IN GOD WE TRUST
SEPTEMBER 16, 2001
You know, I think that all of us will remember exactly where we were the moment we heard the devastating news Tuesday morning, the report that high jacked airliners were knifing through the sky and headed toward the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. Those planes hit major points of our culture, the major point of power and commerce in New York, and the major point of protection and intelligence in Washington. The news, I think we would all say, was devastating. We have gone through a myriad of emotions, haven’t we? If you are like me, you have gone through fear, anxiety, apprehension, and anger. I heard someone say that it is almost like America has been on an emotional and nervous buzz for the last several days. I agree with that. I really do.
Even around the gym where I work out, usually conversations are pretty jovial. People talking about how many reps they are doing and they are talking about this diet or sports or the stock market. Over the last several days, the holy hush has kind of enveloped the place. People there are talking about soul-ish issues, life and death situations. One guy came up to me, and he is not even a Christian, and he said, “Ed, when I heard what happened, I just wanted to go home and hug my daughter.” We have this move toward family and faith during this time.
I think the first opportunity that I had to begin to process some of these events was early Wednesday morning. I usually get up before the sun rises. I took out my journal, and as I was watching the sun rise, I began to write down some prayers because I try to do that every day. I think it’s great to journal your prayers and record your thoughts and feelings as you try to connect and talk to God. While I did that, I began to write several things that I felt like God was showing me through his word. During this message today, during this talk, I just want to sit down here and share with you what God shared with me early Wednesday morning. I pray that some of these principles and Scriptures will be a comfort and help to us all, hopefully to give some meaning behind this nonsense.
Evil is Rampant
The first thing that I wrote down goes something like this, “This tragedy reminds me”—or in this context, reminds us—“that evil is rampant.” Evil is rampant. Think about it. What would cause a group of people to slaughter innocent people? What would cause someone to do something like that? A damaged chromosome? A poor family of origin? No, evil. The people who perpetuated this act were evil. Yes, we are all made in the image of God, the Bible says, but many people have so marred that image that they have become Satanic. As I have said before, it does not take a rocket scientist, you don’t have to have the IQ of Stephen Hawking, to realize there is a personal, sinister, evil force out there wrecking havoc on this planet.
The Bible says that all of us have a sin nature. All of us do. We have that southward, downward, gravitational pull, that bent toward badness, that causes us to rebel against God, to go our own way. I have it in my life and so do you. No one taught me how to lie, cheat, or steal. No one taught you how to do those bad things. You just know how to do them. When someone comes to a point, though, when they so turn their back on God, when someone comes to a point when they so mar the image of God, I truly believe they become Satanic.
During this week, people asked me this question. They said, “Ed, why? Why did God allow this to happen?” Anytime you are dealing with a tragedy like we are processing, that is a good question. Why? Why did God allow it? Well, I will tell you why. We are created in the image of God. I just talked about it a second ago. Because we are created in the image of God, we have an opportunity to choose the greater good. We have a free will, and that is a wonderful thing, an awesome thing. It is God’s desire for all of us to choose the greater good which, might I add, is to fall in love with the person of Christ because God sent Christ as our sin sacrifice. We have a free will, a freedom of choice. We are not made like robots.
As God opened up the window of the greater good, he also had to open up another avenue as well, the avenue of evil. We have that choice. True love is not a forced love. We either choose to love God or we don’t. Those on our planet who choose to go the other way, who choose evil, they can really get messed up. They can mar their image, and truly, I believe, take on the persona of the demonic. The Bible supports this in Romans 1:28-32. Listen very carefully, “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
“Ed, how about loving your enemies?” The Bible says we are to pray for our enemies. We are to love our enemies. You are right. We are. We are to pray for people like Osama bin Laden. The Bible also tells me, though, that I am to love the sinner and hate the sin. The Bible also tells me there are consequences for sin. The Bible also tells me as an American citizen that God has placed the government in authority over me, and we have a biblical mandate, friends, to kick rear. We do. So don’t leave this place and say, “I’m not sure about that. I’m kind of a pacifist. We had better not overreact to what has occurred.”
Listen very carefully. Our freedom has been threatened. We live in a free country. We are free to worship God. When our freedom has become threatened, we have to stand up and fight. It makes me laugh when I hear people say in the secular news media, “Well, we better not overreact.”
How can we overreact to what has been done? There is no way we can overreact. To give you a scriptural reference for this stance, this kicking-rear stance, again let me bring you to Romans 13:1-2, 4-5. I’ll read and you follow along. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” The authorities that exist have been established by God. We have got to understand there is a chain of command in everything. There is a chain of command in the home, at the school, in churches, in office complexes and companies, in God’s kingdom. God has established, the Bible says, the authorities that exist. They have been established by God. “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).
