“When God is about to do a great work, he pours out a spirit of supplication.” —Jonathan Edwards
“I do not believe in any conception of sovereignty that nullifies man’s responsibility.” —Duncan Campbell
“It is either Holy Ghost revival or apostasy.” —Jonathan Goforth
Is there a human component that precedes an outpouring? What part do people play in the divine economy? How does God resurrect a valley of dry bones? The book of Nehemiah provides insight into God’s rescue mission. Here we find four crucial elements from the revival in the days of Nehemiah. First, there was a …
Concern Resident in His Heart.
“I asked them concerning the Jews … and concerning Jerusalem” (Neh. 1:2). Nehemiah was anxious to learn how his brethren in his homeland were doing. When he heard about the desperate plight among his people, he became greatly troubled.
Before God works in a supernatural way, somebody gets stirred up. It is interesting to note that Nehemiah was not a prophet, priest, or a preacher. He was the king’s cupbearer—a businessman of sorts. Yet he had a concern deep in his heart.
During the winter of 1857-8, four young men became burdened about the spiritual conditions in Ulster, Northern Ireland. These young men met every Friday night in a schoolhouse near the town of Kells to pray for mercy. In time, two more men joined them as they called down fire from heaven. It was New Year’s Day in 1958 when they saw the first conversion. By the end of the year that prayer meeting had grown to fifty. These men prayed “for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and the surrounding country. This was the great object of and burden of our prayers. We held right to the one thing and did not run off to anything else.”
The newly built First Presbyterian Church in Ahoghill was one of the scenes where amazing things took place. One night so many people crowded into the balcony that it began to creak. The pillars holding up the balcony were driven into the floor under the tremendous weight. Fearing collapse, the people crowded into the streets. In the pouring rain and mud they knelt and cried out to God for mercy. The church still stands today with sunken posts and a sagging balcony—a monument to revival. The power of God filled Northern Ireland in 1859 and 100,000 people were converted. It all started with four young men who were burdened to see God work. Not only was a concern resident in Nehemiah’s heart, there also was a …
Catastrophe that Ravaged His Homeland.
Things could hardly be worse in Jerusalem. The city was in ruins. The remnant was in “Great affliction and reproach.” The wall was also “broken down, and the gates… burned with fire” (Neh. 1:3). The city was in shambles and nobody knew how to fix the problem. Even worse—the Jews were intermarrying with the heathen, enslaving their Jewish brethren, and polluting the house of God. The prophets were silent, the priests were passive, and the Levites were clueless. Those who should have been at the forefront in the recovery effort were sidelined.
America is financially, politically, morally, and spiritually bankrupt. Our pastors are politicized, our churches are commercialized, and the impact of Christianity is neutralized. Most churches in America have plateaued or are in a state of decline. Where are the leaders who comprehend the times in which we live? Where are men whom God can use to restore us? Where are the shepherds who carry with them the burden of the Lord? Why are congregations with a strong sense of God’s presence so rare?
“One of the most fascinating things about the age in which we live is: the world advances as never before and the Church retreats as never before …. During times of revival the Divine is so real that nothing else matters …. In times of decline, like our day, everything except the Divine matters …. If no revival comes another period like the dark ages will come, twice as dark, because those who permitted it had twice as much light!” (Source unknown) Because of the concern in his heart, Nehemiah internalized the devastation in Jerusalem and made a…
Confession which Evidenced Repentance.
Revival is judgment. It begins when God’s people side with the Lord against their own hearts. Nehemiah took it upon himself to confess the sins of his brethren. He identified himself with his people as he prayed—“We have sinned … both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee” (Neh. 1:6).
This was not a memorized prayer but the expression of a broken heart. God had been offended and the people were reaping the wages of their sin. Somebody had to come clean by assuming the sinner’s place, and then take on the role of intercessor. Nehemiah’s confession was the only way to remedy a ruined state of affairs.
Isn’t that what the Son of God did? For sins not His own He died to atone. Jesus identified with sinners by becoming sin for them. And Nehemiah took it upon himself to confess the sins of his people.
Peter, who had pledged undying loyalty to Christ, denied the Lord Jesus with cursing and swearing. But when the rooster crowed, he went out and wept bitterly. Alarmed and ashamed, Peter drenched the ground with tears of regret. When was the last time God squeezed your heart until tears flowed from your eyes? It has been said, “You can have tears without repentance, but true repentance is seldom without tears.” The weeping prophet prayed, “O that my head were waters that I might weep day and night for the daughter of the slain of my people” (Jer. 9:1).
Whenever you find an extraordinary work of God, you find people in the background who have first come clean with God on a personal level. When it comes to confession of sin the general principle is that personal sins must be confessed to God, private sins should be confessed to those involved, and public sins call for a public confession.
