It’s presently my favorite song: Raise a Hallelujah. I love to hear it, and to sing along to it. Doing so can lift my spirit quickly… a very present result of heartfelt worship to Almighty God.
I prefer the live version, where, at the start, Jonathan Helser tells of the beloved child of a friend, stricken. Helser receives word one evening that the boy is seemingly at the losing end of the struggle for life. Then, as Jonathan tells the story, the fervent prayers of the faithful were lifted to the Lord God; prayers of praise and worship, and in the faith that God is our help.
Which He truly is.
In the case of that child, he survived that crisis. Hallelujah, indeed! And, I’m reminded of the closing months of World War II in Europe.
Let me explain.
In past decades, as members of the Greatest Generation have been slowly lost to the ages, there came a surge of information and support for what the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines of America’s armed forces accomplished during that time. Special focus has been given to the events on and around D-Day: June 6th, 1944. The unfathomable heroism of those who parachuted into battle, or who rode in landing craft to beaches already awash with American blood, is astonishing; deserving the respect and admiration that we care to give.
But, after D-Day, there were still eleven months of fighting left to do in the European campaign.
Eleven months is a really, really long time when you’re the one being shot at.
Little by little, as the days and the incessant fighting dragged on and on, American soldiers in the fighting holes of the front lines watched the men alongside them die in gruesome flashes of violence and terror. They couldn’t help but wonder: “When’s it gonna be my turn?”
One by one objectives were taken. Yard by yard the lines moved, and always at the cost of men; real men living real lives every bit as dear to them as ours are to us. A new town would be taken, a slight pause to let the logistics catch up, and then on again. American troops pushed harder, ever harder to attack, attack, attack.
The writings of that time contain a common frustration from the frontline troops: Why is Ike pushing us so hard? It seemed unforgiveable that they should be used so callously; their very lives should be thrown away by an unseen and seemingly uncaring commander.
Ike (General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces) was NOT actually being callous. In fact, Ike was being gutted inside. Every day, the self-torture over the very thing the frontline troops railed against haunted him. Ike would never in his life escape the emotional regret that, with each attack order he gave, more American men would die.
But, Ike faced an awful balancing act.
Eisenhower knew that, for every day the war in Europe could be shortened, hundreds (maybe thousands) of civilian lives would be saved. The life of a precious son, husband, brother, father – each one tied to the myriad family connections we all have – agonized Ike. But, each one of those precious lives meant saving uncountable civilian lives.
And so, day after day, from June 6th, 1944, until May 5th, 1945, Ike pushed American and allied armies forward, ever forward, to shorten the war; to save the most lives possible that the balance would allow.
In the fox holes of the American troops, and back home, in thousands of houses, within the walls of thousands of churches, dedicated and faithful Christians prayed. The troops prayed for their own lives, and for the lives of the men beside them. Back home, friends & families prayed for their fathers, their sons, their husbands, and their brothers to return safely home.
But, it was war; they would not all return home. Many would fall, regardless of their own prayers, and the prayers of the faithful back home.
Why did some faithful Christian soldiers die while others lived? Were they not of strong faith? Were the loved ones at home not faithful enough in their prayers?
Was the key to living through that war dependent on the prayers offered? Is the key to our receiving good outcomes in this life dependent on our knowing the PIN to God’s magic ATM of good outcomes?
To begin answering that, let’s go back to First Century Israel, the time when Jesus walked the Earth during His three-year ministry. At that time, in that place, the Jewish worldview included the idea that bad things happened to bad Jews; that if your son was born blind, you (the parent) had obviously done something wicked in God’s eyes, and so the blindness was visited upon your son as the result of that sin. Likewise, if you became sick and died, you must have been hiding something from everyone else that God had seen, and He took you as the result of your hidden sin.
Interestingly enough, that same worldview persists to this day within Judaism. Dennis Prager tells of a time when he spoke to a crowd of hundreds of other Jews, most of whom, it turned out, were convinced that if they practiced their Judaism correctly, they wouldn’t get cancer.
That same view appears to be entrenched in the Christian church, although the evidence is oftentimes seen by observing the opposite effect: That good things happen to good Christians; that if we pray “right” God will give us the outcomes we seek in our petitions.
If that is so, then bad things must happen to bad Christians; it can’t be otherwise. The positive cannot be claimed without accepting the negative. If “good” Christians praying the “right” way get what they pray for, then Christians who don’t get what they pray for must be doing it the wrong way. They must be bad Christians.
There’s a problem with that, and the problem is not with the Christian faith. The problem is in the misappropriated worldview that the “right” prayers produce good outcomes in this world, while the “wrong” prayers produce bad outcomes.
The worldview is exemplified, in the extreme, in the “prosperity gospel” oftentimes taught by rather persuasive men and women on the TV and radio. But, it creeps into our conversations, and into our times of corporate prayer, and very often (I believe) quite innocently enough.
Consider that for every praise report such as the one Jonathan Helser gives during the opening moments of that version of the song “Raise a Hallelujah” we must understand and accept that there are many more such events that do not end so happily.
The faith of a believer isn’t in the outcome. The faith of the believer is demonstrated and perceived in the trail, not in the result.
Let me repeat that: The faith is demonstrated (by the Christian) and perceived (by others) in the trial, not in the result.
