For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected in hope because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21, NKJV)
I suspect anyone over the age of 20 - and perhaps many who are younger - remember that day well.
It was a beautiful early fall day, I'd just dropped my five-year-old daughter off at school, and I was at the mall (Greenbriar Mall in Virginia Beach, if it matters) for an eye appointment. Since I as quite early, I sat in the food court and pulled out my Bible and my notebook to continue my attempt to memorize Romans 8.
These were the verses I was working on that morning. How wonderful that, in the Providence of God, He laid these verses before me that particular day!
So many people suffered that morning: those whose lives were taken, those who were injured, those who lost loved ones, those who desperately searched for survivors, those who helplessly watched, those who wept in prayer - an entire nation was witness to and participant in the suffering and futility of this sin-cursed universe. What greater evidence could we have of the evil and brokenness of our world than nineteen men, who followed the sick, twisted, and evil teachings of a false prophet of a false god, and murdered almost three thousand people for the "glory" of Allah and to gain "paradise"?
What kind of evil lives in the human heart and urges us to commit atrocities like this?
And yet, God's hand of common grace was still at work, for it was HIS work of mercy which led men and women to rush into buildings to save what lives they could, to put in endless hours in identifying and locating the missing, to come to New York and DC to give whatever aid they could, to sit in prayer on behalf of the suffering families, to offer the cool water of love and comfort to the broken.
To rush in to the cockpit and lay down their lives so that others might be safe.
Eleven years later, America remembers - but I'm not sure that we remember an important message of that terrible day:
Evil exists. Evil stalks us, and takes any opportunity to maim and kill us. And that thread of evil (to paraphrase) runs through the heart of each and every human being on earth.
That's a terrible thing to say, isn't it? On a day when we remember the tragedy and honor the thousands of people who died, or the thousands of brave people who sacrificed themselves, or rescued the trapped, or healed the wounded, or comforted the grieving... Isn't it a terrible thing to put down that horrific truth in black pixels?
Because that important message above is NOT the MOST important message of that day.
The MOST important message of that day is that evil can be beaten. In fact, evil HAS been beaten; we are simply living through its death throes.
Look at those verses again - the creation has been subjected to futility in HOPE. God will deliver this creation from the bonds of evil and sin. God will come in in His timing and execute perfect justice and wipe away the tears from our eyes.
God will defeat and banish evil from every corner of Creation, and there will be no more sorrow, no more death, no more grief.
As we remember 9-11, I ask you to look beyond the terror and pain and evil. As we remember those who died and those who lived, remember the bright rays of hope that shine so brilliantly against the dark battlefield.
Let those vibrant acts of sacrifice and service point you to the Living God, whose character and love are reflected in those actions, and remember that
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:22-26, NKJV)
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ibid., vv 54-57)
"Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" indeed!