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All the material on this site, which ranges from serious theology to the slightly humorous, aims to reflect a view of life and Christianity which acknowledges Jesus as Lord and Christ. We will try to be practical, helpful and easy to understand. Because we are still writing several more books and need the time to do that, we will not be taking comments and replying to them at this stage. However, if you do want to contact us please use the form provided. All material on this site that has been written by Joe Story, can be copied or quoted for any honourable, not for profit purpose with an appropriate acknowledgement. All books can be read free on line, purchased from your local (UK) Christian bookshop, or ordered online from this site. Contact us for bulk or overseas enquiries.
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From time to time, the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean experiences changes that affect significant areas of the globe. These are called La Nina (cold) and El Nino (warm). Around the time of the beginning of the 1904 Welsh Revival, one of those writing about the work of God in Wales, noted that a recent El Nino had caused a period of exceptionally warm torrential showers along the west coast of South America. Apparently, some dessert areas received their first outpourings of rain for around 350 years. In an incredibly short time, the barren land was transformed into a paradise of lush flowers and vegetation. Millions upon millions of seeds, which had lain dormant in the parched earth, drank in the life-giving rain and burst into life.
The prophet Isaiah wrote of the future Messianic age that “the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing.” (Isaiah 35 v 1-2). When John the Baptist sent some of his followers to Jesus to ask if he was ‘the Coming One’ (another term for Messiah) Jesus replied by saying “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear” (Mat 11 v 4 -5), a quote from the same passage of Isaiah. Jesus clearly understood himself to be the Messiah and that his coming was the beginning of the new period of God’s working.
So we are in the Messianic age that the prophets foretold. We are in the age of the Spirit’s outpouring. We are in the age of miracles. We are in the age when apparently barren land can bring forth fruit in abundance.
Why then are these things the exception rather than the rule in the experience of so many of us?
There are at least two discernible reasons
The most obvious, is that just as rain cannot cause growth if there are no seeds in the ground, the Holy Spirit does not bring forth life if the word has not been planted in human hearts. The Holy Spirit does not work in a vacuum, but he affirms and confirms the word of God.
Secondly, it is observable in nature that there are times and seasons of growth and times of fallow when the ground rests. Several of Jesus’ parables likened the way that the Kingdom of God works, to the way that seeds grow. We sometimes feel that we are doing well if we manage to organise our churches in a consistent, unvaried way, but we would be hard put to show a biblical basis for that, and even harder to demonstrate it from history. Neither consistent rain nor consistent sun will produce a harvest; we need seasons of both.
When the Church experiences revival, it experiences a period of ingathering and fast growth, however, that growth needs to be consolidated and tested:
There must be periods of testing in order to establish the genuineness of what God has done.
There must be periods of study –sheer hard work when we search the scriptures to understand the mind and workings of God. We need to spend time in the word so that the Holy Spirit can teach us to discern between his work and the elements of flesh, soul and the demonic that might have crept into our churches during revival times.
And there needs to be periods when we concentrate on putting into practice the fusion of spiritual energy, understanding and endurance.
God knows, we desperately need revival. However, unless we are using the time when we do not have revival to learn from testing circumstances, immerse ourselves in the word and to put into practice what we already have, then we will not be ready for revival when it comes.
As any student of revival will know, persistent believing prayer is essential, but that prayer must be intermingled with God’s refining work in our lives that will bring us to a place where we despair of ourselves and look to Christ alone. Effective prayer arises out of an understanding of the will of God discovered in his word and written on our hearts by his Spirit, and bold, importunate prayer, can only come from hearts that walk in obedience to the level of light that we have received already.
Reading about revival can be one of the ways to stir ourselves afresh to seek God. We are offering a free copy of a short book that we have produced.
This brief introduction to Revival aims to raise questions in our hearts and minds. Most of us will at least have heard of revival, some of us will have read accounts of it, and a privileged few will have experienced it first-hand.
For all of us, the challenge is to understand whether it might fit into the future purposes of God.
