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Would we recognize a reviving of religion if we were part of one?
I ask myself that question. For more than half a century the need of such reviving in the places where I have lived, worshiped, and worked has weighed me down.
I have read of past revivals. I have learned, through a latter-day revival convert from Wales, that there is a tinc in the air, a kind of moral and spiritual electricity, when God’s close presence is enforcing his Word.
I have sat under the electrifying ministry of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who as it were brought God into the pulpit with him and let him loose on the listeners. Lloyd-Jones’s ministry blessed many, but he never believed he was seeing the revival he sought.
I have witnessed remarkable evangelical advances, not only academic but also pastoral, with churches growing spectacularly through the gospel on both sides of the Atlantic and believers maturing in the life of repentance as well as in the life of joy.
Have I seen revival? I think not—but would I know?
Such as the…
“MR. SMITH’S book, ‘The Revival We Need,’ for its size is the most powerful plea for revival I have ever read. He has truly been led by the Spirit of God in preparing it. To his emphasis for the need of a Holy Spirit revival I can give the heartiest amen. What I saw of revival in Korea and in China is in fullest accord with the revival called for in this book.
It is most timely that Mr. Smith has called attention to man effort and man method in modern revival. If we all had faith to wait upon God in intense believing prayer there would be genuine Holy Ghost revival, and the living God would get all the glory. In Manchuria and China, when we did nothing else than give the address and let the people pray, and kept out of sight as far as possible, we saw the mightiest manifestations of Divine power.” Jonathan Goforth
We have included the foreword and 3 of the 11 chapters.
In December 1904 a full and authentic account of the conversion of Evan Roberts was forwarded to the “Western Mail” by the Rev. Thomas Francis, Calvinistic Methodist minister, Gorseinon, to whom it was dictated in Welsh by Mr. Roberts himself. The reverend gentleman writes as follows:-
“I herewith enclose a copy of a report which Mr. Evan Roberts dictated to me. It was dictated in Welsh, but I have, to the best of my ability, preserved the force and vividness of the Welsh, sacrificing style and polish for the sake of a faithful literal translation. This accounts for the abruptness and stiffness of many sentences. On Wednesday afternoon, December 28, 1904, Evan Roberts dictated to me the following account:-
“For thirteen years I had prayed for the Spirit, and this is the way I was led to pray. William Davies, the deacon, said one night in the society:-
“Remember to be faithful. What if the Spirit descended and you absent? Remember Thomas! What a loss he had!”
“I said then to myself: ‘I will have the Spirit.’ And through all weather, and in spite of all difficulties, I went to the meetings. Many times, on seeing other boys with the boats on the tide, I was tempted to turn back and join them. But, no. Then I said to myself: ‘Remember your resolve to be faithful,’ and on I went. Prayer meeting Monday evening at the chapel; prayer meeting Tuesday evening at Pisgah (Sunday School branch); Church meeting Wednesday evening; Band of Hope Thursday; class Friday evening-to these I went faithfully throughout the years. For ten or eleven years I have prayed for a revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit that moved me to think about a revival.
“One Friday night last spring, when praying by my bedside before retiring, I was taken up to a great expanse – with out time and space. It was communion with God. Before this a far-off God I had. I was frightened that night, but never since. So great was my shivering that I rocked the bed, and my brother, being awakened, took hold of me, thinking I was ill.
“After that experience I was awakened every night a little after one o’clock. This was most strange, for through the years I slept like a rock, and no disturbance in my room would awaken me. From that hour I was taken up into the Divine Fellowship for about four hours. What it was I cannot tell you; except that it was Divine. About five o’clock I was again allowed to sleep on till about nine.
At this time I was again taken up into the same experience as in the earlier hours of the morning until about twelve or one o’clock.
They questioned me at home. Why didn’t I get up earlier, &c., &c.
But it was too Divine to say anything about it. This went on for about three months. When I went to school, to Newcastle-Emlyn – oh! I was afraid that I would lose the communion. I had set aside half an hour daily for it. And for the first week I did the school work very well. But after that all the time was taken up. I had four days in bed with a severe cold, but day and night there was nothing but prayer. The last night of the four I was bathed in perspiration – the result of the cold and communion with God.
“I got up Sunday. The Rev. Seth Joshua was there. Tuesday evening there was a prayer meeting, and Sydney Evans and others came to see me, and asked if I would go to the meeting. At that moment I felt the Spirit coming upon me, and so irresistible did He come that I rushed to the chapel without my topcoat. The influence began. I was ready to pray – to pray for power to the young women who were there from New Quay, lest the people should wait upon them. I had prayed for them in the house on Monday night. I was not allowed to pray publicly on Tuesday evening. That day I had asked where the devil was. I was hard. I could look at the Cross without feeling. I wept for the hardness of my heart, but could not weep for Christ. I loved the Father and the Spirit, but I did not love the Son.
