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God Is Working to Redeem Our Greatest Tragedies for His Eternal Purposes


Mark Cuban is known for being many things: billionaire entrepreneur, maverick owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank “shark.” Now we can add 9/11 benefactor.

Cuban recently purchased what Axios describes as a “stunning set of drawings of the World Trade Center.” They were made in 1963, ten years before the buildings’ 1973 dedication, and they capture the majestic and monumental nature of those iconic structures. Cuban is not keeping the drawings in Dallas, however—he is donating them to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. He made his gift ahead of Saturday’s 9/11 anniversary.

Cuban explained that the tragedy “strikes an emotional chord with every American” and added, “I wanted the actual drawings to be where any American can see them, and the Smithsonian was the right home.”

Where were you on 9/11?

Any American old enough to remember September 11, 2001, is grieving its upcoming twenty-year anniversary.

We are remembering where we were on that Tuesday morning as we watched the news: airplanes flying through a cloudless sky into skyscrapers, the fire and billowing smoke, the collapse of the twin towers into rubble. Images of people jumping to their deaths rather than burning to death are especially imprinted on our minds and hearts.

Twenty years later, we can find retrospectives on nearly every dimension of the tragedy: its impact on our culture, our unity, our politics, our military, our economy, and our spiritual lives. No aspect of American life has been untouched.

9/11 truly “strikes an emotional chord with every American.”

When horrific events happen to us, it’s human nature to seek ways to make good from bad. We don’t want to feel that our suffering is wasted, that our pain has no purpose.

This desire reflects our Creator’s heart.

From the prison to the palace

All through Scripture and human history, we find God using evil for good and problems for his purposes. Joseph’s prison led to Pharaoh’s palace; Moses’ exile led to the Exodus; the threat of Goliath led to the enthronement of David; the persecution of the early church led to the spread of the gospel (cf. Acts 8:1).

I often state that God redeems all he allows. People sometimes respond by asking if this is true even for 9/11, or the Holocaust, or other horrifying tragedies. I believe that it is. And I believe that God wants to redeem even this heartbreaking anniversary for his glory and our good.

We are focusing this week on Jesus’ invitation to “take my yoke upon you” (Matthew 11:29) by submitting our lives to his leadership, purpose, and power. We have learned that our omniscient Master sees a future better than we can possibly imagine and will guide all who will follow. His Spirit will speak to us in the present and empower us to impact our culture where we live today.

Today, let’s claim the fact that he knows our past better than any historian and is working to redeem even our greatest tragedies for his eternal purposes.

Should we fear radical Islam?

You have gifts, abilities, and experiences which are uniquely yours and which God wants to use for his purposes today. You have also experienced pain and disappointment that God wants to use in making you a “wounded healer” for others.

If you will submit to Jesus’ “yoke” today, asking his Spirit to empower, control, and use your life, he will answer your prayer (Ephesians 5:18). And you will prove the axiom that changed people change the world.

This fact relates to issues raised by 9/11 that continue to affect us today. Denison Forum writer Mark Legg has produced an outstanding article explaining the need and opportunity for Christians to engage the Muslim world. Mark has also written an article documenting miraculous ways God is reaching Muslims today and calling us to join him at work.

What about terrorists like those who attacked us on 9/11? Ryan Denison has written an excellent overview of contemporary radical groups such as ISIS, al Qaeda, and the Taliban; he also identifies practical ways we can join God in reaching even them with the gospel.

God wants to use our past, both good and bad, as he equips and leads us to engage Muslims where we live and around the world. And he wants to use the grief we feel over 9/11 as motivation to reach as many people as we can in the knowledge that tomorrow is promised to none.

"He didn’t hesitate a single second"

Dr. W. L. Steiger was on a World War II ship in a submarine zone. Their ship was carrying ten thousand soldiers. One morning, he and the captain were looking at the sunrise through their binoculars. Here is what he says happened next:

“Suddenly each of us saw the white wake of a torpedo headed straight for our ship. ... We could not dodge it; we had no room or time to move our ship out of its path. The captain turned to me, thinking of those boys still asleep in the ship, and said, ‘This is it!’

“There was no way out—this was the end. Then suddenly something happened which none on our ship had considered. There was a destroyer riding to our port, battling the waves. Suddenly, the skipper of that small ship saw the same thing that we saw from our bridge—that torpedo headed straight for our midships. That young skipper shouted down the tube to his engine room, ‘All engines ahead flank!’ and headed his destroyer straight into the path of that torpedo.

“She took its full impact and sank in ten minutes with most of her officers and crew. He was my best friend, that young skipper. He knew when he gave that order that he and his crew would be lost, but he didn’t hesitate a single second.”

Dr. Steiger never forgot that sacrifice. He told the story everywhere he could, to everyone he could—the story of the man who died for him.

Like W. L. Steiger, you have a story to tell of the Man who died for you. His crucified past is the pathway to our glorious future.

Who will hear his story from you today?

Publication date: September 9, 2021

Photo courtesy: Pexels/Joanne Adela Low

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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