“Then we will not turn away from you; revive us, and we will call on your name”. (Psalm 80:18)
Revival is the heartbeat of God; Revival is the lifeline to the world. It proceeds from the heart of God to the heart of man. God breathed into man and made him a living being, and he is still breathing in to the lost conditions of humanity to bring it to life. Revival is in God’s agenda all the time, even in our times! The river still flows to fill the thirsty land.
1.What is Revival?
Revival is one of the many other words which we use more than we understood. The Cambridge calls it ‘to come or bring something back to life, health, existence, or use’. Miriam Webster means it as ‘renewed attention to or interest in something’. In the Biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek, the word Revival has far more correlation to the spirit of the word. In Hebrew the word ‘Chayah’, which means ‘to live or ‘cause to Live’ is used. In Greek among the word ‘anazao’ (to live again) is used for Revival. Though some would prefer ‘restoration’ as the closer word, my personal preference would be ‘resurrection’ in this case. I would also like to call revival as the great comeback’ or ‘back to God’. In definition ‘Revival is the return to where we belong, to God and to his purposes’. It’s important to know that when we understand Revival, it should be from the perspective of the ‘state of being lost’ and ‘what triggers the comeback’. Any Revival starts with an individual, then community, and then multitudes according to God’s choice. It can happen at different places at different times in different magnitude as the Lord has purposed it. So when we talk about Revival, its not just the mass movements, but also those small moves of God at a particular moment in a particular region. Usually large moves are visible which is convenient to infer upon, otherwise we must value every move of God. Like every raindrop contributes to the flood, every big move has a small origin. Every move of God matters, and everyone in the move matters in Revival!
Do it again Lord!
In 1940 Dr. J. Edwin Orr took a group of Wheaton College students to study abroad in England. One of their stops included the Epworth Rectory. The rectory now serves as a Methodist museum, but it was the home of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. In one of the bedrooms, there are two impressions where it is believed that John Wesley regularly knelt in prayer. As the students were getting back on the bus, Dr. Orr noticed that one student was missing. Going back upstairs, Dr. Orr found a young Billy Graham kneeling in those kneeholes and praying, “O Lord, do it again!” .
Nothing captured my attention in this familiar story than the prayer in the end “O Lord, do it again!”. One reason is obvious that ‘Prayer is the pathway to any Revival’, because no Revival is possible without prayer. Prayer proceeds from the heart of God and poured in to the heart of a willing man where the seeds of Revival are sown. Second is the righteousness found in that prayer, because no Revival is possible through human will or efforts, it originates from God and his will. Revival is the act of God, where he uses what he chooses. It carries his complete sovereign authority. And this inspired prayer of Rev. Billy emphasizes that foundational message.
God, the Author
“But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” Genesis 3:9
I consider this verse as the first Revival sermon of the Bible! After the fall through disobedience, the first family was filled with guilt and hid themselves from God’s presence. All man could do was hide himself from God’s presence in guilt, and what God did was search for the lost and the fallen man. We can see a contrast on how God and man reacted to the fall. I think this incident clearly tells who the Author of Revival is. It is the one who searched for the lost. No man can initiate revival by his own strength, goodness or burden. Revival begins when God initiates in his own perfect will. Then what is man’s role in Revival? Is he just a spectator or a participant? The answer is, he is a participant. God invites people to participate in this mission, in this God movement (Missio dei). I believe understanding Revival from this perspective of God being the originator is the most basic knowledge of any who seek Revival in our times.
The First of many Revivals
“Seth also had a son and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD”. Genesis 4:26.
