“Revival is the inrush of God’s Spirit into a body which threatens to become a corpse.” —D. M. Paton
“Revive thy work, O Lord, Thy mighty arm make bare; Speak with the voice that wakes the dead And make thy people hear.” —Albert Midlane
A funeral is a ceremony where the bodies of deceased people are laid to rest. Those who transport the casket to the burial place are called “Pallbearers.” These men carry the lifeless remains to the pit, which is known as the grave.
America has not had a widespread revival in over one hundred years. Why has the life-giving breath of heaven been withheld? Are there human reasons to account for this lack of heavenly activity? Is it possible that we have been co-conspirators in the cessation of divine energy? Could it be that we bear some responsibility for our dilemma? Have we unwittingly acted as the pallbearers of Revival?
God can do anything He chooses, but Scripture makes clear that God works in cooperation with His people. We are admonished not to commit sins against God the Holy Spirit: “Grieve not” (Eph. 4:30); “Quench not” (1 Thes. 5:19); and resist not (Acts 7:51). Committing any of these grievous offenses against the third Person of the Trinity carries deadly consequences. God’s message to the church in Sardis was, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Rev. 3:1). They had a glorious history and a good reputation, but the life-giving breath of God no longer resided with them. No longer was Sardis a birthing center for newborn souls where joy and excitement prevailed. To the contrary, the stench of spiritual death rested on them.
All kinds of factors have contributed to the “anti-revival” mentality that is so prevalent today. For some people it is a theological grid that forbids divine interruptions. They have developed a militant prejudice against the whole notion of a divine visitation. Others lack the desire and vision for revival. Without going into an exhaustive explanation, here are a few reasons for the prevailing climate of apathy.
An older lady met God in a reviving encounter. She had prayed, “Lord, help my unbelief.” Afterward she commented that it seemed as if God interrupted her prayer and said, “I can’t help your unbelief, but I can forgive it if you confess it as sin.” Unbelief does not need “help;” it needs to be confessed!
This besetting sin is a primary barricade which blocks the life-giving breath of God. Even Jesus was hindered from doing many mighty works because of the oppressive atmosphere of unbelief in His hometown. Other villages saw miracles. Other towns saw the dead raised to life and other amazing occurrences, but not Nazareth. Think about it—a lack of faith tied the hands of Jesus so that He did no mighty works there. The climate of non-faith even hindered the Son of God. Their unbelief quenched God’s miracle-working power. Like Israel of old, they limited God through their unbelief.
Faith creates a welcoming environment where God settles down and makes His abode. Once the restriction of unbelief is removed, God’s power can be freely manifested. One pastor said, “We tend to believe our doubts and doubt our beliefs.” But we must not only believe our beliefs, we must also believe God for things unseen. “As thou hast believed, so be it done” (Mat. 8:13).
Paralysis of Analysis
Most of us were trained to be critical analysts rather than open-hearted recipients. Back in my Bible College days, I remember a well-known preacher speaking during the chapel hour. This man had a famous sermon which he preached over and over. Scores of people had professed faith in Christ after hearing this message. In homiletics class my professor and classmates tore this man’s message to shreds. They complained about his misuse of the text and faulted him for all manner of infractions. There I sat listening as his character and ministry were denigrated. Finally, I could take no more and came to his defense. The entire class time was wasted by scrutinizing perceived defects, rather than appreciating this brother’s faithfulness and effectiveness. Here was a man, who knew incredible blessing on his ministry, being scrutinized by a group of ministerial midgets!
God has not given us the right to judge, but a mandate to love. Of course we must be discerning and stay true to the Word, but the man who overanalyzes everything is not a candidate for revival. Instead of delineating the faults of others, we would do well to ask, “Lord, what do you see that is wrong in me?”
B. T. Roberts comments, “Preachers who never have revivals never weary of calling attention to everything objectionable in the methods of those who have powerful revivals …. O ye fault-finders, beware lest when your Lord come, ye be found smiting your fellow servants, instead of working with them!”
Pride is the pathway to spiritual suicide. James 4:6 tells us that God resists (opposes) the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Clyde Staples Lewis writes, “No one is proud because he is clever or good looking. He is proud because he is more clever or better looking than someone else.” Haughty people are quick to make comparisons with those deemed inferior, and the assessment always goes in favor of the one making the comparison. But Scripture warns about the foolishness of comparing ourselves with others (2 Cor. 10:12). Pride is not only thinking we are better than someone else, it is thinking we are better than we really are!
