Summary: In the wake of the terrorist attacks, how should Christians respond and what does the Bible say about tragedy?
This has been a week that our church and our country will never forget. We had Roger Peterson’s funeral here on Tuesday, the same day that our world was rocked by reports of terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
Preaching involves at least two responsibilities. The first is to explain the Bible and relate it to life. The second is to take life and explain it in light of Scripture. My goal this morning is to accomplish both of these purposes. Let me begin by making four introductory comments.
1. Like you, I have experienced a wide variety of emotions this week. I’ve been in shock, disbelief, horror, anger, and outrage. And I’ve been ambushed by a flood of tears on several occasions as I try to imagine the grief that thousands of families are experiencing right now. It’s normal, natural and necessary to allow our emotions to come out. Jesus said in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” One of my college roommates sent me an email that describes his struggle to respond to this disaster when he writes: “I don’t really know how to think right now, as a believer. This tragedy has cut a deep gash in my ability to contemplate anything other than just retaliation against whoever coordinated this attack.”
2. I’m not going to comment on how our government should respond. I will say that enormous wisdom is required and we need to pray accordingly for our leaders. I do know that we should avoid responding out of anger and rage if at all possible.
3. I know that I will not be able to address all the questions you may have. My purpose this morning is to help draw our attention back to God and to allow Him to speak to us through His Word. Like the words of the song we just heard, “Jesus will hold us when we’re shaking like a leaf.”
4. My desire is to respond as a Christian, not just as an American. This is very difficult to do because my sense of patriotism is at an all-time high. That image of the flag held up by three firefighters hits me right in the gut. If you’ve served in the armed forces in any capacity, would you please stand so we can recognize you? As American as I am, my desire this morning is to filter my words through the grid of God’s Word. Let’s continue to sing “God bless America” but let’s not forget that we are called to be “world-Christians” because we serve a global God.
We’ll Never Be the Same
Former NATO Supreme Commander, General Wesley Clark, was interviewed on Tuesday morning and ended his comments with a haunting question, “Will we ever be the same?” I want to give you my answer to that question. “I hope not.”
The worst thing that could happen in all this tragedy is that, after all the details are sorted out, and the pieces are picked up, that we would go back to the way we were before. We must not stay the same. We must never be the same again.
Please turn in your Bibles to Psalm 46. This song was written in the context of problems, stress, and uncertainty. The writer’s world was crumbling all around him. This Psalm was written with the nation of Israel in mind, but it certainly applies to us today. In fact, Billy Graham read the first two verses of Psalm 46 at the National Cathedral on Friday. A nation is strong when their trust is in God. The source of our strength cannot be in our government, our economy, our buildings, or anything else that is temporary. We must return to God.
Before we get into the Psalm, let me point out the use of the word “Selah” after verse 3, verse 7, and verse 11. This curious phrase is most likely a musical rest, in which the singers stopped singing and only the instruments were heard. According to one Bible dictionary, this phrase can also signify a musical crescendo that is then followed by silent reflection. It also carries with it the idea of “meditation.” In Psalm 46, we’re called to pause and meditate three different times so that we can comprehend what God is saying to us. For our purposes this morning, we’ll follow this natural outline and pause at these same spots.
We’re reminded of three essential truths about God from this passage. God demonstrates His dependability through:
His Protection (1-3)
His Presence (4-7)
His Position (8-11)
Follow along as I read Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah.”