Let’s go down to verses four and five. “For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant,”—we are talking about the governments now—“an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” This is another reason why I believe in capital punishment. Someone can so mar the image of God that they become demonic and need to be taken out. It’s biblical. Don’t freak out. Just read it right here. You either obey the Bible or you don’t. It’s your call. I’m just telling you what the Bible says. “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience” (Romans 13:5).
Evil is rampant. We see microcosms of mayhem throughout our culture, don’t we? Rape, murder, envy, pride, jealousy. Rarely do we see it in the broad scope that we saw it Tuesday morning, but it’s there. We are sinners. The Bible says that those of us who know Christ are saved by grace through faith. Those who have not come into a relationship with him have turned their backs on God. Some have so turned their backs in rebellion that they are way out there in never-never demonic land and evil is rampant. So, evil caused this. God didn’t cause it. Evil did. We need to understand that and download that.
God is In Control
Here is something else I jotted down. Not only is evil rampant but this tragedy reminds us that “God is in control.” Isn’t that great? God is in control. Theologians call this the sovereignty of God. In other words, God did not get rocked by what occurred Tuesday morning. It didn’t freak him out. He wasn’t surprised. Quite frankly, I think it shows the power of God. It is supernatural that things don’t go crazier than they do. One day, I believe they will get crazier and crazier, and then the Lord will come back. But this is just a brief little comparison, a brief little microcosm of, I think, what is going to happen on a grander scale in the future. God is sovereign, though. He is in control.
The Psalmist said this in Psalm 103:19, “The Lord has established his throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all.” So God is calling the shots. We don’t have to worry. He is in control.
I grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. I grew up out in the country. I guess you call it the country if you live on a dirt road. Across the dirt road was a bunch of woods. In the middle of the woods was a little lake. One evening, we wanted to watch the South Carolina sunset over the lake. I remember that I was in the fifth grade at the time. That evening, Dad and I walked down the little path carved through the woods, and we were standing on the bank of this lake watching the sunset, just checking it out. All of a sudden, Dad said, “Son, do you want to see a big water moccasin?” I said, “Yes, sir, I do.” He said, “Look, Ed.” Sure enough, right on the bank was about a five-foot water moccasin—big, thick, muscular. This snake was so thick he had a goatee, I think.
I said, “Wow, that’s a big snake, Dad.” I looked to my right and said, “Dad, is that another one?” Dad looked and said, “Son, I think it is. That’s really interesting. We have seen two big snakes in thirty seconds. Wow. Then I said, “Dad, is that another one?” I don’t know what happened. I’m not sure if the water moccasins were in some kind of a mating frenzy, but we saw fifty water moccasins within a matter of minutes. They were on the bank, around our feet, in the water. I was terrified. I was loosing it. I was wigging. I’ll never forget what my father said. He said, “Son, jump on my back. Jump on my back.”
I didn’t have to take a running start. My vertical jump at that moment would embarrass Vince Carter. I jumped on his back, and I will never forget grabbing him and burying my face in his shirt. I’ll never forget watching him with a little tiny flashlight as he negotiated around all those snakes. I’ll never forget him finding the path and taking us home. I’ll never, ever forget that. I knew Daddy was in control of the situation.
A lot of us right now are so fearful. We are in such turmoil, so apprehensive, so anxious. Our heavenly Father is saying, “Come on. Jump on my back. I’m in control. Jump on my back. I’ll take you through. I’ll teach you and show you where the path is. I will take you home.” Are you home? Are you riding on your heavenly Father’s back? Or are you saying, “No, God, I’ll just do my own thing. I can handle this situation, God. I can do it. I can make it. I can muster up enough courage to do it.”
Evil is rampant. We see it everywhere. But God is in control. Don’t ever forget that.
Life is Fragile
I wrote down something else too. I wrote down that this tragedy reminds me that life is fragile. Wouldn’t you agree? Life is fragile. All those thousands who got up Tuesday morning, who sipped their coffee, who read the paper, who dropped their children off, who stepped into those World Trade Towers, who stepped into The Pentagon, who stepped into those hijacked airplanes, little did they realize that they were stepping from this life to the next. They didn’t realize that it was their last day on this planet. They had no clue.
The Bible says that we are the only species that can actually anticipate our death. We know we have an appointment one day we can’t put off. We don’t know when, only God does. But it is going to happen. My houseplants don’t anticipate their deaths. My four dogs, who weigh a combined weight of 440 pounds, don’t anticipate their death. I do and so do you.
But here is the deal. We are not really prepared to live until we are prepared to die. Are you prepared to die? If you died right now, do you know where you would go? Is your eternal destination secure? Are you riding on the back of your heavenly Father, or are you trying to do life solo?
James 4:13-14 talks about the frailty of life. It says, “Now listen, you who say, “‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” You are one germ away, one drunk driver away, one blood clot away from eternity. We will spend more time on the other side of the grave than on this side of the grave. Yet, the choices we make on this side of the grave affect the destination of where we will spend eternity.
