9/11…The Numbers of Grace | A Tribute and A Charge

Ed Note: It’s 14 years now since 9/11…but the message—the messages—ring on!
Here is an excerpt from my book “ALIVE…Living in the Power of Grace and Truth”

Lord, I ascribe it to Thy grace,
And not to chance, as others do,
That I was born of Christian race,
And not a Heathen, or a Jew.

Isaac Watts (1674 – 1748)

“Praise for the Gospel”

“I saw something else under the sun. The race isn’t won by fast runners, or the battle by heroes. Wise people don’t necessarily have food. Intelligent people don’t necessarily have riches, and skilled people don’t necessarily receive special treatment. But time and unpredictable events overtake all of them.”

Ecclesiastes 9:11 GWT

On 9/11/2001, 2753 people were killed when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. As I write this chapter, today makes it a dozen years ago. As I reflect on the news and stories of that day, I couldn’t help but relive the stories through the lens of God’s grace! I don’t just think about those that died, I also ponder on the gracious testimonies of those who survived!

One man survived by a floor. He was on the phone in his 91st floor office when the jet exploded into the 93rd through 98th floors of the north tower. The 63-year-old crawled from the rubble. Nobody survived on the floors above him. But on his floor and below, an amazing story unfolded: Nearly everyone lived! Everyone on the 92nd floor died. Everyone on the 91st floor lived. Saved by just a floor!

A blind man was guided to safety from the 78th floor by his dog. The 51-year-old had been blind since birth. The choking stench of jet fuel wafting down the north tower welcomed him and his dog—Roselle. And miraculously, the dog led his master to safety!

And yes, a man and his pregnant wife made it through the horrible experience alive! The husband works at Tower 1; the wife works at Tower 2. The man was one of the last survivors from Tower 1 and the heavy wife arrived at Tower 2 just moments after the second jet crashed into it—she was never allowed to enter the building. Talk about being at the right place at the right time!

Reliving these 9/11 survival stories, you know what comes to mind?

Another 9/11.

A 9th Chapter and an 11th verse in the Holy Book.

The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race,

and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle.

The wise sometimes go hungry,

and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy.

And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives.

It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.[i]

How true?

You probably think that the fastest runner will win the race. How could the fastest runner not win the race? Certainly, he deserves to win. But how many fast runners had tripped and someone else took their prize!

The strongest army does not always win the battle. Again, you ask, how could the strongest man not be victorious in battle? But even history has in its pages the chronicles of how a lack of food and water had ruined the most powerful armies. How many soldiers had died because their clothes were not suitable! How many armies had lost wars because their captains gave foolish orders!

Clever people are not always wealthy. Wise people do not always get enough food. Often, intelligent people do not get the honour that they deserve. They remain poor and the rulers of their countries make foolish decisions without proper advice. There are many of them in my nation—clever, yes; wealthy, no.

Of course strength and intelligence give some people an advantage over other people, but there is no certainty that they always will. There are two other matters that seem much more important for success in this world—you find the words in the KJV and a few other translations: TIME and CHANCE. Isn’t that the implication when we say success happens when PREPARATION (a function of time) meets with OPPORTUNITY (chance)?

There seems to be a proper time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). A person’s best efforts can fail merely because he acted at the wrong moment.


Time and Chance!

And what is time and chance if not the GRACE of God?

Look at it like this:

What the Preacher is actually saying in Ecclesiastes 9:11 is that we cannot really depend on anything in this world, because nothing is certain.

Nothing, except God!

Nothing, except…GRACE!

And that is why the Bible constantly urges us to trust God and His grace. And to see to it that no one misses the GRACE of God (Hebrews 2:15). He will not disappoint us like the things in this world. We can trust Him completely![ii]

The Word of God clearly acknowledges that men, even those seemingly well-deserving, will meet with unforeseen, chance setbacks, including death! Yes! It may be worrisome to contemplate and very painful to experience, but we are admonished through Solomon that such things will occur!

Face it. Christians bury their kids. Christians fail interviews. Even Christians get duped! I’m not saying it is the will of God that bad things should happen to us, but the fallen world in which we live is fallen still. Jesus confirmed it when He said “in this world you will have many troubles…” (John 16:33). Not ‘may’ but ‘will’!

