Could it be that what many people assume to be the causes of revival are actually the results of revival? Many books have been written on the subject of revival. Even though they have been authored by a variety of Bible students, the majority of them have one thing in common—they prescribe what could be called a revival formula. They outline a pattern which, if followed, is supposed to open the windows of heaven and cause showers of blessing to pour out in abundance on a barren and impotent church. Yes, we are told that if Christians would only pray, confess their sins, and obey God’s Word, we would have revival. In fact, I’ve heard it said that if only two or three people who really mean business with the Lord would earnestly pray for revival, it would surely follow.
Nothing is wrong, of course, with encouraging believers to pray, to acknowledge their sins, and to walk in obedience to the Lord. That’s what every Christian should be doing. But to indicate that these things are elements of a “revival formula” that is guaranteed to produce a widespread spiritual awakening is misleading. It may even result in disappointment and frustration. To say that we must engage in certain spiritual exercises in order to bring revival is in a sense “putting the cart before the horse.” These so-called conditions to produce revival are actually the results of revival. In fact, the elements often found in prescriptions for revival are actually the qualities that should characterize the normal Christian life.
We all fail to measure up to God’s expectations for us. Tragically, we are often unaware of just how spiritually cold and indifferent we have become. For that reason, the Lord sometimes sends revival. An entire congregation or Christian community may come under a deep, Holy Spirit conviction of sin. Both private and public confession take place. And the entire experience raises the spiritual level of believers to a much higher plane.
Becoming aware of our shortcomings, you see, is not the cause of revival, it is the result of revival.We are given a new desire to pray, to study the Bible, to make things right with fellow Christians, and to lead the unsaved to Christ. These things do not bring revival; rather, they are the fruit of a reviving work of the Spirit of God. Yes, when believers grow cold and indifferent, the Lord sometimes sends revival to shake them up,to arouse them, and to encourage them to live the normal Christian life—one that is controlled and filled by the Spirit. That kind of living is God’s standard for every believer. It is what God expects from all of us.
I shall never forget a very special chapel service during my college days. As I entered the auditorium that particular morning, I had no sense of expectation. As far as I was concerned, it was just another meeting. I was there simply because it was required that all students attend. But how glad I am that I didn’t miss that particular service! I will always remember the deep moving of the Spirit of God. An almost unbearable conviction of sin came upon my heart during that hour. It made even simple trivial matters that Christians usually regard as inoffensive loom up as huge, mountainous sins against a thrice-holy and righteous God. I was in the midst of a great revival!
Because of the low spiritual tide in that Christian college, the Holy Spirit brought about a conviction of sin so deep that it defies description. I had never been so miserable in all my life. Sin had never seemed so awful, and the Holy Spirit’s convicting power had never seemed greater. The chapel service extended right on through the lunch period, the afternoon, the dinner hour, and into the evening. Many students forgot all about meals, and they remained in the auditorium the entire day. On the following morning, they continued to acknowledge their sins, making public confession and renouncing the evil in their lives. Some outsiders, of course, criticized the events of those days, charging the student body with being overly emotional. Be that as it may, I know that the Lord did a work in my heart during those never-to-be-forgotten hours, and its effect is felt in my life even to the present time.
As a result of that revival, I was filled with a new desire to pray, I received a fresh interest in the Word, and I was given a burden for lost souls. I experienced a deeper love for fellow Christians and a genuine hatred for sin. I determined from that day forward to obey God’s Word and to allow my life to be conformed to His will. Those things were all the result of a genuine spiritual quickening, a great moving of the Spirit of God.
That revival did not come because a few believers had followed a prescribed revival formula. It came in God’s own time and according to His sovereign will. The spiritual transformation in the lives of that student body came as a result of a God-sent awakening. According to His own will, and at the time of His own choosing, God had graciously visited that campus. And I shall always be grateful for the way it changed my life.
I might digress here to say that revival is generally thought of as a great, grand, and wonderful experience. And it is—when it’s all over. Even so, those who have felt the deep conviction that attends a true revival will agree that it can be one of the most intense and painful ordeals a Christian ever experiences. The memories of that time of heartsearching during the revival of my college days haunt me even to the present. So severe is the awareness of sin that I am sure many who plead for revival might stop their praying if they only knew the agony of soul it would entail for them. The results are marvelous, to be sure. But the feelings of guilt are beyond description. They seem almost unbearable until there is confession of sin and full surrender to the will of God. How much better to walk with the Lord day by day, in obedience to His will, so that it is never necessary for us to be awakened to our spiritual need through the pain of chastisement or the travail of a revival!
