As our nation's leaders decide how to respond to the recent terrorist attacks, the American people are trying to come to terms with the tremendous loss of life and the unsettling sense of insecurity that inevitably follows such tragedies. Many are struggling with questions left unanswered and are wondering where they can turn for comfort in their time of grief. Many are also beginning to understand that there is more to this than meets the eye.
The term "holy war" has been bandied about by politicians and members of the media to describe the suicidal resolve of the radical Muslim terrorists responsible for these atrocities. Little do they realize how descriptive that term really is.
There are forces of good and evil at war in a spiritual world we can neither see nor touch. From Scripture we learn that these forces, however intangible they may seem, directly affect our lives. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Ephesus, writes, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12). The invisible battle that is raging is just as real as any we see here on earth.
The Muslim extremists who despise our country are right about one thing. There is a "Great Satan" at work in the world, but it is not America. He is the Devil, an evil spirit, a fallen angel. The Bible tells us that he "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). He is the supreme commander of countless demon hordes whose primary objective is to thwart God's plan for mankind.
We Christians know the forces of evil will ultimately fail. Though we may appear to lose a battle every now and then, we have read the end of the Book and rest in the fact that our heavenly Commander in Chief has already won the war. Anything Satan has to throw at us cannot take that away, no matter how devastating the situation may seem at the time.
Although this struggle between good and evil cannot be seen in the physical realm, the effects of this spiritual warfare can. Evil drives people to do bad things. It attacks without warning, and it can become terrifyingly evident during traumatic events like the ones witnessed on September 11.
Despite the feelings of hate, frustration, and despair we have all experienced as a result of these terrorist attacks, there is a blessed hope to be found. We who have been given the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ know that we are eternally safe and secure from the evil that plagues the world. Although we cannot escape the physical and emotional pain that comes from living in a fallen, sinful world, that eternal flame of hope will never be extinguished, and the reward promised by our Heavenly Father will far outweigh any suffering we may endure here on earth.
Over 450 years ago, the great Reformer Martin Luther penned one of the most magnificent hymns of all time, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." I can hardly sing it without tears in my eyes, and that was especially true this past Sunday, only days after first seeing the death and destruction in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
The hymn's message is one of hope and encouragement in the midst of life's trials for those who have Christ as their Lord and Savior:
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim -
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow'rs -
No thanks to them - abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him Who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is for ever.
As Christians, we should have the desire to bring others into the shelter of our Mighty Fortress. We should be praying for healing and comfort in this time of crisis. We should also be reaching out in love and doing what we can to meet the needs of those who are suffering.
It is our prayer that throughout all of this others may find the eternal hope we have in Christ. With that hope, we can stand firm and confront evil knowing who the ultimate victor is. We can have the confidence to say to those who strike out against us, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Gen. 50:20). Let us not lose hope, and let us trust that God can and will bring about good from evil.