Such possibilities must be part of our thinking if we are going to face the trials of life in a mature manner that will glorify our Father in heaven. Why, having Christ in the boat of our lives doesn’t mean that storms won’t arise! It sure does mean, though, that when the storms arise, we can trust the grip of God’s grace to lead us through them.

This may not seem just and fair. But just as living in a fallen world isn’t fair, living in the grip of God’s grace isn’t fair either!

You deserve death because you are a sinner…But you didn’t become a sinner because you sinned; you sinned because you were born—born with the sin nature. And the wages of sin is death. So you deserve death because you are a sinner. That’s not fair.

But, in like manner, He that knew no sin became sin for you and for me…so that in Him, you and I can become the righteousness of God! (2 Corinthians 5:21). You became righteous not because of what you did or didn’t do…but because of what He did! You became righteous not because you acted righteous…but because you were born…again…with the righteousness nature! Is that fair? That’s not fair either! Halleluyah!

So what are you going through at the moment?

Many of us have had experiences that confirm the truth of John 16:33. We’ve experienced our carefully laid plans falling apart; we’ve seen dreams of life crumble; “accidents can happen to anyone”[iii], in fact, “bad things can happen to anyone!”[iv] We had to learn, as this 9/11 text says,

The race is not always to the swift,

Nor the battle to the strong,

Nor satisfaction to the wise,

Nor riches to the smart,

Nor grace to the learned.[v]

Hear it again:

Races aren’t always won by those who run fast.    

Battles aren’t always won by those who are strong.

Wise people don’t always have plenty of food.    

Clever people aren’t always wealthy.    

Those who have learned a lot aren’t always favored.

God controls the timing of every event.    

He also controls how things turn out.[vi]

It is all decided by chance,

by being in the right place at the right time.[vii] 

Where is the right place? In Christ alone—In the grip of His Grace!

When is the right time? Anytime—so long as there is still time!

So, one man survived by a floor. Everyone on the 92nd floor died. Everyone on the 91st floor lived. Grace!

A blind man was miraculously led to safety by his dog… It could as well have read “…by his God!” Grace! 

And yes, a man and his pregnant wife made it through the horrible experience alive because they were at the right place at the right time—in the grip of grace!

One thing was common to the three cases—they all knew that they didn’t exactly deserve to live, and they all acknowledged a divine intervention in the intricacy of their stories. And when God volunteered His grace, they didn’t reject it.

I pray you won’t either.

Natural gifts of speed, strength, and intellect are never enough to guarantee ultimate triumph. Your personal resolve isn’t strong enough to make you finish strong. Other factors really make the difference.

Time and chance.


Our own efforts will never trump God’s sovereignty.

And our own efforts will never alter our unsaved status—it takes the finished work of Christ and that alone!

Hear God as He whispers “I might not take away the torn in your flesh, but trust Me, MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU!”

Have you rested in that knowledge?


[i] Ecclesiastes 9:11 NLT

[ii] Psalm 62:1-2; Psalm 46.

[iii] Ecclesiastes 9:11 CEB

[iv] Ecclesiastes 9:11 ERV

[v] Ecclesiastes 9:11 MSG

[vi] Ecclesiastes 9:11 NIRV

[vii] Ecclesiastes 9:11 NLT

Before you SHARE it…


Each time I see messages about something ill that happened to someone or some people and is being broadcast on social media telling me what to stop doing or start doing so that such won’t happen to me, fine, I acknowledge the piece of information (if healthy) but I couldn’t help but wonder:

~What will other people think of this?
~Won’t this bring some sort of FEAR to another person that reads it?

Maybe I should remind you these:
1. We live in a FALLEN WORLD. This is not heaven, so bad things won’t stop happening… [bctt tweet=”We live in a FALLEN WORLD. This is not heaven, so bad things won’t stop happening…”]


3. That something bad happened to Mr Lagbaja doesn’t mean the same thing is going to happen to me. I’M UNDER A COVENANT OF DIVINE PROTECTION (I don’t know about you).

