With the entire world reeling from the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, God's people have an unprecedented opportunity to help Him draw the lost to Himself, International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin told a chapel audience Sept. 12.
Recalling hymns the audience had just sung, Have Faith in God and Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus, Rankin reminded the group they have a resource in times of crisis that others do not have.
"There is no burden so heavy, no grief so great, that God cannot bear it," Rankin said. "How thankful we are that we know a Savior we can come to. But our hearts grieve for those who do not know him in a time such as this."
With others around them suffering indescribable grief, Christians have something no one else can offer, he said.
"Christians can be a calming influence because we can offer hope and comfort," Rankin said. "We can see beyond the immediacy of the tragedy to a God who is sovereign over the nations, a God who has been faithful in the past and who we know will continue to use all things for good if we love Him and walk in faithfulness with Him.
"We have been praying for a long time that God would bring America back to Himself," Rankin said. "And if you study history, you find God uses times of crisis to do that.
"We don't know exactly how God can work through this, but it's contingent on whether His people step up to the plate in faithfulness to minister in sensitivity and concern for people."
The attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., created a crisis that is truly global, Rankin added.
"It's not unlikely that this time of unprecedented tragedy and crisis has something to do with God's plan to make Himself known among the nations," he said. "God is able to use the most tragic circumstances and dastardly deeds to bring people to Himself."
The International Mission Board's communication network has enabled its leaders to keep in touch with all of the agency's 5,000-plus workers serving 1,117 people groups in 154 countries. Those workers are reporting that God is at work in people's hearts because of the crisis, Rankin said.
"Missionaries will tell you that religious extremism has been one of the greatest influences in turning people away from empty religion [and] toward God and the gospel of hope," he said.
"We have heard from personnel working among Palestinians who say they have been inundated with phone calls from Palestinian people expressing sympathy and concern," he said. "American media is projecting an image of the Muslim community rejoicing over the attacks, but our people know this does not represent most of the Palestinian people."
Similar reports are flowing in from Southern Baptist workers serving in Muslim communities all over the world, he said.
In closing, Rankin read from Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?