Most revival sermons put the cart before the horse. Their so-called conditions to bring revival are actually the results produced by a genuine spiritual awakening.
Revivals should not be necessary. Such a high spiritual level of living ought to be maintained by every trusting child of God so that spiritual awakenings are never called for. By confessing our sins, obeying God’s will, renouncing evil, and appropriating by faith our riches in Christ, we can have the highest joy, the deepest peace, and the fullest measure of God’s power every day of our lives. The victorious life is really the norm for the child of God. The Lord considers it to be standard procedure. It is not reserved exclusively for the mountaintop experience related to revival.
The majority of Christians, however, live on a sub-standard level. They leave their first love. They grow spiritually cold. They become powerless. Losing sight of that which is heavenly and eternal, they become enamored with the earthly and the temporal. The Lord therefore sends revival to raise them from their subnormal spiritual level to the normal. God’s standard for all Christians is a manner of living that is characterized by implicit faith, unswerving obedience, and loving service.
When we fail to appropriate the Lord’s help for the victorious life and become careless, He may send a revival to shake us up, arouse us from our spiritual slumber, and give us a spiritual awakening. In so doing, He uses an abnormal means to bring His subnormal children into a normal Christian walk. And that, as we have indicated, is a walk thatis characterized by faith, obedience, and joy. If believers were always faithful in doing the will of God, they would never need such drastic treatment. The very fact that we do need it so desperately is a rebuke to the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We believe in revival.We pray for a dynamic working of the Spirit of God in the church. But whether the Lord sees fit to send one or not, you as an individual child of God can live on such a high spiritual plane that it’s like having a perpetual revival. You can know and enjoy the presence, the power, and the blessing of God every day.
That may come as a surprise to those people who liken the Christian life to a rechargeable battery. They have the idea that it’s perfectly normal for believers to “run down” and to need a “spiritual charge” from time to time. They perceive the Christian life as a continuing series of spiritual highs and lows. But this is not what God intended for His children. Rather, they are expected to maintain a consistently high level of spiritual power. There is no excuse for being rundown.With God’s help, it is possible to live a life of faith and victory on a daily and continuing basis.
Sorry to say, however, few believers live up to that potential. The majority of Christians live on a substandard level.
I would like to emphasize again that even though we should pray for revival in the church at large, you don’t have to wait for a spectacular moving of God’s Spirit in a general, areawide spiritual awakening to experience His power in your own life. The Lord is waiting right now to bless you as you meet His conditions.
Even though there is no “formula” that assures revival, there is a definite pattern for individual believers to follow in order to be revived. If your heart has grown cold, if you’ve become indifferent to the Lord, if the things of earth and the pleasures of this life have taken precedence over the heavenly and the eternal, I encourage you to follow these steps to have your own personal revival:
1. Acknowledge your spiritual need. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).
2. Confess your sins and accept God’s pardon. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
3. Spend time daily in God’s Word. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11). The Word of God is a means by which the Lord shows you His will. You will never be a victorious Christian if you neglect the Bible.
4. Talk to the Lord in prayer. Commune with Him.Worship Him. Thank Him for His many blessings. And tell Him of your needs. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
5. Resist sin. Say no to every temptation of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Take comfort in the fact that even though Satan is more powerful than you, with God on your side you can defeat your spiritual foes. The Holy Spirit who dwells within us is more powerful than Satan and all the forces of sin combined. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).
I wonder, have you been faithful in following these guidelines? If you don’t confess your sins, you will miss the blessing of full communion and fellowship with the Lord. If you don’t read the Bible and saturate yourself with the Word of God, you will not have spiritual victory. If you don’t spend time in prayer, you will never really experience God’s best for you.
So don’t sit back and wait for some spectacular moving work of the Spirit of God in a great revival. Right now, you can personally appropriate God’s provision for spiritual power, victory, and joy. This is how to have a revival.