Every now and then bad things happen that make us question our faith. When natural or manmade tragedies strike, we wonder how God could let bad things happen to good people. But sometimes God’s message is so clear that it is hard to deny that it is straight from heaven and, as terrible as the tragedy was, there is still a reason to hope. September 11, 2001, marked one of the biggest tragedies the world has experienced in modern times. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York left almost 3000 people dead and so many others injured. There seemed to be no glimmer of hope in a tragedy of this magnitude.
But, God’s message was not to be ignored despite the despair and devastation. A day after the attacks, among the rubble of the towers, a firefighter found something rather surprising. Fused to a heart-shaped piece of metal was part of a Bible open to a very specific page. The firefighter passed on the strange find to photographer Joel Meyerowitz who photographed it and shared the story. The verse that the bible displayed was Matthew 5:38-39, and there under the title Retaliation is said: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” The message from Jesus in the bible is one of forgiveness, something that we probably needed to do the most but found it hardest in the days after the tragic events
The night the Titanic sank in 1912 on April 14th, 1,528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper, after putting his only daughter on a lifeboat, was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Rev. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. Rev. Harper asked him between breaths, “Are you saved?” The young man replied that he was not.
Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said “Here then, you need this more than I do…” and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1,528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris. Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how John Harper had led him to Christ. Rev. Harper had tried to swim back to help other people, yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Does Hollywood remember this man? No. Oh well, no matter. This servant of God did what he had to do. While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and were selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved.
John Harper knew what it meant to live life with urgency.