Today marks the 14th anniversary of the event Americans refer to simply as “9/11,” a day and date that has been stamped into our national consciousness. The cry of America is, “We will never forget!” For many reasons, this is a date Kim and I will never forget. I’d like to share our story in a way that I hope will encourage you today.
Just like you, we will never forget watching those two jetliners flying into the Twin Towers. We will never forget the pictures of the first responders arriving at the scene to help the victims. (I spent nearly a decade serving on the Hollywood Fire Rescue Department, so those images are particularly poignant for me.) We will never forget the horrific sight of the two towers suddenly collapsing and entombing nearly 3,000 victims. We will never forget how our nation came together to both mourn and mount up against sin and evil in this world.
But there is something else Kim and I will never forget. That day marked the end of one season of life and the beginning of another. God shone His light into our hearts and saved us in 1995, four years after we had opened our wellness center in Fort Lauderdale. After trusting in Christ for our eternal salvation, we saw ourselves as Christian business owners. However, we were still a long way off from understanding what it meant to be fully surrendered to our Savior.
We had one foot in the Word, to be sure, but the other foot was firmly planted in the world. Yes, we loved Jesus, but we also very much loved the stuff He gave us. Sometimes we loved the stuff more than we loved our Savior. As I have said before, even the good gifts God gives us can become bad gifts when they become ultimate gifts. Jesus has clearly called us all to “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Mathew 6:33) and trust that He will supply us with all that we need for our daily sustenance. We were seeking God . . . pretty well . . . but we were also scrambling to store up that sustenance!
God began calling us out of the physical wellness business into the spiritual wellness business very early in our walk with Him, but I simply wasn’t ready to answer His call. Kim was ready and had been ready for some time, but not me. I couldn’t let it go. I believed if the business failed, I was a failure, because my identity was in the business and not in the One who had given us the business.
I was at a Bible study on the morning of 9/11. When I returned home, I sat frozen in front of the television, witnessing the awful events of that fateful day. I remember being overwhelmed with the thought that none of those victims could possibly have known that this day was going to be their last day on earthy. But it was. I also wondered how many of them did not know Jesus.
That day marked the end of the plans Kim and I had for our lives and the beginning of God’s plan for our lives. We closed the business less than two months later, and by the beginning of 2002, we had entered into full-time ministry work, expanding the kingdom of Christ rather than our own little kingdom.
There are many reasons for us to pause and remember 9/11. Perhaps one of the most profound reminders we should cling to is the brevity of life. Job mused that man “springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow, he does not endure” (Job 14:2), and the Bible reminds us again and again that our days on this earth are few and fleeting. We are reminded of this truth each and every day by the news of the day and personal experience. Nobody knows when their life will end or how it will happen.
I think of the story Jesus told about a certain rich man who had enjoyed great success with his business. I confess to you today that in those BC (Before Christ) days of the early 90s, I was striving to be like this man! Jesus said this man was so pleased with the wealth he imagined that he had produced that he told himself, “‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
And then come these chilling words from our Lord: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you’” (Luke 12:19-20).
Since the Fall of man in the Garden, death has been the debt we all must pay. When it comes suddenly and unexpectedly, it can rock us to our core. 9/11 did that to Kim and me; God used that awful event to light a fire of faith deep within us that would not go out. We realized that God had saved us to serve Him and to surrender our lives completely to His control. We had always understood the importance of the Good News of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, but after the day America was attacked we also understood the urgency with which we were called to share it—today, because we may not have the opportunity to do it tomorrow.
On Sunday night in 1871, the great evangelist Dwight L. Moody was preaching at Farwell Hall in Chicago. Moody asked his congregation to spend the week thinking over their relationship with Jesus Christ and then return the following week and make their decisions for Him. That crowd never reassembled. As they were singing the closing hymn, the din of fire trucks and church bells scattered them forever; Chicago was on fire! The church and parsonage and much of the city were all destroyed in what you and I call the Great Chicago Fire. The lives of about 300 people were demanded of them that night.
Thinking back to that fateful evening, Moody remarked, “Giving my congregation a week to think over in their minds their decision for Jesus is my greatest regret in life. Never again would I give my listeners time to go home and think about their response to the Gospel.” And he never did.
And so I encourage you to go and do what our Lord has called us all to do: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). Wherever you live, wherever you work or go to school, preach Christ! Never forget all that He has done for you, and never stop telling others the Good News He offers them.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!