Is Enosh the first Revivalist? I do not know. But I know this; in his time the world has seen the first revival. I always get fascinated about the depth of some ‘not so popular verses’’ but it does give enormous meaning. if we are willing to give it, its value! ‘At the time people began to call on the name of the Lord’. After the first family was evicted from the Garden of Eden, the result of sin became evident by the series of events that was occurring in the first family. Murder, adultery and Idolatry were visible to see and they were completely lost, and then came a new hope in the time of Enosh where God turned an entire generation to call on his name and commune with him. God chose that generation for a specific purpose, and we can see that this pattern is seen through revival in Biblical times as well times after. There is a generation God chooses for revival to come in to maturity or become its beneficiaries to a great extent. There is a reason why I call it maturity; I believe revival doesn’t happen in a day; it’s a process in which God includes every generation. It is like a farmer who sows the seed in a season and works everyday on it till the day the crops are matured for the Harvest in a different season. It’s also like cooking a delicious meal where we prepare all the ingredients separately and cook it together till a certain point where we can say the meal is cooked. God not only chooses the time but also chooses the person or people through whom Revival becomes a reality. He not only prepares a generation, he also prepares a person or a group to carry forward the revival. A good example is Moses, in his time people were crying out to God for deliverance, but in the meantime God was preparing a person through whom he decided to fulfill his good purpose. A person who is not personally revived cannot revive others. It was not an accident that Moses was in the Egyptian palace, in the wilderness, and in the house of Midian priest. He was shaped as a Leader of people, Shepherd of God’s household and Priest of the most high in these places. God shapes every vessel to fulfill the purpose for which it was made. God doesn’t choose anybody, his plans are always specific. Every Revival that followed from David, Josiah, Nehemiah, John the Baptist, Apostles to the ones outside the Biblical times such as the Franciscan Friar movement, the Reformation,the Great awakenings in England and America, Welsh, Azusa street, Korean and many others throughout history followed a specific pattern and had a specific impact in a specific time. Every revival inspired the subsequent others, it was like the effect of a domino or a wildfire but it all fulfilled God’s purpose in their own special way.
2. Revival, the process:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. Hewas waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him”. Luke 2:25.
Is there a process for Revival, or does it occurs suddenly? I often tell people that God doesn’t do anything without preparation. If there is a preparation there is a process. God doesn’t wake up one day and decide to bring Revival. He is continuously working towards Revival. And as I earlier told, it is the heartbeat of God. Jesus in John 4: 37 &38 makes this clear “Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” The Revival in the time of Apostles did not begin with them; God chose that generation to reap what was already sown. God always kept a Remnant who sought the Revival and an unbroken chain of influence always could be traced back to God in the beginning, even if it was not visible (1Kings 19:18). Simeon, at the Jerusalem temple was one such person who was eager waiting and praying for the consolation of Israel. So how does this Revival get built up? What is the seed Jesus was talking about?
a) Seed of Faithful Prayer:
Prayer is the desire of the heart; it is just the smoke of the fire within. God’s children of many generations faithfully looked forward to the seasons of Revival in prayer. Their hearts were grieved when they saw the lost condition of their people and cried out to God continuously, the prophets of Israel motivated the people to look forward to the days of Revival. When Jesus spoke about the day of his promise he said this, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”. The deliverance during Moses time didn’t come suddenly; it was the result of faithful prayers of many unknown people for many years and centuries. Those faithful prayers give the fruit of visible Revival in God’s time.
b) Seed of Consecration:
The process of Revival involves the consecrated living of the chosen remnant. The faith of one generation affects the other. God raised prophets in the time of crisis to warn the flock of dangers of sin. The consecrated life of Daniel and his friends, the cry of Ezekiel for Holiness from the exile and Ezra seeking commitment of consecration from the people of Judah are all the seeds of Revival. They say small droplets become an ocean, all the commitment of Individuals and families to walk in the ways of the Lord in the previous generations were seeds planted for the future Revival. The family of the righteous Zechariah brought forth the Revivalist named John the Baptist. I believe every season of Revival has its plant watered through time to grow and bear fruit, it’s in this undeterred commitment it blossoms. God works through this process of making his plans known through his consecrated people.
c) Obedience to the call:
The obedience to God’s call through generations is important for Revival. Abraham’s obedience to the call, Ruth’s obedience to her call, Isaiah obedience to his call and Jeremiah’s obedience to his call is important to the consummation of Revival. I picked out these names, because in their time they didn’t see the large outcome of Revival but they still obeyed what was given to them hoping for the future awakening among their people. The obedience of Mary and Joseph was important to see the greatest of all Revivals, the revival in Jesus times which impacted the whole earth.
The plant gives fruit in its season, but it still grows. In the same way Revival is a process towards a great outpour.
“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them”. Acts 2:3.
Revival always begins with God’s community. It starts with the people of his pasture before it impacts others. Especially it begins with repentance and realization of God’s children, the disciples realized of their mistakes and repented and then God used them for Revival.
He always raised up a leader to influence God’s children towards Revival. Revival is the overflow of what happens within the community of the faithful. In the Old Testament we see kings like Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah influence as leaders to bring Revival, then Exilic leaders like Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and Ezra, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah they all took the responsibility to revive God’s community for a specific task. Even in the times of Esther the revival among God’s people influenced the entire kingdom. Jesus was clear about his ministry, he said ‘I came to the lost sheep of Israel’, it was not meant that he didn’t care for others. He was clear where Revival must start, that’s among the chosen. He also laid the pattern for it to his disciples as he said that you will be a witness to me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. A leader is prepared, and then a community is prepared to see a mighty move of God’s spirit. A good example modern day Revival is of John Wesley and the Holy club at the Oxford University, that particular community was prepared to influence in Britain, USA and the rest of the world.
