As a life-long resident of the Chicago area, there have been few things as exciting in my life as when the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series Championship in 2016. There were fireworks, champagne baths, fits of jumping, screaming, laughing, and yes, even tears. It seemed surreal. There had been so many times in the past when my hopes had been raised only to be dashed. I still can hardly believe that it happened!
What if I had celebrated like that a few seasons before, when they had the worst record in baseball? Everyone would probably think I had finally lost it! Yet, when I search scripture, I find that prayer is often a rehearsal for future victory. Even if you look at the prayer Jesus taught us, “Your will be done…on earth as it is in Heaven,” it looks forward to a not-yet reality. This whole life is a rehearsal dinner for the great marriage supper of the Lamb, so we celebrate what God has already done, is doing, and will finish someday. We face struggles in our homes and with our families, and we trust God enough to praise him and celebrate the outcome we know is coming.
One such example is seen in 2 Chronicles 20, where the Israelites won the battle by praising God in advance, like they had already won the victory. In verse 18, "Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord." In verse 19, the crowds began to cheer and celebrate the promised victory, "Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice." They rehearsed their celebration before the victory ever came!
And the celebrating did not end there, a few verses later, after their actual victory, "led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies" (2 Chronicles 20:27).
Sometimes we need to make room for the answers to our prayers. Our lives can become so crowded with the things of this world, that we have no room for the things God has planned for us. Fears and anxiety can crowd out our ability to trust in God's faithfulness.
A great biblical example of this comes from the Shunamite woman. The story in II Kings 4 tells how this woman entreated her husband to make a room for the prophet to stay when he visited their area. In turn, Elisha asked what he could do for her. Her response was to ask for a child because she wanted to be a mother. Elisha told her “At this season next year, you will embrace a son.” For her at first it seemed to be more than she could believe, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.” God is faithful to his promises even when we struggle to believe. She "conceived and bore a son at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her." She made room for her prayers to be answered before she ever received her child. She did this by making room for the man of God to have a voice in her life.
Yet, our Shunamite woman had that same promised child die in her arms. The very first thing she did was to lay the child on the bed in the prophet’s room. She didn’t share the problem with her husband, her best friend, or her mother. She didn’t even share it with Elisha’s assistant! To them, she only said, “It will be well.” She rehearsed her victory by speaking as if the miracle was already done. To Elisha she presented her son and said,
“Did I ask for a son from my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?”… And when she came in to him, he said, “Take up your son.” Then she went in and fell at his feet and bowed herself to the ground, and she took up her son and went out (2 Kings 4:18-37).
Our Shunamite woman looked forward to God's promises and found him faithful.
Another woman, one who encountered Jesus, also looked forward to a healing from the Lord. In biblical times, anyone who was bleeding was considered ceremonially unclean. If they were in public, they were supposed to shout “Unclean!” as they moved amongst the crowd. They were not allowed to touch anyone, lest those they touch also become ceremonially impure. This is what makes this last example so incredible. This woman risked an offense for which she could be put to death. However, she had rehearsed her healing so many times in her mind that she saw past the consequences, past her circumstances, past her illness and straight to the solution: Jesus.
For she kept saying, If I only touch His garments, I shall be restored to health. And immediately her flow of blood was dried up at the source, and [suddenly] she felt in her body that she was healed of her [distressing] ailment (Mark 4:28-29).
She recited the truth that she understood to be true. She kept on speaking God's promises. She was confident that she knew the love of God, and she pressed forward beyond opposition and reached out to ask for mercy.
The truth is that no matter how bleak something looks now, God has a plan to work that thing for your good. Period. It might be a miracle, or it might not. God can transform painful family situations. God can bring healing to pain. In the end, even through death, God wins.
So why wait? Rejoice! He already wears the victor’s crown and fought for it on our behalf! We are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us. The victory is ours, but the battle belongs to the Lord, and he has already won. So lets start rehearsing the victory by starting the celebration today.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Travis Jamieson