“There never was a real revival that did not produce heartburn and hallelujahs.” —Vance Havner
“Revival is the people of God constrained, gripped, overmastered, and overwhelmed by the love of Christ so that they are feverishly restless to win souls for Christ.” —James A. Stewart
“That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” (Ephesians 5:27).
When God manifests His presence, things happen that cannot be explained in human terms. When the Holy Spirit enters a human heart, all things become new (2 Cor. 5:17, emphasis added). When the Spirit of God comes down in reviving power, all kinds of “new” things occur.
The average church has 100 percent willingness. Ten percent of the people are willing to do the work, and the other 90 percent are willing to let them do it! But revival brings a new vitality that gets people off the bench and into the game.
After Jesus healed the man sick of the palsy, Luke records, “And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, we have seen strange things to day” (5:26). What they had witnessed was far from commonplace. It was so unusual that the entire region was impacted. Can you imagine the excitement that accompanied this event? Such is the vitality that is apparent when God resurrects a dead church!
When God invaded Wales, the public was taken up with what God was doing in the churches. The impact on society was unbelievable. Judges were handed white gloves because crime ground to a halt. Drinking houses were closed. Gambling addicts and drunks were converted and turned their attention toward their families. Interest in sports waned. So disinterested was the populace that they could not find enough players to field a team for the “Cup Final.” That would be like not having enough players show up to play in the Super Bowl! Work in the mines slowed until pit ponies learned the new vocabulary the converted miners had acquired. The newspaper accounts focused on the spread of revival and its impact on communities. In those days the world had to plan their events around the activities of the churches.
Holy enthusiasm! Holy optimism! Holy initiative! Lethargy is swept away and replaced with supernatural energy. How can people stay up all night, go to work the next day, and function normally day after day? The only explanation is the unleashing of the dynamite power of the Holy Spirit!
The only thing that matters in seasons of revival is being thoroughly right with God and man. No price is too great to pay for a conscience void of offense toward God and man. In revival you don’t “have to” obey God—you “get to” obey God! Hearts are so yielded to God that the overwhelming attitude is, “Yes Lord, what else?” Obedience is no longer viewed as a burden, but a blessing.
Someone gave this definition, “Obedience is instantly doing all God tells me to do with a right heart attitude.” After three months of intense preparation, a local church experienced a divine visitation. Chapel in the Christian school lasted for nearly three hours. Students asked teachers to forgive them for cheating. Apologies were made to fellow students. The administration gave the schedule to God. Children called home to clear their consciences with their parents.
With the auditorium and overflow rooms jammed with people nightly, the young people gladly sat on the floor in order to be in the service. The exhilaration level was indescribable. One lady prayed, “Lord, this is as exciting as going to the amusement park!”
A young pastor stood and asked his church to forgive him. “Many of you have seen my seminary diploma in my office. I did not earn that degree—I cheated on the final exam. The diploma has been returned to the seminary along with a letter asking forgiveness. Now I am asking you as a congregation to forgive me for giving you a false impression of myself by pretending I had earned that degree.” I believe the church had more respect for him afterwards than they had before. Since there is no such thing as a perfect pastor, the next best thing is an honest pastor!
One pastor commented, “We have had more answers to prayer in one week than we normally have in years!” During these times of revival, answered prayers happen at such a pace that people dare to offer their “God-sized” requests. They believe, and they receive. It is great to experience “church” when Christians are anticipating supernatural results. People can’t wait to get to church because nobody knows what will happen next!
Faith is generated as God’s people hear and heed the Word. They are not just analyzing sermons. God is speaking, and the anticipation level is rising. One pastor commented, “We just knew God was going to do something unusual.” It is a taste of heaven to operate in a climate where people believe and expect God to move in their midst.
Years ago my wife and I arrived at a country church in New England. Little did we know that we were about to enter a “revival-ready” congregation. The first service was marked by an incredible public response. This was extremely rare in this church. After only three services that first week, I said to my wife, “God is here. Let’s pray we won’t mess it up!” I had never seen it on this wise.
In that setting, the problem was not getting people to come to church. The problem was getting them to leave! Services began at 7 p.m., and by 11 p.m. things were still going full-speed. The people who met God experienced defining moments in their lives. They began calling friends and family to relate what had happened. People could almost not believe the testimonies from people they knew so well. Friends came from hundreds of miles to see these transformed lives for themselves. When they arrived on the premises, they sensed that something was up. Time and time again, the people who came to see for themselves encountered the living God on a new level.
You can have evangelism without revival, but in a revival evangelism just happens. My friend Ralph Sutera says, “Evangelism will never become the expression of the church until revival is the experience of the church.” I was preaching in a supercharged atmosphere where a good number of people were saved one Sunday morning. A lady who got born again that day commented on her way out, “Who needs drugs when you can have salvation?” She had found the Lord! The following Sunday she brought her husband, and he got saved as well.
Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mat. 4:19). Those in steady pursuit of God feel compassion for the lost and make it their business to share the gospel. Evangelism is the lifeblood of the church and the natural outgrowth of renewal. I remember a church back in the early 1970’s where more than 100 people were saved week after week. The power of God flowed through teams as they went into the community and led scores of people to Christ.
One of the most outstanding features of revival is the love-saturated atmosphere it produces. “God is love,” and when He steps down, hearts are melted with love for God and men. Romans 5:5 says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” This mighty deluge so fills the inner being that the complexion of the church is transformed.
