I really don’t know anything about revival. Very few people could actually say that they have ever seen a real revival, but perhaps you are like me and sure would love to see one. I could say I have always been fascinated by it, and have read of it on several occasions. While I don’t know anything personally about a real breath from Heaven that sweeps through an area in a miraculous way, I would like to point out a few things that I have noticed from those who have experienced and written about it.
Let’s be sure on the front end that we are on the same page in what we mean by revival. I am not speaking of personal revival, or one of those special times in our Christian life. I am not talking about a time where evangelism was highly effective. I refer to a miraculous moving of the Spirit of God that must be traced to the mercy of God.
I think a study of revival from historical sources would bear out these things:
- Revival is preceded by intense prayer.
Pick up any record of real revival and you will see a pattern of prayer. Usually it involves many praying, but not always. It is a time of serious prayer as opposed to the careless prayer you and I so often get caught up in. Months of praying, nights of prayer with forfeited sleep, intense praying—this is the prayer you find preceding a revival. While God gives revival, He is apparently willing to be asked for it.
- Revival will first show up in confession of sin.
You will be amazed as you read of God’s people confessing their sins as being the tipping point for revival to break out. There are so many little hurts and hard feelings between us and these are quite obviously a great hindrance to revival. You might say a key to revival is removing hindrances. Apparently, the Lord finds us not too interested in revival as long is sin is unconfessed and grievances unfixed. Many remembrances of revival will point out that people’s sin became almost overwhelming in their minds, but led them to seek the Lord in a way they never had before.
- Revival will come on the Lord’s terms.
Some who taught that a formula could be followed that would guarantee revival have been proven wrong. Charles Finney sometimes taught that, but his own life disproves it. His great revivals dried up while his formula kept right on going.
- Revival does not fit our preconceived boundaries.
Of course not every claim of revival has been real, but revival has not stayed within the boundaries we would prefer it would either. Every denomination that held to the Gospel, had a strong Christology, loved the cross, and professed the Bible to be true has had great revivals in the past. Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and on and on have been blessed with glorious revivals, but not one of those groups has really outdone the others in seeing great Revivals. Secondary issues have often even been laid aside in revivals. Not that each involved did not have strong feelings about those issues, but revival is not the time to battle them. Mode of baptism, Calvinistic debates, church government—I have never read of a revival where these things were strongly debated.
For example, Charles Finney and Jonathan Edwards were both instruments in God’s hands in revival. Strangely enough, both men have fans today who strongly criticize the other. Charles Finney was wrong about original sin, but he is more strongly criticized for originating altar calls, or invitations. Others today would strongly criticize the followers of Edwards for never using altar calls. Both sides have a problem—God blessed Finney and Edwards. There is no problem in our deciding which man was more theologically correct, but we are less than honest if we claim God did not use either one of them. Some books have been written, particularly against Finney, which skew the facts. There were abiding results following the revivals both were involved in. There were also anomalies in both revivals. Edwards did a great job in reporting those he knew of. Actually, every real revival seems to have some of those. Apparently, the Lord is not concerned with massaging our egos about the supposed superiority of the group we are in.
- Revival is local.
For my whole life I am always hearing that we should pray for revival in America. If history is any judge, it will not start on a nationwide level if it comes. Likely our dreamy fascination that some great politician is going to come along and deliver us confuses our thinking. Revival starts somewhere, and at best, grows from there. We would be better served to beg God to send revival to our congregation, or our community, and see where He takes it from there.
Please join me in praying for revival!
Here are some book suggestions that I have read (most of them lately).
- Handbook Of Revivals by H.C. Fish
The chapters give history and teaching on revival from first-hand witnesses. The chapters are not of equal value, but the book is worthwhile.
- When The Fire Fell by George T.B. Davis
A little book with some great history of various revivals.
- By My Spirit by Jonathan Goforth
A gem! Confession really played a role in the revivals he was part of in China and Korea.
- Power From On High by John Greenfield
This little volume is a history of the great Moravian Revival of 1727. Gets sidetracked promoting the Moravians at times, but a good read still.
- Revivals of Religion by Charles Finney
A very popular title where if you ignore his thoughts that certain steps guarantee revival the rest of the book is quite helpful.
I plan to review others in the future. God bless!