We are creatures who have a free will. I cannot force this down your throat. You can’t force it down mine. You have got a choice to make. This tragedy brings us back into reality. This tragedy is a wake-up call. It’s a wake-up call for those of us who call ourselves believers. It’s a wake-up call for us to get serious about understanding the implications of walking with the Lord. It’s a wake-up call for us to capture those kingdom moments, when so many people around us who don’t know Christ are asking those deep questions, questions of the soul. It’s a wake-up call for believers.
It’s also a wake-up call for many of us here who maybe are not Christians. We have many. Many of you have been testing the waters. Many of you here have been drawn to church today just because you have this hole in your heart that you can’t explain. You have been questioning it. You have been trying to find the meaning to life. This tragedy, maybe, in a real sense will knock you down on one knee, emotionally or relationally or in some other realm. I think God would say, “Put the other knee down.” Put the other knee down and say, “God, have your way.”
Isn’t it something? I really believe that God in a real way has taken his hand off America. It saddens my heart to say it, but I believe it. This is just a sign of that, what we saw in New York and Washington. We will have record numbers of people flooding into churches across our land today. Do you know why? People are flocking to churches because the other houses of worship are closed down. Football stadiums, closed down. Baseball stadiums, closed down. No one is traveling to their little vacation homes or taking this trip or that trip. God says to have no other gods before him. We are worshipping other gods, friends. We are worshipping other gods. We spend more money on pornography and cosmetics than we do the things of God and we wonder what is wrong with us. The most dangerous place for a baby to be is in its mother’s womb? That’s wrong. Where have we gone wrong? We need to repent. We need to say, “God, I am a miserable sinner. I need to change my life. God, I need to do a 180, and only the power of Christ can make it happen.” Life is fragile.
Those towers that represented everything America stands for, wealth and commerce and power, crumbled like that. The Bible says that one day we will stand before God and everything in our lives that are not built on people or the church, those two entities which will last forever, will crumble. Think about the billions and billions of dollars of deals that were being done that day when those towers crumbled. Think about the technology. Think about that. Within an hour or so America was knocked to a knee. It’s time for America to put the other knee down. Don’t you think so?
Here is what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 2:11. Solomon is an Old Testament figure; he took a free fall into a forty-year abyss of partying. The guy was the wealthiest man who ever lived. He tried everything you could think of. He had 700 concubines. He got high. He built buildings. You name it, he did it. Here is what Solomon said, because he tried to do it himself, by himself, away from God, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.” 1 Timothy 6:7 says, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
Isn’t it something that, just like that, we turn to faith and we turn to family? I saw yesterday on the news that Madonna, before her concert several nights ago, led in a word of prayer. I won’t even go there. Even MTV, this network that has been blaspheming the name of God for years and years, said, “Pray.” Even Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, “Pray.” A couple of weeks ago, you couldn’t pray in schools. Now on the front page of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, you read that they are praying in schools. We should have never kicked prayer out of the schools in the first place. I mean, what has happened to us?
Life is fragile. God is in control. Evil is rampant.
God is Trustworthy
Let me do one more—God is trustworthy. That is what I kept going back to during that morning prayer session on Wednesday. God is trustworthy. We can trust God. Do you know what the word “trust” means? Our English word “trust” comes from an Indo-European root word meaning “to be solid,” which is also where we get our word “tree” from. I love that. If you want to be firmly planted, if you want to have deep roots, if you want to do life like a tree, trust. God is trustworthy.
There is one section of scripture that has kind of been the theme scripture for the Young family for generations; it’s Proverbs 3:5-6. It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
When we lean on our own understanding, we are in trouble. We are powerless. When we lean on God’s understanding, lean into his love, we are powerful. What a message of hope. How do we trust God? How do we discover the trust of God? One of the ways is to pray. I am thrilled about America coming together and praying. I love that. I am happy. MTV is talking about prayer. I’m happy that Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather are talking about prayer. Don’t get me wrong now; I am happy, but my prayer is that they will pray correct prayer.
Let me say something else, too, while I am talking here. America is a melting pot. It really is. This tragedy has unified our nation and that is a wonderful thing. My great-grandmother was full-blooded German. Also, my mother’s side has Scottish and Irish roots. But I don’t call myself a German-Scottish-Irish-American. No, I call myself American. Let’s get rid of the hyphen. What do you say? We are American together, unified. We are from different backgrounds, different walks of life, different color skins and all that stuff, but we are one. And we only become one, truly, when we go and hit our knees in prayer.
That brings us to Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything…” Does this say just in tragedies? Does this say just in major things? Does this say just when you are getting ready to close the big deal or take the big algebra exam? No, it says, “in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” And look at Verse 7, “and the peace of God…” Say that with me, “the peace of God.” I want to see a peace sign now. “And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Isn’t that cool?