It was our privilege to be invited for meetings at a “good church” in the Midwest. This church had high standards, and everything looked good on the outside. The meetings were extended beyond the scheduled timeframe because incredible things were taking place. The initial break came on Tuesday night when the pastor’s wife was weeping at the altar during the invitation. As her husband attempted to close the meeting, she was back on her knees weeping loudly. This behavior was totally out of character for her. Normally she is a quiet and reserved individual. Compelled to speak, she stood before the church and poured out her heart. “There’s something wrong in our church—we don’t have any love in our hearts! People get saved here and then go to other churches, and I’ll tell you why—we don’t have any love in our hearts!” This was such an unusual experience that I knew the origins were supernatural. I did not know who was behind it, but it was obvious that more than human influences were at work. You could have heard a pin drop as the people sat stunned and amazed. This was not a condemning indictment, but a cry of desperate concern. I believe God used that heartfelt testimony to break the hearts of stone. Revival was on!
The transformation that occurred in the following days was astounding. With personal sins and struggles dealt with, a new attitude and atmosphere became evident. Lost people seemed drawn into the services. The outpouring of concern and genuine interest from church members was remarkable. Nobody cared how people were dressed—the congregation was flooded with love. Visitors were swamped with hugs and gestures of concern. The weirder they looked, the more people reached out! Tattoos and nose rings were overlooked as people focused on the deepest need of these souls. That church was knee-deep in love! Such is the impact when the love of God fills the hearts of people. Spurgeon once said, “Love comes in fullness when self dies.”
You shouldn’t be surprised when the subtle Serpent comes slivering into a situation supercharged with the presence of God. The Devil’s purpose is to subdue any forward movement in the Kingdom of God. Paul said he and his cohorts attempted to visit the Thessalonians more than once, “but Satan hindered us” (1 Thes. 2:18).
As a church becomes alive, so does the Devil! Satan is no longer merely viewed as a category of Bible doctrine—he becomes REAL. The intensity level of satanic conflict increases dramatically in revival. But opposition, rather than a source of discouragement, is an opportunity to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3).
D. L. Moody commented, “When a man has much of the Spirit of God, he will have great conflicts with the tempter.” After Jesus had fasted for forty days, Satan came to him in the wilderness temptation. At this heightened season of spiritual awareness, even the Lord Jesus experienced severe encounters with the Devil.
Life on earth is filled with challenges. Revival does not exempt us from difficulties. But how much better to contend with the problems of life rather than the problems of death! Helping people resolve personal issues may require large amounts of time and counseling. Extraordinary zeal necessitates organization and direction. Energized saints need tracks to run on, and someone must offer direction for new ministries born in revival.
Revival is not a “cure-all.” The otherworldliness and ecstasy that accompanies a moving of the Spirit is transitional. “Revival is not God’s standard for the Church but is the process through which the Church is restored to its former splendor and glory,” writes James Stewart in his book Opened Windows. So revival is not a goal, but a gateway. It is God’s means of moving His people to a higher plane. When people are touched by the Lord at the living level of their lives, they gladly give themselves, and their resources, to Kingdom causes. In every revival you find people “with ears to hear” who respond by serving others, surrendering to missions, giving their assets, and witnessing to the lost.
The light of God’s presence brings to light all manner of “dark things” that get bypassed in a period of decline. In today’s culture there is so much baggage to deal with that it can become exhausting. But God raises godly men and women whom He equips to minister to seeking hearts. Spurgeon said, “The problems that follow revival make you wonder if revival is worth it. But without revival the church would have died. I choose revival.”
I like Wesley’s prayer, “O, Lord, send us the old revival, without the defects; but if this cannot be, send it will all the defects. We must have revival!”
Critics are quick to point out the “weakness” of any given revival. Stop worrying about the “weakness” of a particular revival—at least they had one! Instead of critiquing how God does His work, we would do well to spend our time and energy believing and praying for His refreshing breath in our day.
Joy is a byproduct of Holy Spirit fullness and the fruit of revival. God’s reviving touch always results in profound joy and gratitude. Great joy came to Samaria when they heard Phillip speak and witnessed the miracles which he did (Acts 8:8). Even in the midst of persecution, “the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:52). God was at work and rejoicing filled their hearts. It was the same with the Thessalonians, who “received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost” (1 Thes. 1:6).
When eyes are opened wide to see God’s mercies, thanksgiving becomes a way of life. God’s presence is accessed through the gate of thanksgiving and this becomes second nature for the Spirit-filled child of God. Divine encounters move God’s people from a mentality of defeat to a stance of faith. The newfound sense of God’s presence causes joy unspeakable. Heartfelt praise is exuberant. This is why revived people sing better.
Questions to Ponder
- According to the chapter, what happens when God manifests His presence?
- In the average church, what percent of the people do the work?
- When God invaded Wales through revival, what were some concrete ways society changed?
- According to the chapter, what is the only thing that matters during seasons of revival?
- What happens when God’s people hear and heed the Word?
- True or False? Evangelism cannot occur without revival.
- According to the chapter, what is the church’s lifeblood?
- True or False? Revival is not a goal but a gateway.
This chapter is from “Revival In Our Time” by Harold Vaughan
CLICK HERE for more information on the book.