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Since finishing Iain Murray’s superb biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones last week, I’ve been pondering the topic of revival. The life and ministry of the Welsh pastor leaves me no option. As Murray, who also authored Revival and Revivalism, observes: “True zeal for revival is nothing other than zeal for the glory of God in the conversion of many.” Or, as Tim Keller explained at TGC13, revivals are “seasons in which the ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit are intensified.” (For more on gospel revival, see chapters 4 and 6 in Center Church or A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir by Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge.)
While such statements may sound harmless enough, are they true? Some evangelicals today are certainly uneasy with revival talk. Revival is God’s concern, they insist, not ours. Are they wrong?
TGC Council members Kevin DeYoung, Bryan Chapell, and Richard Phillips recently sat down to tackle this knotty topic. “In a true revival, you’re not adding human manipulative techniques to a biblical ministry,” Phillips explains. Rather, you’re “doing biblical ministry, fortified by prayer, and the Holy Spirit is giving you a great harvest.”
Moreover, Chapell points out, “True revival is often very disruptive to the traditional church.” As a result, many churches “want revival until it comes.” On the other hand, DeYoung adds, some don’t desire to see revival unless it occurs in their church.
To be sure, the history of revivalism is shot through with examples of well-meaning people seeking to engineer what only God can do. As Lloyd-Jones warned:
Pray for revival? Yes, go on, but do not try to create it, do not attempt to produce it; it is only given by Christ himself. The last church to be visited by a revival is the church trying to make it
There has been a lot of talk in our country about the need for a national revival; the next great awakening. Some opinions are that we have fallen to the darkest valley of our country’s history. I agree that we are experiencing moral decay within the country and within the church, but I do not agree that we have reached the deepest pit. Further, as so many are calling for revival in the church, I disagree that we should be looking for that right now.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Yes, the church ought to pray for our nation and lift up our leaders to the Lord. We should long for the Truth of Christ to become a revered and holy part of our lives once again. However, before God will heal the land through revival, we must show repentance first. This comes from our selfless humility. As one commentator states, in the sight of the Lord, humility is the willingness to take our appropriate place in the dust on account of our transgressions.
Read James 4:1-10 and respond to these verses. If we follow our own fleshly desires and cravings, we are friends with the world. As such, we are enemies of God (vs 4). We are arrogant and proud rejecting His ways. From the passage we read that God opposes the proud (vs 6). But to the humble, He gives grace. Verses 7-10 go on to explain how we are to return to God. We are to submit and draw near to Him. We are to lament, mourn, and purify our hearts. At the conclusion we read, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
The Greek word tapeinoó is a term for humility that means to be fully dependent on the Lord. A study of the Greek word hupsoó reveals the idea of being properly lifted up. Therefore we interpret this as a promise that God will exalt those who are penitent. A word of caution, though. Do not misinterpret this as prosperity to believing Christians. Those who ask with ill intent do not receive because they do so for selfish pleasures. As for our country, to be lift up by God, we must admit in humility that we need Him to do so.
Before our nation can experience revival, we must all humble ourselves and repent.
The Lord speaks to Solomon concerning His people in 2 Chronicles 7:14 that if they humble themselves, seek His face and repent, then He will hear, forgive and heal them. Do not be proud! For far too long the Western Church has pointed fingers at others in accusation and even judgment.
By Jim Jarman
Converge missionary appointees to Sweden
The year was 1950. The famous revival on the windswept Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Outer Hebrides was already underway. It was a revival that began when two elderly sisters fervently prayed. Peggy Smith was 84 and completely blind. Christine, her younger sister by two years, could hardly walk and was bent over double from arthritis.
God had given them a simple promise from Scripture: I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground (Isa. 44:3, KJV).
With a deep burden in their hearts they began praying. Twice a week for many months, they went down on feeble knees at 10:00 at night and did not rise until 3 or 4:00 in the morning. In the midst of their prayers, God gave them a vision of a man they had never met, a man who would be used by God to change the island. The man’s name was Duncan Campbell – and he would be the first to admit the dramatic spiritual change that happened was not because of him.
In his later accounts of this awakening, Campbell would write,
In speaking about the revival in the Hebrides, I would like to make it perfectly clear what I understand to be real revival. When I speak of revival, I am not thinking of high-pressure evangelism. I am not thinking of crusades or of special efforts convened and organized by people. That is not in my mind at all. Revival is far beyond evangelism at its highest level. It is a moving of God whereby the whole community suddenly becomes God-conscious before anyone says a word about God.
