Summary: Three things Christians know that empower them to face horrible suffering with courage and hope.
Note: This sermon was introduced with a video clip from the North American Missions Board of the Southern Baptists called "Where Were You?"
Where were you? I can still remember exactly where I was when I first heard the news on the radio about the World Trade Center. I was taking my oldest son to school, and when we heard about the plane crashing into the first tower, we both started praying. I remember the shock of seeing the towers collapse, and then seeing the devastation at the Pentagon. I remember wondering if United flight 93 was highjacked as well, and then seeing the wreckage of the crash site in Pennsylvania. In many ways, we’re still trying to make sense of the events of last September 11.
We try to relate what happened to our previous experiences. For those alive when President Kennedy was assassinated, perhaps you relate the events of 9/11 to how you felt at the moment you heard about the president’s assassination. Or perhaps you relate it to how you felt when you heard about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. Or if you’re a bit older, perhaps to how you felt when you heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yet the events of September 11 stand in a category all by themselves.
So we gather this day to remember. To remember the heroes who put themselves in harm’s way to rescue others. To remember the innocent victims whose lives were cut short. To remember the people on United flight 93, who fought back and saved the lives of many. And we gather to remember in the context of a worship service. You see, one of the things the terrorists hate is our nation’s freedom of religion.
So I can’t think of a better way to express our resolve and resiliency as a nation than to gather to worship this day, to express our freedom of religion.
As we remember, I want to ask one question: What do Christians know that helps them face horrible suffering with courage.
Now I don’t mean to suggest that Christians are the only people who have shown courage in the wake of September 11. Certainly people of all faiths and all backgrounds have demonstrated heroism and resolve.
That’s part of what makes our nation great. No one has a corner on the market of courage. Yet there’s something in the courage of Christians that’s unique and profound.
I think especially about Lisa Beamer, the young widow of Todd Beamer. Lisa is the mother of two young children, and when September 11 occurred she was pregnant with their third child. In many ways, Lisa Beamer became an icon of American strength and resolve. When Stone Phillips of Dateline NBC interviewed her, he called Lisa Beamer the most courageous and remarkable person he’d ever interviewed. Larry King from CNN had similar comments about Lisa. When Larry King asked Lisa about her strength, she said, “Sometimes people look at me and wonder, ‘Is she in shock? Or is she unrealistic about what the situation is?’…Certainly the faith I have…helps me to understand the bigger picture here…We have more to look forward to than just what we see on this earth” (Let’s Roll 242). And again and again she points to her faith in Jesus Christ as the source of her courage and resiliency.
Yet Lisa isn’t alone in the remarkable courage she’s shown. She says, “Never before in my life had the difference between those who put their hope in God and those who put their hope in this world been so obvious to me. Following September 11, I saw firsthand many dear people who were trying their best to cope with loss, hurt, fear, and a host of other feelings. Some had lost a husband, father, daughter, mother or friend…They wanted to look on the bright side and do the things the clichés recommend, but they didn’t have the strength…My family and I mourned the loss of Todd deeply that day…and we still do. But because we hope in the Lord, we know beyond a doubt that one day we will see Todd again” (Let’s Roll 233)
What does she know? That’s what I want to talk about today. In Romans 8:28 we find out exactly what Lisa Beamer and other Christians know that enables them to face such horrible circumstances with courage and class.
Look at the text with me. The Bible says here that he and other followers of Jesus Christ know something that other people don’t. This isn’t the kind of knowledge you can get from reading a book or taking a college class. Sometimes our staff kids me, because whenever I start up something new I read a book about it. When I started playing golf, I bought a book to help me learn to play. So whenever I hit a good shot—which is rare—one of our staff asks me, “Hey Tim. Did you learn that out of the book?” When I bought my motorcycle, I bought a book on proficient motorcycle riding. They kid me because they know that in things like playing golf or riding a motorcycle that book knowledge does you very little good. What you need is the kind of knowledge that comes from real life experience, a different kind of knowledge that what you read in a book. That’s the kind of knowledge the Bible is speaking about here, the kind of knowledge that goes beyond head knowledge. The kind of knowledge Lisa Beamer seems to have, as well as all the other followers of Jesus Christ who’ve shown remarkable courage the last year.