Who is Revival for
I will praise thee with my whole heart:
before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.
I will worship toward thy holy temple,
and praise thy name
for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth:
for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me,
and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord,
when they hear the words of thy mouth.
Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord:
for great is the glory of the Lord.
Though the Lord be high,
yet hath he respect unto the lowly:
but the proud he knoweth afar off.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand
against the wrath of mine enemies,
and thy right hand shall save me.
The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me:
thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever:
forsake not the works of thine own hands.
Psalm 138 (KJV)
In a certain town there had been no revival for many years. The church was nearly run out. The people were unconverted. Spiritual desolation reigned. In the town lived an old blacksmith, who stammered so badly that it was painful to hear him speak. At work in his shop he became greatly burdened about the church; his agony became so great that one day he locked the door and spent the afternoon in prayer. After prevailing with God, he obtained the reluctant consent of his pastor to call a church meeting, though with no hope on the preacher's part of any attendance. But the room was more than filled. All present were silent for a time until one sinner broke out in tears and begged, if anyone would pray, to pray for him. Others followed, and it was found that people from every quarter of the town had been under deep conviction from the time the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful revival followed. The stammering man prevailed and, as a prince, had power with God.
The Bible records an occasion when a fainting David prayed like that stammering blacksmith. He sensed his weakness and failure and cried to the Lord and was revived. Later he could testify:
In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul…. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands (Psalm 138:3, 7, 8).
In these words David personalized his longing for revival. He realized that before he could know the renewing power of God in his life he had to admit his desperate need. Thus the sweet singer of Israel confronts us with "the who of revival." He tells us that:
God Revives Those who Confess Spiritual Failure in their Lives
"In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul…. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me." Revival presupposes failure. It is only those who admit failure and fainting whom God truly revives. In the physical realm, when a man faints and is weak, he needs reviving. In the New Testament we find certain words which are the spiritual expression of a fainting man. The first one is prayerlessness. Jesus said, "Men ought always to pray, and not to faint" (Luke 18:1). If a man is not praying, he is fainting. The word "to faint" here is "to cave in" or "to break down." Does that describe your prayer life? Is that why you need revival? It is my profound conviction that prayerlessness is the outstanding sin in the Church of Jesus Christ today. The least popular and the worst attended gathering so often is the prayer meeting. Since the church is made up of individuals, the question comes back to you and me: What about prayerlessness in your life, in my life? How we need to cry with David, "Thou wilt revive me."
Dr. F. William Chapman recalls how he heard an evangelist preach at the First Baptist Church of Chickasaw, Alabama. His name was Jess "Hell Fire" Henley, from Atlanta, Georgia. He announced that he was going to preach in the Sunday evening service on the subject, "The Greatest Sin in America." That Sunday night the church was packed. Everyone had come to hear of this "great sin" in our beloved nation. Was it to be murder, adultery, rape, alcohol, or some other "big sin" we usually place at the top of the list of wrongdoings? No, a thousand times no! Rather, Jess Henley preached that night on the subject: Prayerlessness ... The Greatest Sin in America!
Jess Henley was right. What was true in that yesteryear is much more so today. Seemingly the people of God are doing everything in America today except praying! We can plan programs, promote rallies, raise money, exalt personalities, play softball, swallow goldfish, and many other "good things" with the best of them but we can't get the people of God to attend real prayer meetings.
We have substituted for prayer everything from "soup to nuts" on Wednesday nights in the churches in an attempt to get God's people to be faithful. Beloved, I do not care what the "soup to nuts" program you have on Wednesday night is, it is no substitute for prayer. For you see…there is no substitute for prayer … not with our Lord! But, you say, "preacher, the emphasis on bigness in our day demands that we do the above things in our churches." Beloved, when will we ever learn how small bigness is in God's sight unless it is spiritual bigness?
To build a by-pass around the city of prayer is the greatest mistake (sin), that our Lord's churches and people commit today. Yes, it takes valuable time to go through the city of prayer as we travel in this life…but believe me…it is well worth it! (Please read James 5: 16b).
In the April 6, 1979 issue of Christianity Today (p. 52), there is a report of leaders of renewal (revival) ministries from across America. A major concern of the group as they met was the matter (sin) of prayerlessness. They cited recent studies showing that "the average pastor surveyed prays only three minutes each day!" Beloved, the curse of prayerless preachers is powerless pulpits which produces problem pews…Little wonder that our churches are so spiritually sick in our day. One thing is sure and certain…we shall never see real revival in America until God's people get serious about their prayer life!
