During the anniversary of 9-11, we remember that infamous day in history when terrorists threatened the United States by flying planes into the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington DC. I think it’s safe to say that every American has been touched in some way by what happened on September 11, 2001. The events of September 11, 2001 taught the American people how to turn tragedy into triumph.
As the days wore on after those tragic events, a symbol emerged everywhere. The American Flag became a symbol of unity. The words, “United We Stand” were written on bumper stickers, t-shirts, as well as on windows of local businesses. But to really appreciate the meaning of the American Flag, we need to focus our attention on the Pledge of Allegiance. When it comes to the subject of unity, the four most powerful words in the Pledge are “One Nation Under God” because where there’s unity, God commands the blessing. Psalm 133 confirms this when it says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! For there the Lord commanded the blessing.”
The Pledge of Allegiance contains just 31 words, but what’s infinitely more important about the Pledge of Allegiance is that it starts with “I” and ends with “All.” And that’s what America is all about; I, the individual, and All, the all of us. Every one of us is valuable, but what’s more potent is how powerful all of us are together. The power of the “All” became evident during the tragic events of September 11th.
Let’s go back to Monday, September 10, 2001 for a moment. Most people were focused on the “I” rather than the “All.”
On Monday there were people fighting against prayer in schools. On Tuesday you’d be hard pressed to find a school where someone wasn’t praying.
On Monday people were trying to separate each other by race, sex, color and creed. On Tuesday they were all holding hands.
On Monday people were fighting the 10 commandments on government property. On Tuesday the same people said, “God Help Us” and “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”
On Monday people argued with their children about picking up their rooms. On Tuesday they couldn’t get home fast enough to hug their children.
On Monday people were upset that their dry cleaning wasn’t ready. On Tuesday they were lining up to give blood for the dying.
On Monday politicians argued about budget surpluses. On Tuesday, grief stricken, they were standing on the White House steps singing, “God Bless America.”
On Monday, September 10th we were focused on the “I,” on Tuesday, September 11th we were focused on the “All.” In the days, weeks and months after September 11th we saw people of all nationalities and backgrounds banding together in an attempt to triumph over tragedy.
There was still yet another image that emerged as a result of the events of September 11th. That image is a three letter word spelled W-A-R. The headline on MSNBC during the week after 9/11 was “America’s New War.”
War typically evokes images of destruction, killing and death, but Webster’s dictionary defines war as any conflict or struggle. There were three types of war that emerged as a result of the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001 – the War on Terrorism, the War on Recession, and the War in our own minds.
The War on Terrorism
Terror is defined as intense fear. A cloud of fear has attempted to fill this great land of ours. But remember this; no terrorist attack, no external force can ever take away your personal power of choice, of thought, of emotion, and of action. The purpose of the faith that possesses the human spirit is to triumph over fear. If you feel that you are productive, have faith in that productivity. If you believe that you are intelligent, have faith in that intelligence. If you have unique abilities, have faith in those abilities. If God has given you a dream, have faith in that dream. I challenge each and every one of you to replace fear, which is expecting something bad to happen, with faith, which is expecting something good to happen. You can adopt an attitude of faith instead of maintaining one of fear by remembering the words of the apostle Paul as told to his protégé Timothy (in 2 Timothy 1:7): “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
The War on Recession
The actuality of recession is always made worse by the attitude of recession. Recessions happen when people stop spending money, but remember this; you don’t have to buy into it. As a child of God, you don’t have to participate in any recession. As Kingdom citizens, we can trust God as we continue to give, and our giving equates to spending money. Question: What do most people worry about? Answer: Money. That’s why Jesus addressed this important issue in Luke chapter 12 when He said, “Don’t worry about your life nor have an anxious mind. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” During any so-called recession, you can adopt an attitude of trusting God instead of maintaining an attitude of worry and anxiety.
The War in Our Own Minds
The war in our own minds is as ancient as life itself, but once again, the human spirit can prevail over fear and anxiety.
All wars produce heroes, and on September 11th heroes fought a war in their own minds; a war in a firefighter’s mind that went like this: “Do I go back into that burning building and try to save someone’s life or do I run out and save my own?”