It’s also important to talk about how God influences a revival in his community. He moves their heart and stirs up the spirit. In the book of Haggai we see God stirred up Zerubbabel and Joshua to build the temple, during the Exodus for the work of the tent of the meeting, God stirred up the people and prompted their spirit (Exodus 35:21), and everyone whose hearts were stirred joined the mission. A great example is the Apostles whom God used to bring great Revival both among the Jews and the Gentiles, they had to wait for the Holy Spirit to be poured, to empower them for the task. And across generations in the Church age, Revival always occurred when God moved the hearts and stirred up the spirit of God’s faithful.
Even in our times God will first prepare the Church to influence the world. Holy Spirit will express itself only through the body of Christ which is the Church, and the Church must give itself to the movement of the Holy Spirit. God will not bring revival apart from his community which is the church, but he may not need everybody. He needs those who can grasp the heart of God towards Revival. Those who are willing to catch that fire!!
4. Signs of Revival in the Church:
There will be visible signs in the Church during Revival. In the Early church age or the apostolic age, we could see these signs being evident in the Church. The same signs existed in the times of Moses, Ezra, during great awakenings and other Revivals across the world.
A) A thirst for Prayer, Fellowship and knowing God’s word:
They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
Whether it’s an individual or a community, the first and foremost signs of Revival is Prayer. We can see the apostles and the early church devoted themselves to prayer, fellowship and teaching. If this is found in great Zeal then it means God is going to use that particular community for revival. It would not be just prayers; it will be passionate, zealous with tears and deep groaning in the spirit. They will not consider anything greater than being at the Lord’s presence and pray. It will not be just fellowships but a community filled with care, desire and goodwill for each other, they hardly could be without each other. It will not be just hearing a short sermon, they will forget every other needs and just sit in God’s presence to hear God’s word and know him through it. It seeks an understanding of God and his wisdom. During the Great Awakening in America, they say Rev. George Whitfield used to preach for hours together and people would not move a bit, such was the thirst, they heard till they were satisfied.
B) A great desire for Holiness and Unity:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Acts 2: 44, 45.
The signs of Revival within the Church will see a great desire for Holiness and Unity. In the Apostolic age we can see the believers were united in spirit, they not only came to have fellowship, they had one mind in everything they did. One of the evidence was that they had everything in common and had the same attitude. There is also a great desire for Holiness; God’s community will seek to please the Lord in Everything. The Church would be truly light and salt, that’s why when Ananias and Sapphira lied about the offering the Lord struck them down, because the Community was filled with such consecration, a lie in the presence of the Lord was severely condemned.
C) Equipped and Empowered with Spiritual fruits and gifts:
The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. Acts 5:12.
During the Revival the Church will see itself being equipped and empowered with the Holy Spirit, with manifestations of both Gifts and Fruits growing among the brethren, the Church would be equipped for the Lord’s service in powerful ways. There were signs and wonders, miracles and healing, preaching and teaching, serving and administering, prophecy and encouragement in the Revival during Apostolic age. They were also filled with fruits which was evident of their fellowship and unity. So during Revival the Church will see being equipped in full measure.
D) Sacrifice and Martyrdom:
As Stephen was being stoned to death, he called out, “Lord Jesus, please welcome me!” Acts 7:59.
One of the signs of the revived community is sacrificial giving, when the tabernacle was built during the times of Moses people gave freely and willingly, even in Apostles time they sold everything and put their money at the Apostles feet. The sacrifice of the community will be evident, and also there will be great zeal for the Lord that God’s community will not hesitate to give their lives for the Lord. Stephen and James were killed, Peter and the church was persecuted. Many Revivals in the history has seen great sacrifices by the community of God’s people.
E) Burden for the Lost:
The twelve apostles called the whole group of followers together and said, “We should not give up preaching God’s message in order to serve at tables. Acts 6:2.
The signs of Revival would also include great burden for the lost and the ones who are astray, the Community will not remain self satisfied with it but wants to reach out, it will be filled with great burden for those who are lost. After Stephens’s martyrdom the Church was scattered and wherever they went they preached God’s word. There will be desire to spread out and to seek those who are far off. Nehemiah a man of Revival could not hold his burden at the citadels of Susa, he went to Jerusalem. All Revival movements in a particular have always paved way for mission movements across the nation and the globe.
