It is often overwhelming when we take a big look at the world that we live in. We are inundated with news broadcasts of shootings, kidnappings, and terrorist plots. The idea of morals and values is outdated, old-fashion nonsense. Our political processes are more and more akin to an episode of Jerry Springer. What is going on? What should we do? In truth, what we really need is for God to graciously revive us as a nation and people. So… should we pull out the tents and start singing 10 verses of “Just As I Am”? Not exactly.
I’m not trying to be facetious. Many people have benefited from the kind of tent revival that we usual imagine when we think about this subject. However, according to the Bible, true revival only comes through the grace of God, not because we scheduled a meeting. Let’s look at 2 things (more to follow) that usually occur during a season of revival.
#1: Believers Pray Eagerly and Earnestly
Growing up, self-sufficiency and resourcefulness was viewed as a virtue to be desired and appropriated. And it is true that individuals must have a certain amount of self-sufficiency in order to care for oneself. At the same time, followers of Christ must recognize our complete and utter dependence on God. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) These words from Jesus are very straightforward. We depend upon Him for everything. Therefore if we desire to see revival, we must not look to ourselves but to God in prayer.
The apostles learned this lesson when Jesus gave them the task of being His witnesses “to the end of the earth.” A daunting and impossible endeavor in their own power. So they were told to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and empower them for the work God was giving to them. (Acts 1:8) How did they wait? In devoted, corporate prayer. (Acts 1:14) Similarly, when God’s people throughout history have desired to see a mighty working of the Spirit they began in prayer. For instance, a small prayer meeting in the North Dutch Church in 1857 set in motion what we now know as the Great Revival. With no other options on the table as to how to keep his dying church alive, Jeremiah Lanphier invited people to come pray with him. After waiting, 6 people showed up and they began to pray. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like much to us, but God can use 6 people just as easily as 600 people if He sees fit. Case in point: after two years the fruit of this prayer meeting spread across country and an estimated two million people were added to local churches. This is the power of God.
Likewise, after much prayer the apostles came to the feast of Pentecost and it was here that the Spirit came in power over them. The apostles began to “speak in other tongues” so all who were there heard the message of the Gospel in their own native language. (Acts 2:4, 8) God showed His presence and power, especially, in this miracle during Pentecost. The question now is “How will the people respond?
#2: God Convicts the Sinful Hearts of People
After hearing the preaching of Peter and the other apostles, “[the crowd was] cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37) They were filled with awe before the presence of God and true guilt came upon them. This type of response is another pattern that is important for us to recognize in instances where God revives His people. Throughout the history of revival we see many examples when groups of people become overwhelmed by their sin and creatureliness in the presence of God. Even this type of response is a grace of God. He must soften the hearts, “preparing the soil” to hear and recognize our human failures before an almighty God.
Jonathan Edwards, the puritan preacher and leader during the Great Awakening of the 1730s, was not known for an impressive, dramatic preaching style. In fact, Edwards was a dry, monotone orator who simply read his sermons from a manuscript. Nevertheless, God used this man to bring about revival in his time. While preaching his most well-known sermon, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”, Edwards read his manuscript as usual; however, this time people wept over their sin. How did Edwards achieve such a response? It was nothing he did; rather, God worked in and through Edwards. God softened the hearts of the hearers and revealed to them, through the preaching of His word, their need of a savior.
We desire to see God bring about a great revival in our own day. However we must keep in mind that God is the one who truly brings about this type of change in the hearts of people. We must humbly submit ourselves to Him in prayer and be prepared to see ourselves as we truly are: utterly broken and lost people. So now, we pray with the Psalmist, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6)
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