The Day When the Unimaginable Became Reality

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Like many other Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, I turned on the television to see the World Trade Center on fire. It was an unimaginable thing. Was it an accident? And then the second plane crashing into the other tower quickly answered that question.

Then we heard the Pentagon had been hit. And then we saw both towers of the World Trade Center collapse before our very eyes. It was clear that this was a terrorist attack on the United States of America.

As more intelligence came in, we discovered that the terrorists had more targets in mind. The breadth of what they were trying to do was worse than what it turned out to be, due to numerous acts of heroism that day.

For example, the passengers of Flight 93 were heroes as they overpowered the hijackers and forced the plane down in an empty field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The first responders who rushed into burning buildings while everyone else rushed out were heroes as well.

Of course, the inevitable question that arose was why did this happen? In the days following 9/11, I received a number of phone calls from the media. I remember one reporter asking, “Why did God do this?”

“God did not do this,” I said. “It was done by the wicked hearts of men. Deep inside, humanity is twisted and sick spiritually.”

The Bible says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9 NLT). James reminds us, “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it” (4:1–2 NLT).

The Evidence of Evil

If you don’t believe that humanity is inherently evil, then take a long look at what happened on 9/11. If you don’t believe that humanity is inherently evil, then visit the Yad Vashem in Israel, which is a memorial to the 6 million Jews who were senselessly slaughtered by Hitler and the Nazis.

When God created us, He gave us something called a free will. This means that we all have the ability to choose right or wrong. It’s a wonderful privilege to be able to make choices, but far too often people exercise that choice in the wrong direction.

You might say that in some ways, free will is our greatest blessing, and in other ways, it’s our greatest curse. This is because we were uniquely created in the image of God Himself, who gave us our ability to choose. But we usually make the wrong choices.

God could have created us as little robots, pre-programmed to do exactly what he wanted us to do. But God wants to be loved and obeyed by those who voluntarily choose to do so. Love is not genuine if there is no other option.

After 9/11, I heard well-meaning but, I believe, misguided people say that it must have been God’s will. Others were even saying that God actually did it. I disagree. It wasn’t God who did it. Rather, it was Satan, working in concert with wicked men bent on destruction, who did it. The Bible tells us that “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19 NKJV).

But it’s also a reminder that when a tragedy happens, we don’t necessarily have to determine whether it means it’s the judgment of God. In the New Testament book of Luke, for instance, Jesus referred to a tower in Siloam that fell on 18 people and killed them.

He said, “Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too” (Luke 13:4–5 NLT). The Jews were thinking the reason the tower fell on those people was because they were non-Jews. But Jesus was saying they had it all wrong. The people who died weren’t the worst sinners in Israel.

Horrible things happen in this world that we’re living in, and the point Jesus was making is that we are all sinners. When you get down to it, every one of us deserves the judgment of God. In fact, the Scriptures say, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22 NKJV).

Tragedy and the Christian

Tragedies can happen to Christians as well as non-Christians. When a Christian dies in an accident or gets cancer, that doesn’t mean God is not in control or has failed them somehow. Nor does it mean that God is judging them. It simply means that death is a result of the curse of sin upon humanity. We all die. We all will have our lives on Earth come to an end one day.

Nothing happened to those people in the World Trade Center or on board those flights or in the Pentagon that will not happen to every other person eventually. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 NKJV).

If you’re a Christian, you have hope, because you will go immediately into the presence of the Lord when you die. But everyone will die.

What if you died today? Where would you spend eternity? Or, what if the Rapture took place tonight? Would you be ready to meet the Lord, or would you be among those who are left behind?

If you don’t know Jesus Christ personally, if you haven’t asked Him to forgive you of your sins, I hope you’ll do that right now.

Jesus, speaking of end times events, said, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28 NKJV).

Jesus is coming soon. In light of this, how should we be living? Jesus went on to say, “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” (verse 34 NKJV).

In other words, look at the way you’re living. You don’t want to be doing something that’s displeasing to God. Be sure that your life is right with him.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

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