Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Longing for Revival

(From the Journey Blog
When I hear people talk about “revival,” I sometimes wonder if we are talking about the same thing.
It’s a word that conjures up a lot of different ideas. Some people imagine emotional tent crusades with boisterous evangelists; others think of a TBN special with blue-haired women and gospel quartets; and many recall a week of evening church services with verse-after-verse of “Just As I Am” sung during the long invitation.
But that’s not revival.
The word “revive” means to resuscitate, to make alive again something that has died or is comatose. It is to invigorate, to rekindle something that has dwindled, to remember something almost forgotten, to restore what had fallen, to awaken that which has fallen asleep.
Spiritually, the word refers to an unusual outpouring of God’s Spirit bringing a renewed passion on the part of God’s people for him and his work in this world. Revival is an awakening where many are converted, resulting in a sweeping, positive, cultural change to a whole region.
Or as Jesus put it in the model prayer, “Your kingdom com[ing], your will be[ing] done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
It’s happened before.
In our journey reading through the Bible, we’re about to see it in Israel as God brings David to the throne. With him, God brings spiritual awakening and transformation. It happens in Acts after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven when the Holy Spirit baptizes the church. Disciples are empowered and thousands respond to the Good News. Despite severe persecution the revival continued for some 300 years until the Roman Emperor himself is born again and Christianity becomes the religion of the empire! I could mention several more examples throughout history, including the fifth century revival in Ireland led by Patrick and the Reformation in Europe in the 1500s-1600s.
America has experienced revival on both national and regional levels.
Before our nation’s founding, our forefathers’ generation was profoundly influenced by an event called “The Great Awakening.” God used men with names now a part of our cultural heritage, like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and George Whitefield. Again in the first half of the nineteenth century, a movement swept across our relatively new and quickly expanding nation, resulting in an explosion of new churches and schools. The nation’s morality changed. It was called “The Second Great Awakening.”
After a stock market crash and recession during the politically toxic climate just before the civil war, hundreds of thousands in many large cities met during the lunch hour to simply pray. It was called the Layman’s Revival of 1857-1858. There were no preachers or leaders, yet more than 100,000 were saved.
Sometimes God has used great speakers like Billy Graham, D.L. Moody, or Billy Sunday. Sometimes God has moved among students in a high school or college. Sometimes he has moved in a church or a small town.
The point is…God sometimes moves people’s hearts. Significantly. God’s people are revived and whole segments of the population are “awakened” to him and changed by him. GOD is always the one who is responsible, and all of these movements are preceded by extraordinary prayer and longing for revival.
We’re long overdue for another awakening. However, if we can’t engineer it, what are we to do? There’s only one thing. Pray. I’ve been praying for awakening for 25 years. For the last three years, I’ve been praying more boldly, desperately, and expectantly. Oh, and more regularly. I think even the desire to pray comes from God. “God give me more desire to pray. God give others a desire to pray.”
Is revival something you desire? I’m praying that you do. I am praying that you will join me as we pray together for God to pour out his Spirit on us and our whole region.
Chad Sparks

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