Over and over again I am reminded of the power of words. After the horrific events of Sept 11, 2001, we as a Nation were numb. But I will never forget how powerful the words were that were spoken to our Nation by Billy Graham on Sept. 14, 2001:
“We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that He is “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.”
No matter how hard we try, words cannot express the horror, the shock and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation on Tues morning…
But today we come together in this service to confess our need of God. We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation. But today we need Him especially. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God.
The Bible says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”
But how do we understand something like this? Why does God allow evil like this to take place? Perhaps that is what you are asking. You may even be angry at God. I want to assure you that God understands these feelings that you may have.
We’ve seen so much that brings tears to our eyes and makes us feel a sense of anger. But God can be trusted, even when life seems at its darkest.
What are the lessons we can learn?
First, we are reminded of the mystery and reality of evil. I have been asked hundreds of times why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I do not know the answer. I have to accept , by faith, that God is sovereign, and that He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.
The Bible says God is not the Author of evil. In 1 Thessalonians 2:7 the Bible talks about the mystery of iniquity. the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.”
The lesson of this even is not only about the mystery of iniquity and evil, but second, it’s about our need for each other.
What an example New York and Washington have been to the world these past few days! None of us will forget the pictures of our courageous firefighters and police, or the hundreds of people standing patiently in line to donate blood…
Finally, difficult as it may be for us to see right now, this event can give a message of hope-hope for the present and hope for the future.
Yes, there is hope. There is hope for the present because the stage, I believe, has already been set for a new spirit in our nation.
We desperately need a spiritual renewal in this country, and God has told us in His Word, time and time that we need to repent of our sins and return to Him, and He will bless us in a new way.
There also is hope for the future because of God’s promises. As a Christian, I have hope, not just for this life, but for heaven and the life to come. And many of those people who died this past week are in heaven now. And they wouldn’t want to come back. It’s so glorious and so wonderful. That is the hope for all of us who put our faith in God. I pray that you will have this hope in your heart.
This event reminds us of the brevity and uncertainty of life. We never know when we too wil be called into eternity. I doubt if those people who got on those planes or who walked into the world Trace Center or the Pentagon on Tuesday thought that it would be the last day of their lives. And that’s why we each must face our own spiritual need and commit ourselves to God and His will.
Here in this majestic National Cathedral we see all around us the symbol of the cross. For the Christian, the cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for He took them upon Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, “I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.”
The story does not end with the cross, for Easter points us beyond the tragedy of the cross to the empty tomb. It tells us that there is hope for eternal life, for Christ conquered evil and death and hell. Yes, there is hope.
I’ve become an old man now, and I’ve preached all over the world. And the older I get, the more I cling to that hope that I started with many years ago.
Several years ago at the National Prayer Breakfast here in Washington, Ambassador Andrew Young closed his talk with a quotation from the old hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”
This week we watched in horror as planes crashed into the steel and glass and the World Trade Center. Those majestic towers, built on solid foundations, were examples of prosperity and creativity. When damaged, those building plummeted to the ground, imploding in upon themselves. Yet, underneath the debris, is a foundation that was not destroyed. Therein lies the truth of that hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”
Yes, our nation has been attacked, buildings destroyed, lives lost. But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation; or to choose to become stronger through all of this struggle, to rebuild a solid foundation.
And I believe that we are starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. And in that faith, we have the strength to endure something as difficult and horrendous as what we have experienced this week. This has been a terrible week with many tears.
But it also has been a week of great faith. In that hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” the words say, “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed, For I am thy God, and will give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”
My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us and that as we trust in Him we will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us.
We know also that God will give wisdom and courage and strength to the President and those around him. And this will be a day that we will remember as a day of Victory.
May God bless you all.
(2 Cor. 1:3-4, Ps. 46: 1-2, Jeremiah 17:9)
(Thank you Billy Graham! And Lord, we pray blessings on this man, and we pray that you are his hope and stay even now as he is very old and ill. Thank you Lord for men like Billy Graham, and thank you that these words encourage us even today as we approach Sept 14, 2012. Draw us a nation to You. Draw our children to You and our college students to You, draw the hearts of your children- young and old to You, for You are our Father, and Your is the kingdom and the Power and the Glory, forever and ever, Amen.)