Thirteen years ago today, I was in my office at the Dallas church I served as pastor when my wife called to say an airplane had crashed into a building in New York City. I turned on a television just after terrorists attacked the second tower, and watched the Twin Towers collapse and the world change forever.
I wasn’t in New York City, or the Pentagon, or a field in Pennsylvania that day. And yet I was. As an American, I was the target of al-Qaeda‘s wrath just as much as those who died on that tragic morning. The jihadists who killed nearly three thousand innocent Americans were convinced the West has been attacking Islam since the Crusades. From al-Qaeda then to the Islamic State (ISIS) today, we face a global movement that believes the Qur’an requires Muslims to defend Islam by killing Americans wherever and however they can.
And their war with us goes on. After ISIS recently beheaded two Americans, the U.S. has been rallying support for an escalated response. As a result, Germany has decided to send weapons to Kurdish forces in Iraq fighting the Islamic State. Secretary of State Kerry met yesterday with officials from Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Last night, President Obama outlined a plan to combat Islamic State militants by arming opposition forces and increasing airstrikes.
From 2001 to 2014, spending on Overseas Contingency Operations to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan totaled $1.492 trillion. During the War in Iraq, 4,488 U.S. soldiers were killed and 32,226 were wounded. Like most of us, I think about the 9/11 jihadists every time I board an airplane and every time a jet seems to fly too low over my city. 9/11 truly was a day that changed the world.
Why has this war gone on longer than any in American history, with no end in sight? Because it is unlike any war we have fought before. ISIS is not fighting a conventional war for conventional reasons. Their goals are ideological and spiritual. They seek nothing less than the imposition of their version of Islam on the entire world.
Who is motivating and using them? Jesus said that Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Our Lord described him as “a murderer from the beginning” and “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Radical jihadists don’t know it, but they are carrying out Satan’s murderous agenda against Christians, Jews, and the rest of humanity.
So the ultimate answer to this spiritual conflict is spiritual. The psalmist grieved that the people of his day “have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness.” As a result, “all the foundations of the earth are shaken” (Psalm 82:5). The same is true of our world today.
You and I have the light our dark world so desperately needs. On this somber day, pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten and lead our leaders as they respond to the continued threat our nation faces. Pray for 9/11 survivors as they relive the horrors of this day, asking God to grant them his peace. Pray for our military as they defend us in the Middle East and around the world.
And pray for spiritual awakening in the Muslim world to continue. Pray for Jesus to reveal himself to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, as our Lord has revealed himself to so many other Muslims in recent years. Pray for those who hate Christians to meet Christ. Pray for God to be glorified on this tragic day, and for his Kingdom to come and his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
If Jesus is your Lord, you’re on the front lines of this battle with “the cosmic powers over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). We will win this war only on our knees.