Three heroes on flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania had a war going on in their minds when they said this to each other just before they died: “There are three of us and if we’re going to die, we’re going to do something about it.” This referred to allowing the terrorists to crash that plane into a Washington DC target or take action to prevent it.
We can all become heroes by winning the war in our own minds. We all fight a war in our own minds; primarily the battle to think positive thoughts or negative thoughts. Let’s make the decision to think love instead of hate, to think good instead of evil. Every person has the ability to win his or her own mental war by what they choose to meditate on – meditation simply being what we think about on a regular basis.
When we win the war in our own minds, the “I” wins, and when that happens, we can help others win their war and, thereby, impact the “All.” As we successfully do this, the word War, W-A-R, can now stand for Watch America Rebound.
America can and will rebound when the majority of its people respond with the truth of God’s Word instead of reacting to cultural pressures. America can and will rebound when the people of this great free country focus once again on the biblical truths that our Founding Fathers were so adamant about. Many thought the events of September 11th would bring America back to God as people attended church more regularly and treated one another more compassionately. Many even thought the events of 9/11 were a wake-up call from God for America.
However, the way to bring revival to the United States is by communicating the knowledge of God, and every person can be a part of it. 2 Corinthians 2:14 states: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” We can move from tragedy to triumph as we continually communicate the knowledge of who we are in Christ, and the way we do that is by speaking words out of a believing heart.
All wars involve weapons, and the most powerful weapons used during the weeks following 9/11 were the weapons of words.
Television reporters and newscasters kept us updated on the days events during (and following) the tragedy of 9/11. Their words created images in our minds and left emotions in our hearts. Their words left us with feelings of strength or defeat, faith or fear, hopelessness or a sense of responsibility.
Mayor Giuliani, commanding and compassionate, said to the people of New York: “We will rebuild and be stronger.”
President George Bush, in his address to a joint session of Congress and to the American people said: “We will not cower in the face of these terrorist acts.”
Words, spoken and heard, rule our lives. Words spoken about ourselves, and words spoken about others, have a significant impact on how our lives turn out. Most people are the sum total of the words, spoken and heard, that have gone into their minds.
The question becomes: How can we use words to bring ourselves to a place of triumph as a result of the tragedies that will inevitably occur in our lives? Here’s how: We must be careful not to wage war with the most powerful weapon of all; words improperly spoken. Words are to the human spirit what tanks, rifles and grenades are to an army. Words improperly spoken have held many a great person in mediocrity.
The weapon of destructive words includes criticism, slander and gossip, among others. James chapter 3 talks about controlling the tongue. Verse 2 says: “We all make many mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way.” Verse 5 says: “The tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do.” Verses 9 says: “Sometimes the tongue praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. Verse 10 says: “And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” Words, spoken and heard, can have an enormous impact (both positive and negative) in our lives and in the lives of others.
Words that build the “I,” are words that build the “All.” Question: What are you saying to yourself? Are you listening to the little voice in your mind that says “I can’t, I won’t, I’ll never amount to anything” or are you saying words that encourage yourself? Next question: What are you saying to other people? Are your words building them up or tearing them down? First Thessalonians 5:11 admonishes us to encourage one another and build each other up. By controlling your words directed at the “I” you’ll have greater impact over the reactions and responses of the “All.”
When we become triumphant in our own lives, we then become triumphant in other people’s lives. Here’s a great question we can ask that will help us become triumphant both in our own lives and in the lives of others: “What kind of a country would this country be if everyone in it were just like me?”
When the “I” is ready, it can serve the “All.” When you focus on making a difference in your sphere of influence by being an example for others to follow, the “I” is ready and it will serve the “All.” By controlling your reactions – the reactions of the “I” – you will have greater impact over the reactions of the “All.”
Speaking words of encouragement, releasing thoughts of fear and anxiety, and living in unity with one another all focus on preparing the “I” so it can serve the “All.” And that attitude will not only strengthen and re-build your home, your family, and your life, but it will also be responsible for strengthening and re-building New York, Washington, and the entire republic known as the U.S. of A. Ladies and gentlemen, that is how we can take tragedy and turn it into triumph.