse” (1 Timothy 3:13). The world is not going to get better, but worse, (until Jesus returns). Today is the day. Today we need to awaken to our perilous plight.
Scripture is replete with calls to wake up, be alert, to recognize the times in which we live. Read some of these verses:
- Luke 21:34-36 – “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.35 “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.36 “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
- Romans 13:11-14 – “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
- 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.14 Let all that you do be done with love.”
Now is the time to get right with God (Hebrews 4). God wants us to wake up now. He says, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” Get into God’s word and let it get into you. Get right with God through faith alone in Christ alone. I’m talking about something far more than religious ritual or ceremony. I’m talking about spiritual birth, a second birth, spiritual life (e.g. John 3). Ask God to fill you and overflow you with the Holy Spirit. Be burdened for the lost and empowered by the Spirit to do something about it. Get ready, because the tragedy of the World Trade Center is not likely to be the last nation shaking tragedy this nation will face.
Many today fail to remember, but in 1993 the Twin Towers were nearly destroyed. For a time, we were vigilant and took precautions toward potential terrorism. But over time we became lax and negligent as 9/11/01 attests. It’s very similar to today. The same is true of us spiritually. We draw close to God when a hard time comes. But as soon as He gets us over the hump, we slip back into our easy chair and settle for coasting in our faith and being a Christian couch potato. My friend, this should not be.
Sixth, Tragedy Teaches Us to Pray
If we look at the book of Daniel, we see a great man of God was moved to pray for his captive people (Daniel 9:3-19). Daniel confessed and prayed to God for himself and his people. His heart was broken before the LORD. That is the effect tragedy should have upon all of us. Did you pray on 9/11/01? Have you prayed since? Are you praying now? Did you stop praying? Please pray. Pray through to the Promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Lastly, Tragedy Teaches Us That God Can Bring Good Even from Tragedy
What good can possibly come from a tragedy such as the terrorist attacks on September 11th? One of God’s most incredible promises in His word is – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). We read such a verse in light of 9/11 and other horrific tragedies in the world and it seems impossible. For those caught up in the midst of tragedy such words may even seem offensive. We only begin to see and understand the possible good God can bring from tragedy, when we see it from God’s perspective and His purpose. God’s perspective is eternal. His perspective is from eternity and is in light of eternity. He wants us to spend eternity with Him. What He allows and uses in this life, though it may involve pain and suffering, is acceptable to Him if it means it will have an eternal value for us. Everything in this world is temporary. Our life is a vapor (James 4:14). In order for us to be raised to eternal life with our loving heavenly Father, there are times when tragedy becomes part of His plan.
God is not the Author of evil. But the reality of His creation with beings that have the capacity to make choices, is that some of these choices are sinful and produce evil. God can bring much good even from these circumstances. To sinful humanity God says, “What you meant for evil, I have used for good” (e.g. Genesis 50:20). That is what we have been seeing in this study. God can take the horror and pain and loss and suffering of a 9/11, and He can bring good even from that. That is miraculous. That is something only God can do. How does God bring good from evil?
First, people can be shaken up and wakened up to their need of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. Of Jesus it was prophesied, “A bruised reed He will not break, a smoldering wick He will not snuff out” (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:1-4). If this tragedy has nearly broken you like a bruised reed, if your spirit is about to go out like a flickering wick, understand that Jesus is there for you and offers you eternal life. Jesus calls us to Himself:
- Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
- Revelation 3:20 – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
Jesus says, “Come to Me.” He says, “Open the door for Me and let Me in.” Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The word “know” here is translated from the Greek term ginosko. The idea of this word “know” in the original language means to become aware, perceive (as in “seeing is believing”), to understand, to be conscious of, to see something or someone as it/they truly are (not merely opinion or speculation).
When this word is used in the sense of knowing someone it means:
- To know someone personally
- To be personally acquainted with someone
- To trust someone
- To have a friendship with someone
- To have an intimate personal relationship with someone
It is possible to know personally the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ. He is the One who can get you through any and every tragedy. Because of Him we need not fear death. Because of Him we have hope no matter the darkness that threatens to engulf us. In light of this the question arises, do you know Jesus?
The Good News is that we can have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Entering into such a relationship is as simple as ABC: Admit/Ask, Believe/Receive, and Confess/Call.
