As this age draws to a close, will it be marked by spiritual improvement and revival or by worldwide moral decline? Are we justified in expecting a great, worldwide endtime revival? Will millions of people be swept into the kingdom of God as the coming of Christ draws near? And will things improve spiritually as the age progresses?
These questions naturally arise when revival is discussed. In this concluding lesson of How To Have A Revival, I would like us to consider what we can expect in the present dispensation.
But before we do, let’s review what we mean when we speak about revival. When we use the word revival, we are referring to special seasons of spiritual refreshing that come upon the church—times when the windows of heaven seem to open and showers of blessing are poured out in abundance. When these seasons occur, believers who are moved by deep, Holy Spirit conviction make private (and sometimes public) confession of sin. They renew their dedication to the Lord. And the whole experience is often accompanied by the salvation of lost souls. Yes, revival is that which Almighty God sends upon the church in times of spiritual darkness and lethargy. And it may come in answer to the persistent pleading of praying believers.
We turn now to these questions. Can we expect revival on a large scale? Will there be a great, worldwide, spiritual renewal? Will a transforming work of the Spirit of God within the church result in the turning of vast multitudes to Christ for salvation?
You cannot find a single promise in the Bible pertaining to revival in the church. To be sure, in recent days there have been spiritual awakenings for which we praise God. But they did not come because God promised them, nor because some person or group of people followed a “formula” that guaranteed them. No, God sends revival as He chooses, and in keeping with His all-wise purpose.
No question about it, we do desperately need revival! In spite of its great necessity and our own desire to see it, we are not expecting any worldwide spiritual awakening in which the majority of men and women will turn to Christ. Rather, the Bible says that we will see an increase in violence, wickedness, and godlessness as the end of the age approaches.We will see a general spiritual decline, not increasing moral perfection. The apostle Paul wrote:
Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:1-4).
A few verses later, Paul continued:
Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (v.13).
It is also true, as Jesus indicated in Matthew 7, that most of the world’s population will not be converted.
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Mt. 7:13-14).
I can imagine someone saying, “That certainly doesn’t give us much incentive for witnessing. In fact, it’s discouraging. Why spend so much money and such great effort in trying to reach the world for Christ?” The answer is simple:We do so, if for no other reason, out of obedience to the command of Christ Himself. Jesus said:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
In Matthew 28, the Lord Jesus said:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:19-20).
Yes, even if no one ever believed the message, and if everyone’s ears were closed to the truth, we would preach the gospel anyway— and for the best possible reason. The Lord Jesus Christ told His followers to do so. I am reminded of Isaiah, who received a strange commission from God. The Lord said to the prophet:
Go, and tell this people: “Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed (Isa. 6:9-10).
Now, this was not an easy thing to do! Isaiah was instructed by the Lord to preach to a people who, he was told beforehand, would not perceive or believe what he said to them.
He knew very well that his message would fall on deaf ears, that the great majority would not receive what he said. We are not at all surprised, then, to hear Isaiah cry out in verse 11, “Lord, how long?” The Lord replied as follows:
Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. But yet a tenth will be in it (vv.11-13).
Isaiah was to preach God’s message faithfully, realizing that most of his audience would not receive what he said. At the most, only a minority would take him seriously.
We too must go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” knowing full well that the majority of those who hear the message will not accept it. They will hear, but they will “not understand.” They will see, but they will “not perceive.”We must be diligent in holding forth the Word of life. Why? Because of our love for and devotion to Christ, and for the sake of those who do choose to believe. It is not necessarily our responsibility to be successful. Rather, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2).
The world in general is spinning madly on its downward course. God is calling out of it a minority, a people for Himself, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. When that body is completed, the Lord Jesus will come again and receive us to Himself. Until that time, our privilege and sacred duty as His followers is to preach the gospel and leave the results with Him. Our reward, remember, will be based on faithfulness— not on numbers!
It may be that you are discouraged today. You have tried to be a witness for Christ. You have been zealous in praying for the lost. Yet you have seen such meager results from the efforts that you are just about ready to “throw in the towel.” If that’s your case, I would remind you that our Lord Jesus did not tell us to go into all the world and convert the world. No, we are to go into all the world and “preach the gospel.” That’s our responsibility! We do the preaching, and then we leave the outcome with the Lord. Even so, we know that faithful service will be rewarded. Let us therefore “not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9).
The results of our service for Christ may be disappointing at times.We are thankful, however, that even though the spiritual harvest is meager and the work is discouraging, the Lord does drop for us “handfuls on purpose.” In the story of Ruth, we are told that “when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. Also, let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her” (Ruth 2:15-16). As Ruth went out to glean in the field of Boaz, the men who worked for him were instructed to drop handfuls of grain on purpose for her. How wonderful! How generous of Boaz! And how encouraging for poor Ruth!
The Lord does something like that for the church too. As we glean in the harvest fields of the world, “grain from the bundles fall purposely” from His hand. He sends revivals. He gives us fruit for our labors. He encourages us in the work of the gospel.
We could well be living in the last days of this church age. The time of reaping may soon be over. Even so, the Lord is still dropping, here and there, “handfuls on purpose.”
No, it is not our business to convert the world. It’s our mission to preach the gospel.
This world is not going to improve spiritually and morally as the present age draws to a close. And we are not looking for a great worldwide revival.
No matter how cold, indifferent, and powerless the church in general may be, that does not excuse the individual believer from being everything God wants him to be. As I have emphasized again and again in these lessons, we as born-again Christians do not have to wait for some unusual, earthshaking, heaven-sent revival to make us what God wants us to be. Whenever we appropriate the gracious provisions God has made for us, we can experience the joy and blessing of the victorious, Spirit-filled Christian life.
Remember, revival is necessary only when we fail to live the normal Christian life. When God’s children grow cold spiritually and become insensitive to His will, He has to “shake them up” and restore them to fellowship. But that should never be necessary.
With God’s help, you as a Christian can be what He wants you to be right now. So don’t wait for some great revival to transform your life. Recognizing your own spiritual need, confess your sin. Accept God’s forgiveness. Read His Word. Study it. Obey it. And don’t forget to pray. In fact, as long as you continue to do those things, you will experience without interruption the blessed peace and power of God in your life every day.
So what are you waiting for? If you have sensed a coldness, an apathy, a spiritual indifference in your life, I urge you to do something about it, and do it now!
Begin by confessing your sins to the Lord. The Bible gives us this promise:
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).
Determine to walk in obedience to the revealed will of God.We are told in 1 John 1:7 that “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
Surrender yourself completely to the Lord, as the apostle Paul urged:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom.12:1-2).
Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you. Let Him use you for the glory of God.
Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
Yes, this is how to have a revival—and to stay revived! Hymnwriter Bessie Porter Head wrote:
O Heart of Christ,
once broken for us,
’Tis there we find our
strength and rest;
Our broken, contrite
hearts now solace,
And let Thy waiting
church be blest.
Revive us, Lord!
Is zeal abating
While harvest fields
are vast and white?
Revive us, Lord—
the world is waiting!
Equip Thy church
to spread the light.