Our responses in moments of uncertainty and peril should be like that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who, at the instant the king was about to throw them to their fiery deaths, said to him,
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Were they demonstrating weak faith? Giving God an “out” in case He wasn’t watching? No… they were demonstrating faith regardless of the outcome.
Keep in mind with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: This was one such event of rescue from being burned alive. How many others have been burned alive over the centuries? Why them and not the others? Because God knows what He’s doing. God is carrying out a plan that we know almost nothing of; a plan to save the most lives possible.
Our duty, as followers of Christ, is to worship Almighty God; to raise praises and adoration at all times and in every circumstance. Although the example of Ike during World War II is a poor comparison to infinite God, it’s among the better comparisons that I can understand. Ike had a plan that his frontline troops didn’t really know.
God has a plan.
God has set in motion the plan of salvation for every person who will accept the free gift of substitutionary death offered by Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for sin, thereby uniting us for eternity to Almighty God; to reclaim the one-on-one, personal relationship with Him that He intended when He knit us together in the womb.
Our reward is unimaginably profound, and it is eternal. What occurs during this life on this Earth is important. But, it’s important in ways that we don’t know, and what looks like “winning” or “losing” in this life is part of plan that we have only the barest glimpse of.
And so, for every Christian who beats cancer, there are Christians who die from cancer. For every Christian whose business succeeds, there are Christians who lose everything. For every Christian who gets a raise at work, there are Christians who are fired from their jobs. For every Christian who lives in plenty, there are Christians who live in desperate want. For every Christian whose child returns from war, there are Christians whose children are killed in war. For every prayer answered with what seems to be a “Yes,” there are prayers that seem to be answered with a “No.”
The faithful Christian is called to praise and worship God through every circumstance, regardless of the outcome.
We obey, and we demonstrate our obedience by worship and praise offered to God. You and I, Christian, are soldiers on the frontlines. Obedience and worship are our orders, part of our weaponry. We show our faith in times of trial, and in times of pleasantry, so that those around us may see the faith and hear the praises, regardless of circumstance.
We praise and worship God knowing that our faith is not demonstrated by the OUTCOMES of what we pray for, but that God’s faithfulness is demonstrated through our obedient praise and worship during those trials. It is God who demonstrates His power in the outcomes, and at times of His choosing. Our duty is to offer our praise and worship throughout the experience.
Our faith belongs to God; it is His faith! And, it is to be shown by us to the unbelieving world as a light to draw them to God. It’s also to be shared with the believers beside of us as an encouragement to them through good times and bad, just as they provide us encouragement when we need it, too.
Our duty is to pray. Pray reverently with words of worship, adoration, and praise to Almighty God and His son Jesus Christ. Pray joyfully and in thanksgiving for the work of God’s Holy Spirit in your life. Offer your petitions as you are led, and pray expectantly, and always with the understanding that we, in this life, don’t see the spiritual realm, and we do not know every detail of God’s plan, which is to save the most people possible. What we may see as unanswered prayers, or prayers that appear to be answered “No,” are actually part of the plan that we don’t see.
We are in a war; a war led by God and for the ultimate eternal salvation of the souls of the people around us. As in any war, some will fall. War is terrible; war is hell. In this war, however, we fight to save souls from hell, and our enemy is not passive; he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8)
And so, in this war, facing the cruelest of enemies ever faced by mankind, some of us will experience unspeakably terrible things. Some will be caged and set afire, alive. Some will be dragged off buses and shot on the side of the road.
Our enemy is the cruelest thing under the sun.
Where does that take us, then? This idea that terrible things can happen to the non-Christian and Christian alike? What should we say, now, after such terrible thoughts?
Just this: Raise a hallelujah.
Raise a hallelujah.
Raise it whether you are experiencing a breathtaking moment in the sun, or in an awful moment of inescapable peril; whether news from the doctor is amazingly miraculous, or dreadfully tragic. Raise your praise and worship to Almighty God in obedience, just as the soldiers in the fighting holes of Europe obeyed the orders to keep attacking.
They obeyed without understanding that their commander was ordering them forward so that others would be saved from the ravages of war. We obey in the faithful knowledge that God is doing whatever He does in our lives so that others will be saved for all time and eternity.
Our lives are in His hands, and it is our hands we raise in praise and worship through every circumstance. God may reach someone – save someone – through the persistent demonstration of faith in our lives, in our trials and triumphs.
So, raise a Hallelujah through all circumstances despite the outcomes! Raise a Hallelujah because there is a God in Heaven, and through His Son, Jesus Christ, we will know Him face to face in eternity.
Raise a Hallelujah to God.
Raise a Hallelujah in sunshine and in rain.
Raise a Hallelujah in the daytime and at night.
Raise a Hallelujah in the company of your friends, and in the presence of your enemies.
Raise a Hallelujah because Almighty God intends that your faith should be a light for others to follow to Him.
Raise a Hallelujah because we will, in the company of the saints, praise God Almighty one day in His very presence!
Raise a Hallelujah because that’s the hope we have; the hope we live for!
Raise a Hallelujah because Hope has a name: Jesus Christ!
Raise a Hallelujah because He is still saving people for all time and eternity!
Raise a Hallelujah… ALWAYS!
Almighty God, may it be that I always remember to praise and worship you, even when this life hurts beyond my capacity to bear. For You are the one true God… now and forever!
Images may be subject to copyright.
Retrieved 3/23/19 from https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/define-hallelujah
Retrieved 3/23/19 from https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2015/april-online-only/why-we-fail-grieving.html