4. Death, in itself, could be God’s best protection in certain situations [bctt tweet=”Death, in itself, could be God’s best protection in certain situations.”].
~Bottomline: FOR ME (and for any believer at that), DEATH IS NOT BAD NEWS!
If you heard that I’m dead (soon or decades to come), don’t feel sorrowful for me. Thank my loving God for TAKING ME AWAY BEFORE THE EVIL DAY!

Can I shock you? I’ve written MY OBITUARY since 2007! I’m not afraid to die! Death (for me and any true believer) is not an ill…IT’S THE BEGINNING OF THE VERY BEST!

My point:
~As much as you want to show that you care, mind what you share on social media as an index of your care.

So, when next you get one of those send-this-to-everyone-you-love kind of messages, think twice. And there’s no harm in editing it to add some lines of hope, faith and love.

And if you think it’s not even healthy altogether, DON’T SEND IT!

Many of the recipients had not even read the Words of Christ that births faith (Romans 10:17), you’re now bombarding them with less Faith and more FEAR? No.

This is how Paul said it:

“Hakuna Matata! Why worry when you can PRAY and PRAISE?” (Philippians 4:6 JKV [Joseph Kolawole Version]) [bctt tweet=””Hakuna Matata! Why worry when you can PRAY and PRAISE?” (Phil 4:6 Joseph Kolawole Version)”]

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Ola Joseph Kolawole

***from the archives…

On June 18, 2006, GRACE found me!

GRACE SEEDS . . . GRACE STORIES[1].       In the few acts and scenes of my life’s drama so far, few have been etched into my memory. I won’t forget them so soon. I re-live them—re-act them—once in a while for the beauty and bliss they nourish my soul with each time I do so.   They are those moments that I have witnessed the seeds of Grace being sown into different grounds—stony hearts; spongy hearts. Some, I witnessed in the streets of nowhere and in the presence of nobody—in the City of Meditations. Some others, I witnessed while I listened with my eyes to a message being preached by a “whoever”. And yet, some—the audiovisuals—I watched with my ears as the grace seeds were dropping. Even some, I had to press the pages of my Bible to my ears and seldom to my heart to hear the seeds drop in my private Bible Studies. And most thankfully, few of the instances, I’ve caught myself with the seeds in my fragile hands. The Witness became the Actor. The Boss remains the devil. And each and every time, the Actor wins!   These are GRACE STORIES. . .  

