Saturday

Revival: Future or Present?

For as long as I can remember – and that’s a long time – I’ve been looking forward to revival. I’ve heard the same stories that you have: a great outpouring in the last days, a great pouring out of God’s Spirit that draws people to Him by the millions and changes the face of the church and the world in a year or a month or a day.
We read about the Book of Acts, where 5000 people came to faith in a day, 3000 the next chapter, where signs and wonders seem to permeate the air and where the church met house-to-house. That’s what we’re longing for in our generation.
More than longing, many of us believe that such a revival – or greater – is coming to the Church before this is all over. There have been prophetic words from credible voices that God’s going to bring a harvest of a billion souls in a generation, that He’s going to “change the understanding and expression of Christianity in the earth in one.” Pretty heady stuff.
All that is well and good. We long for revival. We believe revival is coming. I have two problems with that. Both of them come from looking at revival as this great big thing that God does as a sovereign act of amazing power.
The first problem with our picture of revival is that we define revival as so big and so massive that we see it – consciously or subconsciously – as something that God does when He’s good and ready, and we stop taking personal responsibility for it.
I certainly can’t bring a million people to faith in a day, so we step back and most of us confine ourselves to wishing that He’d do His thing in our day.
(If we really believed that God was going to pour out that kind of harvest, wouldn’t we do something to help? Wouldn’t we do something to prepare? Sometimes I wonder if we expect God to do it so we don’t have to. )
At no point did God say, “You know that ‘Go ye into all the world’ thing? Nah… don’t bother. I’ll do it for you.” But we act often enough as though He did.
No, if God is going to bring a massive revival that turns the world upside down again, (and I believe He is), He’s going to do it mostly through His church. Us. You and me. He’s going to use us.
When Jesus walked the earth, He walked as a man, not as fully-powered-up God in a human disguise: as a man in right relationship with God. That’s what the incarnation is all about. And His walking the earth certainly changed things: people’s lives were turned upside down, the lame walked, the blind saw, the dead lived, thousands were fed, thousands more followed Him to hear Him talk about the Kingdom.
He did all of that as a man: flesh and blood like you and me. He taught. He healed. He resurrected people. At no point did he wake up in the morning to sudden success: thousands of adoring followers where none existed the night before. Father God did step in with the odd sovereign act, but that was exclusively limited to speaking: “This is my Son whom I love! Listen to Him!” (See Mark 1:11 & 9:7)
Jesus did the work. He did it empowered and directed by His Father, just as we need to do the work of revival empowered and directed by our Father. But it it’s our work to do; we must not just wait for God to do it for us, hoping that we wake up one day and suddenly there are the tens of thousands of people wanting to fill up our churches. Yeah, He could do that. No, that’s not how He does things.
The second problem with our picture of revival is that we limit it to only the great and spectacular, only the front-page news; worse, we limit it only to front-page news in America.
A wise man once told me: “If you want to see revival, go home. Close your door. Draw a circle on the floor and sit inside the circle. Then pray for revival to start in the circle. When you are revived, then revival has started.”
I am firmly committed that revival has already started. But because it doesn’t conform to our expectations, we say to ourselves, “That can’t be revival!”
First, if you and I are revived, then revival has begun. It’s already here! Now, I happen to believe it’s quite a bit bigger than that, but it’s true: we don’t have people pouring out into the streets asking how to meet God.
We have testimonies of God doing signs and wonders again. In America! We haven’t had that for generations! Other parts of the world are seeing millions won to Christ in a generation. Some African nations are now 80% or even 90% Christian, where the gospel was virtually unknown a century ago. South Korea is experiencing similar amazing growth.
I will agree, this is not enough. We want more. Jesus deserves more! The Moravian prayer has not yet been answered: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”
What we have is not enough, but it is revival. Our prayer needs to change from, “O Lord, please bring revival”, to “Please increase our revival!” Shepherding a revival is a different process than hoping and praying for one to start.
My goal of this article is this: we need to re-define ourselves. We are not waiting for revival; we are caretakers of revival. We have something of revival now, and it is our responsibility to nurture it, to shepherd it to carry it out. We must be empowered and directed by God, yes, but it’s our revival. What are we going to do with it?

1 comment:

Dave said...

Excellent observations. I agree we are the ones who will bring revival, in any measure; great or small. It won't happen unless we make it happen. It's awfully Arminian, but in our day-to-day life - as you said, we can't wake up and wish God will drop a thousand people on the doorstep of the church. I believe God has seen our efforts, and it's fruit. He has seen us loving the lost into the kingdom. He has watched our future efforts of healing the sick, and spreading the good news. He's just revealing what we didn't know. We're going to be very busy in the future building the bonfire of revival. I like the words of Augustine- "Pray as if all depends on God; work as if all depends on you."