Hope in the Midst of Terror

MY HEART¬†broke as I stood on a mountain crest near my home. From this vantage point, you can see the entire skyline of New York City What I saw, however, recalled funeral pyres I’ve witnessed along India’s Ganges River. Smoke billowed up from the steel tomb that TIME magazine called “The Twin Terrors.” As I looked on, I realized that I-and the whole nation, really- was gazing at terror itself.

What is a Christian’s hope in the midst of terror? What does it mean to pray for revival at a time like this?

Can we praise God? Yes. There’s at least a thin “silver lining” in the dark cloud that has come upon us. The huge upsurge in calls for prayer has been one of them. Whether at the National Cathedral, Yankee Stadium, the Minneapolis Metrodome, or thousands of other venues, people have confessed the need for comfort, searched for God’s sovereignty, acknowledged that we are way beyond our resources to endure or respond. That’s why the National Prayer Committee ran a full-page ad in USA TODAY called “A Prayer by the Nation for the Nation” (see page 52). We wanted to help Americans find a way to pray biblically for their unprecedented sorrows.

September 11 has clearly set the world of Islam front-and-center among the concerns and prayers of the church. Many missionaries believe this may usher in a new day for Christ’s kingdom among Muslims. In addition, America has been catapulted into a role of international leadership in a “war on terrorism,” as we anticipate attacks of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons unless global terrorism can be shut down. I see this as God’s initiative to preserve His creation (along with millions of lives). Finally, there’s a new spirit of unity throughout America- and throughout the church. If this unity can be sustained by God’s people in the greater cause of the gospel, we may be on the verge of embracing the vision that Mission America and others have fostered tirelessly for so long.

Silver linings, yes. Nevertheless, forces of violence have been unleashed upon us (and many around the world). Our people have been devastated (including many churches in the New York area, one of which lost 160 members!).

What is God saying in all of this? The “prophetic e-mails” I’ve received from respected leaders have stirred me deeply Here are some summaries:

(1) This was a warning shot from heaven to summon the church to a total re-engagement with Christ’s supremacy over the saints and over the nations. For those in the midst of terror, revival is our desperate need, and nothing less.

(2) God has signaled America to humble ourselves before Him in repentance and brokenness. We must do this not only because the enemy is so terrifying, but because the enemy’s terrors have, in God’s merciful timing, provided a spiritual wake-up call to the whole nation. God is salvaging this devastating attack to bring us to our senses; to point us to saving power in Christ alone.

(3) September 11 and its aftermath was an act of spiritual warfare. Surely destruction of such diabolical proportion does not have its origins in God’s heart. We are engaged with unseen forces from the kingdom of darkness. This casts unconditionally on the consummate triumphs our Redeemer must give us.

(4) As God uses September 11 as a catalyst toward full spiritual awakening to Christ in the land, it will result in new manifestations of His glory among the nations. To paraphrase President Bush’s challenge before the joint session of Congress, the Spirit is saying: “Get ready!” This could be the church’s greatest opportunity to see a national and international revival that results in unprecedented harvest. “Glory hallelujah! His truth IS marching on!” There’s hope. So get ready.

In the midst of such vital “messages,” Habakkuk speaks powerfully to the current crisis. Habakkuk was a messenger of hope. His name means “one who draws to the heart to comfort.” His book is actually a conversation with God when his nation was facing the greatest terror they had ever known: the Babylonians. His conversation brims with the hope God has for all of us, in any age, in the midst of terror.

Habakkuk’s take on themes of terror, awakening, judgment, warfare, and mission has inspired me anew with a Christ-centered hope (and prayer life) that proclaims: “We will not die” (1:12). “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (2:14). “The righteous will live by his faith” (2:4). “I stand in awe of your deeds, 0 LORD. Renew them in our day . . . in wrath remember mercy” (3:2). “Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us” (3:16). “Though.., the fields produce no food. . . yet will I rejoice in the LORD. . . The Sovereign LORD is my strength” (3:17-19). “Write down the revelation. . . so that a herald may run with it” (2:2).

That’s my hope in God in the midst of terror. I’m ready to run with it. How about you? (For a thorough study of Habakkuk, go to my article on the NPC website:¬†www.nationalprayer.org).