Jonathan Goforth, who saw incredible revivals in China, observed, “We believe, too, that as regards secret sin, i.e. sin which is known only to the individual soul and God, to confess it at the private altar is, as a rule, sufficient to ensure pardon and cleansing. We say, as a rule, because we have known of many, usually such as have been responsible for the salvation of others, e.g. ministers and Church leaders of one sort or another, for whom secret acknowledgment of sin has not been sufficient. Their agonized public confessions have shown plainly that, for them at least, there was only one way of relief.”
The next step is intercession, and this belongs only to those who have embraced the ache in God’s heart. They have entered into the agony that God feels about the conditions. Somehow God transfers His burden and pain to these praying people and they are plunged into a baptism of anguish, which causes them to plead with God. In Nehemiah’s case we see a …
Cry that Revived His Heritage.
Note carefully the words of the cupbearer: “When I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4). This was not a short-lived flash of emotion. It was not a momentary moving because he sat down and fasted certain days. He was consumed with the tragedy in Jerusalem. He entered into an agony of heart, which compelled him to fast and plead with God for recovery.
Passive praying for revival is not enough; we must intensely long for and actively pursue it. It is said that, for ten years prior to the 1859 revival in Ireland, David Morgan never prayed in public without praying for revival. From 1897 many young ministers were meeting to pray for revival in Wales. After the 1904 Welsh revival, R. B. Jones commented on the prayer times among these young preachers, “This fellowship intensified their hunger, bringing it at last to a pitch near to desperation.” Another pastor recalled that on a Saturday evening, when his sermon preparation was finished, he spent time in prayer and “there would come upon him such a power as would crush [him] to tears and agonizing praying.”
A God-given burden is vastly different from human concern. It is one thing to be moved when we become aware of a need. Our heart is stirred when we see pictures of starving children in foreign lands. But hours later we have forgotten about them. Nehemiah experienced something far deeper than a fleeting stirring. His emotions were so moved that it became deeply felt and acutely painful. The extreme distress of his heart obligated him to cry out to God certain days.
The conditions gripped him before his prayers moved God. Nehemiah wept, and then he worked. He was burdened before he built. This man uttered a heart-cry which led to a revival of his heritage.
I recall a pastor that God honored with a powerful local church revival. Before the Lord visited his church he prayed, “Lord, if you are not going to do it here, then send me where you are going to work powerfully!” This man was not interested in piddling his life away. He was hungry for a manifestation of the glory of God.
Are you looking for a better day in Zion? Are you longing for a “fire fall” in our day? Are you or your loved ones in bondage? Is there a matter in your life that only God can remedy? Is there someone dear to you who needs God’s healing touch? Are you desperate for revival?
In conservative circles we’ve held on to our religious rhetoric and “revival talk,” but it typically produces little or nothing. We have become so passive and complacent. It is rare to find a preacher or a saint with even an inkling as to what is really going on, and more importantly, what needs to take place!
Does it bother you that the modern church is in ruins? Does it bother you that the majority of Christians seem to be married to the world? Most of the churches, which are not in apostasy, are on life support. How can we pride ourselves on our doctrinal precision and superior “stands” when the glory of God is seldom seen and felt?
God’s view of current conditions is different from our earthbound perspective. There is a desperate need for saints to get on speaking terms with God and become instruments of intercession. If you are not currently carrying a God-initiated “prayer burden,” will you set your face toward heaven by mourning, fasting, and praying?
Revival begins when we are in such union with God that His burden becomes our burden. Like those days when the early church was birthed, the fullness of the Holy Spirit led those disciples to pray fervently, baptized them with incredible passion, and anointed them with heavenly power. Such was the impact that the early Christians were described as “these that have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Never forget that it was a ten-day prayer meeting that paved the way for the Spirit falling at Pentecost. All revival is preceded and sustained with heartfelt prayer. There are always those behind-the-scenes persons who pour themselves out in intercession. Will you be one of them?
Questions to Ponder
- According to the chapter, what was Nehemiah anxious about?
- During the winter of 1857-8, four young men became burdened about the spiritual conditions in Ulster. What did these young men do about their burden?
- When did these young men see their first conversion?
- What amazing event occurred at the First Presbyterian Church in Ahoghill?
- How many people were converted in Northern Ireland in 1859?
- According to the chapter, revival is judgment that begins when?
- What was Nehemiah’s only way to remedy a ruined state of affairs?
- According to the chapter, how did Jesus identify with sinners?
- When was the last time God squeezed your heart until tears flowed from your eyes?
- For ten years prior to the 1859 revival in Ireland, who reportedly never prayed in public without praying for revival?
This chapter is taken from Revival In Our Time: Outside The Box, Inside The Book! written by Harold Vaughan
CLICK HERE for more information on the book.