Admit your sin and ask God’s forgiveness. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). And we all have sinned and fall short of what it takes to enter heaven (Romans 3). We need to admit this truth before God. Once we admit our sin before God, we need to ask God’s forgiveness for our sins. This implies turning from our sins to God (i.e. repentance). This is humbling but necessary. We come to Him on His terms not our terms. We come humbly before God who is Awesome and Holy.
Believe in Jesus and His atoning work. Jesus and Jesus atoning work on the cross alone, not our efforts or works, is the basis for God’s forgiveness of our sins. The wages or consequences of our sin is death. Jesus died on the cross in our place, paying our punishment and penalty for sin. God offers us salvation from our sins freely as a gift of His grace through Jesus’ death on the cross (Romans 6:23). We are saved from our sins because of His work not our work. To believe, trust, or put our faith in Jesus as Savior is not a “work,” it is God’s grace working in us (Ephesians 2:8-9). Once we believe in Jesus and His atoning work, we believe and receive forgiveness for our sins based on Jesus and His work. God has a just basis to forgive our sins because of Jesus justifying work on the cross on our behalf. Jesus paid our death penalty on the cross for us. He’s the only One qualified to do that. Jesus took our sins on Himself on the cross and when we trust in Him and His work, He offers us His righteousness to be put to our account (cf. Isaiah 53; 2 Corinthians 5:21). God did this for us in Christ because He loves us. God is Love with a capitol “L” (e.g. John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:8 and 16).
Confess and call. We confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). But we also confess Jesus to those around us. We tell others about Jesus. We call others to follow Jesus too. These are not a works that lead to salvation. This is a fruit or evidence that salvation has genuinely taken place in us. The Bible states, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). Look up these verses and pray over them. “So, then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Don’t let this tragedy have its effect compounded for evil by driving you away from God. Turn to Jesus and find rest for your souls and a saving relationship that will last an eternity. That is good.
Second, those who face tragedy in the Lord, see the reality of His sustaining grace. If we turn to God, we will find a strong faith that will get us through anything. And that is true of our nation as well as for the individual. God’s grace is sufficient for whatever our need might be. He says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). His grace is most clearly seen in our times of weakness. We realize the reality and power of God’s grace when we need it most, in times of tragedy. God can bring good even from tragedy if the tragedy causes people to repent and turn to Him through faith in Christ and salvation to experience His saving sustaining grace.
The Apostle Paul testified, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Tragedies reveal the strength of God in the believer. Tragedies provide opportunities to be more than a conqueror through Him who loved us. Wouldn’t you rather be more than a conqueror who cannot be separated from God’s love by anything or anyone, not even the most horrific and brutal terrorist attack in history? That’s where I want to be, close to God, in His love, depending on Him, forgiven. That is good and that comes from the dark contrast of tragedy (cf. Romans 8:28-39).
Third, understand this world is not our home. The events of September 11th were filled with the darkness of smoke. But there is light here too. The dark tragedy and evil that we have seen serves as a contrast to the light of the blessedness of Jesus for the believer. Jesus is our blessed hope and we look forward all the more today, after this tragedy, eighteen years later, for His glorious appearing (Titus 2:13). This tragedy and all the other tragedies, have made this world a little less, (maybe a lot less) palatable to us. Maybe through tragedy we will come to realize our citizenship is not in this world but in heaven (Philippians 3:20). That is good and that can come as the result of tragedy.
The tragedy of the destruction of the World Trade Center, attack on the Pentagon, hijacked and crashed planes and the murder of thousands is a reality. This tragedy has come upon us. Now we need to turn to God. This tragedy is the result of God’s hedge of protection being lowered by Him to allow a wake-up call in the form of tragedy. Read the words of the psalmist and consider:
- Psalm 80:12-19 – “Why have You broken down her hedges, so that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit?13 The boar out of the woods uproots it, and the wild beast of the field devours it.14 Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; look down from heaven and see, and visit this vine15 and the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, and the branch that You made strong for Yourself.16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; they perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. 17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.18 Then we will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name.19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”
We need to understand that if we do not repent, then this tragedy, which has taken our breath away, is only the beginning. If we do not genuinely repent, it may be the beginning of the end.
We need to repent as a nation and as individual people. We need to pray for the victims, their families, friends, for the firemen and policemen and EMT workers, the doctors and nurses, the governmental leaders, our President and our nation. We cannot afford to let this tragedy pass us by without affecting us. Read again the words of promise for those who go to their knees:
- 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 – “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
May God help us. May God revive us. May God bless America.