Supernatural Movement of God
People on the island were inexplicably drawn to Christ. Without publicity, telephones, or Internet, they were awakened in the middle of the night and drawn to gather in a farmer’s field or at a local parish church. Sometimes they did not make it – and instead simply fell by the side of the road confessing their sins to God. Bars and dance halls shut their doors for good. Starting with the small town of Barvas, the entire Isle of Lewis was turning from darkness to light. Whole towns were being converted to Christ, with the exception of the stubborn little parish of Arnol.
Arnol was defiant in its resistance to the gospel. No one wanted to hear what Duncan Campbell had to say. In fact, the citizenry held opposition meetings to denounce the revival. Campbell and his fellow leaders knew that the only answer was prayer.
They gathered one evening in a farmhouse and began to pray, earnestly appealing to the promises God had made in the Bible. At midnight, Campbell asked John, the local blacksmith, to pray, which he did for more than two hours. Near the end of his prayer, with his cap in his hand, John looked heavenward and said,
God, do you know that your honor is at stake? You promised to pour water on the thirsty and floods on the dry ground. . . . I stand before You as an empty vessel and I am thirsty – thirsting for Thee and for a manifestation of Thy power. I’m thirsty to see the devil defeated in this parish. I’m thirsty to see this community gripped as You gripped Barvas. I’m longing for revival and, God, You are not doing it! I’m thirsty and You promised to pour water on me. God, Your honor is at stake, and I take it upon myself to challenge You now to fulfill Your covenant engagement.
At that moment, the house shook violently. A jug on the sideboard crashed to the ground and broke. Those who were present said that wave after wave of power swept over the room.
At the same time, the town of Arnol was awakened from its slumber. Lights went on. People came into the streets and started praying. Others knelt where they were and asked God to forgive them. Men carried chairs and women held stools, asking if there was room for them in the church. At 2:00 in the morning, revival came to this last resistant town on the island.
As I reflect on this historic account, I wonder why my prayers don’t seem to shake much except my own confidence in prayer itself. How can I connect with God in such an intimate way that I can pray with absolute certainty that God has both heard and will answer? Why do I so willingly accept a “No” from God and chalk it up to His all-knowing nature instead of taking the time to understand His heart so that He can respond “Yes” to me?
Am I really that thirsty to know God? Do I want Him to water the dryness of my own heart? Am I willing to acknowledge my own cracked and parched soul?
There is no question that our society needs a shaking from God, a response that manifests His presence and His power, a deliverance that restores communities and nations. But I sense that any outward shaking will be preceded by an inward one that changes the very core of my being.
Before I can challenge God to remember His covenant, it is God’s prerogative to challenge me on the condition of my heart. Does my pulse stay in sync with the rhythm of His? Do I know God’s heartbeat well enough to pray His will so that He can say, “Yes”?
The history of revivalism shows that prevailing prayer precedes all major moves of God’s Spirit. “Lord, do not callous my heart. Callous my knees.” This is my longing as I pray. I hope it’s yours as well.
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31, NIV).
Jim and Lynn Jarman are Converge missionary appointees to Sweden. They will be serving as Team Leaders for Church Plants and Ethnic Groups at New Life Church Stockholm.
For more information on their ministry or to receive prayer updates, contact them at email@example.com.
We are in desperate need of spiritual revival and renewal in America. Please refresh your church and wake up your people to see and understand that we was have sinned and compromised your Word. On this Lord’s Day, May 5, 2013, may millions of Christians urgently seek you in prayer and worship!
In Jesus Holy Name!
Father, please send spiritual revival on the day that your people celebrate the bodily resurrection of your Son, Jesus from the dead. May churches across America and around the world truly experience the power and the joy of the resurrection as they proclaim that “HE IS RISEN!” Awaken your church and send revival Lord!
In Jesus name, Amen!
Father, the American Church is in great need of spiritual revival. On the first Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem in order to pay the price for our sins on the cross. On that day, Jesus wept over the sins of the people of the city. May we wept over our own sins and for the sins of the church. Come Lord Jesus Come!
The church in America desperately needs spiritual revival and your fire from heaven. We need for you to show up in our churches on this Lord’s Day on March 3, 2013. Unless you act Lord, nothing will happen. Unless you intervene Father, the American church will continue to lose ground. Lord, cause your people to cry out to you in prayer. Make us desperate for you.
In Jesus Holy Name! Amen!
Leonard Ravenhill, in his book, Why Revival Tarries, wrote:
Poverty-stricken as the church is today in many things, she is the most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers; many players and payers, few prayers; many singers, few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors; many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere (p. 23)
Please send revival to your people in America. The only hope for real, genuine change in America is spiritual revival! May your people–those who claim to be born-again–pray as if today is their last day to live. May we seek you with all our heart, soul, mind and strength! May we forsake our idols and die to our selfishness. Wake up the church!
In Jesus’ Holy and Matchless Name!