Wednesday, February 11, 2004
It may have been the most memorable - maybe even the most defining moment in the history of our generation - the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Most of us were marked indelibly by just watching it on television. My friend Nathan lived it. It was his first visit to New York, and his business took him high up in one of the Twin Towers. After the attacks, while there was still great confusion as to whether to evacuate or to stay in the building, Nathan disregarded the announcement to "return to your offices." That decision saved his life. He made his way down the long stairwell until he neared the bottom. There rescuers guided him and many others with him to a safe exit, not long before the tower collapsed in those few horrific seconds. I'll never forget when Nathan told me about the firefighters he saw as he neared the main floor: he said, "I looked in their eyes and thought, 'They must be as frightened as I am.' Except I was going down, and they were going up." Is it any wonder we call them heroes?
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "When Fear isn't Final."
When rescuers go into a deadly situation in order to save lives, are they afraid? Oh, yes, they are. Does their fear decide what they will do? No. When the Bible talks about rescue, it's not just referring to saving a person so they can live maybe thirty or forty more years on earth. When God talks rescue, He's talking about saving a person so they can live forever. Some of the spiritually dying people Jesus came to save work where you work, they live where you live, they go to school where you go to school, they participate in things you participate in. And He's placed a rescuer in their lives so they can have a chance at Jesus, and a chance at heaven. You probably looked at that rescuer in the mirror this morning.
And what is it that keeps most of us who know Christ from actually talking with the people we know about the Jesus they don't know? Isn't it pretty much fear? We're afraid of what they might think, of how it might affect our relationship, of what we might lose, of how we might mess it up. All too often, the fear decides it. We remain silent, and they remain unwarned.
In Exodus 3, beginning with verse 8, our word for today from the Word of God, the Lord is telling Moses that He is no longer going to tolerate the slavery and misery of His people. He says, "I have come down to rescue them." I can just hear Moses saying, "Oh great!" Then the Lord says, "So now, go. I am sending you." I can just hear Moses saying, "Oh no!" He wants the people He cares about rescued - but he's afraid to be the one to try it. Just like us, when God says, "I'm sending you to rescue the people around you." God's answer? "I will be with you ... Go: I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." And Moses becomes God's rescuer.
A correspondent who observed the heroism of the GI's who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day knew they were afraid of those mined beaches and those German guns. But still they went in - like the rescuers of the Twin Towers. The correspondent made this challenging observation: "Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the disregard of it." That's what will finally give the people you know their chance to belong to Jesus - God's courage in you that will not be the absence of fear. Mine has never gone away. It will be your disregard of your fear. It will no longer be the fear that decides what you do. For two reasons: one, you are simply going to be God's glove, with His hand in your life helping you do what you thought you could never do. And two, because there is a greater fear than what might happen if you do try to rescue a spiritually dying person you know - it's the fear of what might happen if you don't. Nothing could be worse than that.
The heroism of saving a life isn't reserved for those who aren't afraid - but for those who disregard their fear - because a life is at stake! And you can't just let them die.