As I begin to write this article, my heart is filled with joy. My soul is rejoicing as I remember Wednesday, August the 16th. This is the day that terrorists had planned to deploy liquid bombs and blow American airplanes out of the sky. Instead, the terrorists are in jail, and the people they intended to kill are safe. This was a potential tragedy that was prevented.
How different it was in September, five years ago, when four jets, the World Trade Center, and part of the Pentagon were brought down by terrorists. Especially this month, this is a tragedy remembered.
The same kind of thing could have happened on Wednesday, August 16th, but it didn't. Why? Is it because we are smarter now?
Our response to this prevented tragedy of August 16, 2006 and to this remembered tragedy of September 11, 2001 reveals our attitudes towards God.
One thing it reveals is that when things go badly, we become interested in God, but when things go well, we tend to congratulate ourselves and forget about God. For example, several years ago when Apollo 13 was in danger, people around the world were asked to pray, and many did. But when the mission safely returned, it wasn't God who was honored, it was the scientists. Yes, the scientists exercised great wisdom, but the author of wisdom was ignored by most people. On the other hand, when the Challenger blew up, people asked why God let this happen.
People asked similar questions when the World Trade Center was destroyed, for example, how could a loving God permit this? For a period of time, churches were filled with people who were looking for answers to their questions about God, but the people quickly got over their interest in God. They soon forgot about God and resumed their practice of ignoring God in the way they lived.
Yet, God has been gracious to an ungrateful and forgetful people. The churches in Britain are mostly empty, and for most Americans, there is nothing special about Sunday. People all over the world ignore God until a crisis comes. Then, for just a little while, they become interested in God. But pretty soon, their interest dies. They might mourn for years over the ones they have buried, but when it comes to interest in God, the spark of interest quickly fizzles.
In saying this, I do not mean to be so God-centered that I down-play the great detective work that was done and that is being done by security professionals around the world. Surely it is good to praise the British, the Americans, and the Pakistanis for the way they have worked together to put terrorists behind bars. But let us not neglect to praise the God who rules over all--the God who by a sweep of His hand causes our well-thought-out plans to either succeed or fail. Let us not take the grace and kindness of God for granted.
Instead, let us soberly consider what we deserve as a people. As an unbelieving and immoral nation, we Americans deserve God's judgement; we deserve His wrath. Instead, He has kept us safe one more time.
Let us also consider what we deserve as individuals. Everyone has sinned against God--we are all guilty of cosmic treason, and everyone deserves Hell. Instead, God has kept us alive for a little while longer.
Meanwhile, ultimate tragedy--the sentence of Hell--hangs over the heads of most people. People who ignore God are in big trouble, they just don't know it yet. John 3:36 says, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (NASB).
Those who know Jesus as Lord and Savior are assured that whatever tragedies they face in this life, they will be protected from ultimate tragedy--they will be protected from Hell.
This confidence in God allows the believer to rejoice and be thankful, even in the midst of great sorrow. He can be thankful, because he understands that this short life contains all the Hell he will ever know.
But what if a person is not certain that he will go to heaven? The ability to be grateful for personal salvation is very much affected by the assurance a person has that he really is born again.
If present circumstances have caused you to reexamine your faith, and if recent losses have motivated you to seek assurance that you are truly reconciled to God, the following articles can help.