E. M. Bounds, the great prophet of prayer, said: "Every revival of which we have any record has been bathed in prayer."
Beloved, it is bath time.
If prayerlessness is the greatest sin, there is an aspect of this prayerlessness that is of particular concern in heaven. Isaiah records that God "wondered that there was no intercessor [on earth]" (Isaiah 59:16). Indeed, it was because there was no qualified human mediator that God brought salvation at the first advent of Jesus Christ. And while here upon earth He exemplified, as no one else in history, what it means to be an intercessor. A careful study of the high priestly prayer in John 17 makes this abundantly clear. Now in resurrection glory and power our Savior ever lives to make intercession for us. But as He looks down upon the world scene at this point in time, I have a feeling that He wonders again that there are so few intercessors within His church.
Dr. Sidlow Baxter highlights the need for intercessory prayer when he writes:
We need a revival of intercessory prayer among God's own people. We do not pray enough. Besides intensifying their private prayer life, Christians should band themselves into cottage prayer groups to lay hold upon God for revival in our own land and in every land. Our most pressing need at this moment is to ask God to give more mighty prayer to all who can have at heart the speedy evangelization of every unreached soul—prayer that is strong, prevailing, believing, God-moving, hell-defeating, devil-routing, sinner-saving, believer-sanctifying, Christ-exalting, worker-producing and money-finding!—prayer that takes all we are and have, to offer it to God, as it took all that Jesus had, on Calvary, to give us the right to pray.
But where in all the world are we going to get prayer that will do that?—the kind that Daniel offered, which shook the Babylonian Empire from end to end, bringing Almighty God into His rightful preeminence; the kind that Nehemiah offered, which set rulers running after him with men, money, and materials, to help rebuild the walls of ruined Jerusalem. It was God Himself Who inspired the prayer of Nehemiah, the prayer that made Jerusalem a new city. He drove His servant to his knees by the burden of a great concern for ruined Jerusalem. This seems to be the way God works. And will God give this kind of prayer today? Yes, through the Holy Spirit, God can give us the hurricane kind of prayers that make things move when nothing else can make them move.
We must get God's prayer—prayer with extraordinary consequences! Prayers which are merely our own are futile and get us nowhere. The devil fears nothing that man makes—not even his prayers! He only begins to feel alarm when a soul begins to offer before God the prayer that is Spirit-inspired, and which was born in the very heart of God Himself. It is prayer shot through with the very blood and passion of the Son of God, filled with the power and persistence of the Holy Ghost, loaded with a burdening sense of the church's plight, and the world's appalling need, that sets the wheels of Revival in motion!
God save us from trying to turn these wheels by our own efforts! It cannot be done. Let us beg God now for this kind of praying—prayer straight from God, to straighten out every tangle and to meet every need. When we offer His prayer, as put into our spirits, there will be no such thing as unanswered prayer. Every prayer will be as almighty as God because His nature will be in them. The difficulties we face at the present time will vanish, and we shall not speak as if God were bankrupt!
God will then be seen in our lives. His power will flow through us in flood-tides of blessings to others. Miracles will happen in every sphere that we touch. Every need will be met: and the devil will be defeated. May this heaven-born flame be lighted afresh in the hearts of the regenerate throughout the world.
But spiritual fainting also demonstrates fearfulness. Remember how the writer to the Hebrews challenges this sin of fearfulness when he writes: "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Hebrews 12:3-4). Here "to faint" means "to relax," or "to let out rope." How many Christians are relaxing instead of fighting sin; letting out rope with evil instead of coming to grips with it and slaying it in the name of the Lord. In the Book of Jeremiah God says to us, "Cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed" Jeremiah 48:10). Can you honestly say, "As God is my record, I am not afraid of holiness; I am not fearful of going all the way with God, cost me what it will; I will not hesitate for fear of being thought super-spiritual"?
Fainting not only suggests prayerlessness and fearfulness, but also barrenness—"Let us not be weary in well doing," says Paul, "for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Galatians 6:9). The apostle points Out that to faint or relax is to be barren, to lose the fruitfulness of harvest. "We shall reap, if we faint not." Do you need revival because you are barren in life and service? Then face up to it and be honest in your confession of failure. Pray and mean the words—"Lord, revive me, for I am prayerless, fearful and barren."
God Revives Those who Profess Practical Faith in their Lives
James reminds us that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20). A working faith is one which believes in the ability of God to do anything in His divine purpose and for His divine glory. In this context we need to have faith in a God of personal revival—"Thou wilt revive me." All through the Bible we have instances of the divine/human encounter. When Abraham reached the point in his life when he was prepared to give his all, God said to him, "Because thou hast done this thing…in blessing I will bless thee" (Genesis 22:16, 17). Later we read of Jacob who, having been broken in struggle with the heavenly wrestler, cried out, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32:26). Remember, too, the impassioned prayer of Jabez, "Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed" (1 Chronicles 4:10).