5. Impacts of Revival in the World:
These men who have turned the world upside down have now come here… Acts 17:6
Revival begins among God’s community but its actual target is the world. Why God sends Revival among his people? It is to impact and transform the world around. As Abraham was called to be a blessing to all nations, the community of God, the Church too is called to be a blessing to the world. Since the Holy Spirit is the source of Revival in God’s community, I want to explain this based on His functions.
And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. John 16:8.
The Revival which was surged in by the spirit among God’s community will influence the Church to impact the world through its characters. Three fundamental characteristics of the Holy Spirit are given here. He will convict the world of Sin, of God’s Righteousness, and the coming Judgment, and I categorize it as Reconciliation, Reformation and Reign.
A) Convict the world of sin (Repentance or Reconciliation):
“With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day”. Acts 2:40, 41.
The proclamation of the message of the Gospel provides the greatest impact of revival in the world. The witnessing to the risen savior personally and in multitudes have caused greatest transformation and offered hope to millions and millions throughout centuries. Revival impacts the world by convicting the people of their sins. There will be a great cry of deliverance, and people will repent from sinful ways and turn to the Lord. In the times of Jonah, the people of Nineveh were so deeply convicted of their sins; People came to John the Baptist and confessed their sins. Many Revival movements ended up in great number of people repent from their sins and accepted the message of the Gospel, the open air meetings in the times of Revival had brought thousands to the truth, it caught like fire across the world. As the result of repentance of their sins and acceptance of the message, the church will be planted. Revival movements always ended in Church planting where new communities of faith were established in large numbers and leaders were raised among new believers. Repentance and Reconciliation with God will also bring healing in to human relationships, families will be built up, and communities which are divided will be healed. We could see in the Apostolic Revival in the early Church age, the Jews and Greeks who were poles apart and had such animosity reconciled to be a community of faithful through the Church. The Azusa street Revival in 1906 at Los Angeles brought both White and Black community in large numbers and there was healing and goodwill. This is evident in all the Revivals.
B) God’s Righteousness (Reformation):
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
Revivals not only cause spiritual awakening, and the proclamation of the message. It also seeks righteousness and justice in the society. God’s righteousness demands justice in our societies. Revival movements have impacted a great deal in bringing social justice in the world. The ministry of Christ was filled with inspiration to serve the poor and sought justice in the society, the Apostles served the poor and the first Jerusalem Council requested Apostle. Paul to remember the poor which was one of the fundamental doctrines of the Church, the prophets of the old sought justice in communities, even the tenants of Mosaic Law was filled with justice. Any Spiritual revival always accompanied Social transformation. The revivals during Jesus and the When Rev. Billy Graham was preaching to thousands calling them to repentance, Rev. Martin luther jr. was seeking justice in societies in America. Revival causes awareness to social justice and righteousness in societies. Schools, hospitals among the poor and other reform centers are all fruits and symbols of Revival. A Revived community full of Spirit cannot tolerate social evils. Revival brings reformation and enables the world to see the truth in righteousness. In the times of John Wesley movement, on the other side of the world, Missionary William Carey was striving to abolish Sati in India, and worked towards equality and social justice in Indian Societies. Reformation works towards everything which makes people lives better, it inspires the society to be more holistic in every area of life. It benefits the world for good, the places where revival took place we could see development; it inspires people to make best use of God given resources.
C) Coming Judgment (Reign):
I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. Haggai 2:6
Revival prepares the world for the coming of the Lord, especially for the Righteous reign of Christ. The coming judgment symbolizes the sovereign authority of Christ ,there is no power beside him. Revival shows the power of the Almighty in turning mass multitudes of people towards him, which always shakes and puts world powers in to fear. First and foremost the satanic forces and powers trembles about Revival, during Revival the power of God’s spirit will bring deliverance to many under satanic oppressions, Witchcrafts, occults and all chains of pagan spiritism will be broken by God’s power. This was visible in all Revivals, especially during the times of Jesus and in the ministry of the Apostles there was deliverance and healing in the lives of people in large magnitudes. Revival also shakes the powers of the world. One of the most powerful rulers in the history of the world, Nebuchadnezzar was shown a Dream by God, what he saw was a Rock which came rolling and shattered the big statue which represented all the kingdoms of the world. It is nothing but the revelation of the Kingdom of God and Christ which will end dominion of all kingdoms and break the dominion of satan once and for all. We can see in Revival history that world powers were shaken during the mighty outpour. In the times of Moses , the powers of Pharaoh was broken, and all the Canaanite kings were dismissed. In Jesus time, John the Baptist created fear in the hearts of the powerful rulers, Herod was terrified by the announcement of Christ’s arrival. The great Roman powers could not stop the surge of the Gospel but surrendered, this has happened all through the Revival history, we know what happened during reformation, and the changes it brought in the modern Europe. The fears of Communist China and Russia, to even let Bible in their countries once,show how much of trembling the Gospel and God’s Revival can cause to earthly powers. Many brave men and women of God lost their lives to the fear of these world powers, but God’s kingdom marches on and will not be stopped. This is what Revival does in our world; it shakes the world powers and prepares the world to the Dominion of Christ.
