I was a 20 year old college student traveling with a missions team on the coast of Peru 15 years ago on September 11th. Tomorrow churches, governments, and media outlets around the US will be remembering the loss of life during the tragic events of that day. The attacks changed everything about our modern world. I, like you, will never forget it. I only learned later that as those men performed their bloody murders they cried out “Allahu akbar” (Allah is the greatest).
I woke up this morning to hear the bleating of rams in our otherwise quiet neighborhood. On Monday Muslim families around the world will be offering a blood sacrifice of cows or lambs, saying quietly almost under their breath “bismi allah” (in the name of Allah). Fathers, sons, and brothers have been scurrying to the markets to buy these rams for a week. On Monday all the sound of bleating will be replaced by the smell of blood, charred lambs heads, and liver being roasted with fat over coals.
It was the events of 2001 that God used to bring me to this neighborhood where I live with my family 15 years later. The attacks have brought about a great awakening among churches and missionary sending agencies to the need of the gospel in the Arabian Peninsula, Turkey, Afghanistan, Somalia, Morocco, Senegal, and every dark corner of the Muslim world. The missionaries being sent are distributing New Testaments, initiating mass evangelism projects, witnessing to their neighbors, discipling new believers, and gathering house churches in previously unreached cities. All are suffering and a few have even died for Christ.
At the same time there is an unprecedented opportunity among traditionally Islamic peoples. Individuals are watching the hate and violence and are asking questions: Does my religion really teach this? Could this be God’s religion? Some (though emphatically not enough) are hearing the gospel in the midst of all of their fog. Many ex-Muslims will not sacrifice a lamb because this year they have come to know the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
It is ironic and just like our God to use such evil (like Islamic terrorism invading our national borders) to precipitate such good (the massive expansion of gospel preaching into Muslim lands).
During the same period of 15 years of unprecedented advance of the gospel there has been an unprecedented increase of terrorist attacks in both the East and the West. Six times more people died in terrorist attacks in 2015 than in 2001. This has not been only in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria but also in the US and Europe. The blood of the dead in San Bernadino, Orlando, Paris, Nice, and more testify to this fact. We took down Osama Bin Ladin and Abu Bakar Baghdadi took his place. We took down Sadam Housein’s regime and ISIS took its place. It seems that all of our justified efforts to stop violence is not resulting in an improved world of safety. While the good of the gospel increases so does the evil of wicked men as we hurtle toward the soon return of Christ.
So, when you meet tomorrow in your church do not pray only for your nation and its safety but also pray for your enemies. Do not just pray for your soldiers but also pray for your missionaries and the national believers with equal fervency. Our soldiers should and will do their job but there is no lasting solution there. The only hope, the only eternal hope, is in the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
Do not forget that you are meeting in a Christian church. The Christian church is primarily praying for the triumph of the gospel. The Christian church is primarily concerned with the salvation of the lost. The Christian church is submitted to Christ’s commands. Do not forget to see God’s hand as He turns the efforts of evil men around to complete his own purposes…and praise Him for his goodness and wisdom.