Seven weeks ago in the United States, we relived some of the terrible experiences of September 11, 2001 when our nation was attacked. During these attacks, cries for help were coming fast and furious from those caught in it. “God, help us. God, please let us out of here. I have a family who really needs me.” People were turning to Almighty God for help.
As I listened to their prayers being lifted up to God, I wondered how they knew God. Would they have described him as the God of their life, or simply a higher power? Had they called on him daily when all was going well and life was moving on routinely, or only when they had no one else to help?
My heart was touched that many of these people had a faith in God, and I was thankful for those prayers. We do not know how God dealt with them in their dying moments. However, this we do know: God wants us to have a personal relationship with him. And so we can hear him calling for us in our text, pleading with us to come to him. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
Now I would like to turn to two fictional families who suffered tragedy on that day in 2001. The children in these homes were back in school. The mothers had a busy day scheduled, and the dads were headed to their offices in the World Trade Center.
The first family had a devotion, a reading from the Bible, and prayed together. Then when it was all over, they hugged one another and went about their day. They left their home carrying love from one another and, more importantly, having heard a word of love from Jesus Christ their Savior.
When the man got to his office, he went about his work. That office Ð neat and well-cared for Ð in a few minutes was nothing more than rubble. People were shouting and crying. The tower had been hit by an airplane, and they realized death could be very near.
That dad, who left home with such a beautiful beginning, was frightened too, even though he was a committed Christian. He was concerned that he would not be around to lead his family, who needed him. However, in the midst of all the turmoil and tears, he remembered God’s Word from that very morning: “Cast all your cares on me because I really care for you.” He didn’t understand why God would permit anything like this to happen, but he also knew his family were in the hands of their heavenly Father, come what may. If God was going to take him to heaven that day, then that would be all right too. It was not the way he had planned it, or the way he liked it. Yet, he had a personal relationship with his Lord, and in those trying, difficult moments, God had clearly spoken to him through his Word, the Bible.
The second family got up about the same time. Mother was busy with all kinds of things, so the children grabbed something to eat on their way out the door. They believed in God and they were nice people, but this family had a very impersonal relationship with God. They went to church only on occasion and had no prayer time in their home.
When the towers tumbled down from the attack, this father tried praying to a higher power. God had not spoken to him that day, because he had not picked up God’s Word. This was the first time he had prayed for a long, long time. This dad probably had little comfort and no assurance for what the future held for his family and himself.
Two families, both praying to God Ð one with a personal relationship, and the other with nothing but a very distant relationship.
We live in an imperfect world. It is broken, so we need a message like today’s text from God. Humble yourself therefore under God’s Almighty hand that he may lift you up at the right time. Cast all your cares on him, because he cares about you.
We all have our experiences that, symbolically speaking, are 9-11s for us. I served 43 years in one parish and watched many terrible things happen. Many 9-11s.
I stood once with a family who lost three sons in a motorcycle accident. This family was crushed. All three sons had a great future before them, but now had been killed.
I know a woman who was married to a university administrator. He was traveling to another town on business for the university when his car collided with a large truck in the fog, and he was killed. One of our members, who was on the university staff, and I went to the home and broke the news to her. She was crushed in despair, for her whole life was turned around. It didn’t seem to make any sense. It was her 9-11.
But now God has lifted her up in Jesus Christ. She has a beautiful home and another God-fearing husband. She could talk to you about casting your cares on Him, that in good time He will lift you up. This healing doesn’t take place just all of a sudden; it can take years sometimes. But the day will come when you can rejoice in your Savior.
I know another woman who has a great son. However, he has gotten into some difficulty with the law and was sent away to prison for a long time. We sat in the court-room and heard the judge speak to this man as a kind father. “I have to send you away for a long, long time. The law demands it, for you have done something terribly wrong.”
That man still sits in prison today, and his mother’s heart still aches. But she has been lifted up and has cast her cares upon the Lord. It is very difficult, but she has someone to turn to with whom she has a personal relationship. She’s not just praying to some higher power.
I know a young lady who is only in her 50s. In the course of her short time on this earth, she has buried four of her loved ones Ð her father, her mother, her husband, and her brother. Her only family left are her two children. Yet, in spite of all this tragedy, she’s been lifted up and is a powerful witness to all around her.
Jesus, in our text, wants us to humble ourselves. When we begin a new day, we don’t know what it will hold. When we have our 9-11s, will our prayers go out to a personal or an impersonal God? Without a doubt, many people in the Twin Towers thought they were adequate to take care of the day, but soon the circumstances showed they were not.
It is necessary to humbly take ourselves aside and say, “God, I know how weak I am, but I know how strong you are. I know you will receive me in spite of my sins because your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ has died for me.” That is humbling yourself that in due time he may lift you up.
Whether it is a time of real circumstance Ð such as we have described on September 11 that saw the hijacked airplanes attack us or when you are crushed because a loved one has been a disappointment Ð God is there. He is anxious to help you. Cast your cares on me; you can’t take all the worries that come along.
When all is said and done, He promises to restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. I have seen people go through some terrible tragedies, but they had a personal relationship with the Lord to carry them through. We may understand the reason for these events while we are yet on this earth, but in other cases the reason will not be fully understood until we go to be with the Lord in heaven.
That is our Savior who was with us in America on September 11, 2001 and wants to be with us in America today. However, we need to come to him humbly. Just think of how he could lift us up. Think of all the sorrow we have seen in one war after another, anger and fighting instead of living in peace, love, and joy for all God has given us.
These words hold a message from God to us both individually and to us as a country. “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Cast your cares on me, for I care for you.” That is a promise from God.