This booklet will not fully answer that challenge for you, but perhaps it might just stimulate you sufficiently to read, pray and study toward that end.
Published by the Unboring Book Company Northampton, England.
FOR A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK
Simply go our CONTACT US page and send us an email stating “Free Revival Book Offer” with your name and address and we will send you a copy.
Offer closes 31st December 2020
This saying does not come from the bible and careful reflection will show that it is not true as a total principle. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and he did so out of his free sovereign choice with no involvement through prayer, or any other means, of the people he created.
However, once we put the saying in context we will see that it does highlight an important principle for the Church. It was John Wesley who gave us the first recorded use of the phrase when he wrote:
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth. God does nothing but in answer to prayer.”
Wesley was not simply calling for more prayer, nor was he suggesting that any sort of prayer can move the hand of God. Some of the first teachings of Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of prayer that comes from a self-righteous heart or from a belief that mere repetition will persuade God. Jesus did stress the need for both perseverance and faith, but rooted these in the natures of people and of God. In people insofar as we are utterly helpless of ourselves, and in God, insofar as he is all-powerful and he has care, concern and love for the world.
Wesley set the focus for the prerequisites of effective prayer as a fear of sin and an exclusive or total desire for God. He was particularly stating that these were the foundational requirements for preachers, but the principle extends to the whole people of God.
We understand why some of us puzzle over why God should seem to limit himself to the degree that his people involve themselves in what he is doing. However, it is the difference between creation and pro-creation. As we said above, the first act of creation was out of nothing but the sovereign word and will of God, but everything that God made in that first creative act, contained within it the seed necessary to pro-create. Since the beginning, every generation – whether of plant, humanity or animals – brings forth the next generation.
The Church is no different. Every generation of Christians must be those who give birth to the next generation. True, they cannot do it without God, but also, God will not do it without them. It is a spiritual truth as well as a natural one that ‘except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies, it remains alone’. Pro- creation always involves a change of priorities – a denial of self in order to bring forth the life of another. All of Christianity is based on this principle which permeated every action of Jesus Christ in both life and death, and which finds its highest expression in fervent prayer for the next, as yet unborn, generation of believers. It can be seen historically, in a study of the major moves of God, which we call revivals.
Whenever people are born of God in large numbers, their births will have been preceded by concentrated, prevailing prayer. The basis for that statement is simple. In most cases, the prayer can be traced back afterwards. This is not fanciful. Some students of revival, such as J. Edwin Orr, completed a Doctorate at Oxford on the subject, and many have compiled newspaper records clearly detailing what happened. It is no secret, that before the 1858 Great Awakening, in which both the United States and Great Britain each saw around a million people added to the churches, prayer meetings were rampant. At one period in New York, 10,000 people met daily for prayer*. If we compare like with like in terms of the population ratio, that would be the equivalent of over 2000 people meeting for prayer in Northampton every single day.
Let us make no mistake about the matter. Human effort or better methods, however well intentioned or well motivated, will accomplish little more than a superficial human response. Nothing less than fully surrendered hearts gathered for sacrificial, believing prayer will see a new ingathering of people into the Kingdom of God.
*For a brief summary of what happened visit: https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/577
Walking past a church building recently, I noticed a large banner that included the announcement ‘Revival Meeting 7.30 Fridays’. One dictionary definition of revival suggests that it is the bringing back of something from a depressed, inactive and unused state. I am pretty certain that the church notice was not indicating that such a thing happened to their spiritual life once a week on a Friday evening. As with many words, revival has tended to lose a clear, defined meaning, which evokes a constant understanding in all those who hear it.
As I write about revival, I believe it is sensible to give some definition of what I mean, and equally important, do not mean, by the term. The word revival does not occur in the New Testament, and even the concept is lacking there, except perhaps to some extent in the Revelation letters to the seven Churches. The concept is clearer in the Old Testament where the people of God moved through cycles of disobedience and falling away and then repentance and restoration. So whilst it is a useful word, it is not a biblical word.
