God’s Sovereignty in Light of 9/11
CBN.com Author Peg Rankin and her husband, Lee, witnessed the burning Twin Towers in New York City from their Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, high-rise on 9/11.
Like many, Rankin began to consider the state of evil in our world. What is evil? Why does God allow it? How can we stop it? She went to the Bible for answers and ended up writing her latest book, Making Sense of Evil: 9/11 Eyewitness Finds Answers.
Writes Rankin in her book, “When a tragedy like 9/11 occurs, your mind can drive you crazy…The Bible comes to our aid at times like these, reassuring us that there are no what ifs or if onlys with God. Whatever happens is part of an ultimate plan. While some people find such a conclusion disturbing, I find it wonderfully liberating. In fact, it is the only thing that sets one free from the bondage of the destructive what-could-have-beens.”
In this excerpt from that same book, Rankin shares what she has learned through the tragedy of that day...
We were jolted out of our musings that day by a ringing phone. Lee answered it. The caller identified himself as Stephen Wilde, a radio host in Queenstown, New Zealand. While visiting the United States, Stephen had spent a week with us and knew that we had an unencumbered view of the World Trade Center in New York City. So when his station manager asked him to get someone from the greater New York City area on the line for an interview, Stephen knew just whom to call. Would Lee be willing to share what he was feeling? Of course. The question was, would Lee be able to?
In a voice quivering with emotion and with sirens wailing in the background (our local hospital was preparing to receive some of the injured), Lee bared his heart and his soul. The station manager later praised Stephen for his quick thinking and excellent interview. We were praising God that Lee was able to do the interview at all!
Later on, a friend, Rich Immordino, shared with us a unique opportunity he had to testify to his faith that day. It seems that Rich’s office was located in a building near the Twin Towers. When the North Tower was hit, fellow workers crowded around his desk. Together they watched as the ensuing fire exploded into an inferno. And together they commiserated with those who were hanging out of windows crying for help. Everyone felt powerless. Suddenly into their view sped the second airliner. The group looked on in disbelief as the plane took aim at the South Tower and hit its target right on. There was a collective, audible gasp, Rich said. Then one fellow worker, who knew of Rich’s Christian faith, caught Rich’s eye and asked sarcastically, “OK, Mr. Immordino, where is your God now?”
“My God is in the same place today that He was in the day His Son died on Calvary’s cross,” Rich answered assuredly. “He’s on His throne in heaven.”
WORDS YOU CAN TRUST
There is a magnet on my refrigerator that reads, “Either God is in control or He isn’t.” To me that plaque says it all. You see, although events may appear to be spiraling out of control, that does not mean that they are. Although evil may seem to have gained the upper hand, that does not mean that it has. We live on a fallen planet. Ever since man sinned in the Garden of Eden, evil has been part of the curse God pronounced on humanity as a result of that sin. The curse will be with us until the end of time. But only until then. Jesus Christ will one day banish evil from the earth.
Meanwhile, God has Satan and his cohorts on a tether. They can go only so far. Unfortunately, these evildoers go as far as they can, and they do so every time. They strain at the very limits of God’s unwelcome control. One day, however, they will be stopped in their tracks and duly punished for the harm they have done to God’s people (See Isaiah 13:11). It will be a glorious day—a day of righteousness, justice, and truth.
We are talking about God’s sovereignty. He has authority, power, rule, and control over everything that happens in His world. As philosopher Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not a square inch of the universe over which King Jesus does not claim, ‘Mine.’ ”1
When the authors of the Bible address God’s sovereignty, they do so with one voice and without equivocation. “The Lord has established His throne in heaven,” the psalmist asserts, “and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). God “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,” the apostle Paul confirms (Ephesians 1:11). “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever,” the apostle John assures us as he glimpses the glories of heaven (Revelation 11:15). Christians, we either believe these words, or we do not. You see, when it comes to the sovereignty of God, there is no middle ground. As the plaque on my refrigerator says, “Either God is in control or He isn’t.”
SOME REDEEMING FEATURES OF TRAGEDIES
It is not unusual to hear Christians who have survived brutal manifestations of man’s inhumanity to man testify that when things were darkest in their lives, they experienced God’s redemptive power in ways they never could have imagined. “God went with me through the valley of the shadow of death,” some say; and I “feared no evil” (Psalm 23:4).
Others talk about the fact that things could have been worse. As far as the collapse of the Twin Towers is concerned, 15,000 people did manage to get out alive. While this statistic does little to relieve the pain of the families of the 2807 individuals who were crushed, it does show that there was a divine restraint on evil that day. It makes one wonder what the day would have been like without God’s restraining hand.
Tragedies also serve as reminders that our days are numbered. They offer opportunities to get our souls right with God (See Psalm 90:12). According to reports from churches in our area, several people did put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of 9/11. Others, sadly, did not. In fact, many are still ignoring the warning to repent of their sins and let God change their lives. How many more opportunities will they be granted? We do not know. What we do know is that one of these days Jesus Christ is going to revisit our planet and hold all His created beings accountable for their actions, both good and evil.
This can be a frightening thought. For when Jesus Christ comes again, He will not come as the sacrificial Lamb who “takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Rather, this time He will come as the Lion of Judah, exacting judgment that is righteous and deserved (Revelation 5:5). At the time of His return, there will be no further opportunity to come to Him in repentance and faith. While this is bad news for those who do not know Him, it is wonderful news for those of us who do. For us, the return of Christ means an end to pain, sorrow, conflict, and death. It also means an end to evil. Yes, evil’s days on earth are numbered.
So what is the bottom line? Does evil reign on planet Earth? Absolutely not! The sovereign Lord reigns on planet Earth. This is His world, created by His grace, existing for His purposes.
Are we to ignore the evil we see around us then? No. For even though Christ won the battle against evil on the cross, Satan is a real and present danger. He fights on.
In the end, however, we know who comes out on top. It is the Lord. I invite you to visit the former site of the World Trade Center and look for two large steel girders welded together. Forming a cross, they stand alone in the emptiness of the towers’ footprints. This “cross” was discovered by the cleanup crew, reverently set aside, and then positioned on the crash site as a symbol of hope. For the Christian, however, this “cross” symbolizes more than hope. It symbolizes victory, now and forever.
1 Quoted by R. C. Sproul, Jr. “Unto the Lord,” Tabletalk, October 2002, p.2.
Excerpted from Making Sense of Evil: 9/11 Eyewitness Finds Answers by Peg Rankin. Copyright © 2006 by Peg Rankin. Published by Pleasant Word, a division of WinePress Publishing. Used by permission.
Peg Rankin is the author of six books, including the bestselling Yet Will I Trust Him, which acknowledges the sovereignty of God in times of need. In her latest work, Making Sense of Evil, she describes the collapse of the World Trade Center and goes to the Bible for answers.
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