“On Wednesday I went to Blaenannerch. In the morning I met the (railway) guard in the Shop (the house of the Rev. Evan Phillips), and told him that I was like a flint-I was as if someone had swept me clean of every feeling. And my conviction was that I must either be cast on a bed of affliction or receive the Spirit mightily.
“Mag Phillips came to me. There was a prayer meeting going on at the house. I had two reasons for not going in: one was lest they might talk about me because I ventured out; the other was that I wanted to speak to Mag about the state of her soul.
“‘You pray for me, and I’ll pray for you,’ said I to her, and the tears burst forth from her eyes.
Both of us were blessed the same day, I in the morning and she in the afternoon. I remember nothing about Wednesday, except that I received something about half-past three, and that I asked Mag if she had been praying for me at that time, and that she told me, ‘I was praying for you all day, Roberts bach.’
“When returning Wednesday night the young woman from New Quay tried to influence me, but nothing touched me. And they said:
“‘No,” said I. ‘I have only to wait for the fire. I have built the altar, and laid the wood in order, and have prepared the offering; I have only to wait for the fire.’
“About half-past nine next morning the fire fell, and it is burning ever since. “We started for Blaenannerch about six o’clock Thursday morning. Now, joyful, now sad, now hard and cold – so my feelings varied on the journey that morning.
“The seven o’clock meeting was devoted to asking and answering questions. The Rev. W. W. Lewis conducted. At the close the Rev. Seth Joshua prayed, and said, during his prayer, ‘Lord, do this, and this, and this, &c., and bend us.’ He did not say, ‘O Lord, bend us.’ It was the Spirit that put the emphasis for me on ‘Bend us.’ ‘That is what you need,’ said the Spirit to me. And as I went out I prayed, ‘O Lord, bend me.’
“At the breakfast table at the Rev. M. P. Morgan’s house Mag Phillips offered me bread and butter. I refused, as I was satisfied. At the same moment the Rev. Seth Joshua was putting out his hand to take the bread and butter, and the thought struck me:-
“‘It is possible that God is offering me the Spirit, and that I am unprepared to receive Him; that others are ready to receive, but are not offered?’ Now my bosom was quite full-tight.
‘On the way to the nine o’clock meeting the Rev. Seth Joshua remarked, ‘We are going to have a wonderful meeting to-day.’ To this I replied, ‘I feel myself almost bursting.’
“The meeting, having been opened, was handed over to the Spirit. I was conscious that I would have to pray. As one and the other prayed I put the question to the Spirit, ‘Shall I pray now?’ ‘Wait a while,’ said He. When others prayed I felt a living force come into my bosom. It held my breath, and my legs shivered, and after every prayer I asked, ‘Shall I now?’ The living force grew and grew, and I was almost bursting. And instantly someone ended his prayer-my bosom boiling. I would have burst if I had not prayed. What boiled me was that verse, ‘God commending His Love.’ I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears and perspiration flowed freely. I thought blood was gushing forth. Mrs. Davies, Mona, New Quay, came to wipe my face. On my right was Mag Phillips, and on my left Maud Davies. For about two minutes it was fearful. I cried, ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!’ Then, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!’ and Mrs Davies said, ‘O wonderful Grace!’ What bent me was God commending His Love, and I not seeing anything in it to commend. After I was bent a wave of peace came over me, and the audience sang, ‘I hear Thy welcome Voice.’ And as they sang I thought of the bending at the Judgement Day, and I was filled with compassion for those who would be bent on that day, and I wept.
Henceforth the salvation of souls became the burden of my heart. From that time I was on fire with a desire to go through all Wales, and, if it were possible, I was willing to pay God for allowing me to go. A plan was agreed upon, and eight of us were to go through Wales, and I was to pay all expenses.
“One Saturday afternoon a few of us went to New Quay to confer about the idea. I had only about two hours stay there. I had promised to go back to Newcastle-Emlyn for the sake of one soul. The others remained there and prayed over the plan, but no light came. After the wonderful experience at Blaenannerch I had prayed God to fire six souls in the Church at Newcastle-Emlyn, and six were fired, and straightway I was commissioned home to Loughor. The vision was given me in the Sunday evening service, just before the Rev. E. Phillips began to preach.”
“I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe”
Mary, Queen of Scots.
