Many believers around the world are deeply concerned about the spiritual coldness and lethargy in the church. They might pray, in the words of that old, familiar hymn by William P. Mackay:
Revive us again—
Fill each heart with Thy love;
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above.
Hallelujah, Thine the glory!
Hallelujah, Thine the glory!
Revive us again.
That’s a wonderful prayer! Every child of God should be longing for the windows of heaven to open with a special outpouring of revival blessings. Another hymnwriter, Daniel W. Whittle, expressed it with the words, “Mercy-drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”
Questions arise, however. Does the Bible have anything to say about revival? Does it always come when we meet certain conditions? In other words, is there a “revival formula” that guarantees a spiritual awakening? It is my prayer that this booklet will answer these questions.
As you will soon discover, what I have to say is somewhat different from what is heard in most revival sermons. I expect that many will disagree with me. I may be severely criticized. I’m willing to take that risk, however, to share with you what I am persuaded is a proper and sensible approach to revival.
THE NATURE OF REVIVAL
The first thing we should do is clarify what we mean when we speak about revival. Some Christians think of it as a series of special meetings intended to win souls to Christ. I am convinced, however, that that is not revival.We should be zealous in the work of evangelism, of course.We should be burdened for those who are lost in sin. And we should be active, through our personal witness and in endeavors with other believers, in working to lead lost souls to Christ. That is evangelism— but it is not revival.
Let me compare evangelism with revival. Evangelism relates to the unsaved; revival relates to those who are born again. Evangelism involves the giving of life to those who are dead in sin; revival involves a spiritual awakening of those who are alive in Christ. When we speak of revival, therefore, we have in mind that special season of heartsearching when many believers simultaneously experience a deep, Holy Spirit conviction of sin. It results in their confession and renunciation of sin (sometimes publicly). It culminates in a renewal of their dedication to the Lord. And the whole experience often bears fruit in the salvation of sinners.
Furthermore, in the two instances where the word revived is used, it does not relate to revival as we are thinking of it. In Romans 7:9, for instance, the apostle Paul wrote, “When the commandment came, sin revived.” Here the apostle was speaking about sin. And in Romans 14:9 he said, “Christ both died, and rose, and revived” (KJV). Here he was referring to the death and resurrection of Christ. In neither place does the word revived pertain to revival as we understand that term in these lessons— a deep moving of the Spirit of God in the lives of believers, convicting them of sin and shaking them out of their lethargy.
I am not saying this to deny the reality of revivals. Rather, I want to emphasize that even though revivals are a historical reality, they are not a biblical certainty. The church age has no revival promises. The Scriptures give us no outline or procedure which, if followed, will guarantee a revival.
What I have said, of course, is contrary to the thinking in many Christian circles today.We have been led to believe that great spiritual awakenings can be engineered into existence if believers will simply employ a certain method or meet the right conditions. Let me repeat: Even though revivals are a historical reality, they are not a biblical certainty. They are not promised as a result of following any so-called “pattern of revival.” Rather (and this is important), revivals are divinely appointed and God-sent, and they occur at the time of His own choosing. True, they may come in response to the faithful prayers of God’s children, according to His will. But the Lord cannot be forced to send revival by anything that we might do. Revival is not the calculated result of bringing into play a combination of religious exercises. Instead, it is a blessing that the God of grace, in keeping with His all-wise purposes, may send upon believers in times of deep spiritual need.
I trust that you will not misunderstand. I agree with those who say that we are in desperate need of revival. I sincerely pray for it. I rejoice at every report of a genuine spiritual awakening. But I do object to a wrong approach to revival. I take exception to the claim that revival is guaranteed if only we as believers will follow certain guidelines. That just isn’t so!
I do believe, however, that there is a special blessing for the individual Christian who is willing to meet the proper conditions. As you examine your own heart and make an honest confession of sin, you can experience a personal revival as the Holy Spirit accomplishes His work within you. And then, if the Lord in His own time and according to His allwise purpose does send revival to your church, your community, or the whole nation, praise God! If not, your responsibility is to make sure that you as an individual have carried out His will for your life. You see, we don’t have to wait for some spectacular moving of the Spirit of God in a mighty heaven-sent revival. Right now, this very moment, you can experience a special refreshing from the Lord in your own life.
A.W. Tozer, in his excellent book The Pursuit Of God, spoke of a “great sickness that is upon us.” He described the church as being afflicted with “an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.” He went on to say that it’s going to “require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways.”
He also made this comment: “History has recorded several large-scale returns, led by such men as St. Francis, Martin Luther, and George Fox. Unfortunately, there seems to be no Luther or Fox on the horizon at present.”
Tozer continued, “What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world scale I do not claim to know: but what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days. Any man who by repentance and sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held and who will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards will be delighted with what he finds there.”
Let me quote one more paragraph from Tozer’s book. “Let us say it again: The Universal Presence is a fact. God is here. The whole universe is alive with His life. And He is no strange or foreign God, but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men. And always He is trying to get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us.We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!) We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice.”
Tozer hit the nail right on the head. In fact, he summed up beautifully and most effectively my main emphasis in presenting these lessons on revival. I repeat his statement: “What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world scale I do not claim to know: but what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others.”
Remember, then, personal cleansing from sin, restoration to fellowship with the Lord, and the blessings of His peace, joy, and victory can be experienced by the individual believer who avails himself of God’s gracious provisions.
Christian friend, won’t you today confess your sins, turn from them, and let the Lord have His way in your life? This is how to have a revival—a personal revival.Rather than waiting for some earth-shaking, spectacular moving of the Spirit of God upon the church at large, get right with God yourself this very moment!
First John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then, having been made right with the Lord yourself, you’ll want to join with hymnwriter Bessie Porter Head in praying for believers everywhere:
O Breath of Life, come sweeping through us, Revive Thy church with life and power; O Breath of Life, come, cleanse, renew us, And fit Thy church to meet this hour.
Before concluding this lesson, let me say a word to you who have never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. The blessings of sins forgiven and a proper relationship with God are enjoyed only by those who have been born again through faith in Christ. Therefore, if you have never received the Lord Jesus, your first need is not revival, it’s regeneration. You must be born again. When the sin question is settled and you are at peace with God, you can know the peace of God as you commit your way to Him, obey His Word, and experience daily cleansing from sin.
Before you can know the peace of God, you must first of all find peace with God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I would therefore ask you this: Have you ever by faith received Christ as your Savior? The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” The Bible makes it clear that we can never save ourselves (see Rom. 3:20; Eph. 2:8-9).
How then can a person know forgiveness of sin and become a child of God? John 1:12 has the answer.
As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
Breathe a prayer to the Lord Jesus. Admit to Him that you know you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself. Tell Him you believe what the Bible says about Him. Tell Him that you believe He died for you, shed His blood for your sins, and arose from the dead. Tell Him that you are receiving Him as your Savior, your only hope of salvation. Then claim this wonderful promise:
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31).