So often we dodge the real issue by praying for it in broad, general terms, not recognizing that before God can bless others He wants to bless us personally. Elizabeth Codner sensed this personal need when she wrote her hymn, "Even Me." This was in 1860, when revival was taking place in Ulster and Wales, and she longed that the blessing might visit her and spread through England. Weigh the words carefully:
|Lord! I hear of showers of blessing|
|Thou art scattering full and free—|
|Showers the thirsty soul refreshing;|
|Let some drops now fall on me,|
|Pass me not, O gracious Father!|
|Lost and sinful though I be;|
|Thou might'st curse me, but the rather|
|Let Thy mercy light on me,|
|Pass me not, O tender Savior!|
|Let me love and cling to Thee:|
|Fain I'm longing for Thy favor;|
|When Thou callest, call for me,|
|Pass me not, O mighty Spirit!|
|Thou canst make the blind to see;|
|Testify of Jesus' merit,|
|Speak the word of peace to me,|
|Have I long in sin been sleeping,|
|Long been slighting, grieving Thee?|
|Has the world my heart been keeping?|
|Oh! forgive and rescue me,|
|Love of God! so pure and changeless;|
|Love of Christ! so rich and free;|
|Grace of God! so strong and boundless,|
|Magnify it all in me,|
|Pass me not, Almighty Spirit!|
|Draw this lifeless heart to Thee;|
|Impute to me the Savior's merits;|
|Blessing others, oh! bless me,|
Then we must have faith in a God of purposeful revival— "Thou wilt revive me…. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands." God's supreme purpose for your life and mine is perfection. That thought is echoed and reinforced in the New Testament. Jesus said: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
Paul declares that his object in preaching the gospel is that he might be able to present "every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Colossians 1:28). Elsewhere he tells us that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God's purpose in revival is to perfect us in His blessed Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our faith must be in a God of personal revival, a God of purposeful revival and a God of powerful revival—"Thou wilt revive me." The word "revive" means "to reanimate." In the great activities of God we read of His work in the realms of creation, recreation and then of reanimation. When He created He brought the first man into existence. When He recreates He brings the new man into being; but when there is backsliding He sends revival to reanimate or revitalize. Have we the faith to believe God for this?
God Revives Those who Express Biblical Foresight in their Lives
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me." Anyone who knows his Bible recognizes that the Christian on earth is going to be confronted with tribulation and opposition. As we shall see in a moment, Jesus promised such times of testing and trial right through to the end of the journey. In the light of this, how important it is for the believer to face life in a state of spiritual revival!
Think for instance of the tribulation in the world. Jesus said: "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). David is saying the same thing when he affirms, "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me." The child of God may sometimes be revived out of trouble, more frequently revived in trouble, and often revived through trouble.
When the three youths, who knew the God of triumph, were in the fiery furnace, their persecutor, Nebuchadnezzar, had to say: "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God" (Daniel 3:25). Conquest amid the tribulations of life is the hallmark of genuine Christianity. The Christian is a man who acts victoriously and redemptively in stressful situations. He is not bound by trouble or persecution. Because he is walking through the fire in the company of the Son of God his movements are free, his being unharmed. He is spiritually alive in the place of death. That is the victory of revival!
Then there is the opposition of the world. In His Sermon on the Mount the Savior taught: "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12). And this is virtually what David is telling us in his psalm: "Thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against…mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me."
There was a day in the life of David when he "waxed faint" and would have been slain by one of the sons of the giant, but Abishai came to his aid, smote the Philistine, and saved his king (2 Samuel 21:15-17). Tell me, are you waxing faint in the battle against the Philistines? Is the opposition of the world too hot for you? Then ask the Lord to revive your experience of the heavenly Abishai that you might be able to conquer the enemies of your soul. The truly revived Christian can say, and mean, "I am more than conqueror through Him who loved me" (Romans 8:37).
So we have seen the kind of people whom God is prepared to revive. They are the men and women who are ready to confess spiritual failure in their lives, whether of prayerlessness, fearfulness or barrenness; people who are ready to profess practical faith in a God who revives personally, purposefully, and powerfully; people who are ready to express biblical foresight in their lives, fully prepared for tribulation or opposition when it comes. Will you pray, "Revive me," and then open your being to the Spirit of Revival? Do not rest until you have been restored to the fullness of the blessing that God is waiting to pour out in your life!