Revival - God’s Emergency Plan
Ken Rudge, St. Austell, England
REVIVAL - THE TERMINOLOGY
There are seven terms used to express the truth that underpins the experience and some we can group together as having similar concepts.
- 'Visitation' or 'Quickening'. These two emphasize the divine side of the event capturing the sudden and dramatic infusion of power to be expected. They identify the point of revival rather than the process. They are perhaps most descriptive of the moment of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the dynamic events that are consequent upon God touching men's hearts, see 1 Pet. 2. 12; Ps. 80. 18.
- 'Awakening', 'Renewal', 'Restoration'. These terms draw our attention to a previous state and emphasize the complete reversal experienced as a result of what God did. They indicate a condition of sleep, decline, deadness, inertia, departure and desolation, all of which are halted and changed into the opposite, see Rom. 13. 11; Lam. 5. 21; Joel 2. 25.
- 'Reformation'. This word is used to describe one of the most fundamental religious movements of God in the Western world that it has ever seen. It indicates lasting change and the abandonment of pretence, duplicity, window dressing, dead form and cold formality. This reform is only on account of response to new appreciation of scriptural principles and the changing of practice to conform to them, see Heb. 9. 10.
- 'Revival'. This term places emphasis on life and vitality. It has the hallmark of the Spirit of God operating in sovereignty and unhindered power. It is Ezekiel's vision of the valley of dry bones when God said, 'I will put my Spirit in you and ye shall live', Ezek. 37. 14; see Ps. 85. 5-6.
As we mark the references and absorb the context we gather the following important understandings:
- All these words describe a work of recovery whether it be individual, national or universal, and the Spirit employs each in scripture. We do well to pay attention to them as they are, 'not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth', 1 Cor. 2. 13.
- This activity can be personal or collective and is certainly that which covers the ultimate purpose of God in reconciling all things to Himself.
- Overwhelmingly, this truth has to do with that which is inward, not outward, and is a major work of the Holy Spirit in sovereign operation.
- In every case it can only be a work of God. It cannot be accomplished by men in any way, shape or form.
We are wise to steer clear of those that go about producing 'revivals', but beware of the common misconceptions that can keep us from being part of what God is longing to do for His people. These are:
- Revivals are always spectacular religious awakenings that affect large numbers or areas. These are 'classic' revivals and there have been many, some recorded in scripture for us. Yet the fact is that revival can be experienced by an individual or by a local assembly independently of others or in several separated areas.
- Revival is largely an unaccountable divine intervention that just breaks out. Yet God asks us to expect it, pray for it and prepare for it, see 2 Chr. 7. 14.
- Revivals relate to a mass movement among the unsaved resulting in thousands of conversions. This may well be an outcome but the actual word indicates a work of recovery of that which was there originally. God can save sinners but He doesn't revive them. Saints are the only candidates. It is a work that God does amongst His people.
- Revival can be induced or attained as a result of programmes, seminars, restructuring, creating the atmosphere for it. Yet it can only be God's work. Sadly, Satan is the master of the counterfeit and time and again such efforts flop with nothing accomplished for God. The fear of this must not deter us from seeking a true experience of God's reviving work for it is God's emergency plan for the revitaliseing and maintenance of that which is His testimony in the world.
REVIVAL - IS IT FEASIBLE FOR OUR DAY?
God built revival into His purposes as part of His continuing work.
There is no doubt that once sin entered the world then there would be an inevitable decline in anything relating to men and the things of God. Dare we think that God didn't understand that? Within the apostle Paul's lifetime he was having to state, 'all they which are in Asia be turned away from me', 2 Tim. 1. 15. Out of the seven churches in Asia addressed by the Lord in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, He commands five of them to repent or suffer the consequences. So decline has always featured but recovery was always available.
Every generation has to come to know God and His truth for itself.
Judges chapter 2 illustrates well that the revival effected through Joshua lasted only as long as the following generation was in the good of it. Once that ceased, scripture records for us that 'there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord nor yet the works which he had done for Israel’, v. 10. This is clearly a case where revival is the only solution. What we must understand is that it becomes a matter of 'a revival or a funeral'. If there is no revival of God's work then you have to live with the corpse, see Rev. 3. 1.
There is no hindrance to the experiencing of true revival.
God has always made available and accessible the two essential resources for reviving His work. These are the scriptures and the Holy Spirit of God. He does not use any other means. They are an awesome combination! They are 'the Breath of God and the God-breathed word'. If men are prepared to take God at His word and depend solely on the Spirit to empower them to do what He says then we have revival.
God has left on record in the scriptures accounts of how revivals have occurred.
This is to encourage us to believe in the reality. They each reveal certain common characteristics. It is in studying and facing up to these that we now move into the area of actions speaking louder than words. Are we prepared to do that which will revive God's work in us personally or in the assembly of which we are part? We are now ready to consider the practicalities.
REVIVAL – MAKING IT A REALITY
When Solomon was dedicating the temple, he wisely assumed that there would be departure by the nation and prayed that there might always be, despite however far they strayed, ways back for the people of God. He got his answer in the remarkable promise of God recorded in 2 Chronicles 7. 12-14. It is this that gives us, from God's viewpoint, the requirements of return and restoration that leads to a revival of a sense of His power and presence amongst His people. We need to take it a step at a time.
Step 1. 'If my people . . .'. There has to be a recognition of departure, failure, pride, hypocrisy and wilful neglect in spiritual things. The acceptance of responsibility and repentance on its account is all part of the way back. Prayer with fasting would greatly focus minds, Matt.17. 21.
Step 2. '. . . pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways . . .' Big doors swing on little hinges. God's door of revival hangs heavily on the little responses of repentance and true-hearted seeking after Himself. Revival is not an end in itself, but the Lord and His interests are. The church in Laodicea was unconscious of the fact that the Lord Jesus was on the outside, Rev. 3. 20. He needs to be invited into the centre of things again and owned as the Lord that He is. No cover up job here for He hears what you say and reads your heart at the same time!
Step 3. 'my people, which are called by my name . . .'. A rediscovery of who we are and whom we serve is essential. The word of God once more holding its sacred court in our hearts and lives. Hearing the cry amongst us of, 'What saith the scripture?', Rom. 4. 3. Allowing the word to thrill us, empower our living and free our worship. Berean-like to hunger for the truth and to put in the time required with God and His word to find it out, Acts 17. 11. The neglect of the reading of scripture is part of the problem that only a fullhearted return to its study and exposition can rectify. It is not knowing it that brings the reward, it is implementing what we know. Every time God speaks to us we do nothing more until what He has said is in place. This way we build in the truth and make it practice not pretence.
Step 4. '. . . then will I hear . . . forgive . . . and will heal their land’. This is God's solemn and unchanging promise to us. He cannot fail in His response. He will do according to His word.
Come then, let us be about it as from this day.