The Importance of Revival (Revival-Library)
In today’s world of endless wars, failing economies, corrupt politicians, rampant secularism and unbridled cultural perversions the Lord knows we need a fresh global move of the Holy Spirit. The world has a multitude of problems but God’s ultimate solution has always been to invade mankind with His grace and power through an awakened church. Revival is the cure of all man’s ills.
The church in the west is already rising from the ashes of unbelief, idolatry and theological nit-picking by restoring the New Testament pattern of faith and life. It is waking up with an eager longing for a new Pentecost. Revival is back on the agenda again. There are books on revival, prayers for revival, preachers’ revival anecdotes and special conferences devoted to revival. This is an exciting phenomenon because such an emphasis on revival has often preceded genuine spiritual awakenings in the past. So, who knows? We may well be en route to a massive spiritual upheaval across the world!
But what would revival look like? How would we recognise revival if it came? Is revival always the same in effect, experience and extent? Are there discernable revival characteristics? Can we promote or prevent the onset of revival? We will try to answer these questions in the next few articles.
How important is revival?
Let’s try to answer this fundamental question. Does the idea of revival reflect the life and Spirit of the New Testament or is it merely a three-centuries-old fad, promoted by deluded fanatics and totally incompatible with a mature 21st century church?
Firstly, revivals are advocated and experienced in the Bible. (See http://www.revival-library.org/pensketches/hr_menu.php) It will be argued that the word ‘revival’ is not found in the Bible but the sacred scriptures proclaim the concept and principles of what we call ‘revival’ from Genesis to Revelation. They are everywhere in the Old and New Testaments.
Isa 64:1-3 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Hab 3:2 Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. KJV
Mal 3:10 “see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
Joel 2:28-29 I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
In the New Testament the activity of the Spirit in blessings believers and arresting the attention of the lost was not confined to the Day of Pentecost. It is similarly everywhere. Luke records a number of events where the Spirit was outpoured and Paul writing to Timothy describes the common experience saying ‘the Holy Spirit which he poured out upon us richly.’ Outpourings of the Spirit are part and parcel of New Testament Christianity.
Secondly, ‘revival’ is the major means that God has used to advance the cause of the gospel.
I know this takes some swallowing but history speaks for itself!
Jonathan Edwards got it right when he said “Though there be a more constant influence of God’s Spirit always, in some degree, attending His ordinances; yet the way in which the greatest things have been done towards carrying on this work, always has been by remarkable effusions of the Spirit at special seasons of mercy…” (History of Redemption p30)
Revivals are His normal and most common way to advance the quality and quantity of the church. This is His major antidote for decline and the foremost method of reviving dying churches, achieving mass evangelisation and reaping huge harvests of souls. Revival makes an indelible mark on society and thrusts out zealous evangelists onto the field securing the future for God’s work.
When revival comes everything is affected and nothing remains the same. The church is revitalized and the world is impacted.
Christians become preoccupied with the things of God. They become intensely prayerful, attending God’s house more frequently for fellowship and worship. They develop a hunger for the preached word which illuminates and powerfully penetrates the hearts of its hearers, bringing conviction, repentance and life transformation. During times of revival God’s people are restored from backsliding, carelessness and inactivity. The church is restored to her mission and ministry-training institutions become overcrowded with fresh pastoral, evangelistic and missionary candidates. Bible and Christian literature demands excel and new humanitarian societies are spawned. In every revival the Christian church receives fresh life and impetus which usually lasts for a generation. Consequently, every generation needs a fresh awakening.
In times of revival believers develop a passion for souls and become deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the lost. Prayer for the lost and gospel preaching has extraordinary effects. The normal traits of ungodliness disappear. Blasphemy and filthy language, drunkenness and immorality, dishonesty and selfishness are all replaced by a sweet sense of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Sometimes entire towns or areas are affected. At other times whole nations are so blanketed with God’s renewing activity that hardly any inhabited places are without some evidence of His glorious workings.
As in the Book of Judges the church goes through cycles of sin – suffering – supplication – salvation. Frequent revivals are needed to bring the entire church back to its vitality and mission.
“It is most significant that since the Reformation revivals have recurred with increasing frequency. Again and again God has rescued that which had gone beyond all human aid: what could have saved the church but these gracious interventions of almighty power? The need can but grow more urgent as the age draws to its close.” (D. M. Panton – quoted by Arthur Wallis In The Day of Thy Power p24)
Revival, then, is what the church and the world needs. And revival is just what God wants to give. He is not unwilling to open the heavens and send us ‘times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.’ Indeed, it is true to say that seasons of revival have always been the major means that God has employed to advance His cause and the cause of the church in the world.
If this is true then it requires our proclamation to our people, our praying for it consistently and preparing ourselves for it continually.
Tony Cauchi. January 2010
Next month: Defining Revival