A few days ago I revisited the sermon I preached on the Sunday after 9/11. At that point America was still struggling with the enormity of what happened just five days earlier. I closed my message called Living by Faith in an Uncertain World by giving Five Lessons to Ponder.
I share them here because we need these lessons now more than ever. What follows is taken from that sermon on September 16, 2001:
Five Lessons to Ponder
So let me ask a personal question: How long do you expect to live? To put it more pointedly, how many more years do you think you have left before someone holds your funeral service? Ten years? Twenty years? Thirty years? Forty years? Fifty years? Sixty years? How much of that time are you sure of? The last question is easy. You’re not sure about any of it. The truth is, you could die tomorrow from any of a thousand causes. No one knows how long he or she will live or precisely when they will die. There are no guarantees for any of us. After last Tuesday, no one can deny that fact.
Let’s wrap up this message with some lessons we all should have learned from this long and difficult week.
A. Nothing in this world is secure, certain or safe.
This ought to be fully obvious to all of us. If the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are not safe, where can we hide from trouble? Many of us have lived in a self-created bubble of false security where we could watch the troubles of the world while thinking, “That could never happen to me.” No one can say that anymore.
B. There will be no end of evil this side of heaven.
I am not a pessimist by any means, but I am a biblical realist. And although I am not a prophet, I think there may be some difficult days ahead for all of us. My advice is simple: Buckle up. The road ahead is bound to be bumpy. We will not be delivered from evil until Jesus comes again.
C. God can bring beauty out of the ashes of tragedy.
This is the positive side of all that has happened this week. Our God is so great that even a tragedy like this cannot foil his plan. We have seen angels of mercy working round the clock, digging through the rubble, searching for survivors, treating the wounded, caring for the hurting, comforting the brokenhearted, donating blood, giving money, and sending trucks filled with supplies to the disaster sites. In the last several days there has been a vast national turning to the Lord, the likes of which we have not seen in many years. The terrorists struck a blow for evil but that is not the end of the story. “When it’s sin versus grace, grace wins hands down” (Eugene Peterson, The Message).
D. There are open hearts everywhere—Be bold!
This is a word of encouragement for Christians. Many of us have prayed for years for God to open the heart of our nation to the gospel. This tragedy has changed everything. Now you can pray in the public schools and you won’t get in trouble. People who a week ago were closed now want to talk about spiritual things. You can walk down the street, stop some strangers and say, “Let’s pray,” and they won’t laugh at you. Every head will be bowed in prayer.
These are amazing days. As God gives you opportunity and open doors, be bold. Speak the truth in love. Millions of Americans are turning to God.
E. If you decide to follow Christ, you may not be safe but your life will never be dull.
That sentence sums up everything I’ve been trying to say in this message. If it’s safety you want and a guarantee of earthly success, then you’ll have to look somewhere else. But if you are willing to follow Jesus, I can promise you that you’ll never be disappointed in him and your life will not be boring.
On Friday morning Dr. Billy Graham took part in the prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington. He spoke powerfully and clearly, and with great compassion he pointed people to Jesus Christ as the only answer.
As he finished his remarks, Dr. Graham mentioned the hymn ”How Firm a Foundation,” and he noted that all of us have a choice to make about the foundation we build our lives upon. If we build on the things of this world, we are bound to be disappointed in the end. But if we build our lives on Jesus Christ, when death comes we will discover that the foundation is firm indeed.
One of the verses of that familiar hymn seems especially appropriate for these days:
“Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”
There may be more shaking of the foundations in the days to come. We would all be wise to build our lives on Jesus Christ. He is the one true firm foundation that can stand the test of time. Build your life on Jesus and when the ground shakes beneath your feet and the things of the earth crumble to the ground, your life will be secure because you have built on the foundation that can never be moved.