Check this out. If you want to have the peace of God, you have got to have peace with God, because we were born at war with God. I was born at war with God and at war with you. There is a war going on and it’s a war we can’t always see. I want to go my own way. I want to do what makes me feel good, what gives me pleasure, what makes me look good. That’s my sin nature. That is contrary to what God wants from me. I am at war with God. One day, though, I realized that God loved me so much, a self-centered sinner, God loved me so much that he sent Christ as a sin sacrifice, and Jesus rose again. God offers me this incredible deal. He says, “Ed, you have got a freedom of choice. You have got a free will. I want you to choose the greater good.”
One day, years ago, because I had gone my own way, I was knocked down to one knee. I put the other knee down, and I said, “God, I am going your way. I am going to trust Christ. I am going to accept Jesus into my life.” That is why I have the peace of God because I have peace with God. Many others here can say the same thing. You say, “You know what? I have the peace of God because I have made peace with God by receiving the amazing grace of Jesus.”
If you have done that, good for you. That is the greatest thing you could have done. If you haven’t, why don’t you do the deal now? I mean, why don’t you make that choice now? You can do it by just praying a prayer and saying, “Jesus Christ, I admit to you the obvious, that I have gone my own way. I have rebelled against you. I have leaned on my own understanding. I want to do an about face. I want to repent and turn to you. I want to lean in on your love, and I want to put the other knee down.”
God right now is in control. God is sovereign. He is trustworthy, and he is using this to draw people to him. It’s a good thing that people are coming to church. It’s a good thing people are asking these questions, and we have an opportunity to capitalize for the kingdom. Don’t miss it. Don’t miss it.
Did you see what happened when people in New York and Washington first saw those planes hitting the buildings? Did you hear what they said? What did they say? “Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” Is God your God? Has he possessed you? Have you chosen him and allowed him to possess you? Can you say, “Oh, my God?”
We have “In God We Trust” on our currency, on all our money. Do you really trust God or is it just kind of a cliché, like “God Bless America” or “God bless you.” Have you really trusted in God?
This past Wednesday night, our Senior High Pastor was teaching, and he was talking about this tragedy. He stood up and said, “You know, in a group this size, I am sure many of us were personally touched by the event that transpired the day before.” Pace said, “Ed, I had no idea what I was saying. Little did I know that a teenage girl who was hearing my voice had just lost her mom on one of the hijacked planes eighteen hours earlier.” I said, “Pace, you are kidding me?” He said, “No. At the end of the service, I gave kids a chance to commit their lives to Christ and some to recommit their lives to Christ. And we had a time for people to walk forward and come down front. This girl made that decision.”
I thought, there is no way that I could even identify with the pain she was feeling. Yet, through that pain, she made that commitment. Unbelievable. I feel led to give you that same opportunity right now. I am going to have a prayer and this is a prayer that a lot of you, I believe, need to pray. This is a prayer for you to say, “Jesus, I am down on one knee, and I want to put the other knee down. I want to go your way. I want to ask you into my life.”
Many people need to make that decision. Others here, who are believers, need to begin to pray. You need to pray for our leaders, the rescue workers, for the families and friends of those who lost loved ones, for repentance, to pray, “God, I have had other gods before you. You are God. I am not. I am going to revolve my life from this day forward around the two things that will last forever—people and the church.”
Some of you need to get right here. So, as we have this time of prayer, this season of prayer together, those are the prayers that we are saying. The bottom line is this: are you trusting in God? When someone looks at your life, do they see stamped on it, “In God We Trust” or not? It’s your option.
Let’s pray together. I am going to pray a prayer right now. This is not my prayer. It’s the prayer that I prayed years ago that I just told you about a couple of minutes ago. But it is going to be your prayer. Maybe you are down on one knee right now. Maybe you have been searching for the meaning of life. You have this hole in your heart, this nagging sensation that everything is not together. I am going to tell you something. You are at war with God. It’s time to get peace with God. There is no way you can have the peace of God until you have the peace with God, so pray this prayer right now to get that peace and assurance and to establish that personal relationship with Christ.
Just say this, “God, I admit to you the obvious, that I am a sinner, that I have messed up. I have gone my own way and have rebelled against you. I now do a 180. I turn away from that and I turn to you, Jesus. I believe that you are my sin-sacrifice, that you died on the cross for all of my iniquities, all of my shortcomings. I ask you, Jesus, to infiltrate my life. I give you everything—my mind, my body, my talents, my relationships, my future. I give it to you, Lord.”
Just put the other knee down and say, “God, I want to jump on your back. I want to receive Christ.” Because God is a great path for you. Ultimately, it leads to an eternal home. Just pray that prayer. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.