FirstLife Blog

Day 15: Rescue Hero

Posted by Brent McDougal on

(6 minute read)

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Ephesians 6:18, NIV) 

You probably have never heard of Dave Karnes. But on September 11, 2001, when everyone else was running away from the danger in New York, Dave Karnes ran toward the threat. 

Only 20 survivors were pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the towers fell. Two of the last three were not discovered by a hero firefighter, rescue worker, or police officer. They were rescued by a retired Marine named Dave Karnes.

Karnes was in Wilton, Conn., working in his job as a senior accountant with Deloitte when the first plane hit. When the second plane hit, Karnes told his colleagues, “You guys may not realize it, but our country is at war.” He had spent 23 years in the Marine Corps infantry and felt it was his duty to help. So Karnes told his boss he might not see him for a while. 

Then he went to get a haircut.

He told the barber, “Give me a good Marine Corps squared-off haircut.” Even though he was no longer an active Marine, he needed to look the part. 

He then drove home to put on his Marine fatigues uniform and collected his equipment from a storage unit — rappelling gear, ropes, canteens, a flashlight. This was a rescue mission. 

The next stop was his church. A devout Christian, Karnes asked the pastor and parishioners to say a prayer that God would give him strength and that God would lead him to survivors. 

He sped toward New York praying that his fatigues, haircut, and equipment would be enough to get him to the crash site. It worked. Around 5:30, they waved him past the barricades. 

Rescue workers had just been ordered off the pile — it was too unsafe and unstable. Flames were bursting everywhere. Karnes asked if anyone was conducting search and rescue in the epicenter of the collapse. They said, “No, marine, if you go in there, you’re going to die.” 

Undeterred, Karnes and another Marine named Thomas climbed over the tangled steel and began looking into openings. They would yell, “United States Marines. If you can hear us, yell or tap!” They would listen for a few moments, then go another ten feet. After about an hour of searching, Karnes heard a muffled voice. 

Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin, the two Port Authority officers, were buried 20 feet below the surface. For ten hours, they were in terrible pain and thirst, in dust and smoke, waiting for help. 

Jimeno was also a man of faith and had been praying for rescue, but his faith began to falter. He would later say, “We had been crushed, burnt, shot at. I was exhausted. I had done everything that a police officer could do, and that a human being could do. I knew I was going to die.” 

When he wanted to give up, Jimeno saw an image of a man walking toward him with a glowing white robe. He couldn't see his face, but he knew it was Jesus. He remembers saying to Jesus, "If I get to heaven, can I get some water?" The vision gave him new hope. 

Two hours later, Karnes' arm reached down and grasped the arm of Jimeno. 

Where do you turn when you don’t feel strong?

Karnes and Jimeno turned to the Lord. While one was in Connecticut, the other was under the rubble. One was used by God to walk by faith into the flames. The other was empowered to stand firm in faith under the rubble. Both men depended on prayer through the Holy Spirit. 

Whether you’re working on the day-to-day challenges of life or find yourself overwhelmed by life’s circumstances, you need strength to keep going. 

You cannot strengthen yourself, however. The human tendency in these moments is to overwork, overthink, and try to manage and strategize our way out of it. But the way that we access God’s power is not more strategy or human effort but through more surrender. 

Surrender is the complete dependence on God and constant turning to God for help. Paul says, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10, NIV).”

That’s the real source of strength. But how do we access that power? Paul continues in chapter six of Ephesians to put on the full armor of God: the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness to proclaim the gospel, shield of faith, and sword of the Spirit. 

But then Paul says, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”

In other words, God’s strength is accessed when we seek to pray in the Spirit’s power no matter what is happening and that our prayers should represent the fullness of our relationship with God. That means that our prayers should include praise, petition, intercession, confession, and thanksgiving. 

That’s how George Müller prayed. He knew what it was to feel weak and lacking power. So he kept going to the source again and again, not only in the morning, but throughout the day and night. He knew from the start of building large homes for orphans that he would need God’s help. 

“Straits and difficulties I expected from the beginning. Before I began this service I expected them; nay, the chief object of it was, that the church at large might be strengthened in faith, and be led more simply, habitually, and unreservedly to trust in the Living God, by seeing his hand stretched out in my behalf in the hour of need.”

This kind of prayer is both hard and easy. On the one hand, it takes intentionality and discipline to pray in all things with all types of prayers. It means forsaking dependence on other forms of strength so that you can seize the greatest source of strength. On the other hand, it is easy in that it simplifies one’s life approach. There’s only one real place for help. Prayer to the Living God becomes like breathing over time. 

The greater the trials, the greater is trust.

Where do you need the hand of God to reach down into your life?

Maybe it’s in your habits. Your poor discipline drains you spiritually. Your activities are making you spiritually dull.

Maybe it’s in the area of forgiveness. You’ve been holding a grudge for too long. You need a heart change. 

Maybe it’s in your circumstances. You feel buried under the rubble of too many challenges. 

Today, start a practice of praying in all things, in as many ways as you can pray. Set reminders on your devices to pray. Leave notes for yourself that help you to pray. Reach out to friends and ask for prayer.

Before long, you'll connect with Yahweh, the name for God that means "God saves" or "God rescues." 

God's strength will flow into your life as the hand of God reaches into your worst circumstances or spiritual challenges. 

It starts with surrender. 

There’s an old hymn that says, “Satan trembles when he sees / The weakest Christian on their knees.”

Get into your private place of prayer. Drop to your knees. Lift your hands to the Living God. See what God can do.

Prayer Principle #15: When you reach up, God reaches down.


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