It came into Christian use in the years following the Reformation, when the condition and fortunes of the Church experienced more defined periods of ebb and flow. It came into regular and focussed use during the eighteenth, nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, especially as people recorded events and circulated them through newspapers and pamphlets. Looking back, it seems possible to identify similar events of varying degree and frequency throughout the whole history of the Church, but it is not always possible to establish their exact nature or whether they were referred to by particular terms.
However, it is possible to establish the exact nature of some events which took place during the past three hundred years. Due to the extraordinary things that happened, many people kept careful records that we can still refer to. Reports on revivals were often characterised by a focus on three things:
1. The very large numbers of people affected. Meetings, both for prayer and preaching, were sometimes huge, not merely thousands, but tens of thousands.
2. The transformation of lives. Some of the most ungodly people later testified of God’s transforming power. And also there were large number of converts, sometimes recorded by name in column after column in secular newspapers.
3. The impact on society. For instance, during and after the Welsh Revival, some police cells were empty and court sessions were cancelled as there were no cases to try.
Within the context of these three things, the predominance of prayer was also highlighted, together with the powerful, biblical preaching, which brought people to their knees in repentance under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
These are the sort of things that come to mind for me when I refer to revival.
In recent years, there has been a tendency to shift the focus away from the things above, toward physical phenomena such as people falling, jerking or otherwise manifesting unusual actions. There has also sometimes been a looking for miraculous phenomena such as the presence of gold dust or feathers, the appearance of spiritual beings or miraculous healings.
There is no doubt that there have been occurrences of some of these things during times of revival, though it is worth noting that some revival leaders actively discouraged excessive physical responses to spiritual happenings. What is clear, however, is that there was a total absence of them in many revivals, including some of the most powerful and long lasting, and, in themselves, they cannot be considered as evidence of revival.
Personally, I regularly pray for God to manifest himself in healing power in the church, and I do believe that will happen in considerable measure again, but whilst it may coincide with revival, it will not in itself denote revival.
Unless there are regular gatherings of praying people, widespread conviction of sin, large numbers of often astonishingly changed lives, and a noticeable impact on society, whatever other good may be happening, it is not revival.
Lord! Revive your people again!
The practical problem that many of us encounter when responding to God, is that we get discouraged because we do not see how we will manage some of the steps further along the journey, when we should be concentrating on taking the first steps, without which we will never get to those later steps anyway.
This is perhaps particularly true when confronted with the need for revival in our churches. Anyone who has read about the revivals that God has wrought in the past, will be painfully aware that all revivals have been preceded by months and even years of prayer. For those of us who have struggled with a ten-minute prayer time, there is just no way that we can contemplate the heartrending hours of prayer that consumed believers’ lives before outpourings of the Holy Spirit.
The fact of the matter is that we cannot do it. There is no way that we can simply move from a tepid form of Christianity to one that is white-hot. It is like trying to move from first to fifth gear in a car. And revival prayer is like fifth gear, it is the place where the Spirit engages all our faculties to speedily accomplish the purpose of God in the Church and the nation.
Students of past revivals, and those committed to future revivals, will know that there are steps (or gear changes) that must be made before God will bring his people to persistent, prevailing prayer. Whilst there might be some adjustment to the order in different circumstances, essentially the first steps are:
A forsaking and confession of all known sin.
Restitution, or putting right those things where we have offended others.
Forgiving all those who have wronged us, and, where possible being reconciled to them.
A total surrender of every area of our lives to Jesus Christ.
Ongoing obedience to the Holy Spirit and a confessing of Christ.
Few of us will make any real progress until we come to grips with these things. It is worth remembering, that in one of the most quoted passages of scripture on revival, II Chronicles 7 v 11 – 14, when the people are told to pray, they are first told to humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways.
The fact that we take these first steps does not mean we have arrived; there may be much that God still wants to do in our lives, and also there is no guarantee that we will not subsequently fall or fail and need to retrace those steps again. What is certain however, is that revival will not come – however much we pray, plead, sing or dance about it – unless the people of God first make these steps foundational in our churches.