On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, Americans watched with horror as one plane and then another crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. By the time a third plane crashed in a suicide mission into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, that morning, all the world knew that America’s mainland was under attack.
Oddly, the deadliest terrorist attack in US history occurred on 9/11, the very numbers all Americans know to dial on their phones to call for help in the event of a personal emergency. Indeed, frightened Americans inside the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and four passenger airplanes were dialing 911 on their cell phones to report this horrific emergency. Hundreds of people who were injured and trying to escape the flames and explosions called their loved ones. Newscasts repeatedly aired clips of the airplanes as they crashed into the twin towers. The nation was in a panic.
United Airlines Flight 93 crash-landed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers (while still in the air) overtook the terrorists who had hijacked the plane. All passengers and hijackers on board were killed, but the passengers’ bravery likely saved the lives of hundreds more innocent Americans because the plane was said to be headed for Washington, DC. Within one hour, four passenger airliners exploded on American soil, and all innocent passengers, as well as the terrorist hijackers, were killed. Nearly three thousand people were killed and more than twenty-five thousand injured, including rescuers.
Turning Back to God
The Sunday following 9/11, churches all over America were packed, many to capacity. The nation was reeling from shock and grief. For the first time in decades, the majority of Americans went to church—and turned to God.
Larry and I pastored a church in Portland, Oregon, in 2001. Larry had to be out of town at the end of September, so I taught the Sunday service. Anyone who remembers that September will tell you that our nation was turned upside down. Suddenly, our safe world in America was scary and unpredictable. Our minds were not just processing what happened on 9/11, but we all faced the uncertainty and even alarm at what else may be coming in the days ahead. We had an enemy, but who were they? Why did they hate us? Would they attack again? I was heavily burdened by the far-reaching effects of 9/11. I knew God had given me a message based on Psalm 91 to bring hope, peace, and comfort to our people.
Protection in the Danger Zone
A few minutes before the service was to begin, a dear friend and church member came to the church office. For the sake of privacy, I’ll call him Colonel Gerald. Gerald was a retired US Air Force colonel who had served during the Vietnam War. He and his best friend were both fighter pilots. Colonel Gerald told me that his friend served as a lead fighter pilot within the advanced level of elite air force squadrons. These squadrons had the highest casualty death rates in the air force due to the intense danger they faced head-on. These fighter pilots were the most highly trained and were sent on the most dangerous missions.
As a lead fighter pilot, his friend led his whole squadron of other fighter pilots into the direct line of fire of the enemy fighter pilots. Colonel Gerald’s friend courageously led his squadron head-on, making them the frontline target of the enemy. I cannot even fathom how anyone could face down such fears and muster up the courage.
As our colonel friend continued this story, much to our relief, he reported that his friend was still alive all these years later and had made it through that terrible war with not even one injury. We all teared up as he told us that his friend was a deeply spiritual man, a man of serious prayer and faith. Every morning before suiting up for duty, he gathered his entire squad and had a time of prayer. He prayed for God’s safety and protection over himself and his pilots. Guess what the main portion of their daily prayer was? They recited together the entire chapter of Psalm 91! This lead fighter pilot and his elite air force squadron had the lowest rate of death and injuries! The dangers these pilots faced were about as intense and real as is earthly possible. However, the protection and defense that the Lord provided were as intense and real as is supernaturally possible.
That morning, as I taught about the reality and power of Psalm 91, I told this colonel’s story. The testimony of this colonel and his friend gave me and our congregation the power to rise above and overcome the fear and dread that saturated America after 9/11. If the verses of Psalm 91 could become real to those highly trained fighter pilots, then the same verses would certainly apply to our protection in the fall of 2001. Most of all, the promises of Psalm 91 are yours today—should you receive them for yourself.
This beautiful psalm is an all-time favorite of many Christians. Let’s read it together now:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely, he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, and no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life, I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91, NIV
Psalm 91 has stood the test of time as a sacred prayer and promise of God’s presence, protection, and supernatural power in the lives of His people. It is amazing to me how the needs of the world are timeless and specific—and God’s miracles are timeless and specific as well. It seems like Psalm 91 was written about the world today as it talks of diseases and tumultuous times. Remember, no challenge is too big or too small. God cares about us, and He will come to our rescue and release His miracles.
Psalm 91 Still Works Today
The point I want to make is that the promises of our God that were spoken thousands of years ago during historically perilous times are true for you and me right now during our own perilous times. The strategies of terrorism haven’t changed. Terrorism tries to paralyze us in fear, rob us of the blessings of God, and steal the destiny of God from our lives. Whether we are facing war, financial instability, or health threats on a global level, we must be careful to resist fear. Worry and fear can saturate our thoughts until they overtake reasonable decision-making and rob us of God’s peace. Our God is ready, willing, and able to save us! King David’s God is our God, and He will protect, deliver, defend, and rescue us. He will bring us to victory in every area of our lives!