Nothing grieves the Lord quicker than Devilish pride. This sinister transgression was the first sin to destroy the calm of eternity. It changed angels into devils. The original sinner, Lucifer, was a beautiful, powerful, and anointed cherub. In Ezekiel we read, “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee… Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty” (Ezek. 28:15, 17). Satan became so infatuated with himself that he attempted to dethrone God. Because his heart was lifted up, he endeavored to exalt himself by bringing God down. Self-exaltation is the satanic trademark—the master sin of the Devil. One of the Puritans said, “The man who exalts himself wages war on God.”
Obadiah uncovered pride’s true nature, “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee” (Oba. 1:3). Here we see man’s capacity for self delusion through the deceitfulness of pride. Adam sought to escape his guilt by blaming Eve. She, in turn, blamed the Devil. Someone said, “Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent, and the snake did not have a leg to stand on.” This disposition to blame has been passed on to the lot of us. “If it wasn’t for my mate, I would be victorious.” “If it wasn’t for my children, I could live for the Lord.” That’s like the student who said, “If it wasn’t for my teacher, I could make it to the next grade!” Modern counseling will tell you it is always someone else’s fault.
You and I are not responsible for everything that happens to us, but we are entirely responsible for how we respond to what happens to us. Make no mistake, it is nothing other than pride that has created a victim mentality among so many. There will be no revival where there is blame shifting and rationalizing.
Not only is pride devilish and deceitful, it is also incredibly destructive. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Pro. 16:18). It is impossible to overstate the damaging effect of pride. There is no spirit in man more opposed to the Spirit of God than the spirit of pride. So offensive is pride that there can be no point of meeting between a proud heart and a holy God.
One spring I invited a friend over to call in the “big gobbler.” Having hunted turkeys my entire life I had never gotten anything, except feathers. This man was an expert, and I knew I needed help. He set up decoys and began using different calls to lure in the big bird. As he was calling we heard a gobble, and we knew we were in the right place. Soon we heard a commotion and saw a gang of hens headed our way. Boy was I disappointed because this was “gobbler season,” and it was against the law to shoot hens. As the gang moved toward us a giant gobbler appeared about twenty-five yards behind the hens. He was in full strut. His chest was poked out, tail feathers in broad span, and wings dragging the ground as he strutted back and forth. The hens were busy searching for food—paying no attention to his antics. I thought to myself, “This is just like high school!” As the hens got closer they spooked and scurried off. But the gobbler kept strutting, oblivious to his environment. In a matter of moments he walked within range, and we enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal with him that year. Do you know what spelled his doom? It was his mindless prancing, which blinded him to the presence of potential danger. Pride goes before destruction.
Nobody struts into the presence of God! The kingdom of God is not looking for sponsors, only humble, obedient servants. Just like that gobbler found out, a haughty spirit precedes a fall.
Wherever you find pride you always find its devastating consequences, both vertically and horizontally. Pride not only breaks fellowship with God, it also wreaks havoc in our earthly relationships. Solomon under inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote in Proverbs, “Only by pride cometh contention” (13:10). The root of all relational conflict finds its source in pride. Here is the reason we have so many church splits, broken homes, and splintered relationships. Maybe one reason God has such antipathy toward pride is because it violates His prayer, “That they all may be one” (Jn. 17:21). Pride is destructive because:
- It divides that which should be united.
- It causes me to look down on others.
- It keeps me from apologizing.
- It causes me to defend myself.
- It makes the sins of others look BIG and my sins look small.
- It causes me to blame others, instead of taking responsibility for my own actions, reactions, and inactions.
- It can lull me into a state of complacency.
No sin is more pervasive than this sinister sin. Here is a prayer which is sure to get the attention of God:
Lord bend this proud and stiff-necked “I”
Help me to bow the head and die,
That it may no longer be “I”
But Christ that lives in me.
Limited Frame of Reference
Our country, like other regions in the world, has a revival heritage. We have many recorded accounts of those times when God poured out His Spirit in our nation. But it has been so long since God sent a widespread awakening that the very notion of revival seems strange to many Christians.