  • The story of No-ah who we didn’t kNOw A thing about what he did to find grace. The first person mentioned in the Scriptures to have found grace.
  • The story of Ruth and Naomi—a story of hot romance and utter redemption.
  • The story of the two sisters I met on a bridge at 4:30 a.m. By the time I left them, they had one question written upon their faces—What Just Happened?
  • The story of the bus driver I met on a Sunday morning. He received an early morning grace and gave it all back right there and then.
  • The story of the teenage girl I gave a “Purity Promise Bible”. I won’t forget her embrace of appreciation so soon!
  And my favourite?  
  • The story of When I found GRACE.
  7 years ago, I was a first year student at Obafemi Awolowo University. I had been brought up in a Christian home and I’d known about God. I even served on the choir team and I was a “good boy” by many people’s standard, but deep down within me, I knew I was far from being in a relationship with God. I had struggles that keeps me sinking deeper and deeper into the sea of guilt. Pornography. Lust. Masturbation. (The 3 go hand-in-hand, right?) But just when God’s Grace was going to catch up with me, it was a great set up! The fellowship I attended in College—TACSFON—organised a 2-night programme at OAU’s Amphi Theatre—a programme titled “Who Are You?”   I joined tens of other fellowship members in my hostel to publicize the programme, but for some reason, I neither had any deep-seated conviction to attend nor a genuine expectation if I attended.   The first evening came. 16th of June, 2006.   As I was about to leave the hostel for the programme, I struggled on which of my Bibles to take to the programme. I had 2 Bibles at the time—an Amplified Bible that I inherited from Dr. Ope Ola and a Green KJV Bible that I got on my tenth year birthday as a gift from Ola Olusola. Both Bibles had a “but”. The Amplified Bible was too big; the KJV was incomplete—it started from Exodus and ended in Jude.   For convenience sake, I opted for the incomplete Bible despite the loud resistance in my heart. Something told me that the preacher was going to preach from either of the missing books. And so it was . . .   Pastor (Mrs) Lanre Olasehinde preached from the book of Genesis that first evening. She started from Genesis 37 and took the church on a journey—a journey through the Life of Joseph. I can’t forget the beginning of the story:   “. . . This is the account of Jacob and his descendants. Joseph was a seventeen-year-old young man . . .[2]   (Did I mention that I was 17 years old in 2006?)   It was as if the woman knew me. After she read from the text which was nowhere to be found in my Bible, I closed the incomplete book and switched to listening mode. I listened—not just with my ears—I listened with my heart. The words were piercing but my defense system against the Truth was pretty hard. My heart burned for a while but I got enough chillers for it as I walked away from the venue after the night’s programme.   The woman had counseling sessions the next day for people that registered to see her, but I didn’t register, so I didn’t see her! (I never wanted to).   The next night (which was to be the last night of the programme), I picked my incomplete Bible again and headed for the programme. Again, the preacher-woman started off by saying “Let’s open our Bibles to the Book of Revelations . . . ”   There I was again with a message from a Book that’s not in my Bible. So I listened again with all my heart. And this time, probably because she gave some snapshots from her own life and her past struggle with lesbianism, I felt like “this kind of woman surely understands what I’m going through”.   I found myself at the altar during the altar call—in tears. It finally dawned on me that there is an ability of God that can live in me and empower me to do stuffs that I wouldn’t do—couldn’t do—naturally.   After the service—in the early hours of 18th June, 2006—I met the Lord, and His Lady. I joined the queue of those willing to see the woman of God. When it was my turn, even before I could open my mouth to utter a greeting, she received me with a broad smile.   “Hello, God’s Chosen”, she said with an irrepressible joy. “Hi Mum. I’m Joseph. And I am 17 years old . . .” I replied.   The rest of our conversation, I’ll keep to myself. But I remembered how she was sooo precise and prophetic in her words to me. It was like she had been expecting me to show up on that line and she ministered to me as the Spirit of God led her. And thereafter, she opened her purse, brought out her anointing oil and anointed me. The words she spoke as she did are still living till this minute.   As I left her that night, I was asking myself only one question as I walked to Sports Complex to go and pray all night: What just happened?   Now I know the answer: I found grace! I ran into the willingness of God to enable me do things that I couldn’t do naturally. I got a gift. Before I even acted out my new found righteousness, I was called God’s Chosen—and I am!   Since then, it has been the best decision I ever made. In the last 7 years, I now find myself doing the very thing He did for me as His ambassador. In a sequel post, I will share how, by the grace of God, I introduced the Grace of God to a bus driver on a Sunday morning and how he couldn’t wait to share it, too!   And that is my wish for you, too. – Where there is pain, I wish you peace and mercy. – Where there is self-doubting, I wish you a renewed confidence in your ability to walk through it. – Where there is tiredness or exhaustion, I wish you understanding, patience, and renewed strength. – Where there is fear, I wish you love and courage.   And above all . . .   I wish you make it to Heaven!   Soon, we will walk with Him, talk with Him, and worship as He leads. Soon, God, the Author of Life and Composer of Hope, will speak our name—a name so mysterious and full of promise that only He knows it. It is our name—a new name—a name totally our own, to be ours alone for all the days we spend in Heaven.   It’s our highest hope. It’s the end of the journey. It’s the beginning of eternal life. It’s the moment you don’t want to miss.   If you don’t want to miss that moment, can you pray these prayer with me?   Heavenly Father, I come to you today having acknowledged myself as a sinner. I have learnt of the priceless work you did for me at Calvary, And I have come to receive it. I’m choosing you today and inviting you into my life. Come and take your place in my heart. And please, help me to continue to remember to abide in you to the end . . . IN JESUS NAME. Amen.   Congrats. You just made the choice of life!     _____________________________   [1] The Introductory part of this piece is an EXCERPT from My book: ALIVE! Living In The Power of Grace and Truth. [2] Genesis 37:2