A thing is not necessarily wrong just because it lies outside our range of familiarity. How foolish it is to judge the Bible in light of experience instead of letting the Bible be the arbitrator of our experience. There is more to God, His ways and works, than any human could comprehend in a thousand lifetimes.
You must stop listening to the self-appointed religious “know-it-all’s” who downplay the possibility of revival. The humble man realizes he does not have the full picture. “If any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Cor. 8:2).
Some have a preconceived mental framework as to how revival must come. But dictating to God the terms on which He must work displays astonishing arrogance. God will never act in contradiction to His character or the principles of Scripture. His ways are higher (different) than our ways. The candidate for revival is not a lecturer, but a learner. The man who is humble enough to submit to God and “His ways” is the applicant for revival.
Inaccurate Historical Perspective
The concept of revival is so vague that very few people know what it even means. Even those who preach about it often speak in such nebulous terms so as to breed uncertainty in the minds of listeners. The whole notion is so “generalized” or “futurized” that the impact is “neutralized.”
Also, there is the problem of addressing the subject in a way that makes it unattainable for the average person. After hearing about all one “must do” in order to “bring revival,” it is no small wonder that most people won’t even attempt to take the first step, much less the subsequent steps. Many of us have heard those bombastic sermons that put the prospect of revival “out of our reach.” But a careful study of biblical and historical revivals would create hunger and impart hope for a God-sent revival in our day.
The Church at Laodicea proudly asserted, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17). From their perspective everything was fine. We further read about God’s response to their evaluation, “Knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” What a different opinion concerning their condition! They were satisfied with their status, but God was not.
A man made a shocking discovery regarding his true spiritual state. He testified, “I was having chest pains and discovered it was a stress fracture in my heart of stone.” Hard-heartedness can blind us to our true condition. But once the veil is lifted we clearly see the true culprit—Self.
Self-sufficiency leads to apathy and complacency. In the middle of his sermon, a preacher bellowed out, “The two main problems today are ignorance and apathy!” For emphasis he repeated this statement a second time. Then he looked at a disinterested man, slouching with his arms folded on the front row, and thundered, “Sir, what did I just say?” The man passively replied, “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”
Ignorance and unconcern extinguish any likelihood of revival fire. The spirit of self-sufficiency can so permeate the atmosphere that it makes congregations virtually “revival-proof.”
Perhaps it was an overreaction to the teachings of Perfectionism that caused pastors to preach in a manner that stripped people of hope for better things. Statements like, “When you got saved, you got all the Holy Spirit you will ever have.” A better question might be, “How much does the Holy Spirit have of me?” Of course we believe the moment a person is saved he is baptized, indwelt, and sealed with the Holy Spirit. But when Positional Truth is elevated to the exclusion of Practical Experience, the outcome is the elimination of spiritual hunger and thirst. The believer receives the Holy Spirit at conversion, but there are many subsequent “fillings.”
Here is a man sitting in the pew who is repeatedly told that he already possesses everything he will ever receive. In his heart of hearts he must be baffled because he knows there must be more to it than what he has realized. If this is “as good as it gets,” he feels he has been ripped off. If this is all there is to it, then why bother with any further pursuit?
We all realize the danger of seeking exotic experiences, but the greatest danger is remaining like we are. God seeks us and we come to salvation, then we spend the rest of our lives pursuing Him. In Scripture the Christian life is portrayed as a quest:
- “I press toward the mark for the prize…” (Phil. 3:14)
- “So run, that ye may obtain…” (1 Cor. 9:24)
- “Let us run with patience the race…” (Heb. 12:1)
- “To him that overcometh will I grant…” (Rev.3:21)
O for preaching which excites and stirs deep longings after God! “Lord, give us burning hearts, and let the fire spread.”
Questions to Ponder
- What is the primary barricade in the way of the life-giving breath of God?
- What is the pathway to spiritual suicide?
- Which church, mentioned in Revelation 3:1, had a glorious history and a good reputation, but God’s life-giving breath no longer resided in them?
- List three reasons why the anti-revival mentality is so prevalent today.
- True or False? The oppressive atmosphere of unbelief in Jesus’ hometown actually hindered Him from doing many mighty works.
- True or False? God has given us not the right to judge but the mandate to love.
- Instead of delineating the faults of others, what would we do well to ask?
- What two things extinguish any likelihood of revival fire?
This chapter was taken from “Revival in Our Time: Outside the Box—Inside the Book!” by Harold Vaughan.
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