6.The Market Place Revival:
I want to end this with a fascinating story of Revival in the Market place, it is to show how God can turn a time of crisis in to an opportunity for a heavy spiritual downpour which not only impacted lives but also revived the economy. When I read this I was reminded about the Revival in the times of Haggai where a community which was going through a deep spiritual economic crisis was revived spiritually and was blessed abundantly in the work of their hands. When God promised His people, ‘From this day I will bless you’. Haggai 2:19.
This is a record of something God did 150 years ago in New York City. It illustrates how God has started every harvest time in history through the concerted prayer of his people. Toward the middle of the 19th century the glow of earlier religious awakenings had faded. America was prosperous and felt little need to call on God.
But in the 1850s, secular and religious conditions combined to bring about a crash. The third great panic in American history swept the giddy structure of speculative wealth away. Thousands of merchants were forced to the wall as banks failed, and railroads went into bankruptcy. Factories were shut down and vast numbers were thrown out of employment. New York City alone had 30,000 idle men. In October 1857, the hearts of people were thoroughly weaned from speculation and uncertain gain, while hunger and despair stared them in the face. On 1st July, 1857, a quiet and zealous business man named Jeremiah Lanphier took up an appointment as a City Missionary in down-town New York. Lanphier was appointed by the North Church of the Dutch Reformed denomination.
This church was suffering from depletion of membership due to the removal of the population from the down-town to the better residential quarters, and the new City Missionary was engaged to make diligent visitation in the immediate neighborhood with a view to enlisting church attendance among the floating population of the lower city. The Dutch Consistory felt that it had appointed an ideal layman for the task in hand, and so it was. Burdened so by the need, Jeremiah Lanphier decided to invite others to join him in the noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. He therefore distributed a handbill…
This meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers, and business men generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.
Accordingly at twelve noon, 23rd September, 1857 the door was opened and the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation …. Five minutes went by. No one appeared. The missionary paced the room in a conflict of fear and faith. Ten minutes elapsed. Still no one came. Fifteen minutes passed. Lanphier was yet alone. Twenty minutes; twenty-five; thirty; and then at 12.30 p.m., a step was heard on the stairs, and the first person appeared, then another, and another, and another, until six people were present and the prayer meeting began. On the following Wednesday, October 7th, there were forty intercessors.
Thus in the first week of October 1857, it was decided to hold a meeting daily instead of weekly.Within six months, ten thousand business men were gathering daily for prayer in New York, and within two years, a million converts were added to the American churches.
Undoubtedly the greatest revival in New York’s colourful history was sweeping the city, and it was of such an order to make the whole nation curious. There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, simply an incredible movement of the people to pray. (Used the narration from the
9.A Call for Revival:
We are living times where people are losing hope in the systems of the world; there is a sense of hopelessness everywhere. In such times as these, God has always acted and has sent forth his special grace and favour. God is willing to move powerfully even in our times, if we choose to believe, and has the willingness to surrender. The question is, are we willing to join his move, his movement, like those of previous times had done? Are we willing to catch the fire? Are we going to get drenched in the rain? This Revival is going to be unique, may be the culmination of all that we saw before, and may be much more special. I could call it ‘The Great Revival; of the Lord, but it requires selfless submission, there can be sacrifices involved like never before, it would require faith and resilience, and a deep conviction to give it all, come what may! Our hearts need to be broken, our knees have to be strengthened, and eyes have to be filled with tears for the world filled with hopelessness. Yet, the promise is greater and the road to it is eternal, as the word says, ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with joy’, Are we ready take the path along with God which leads to the Revival of our times?
10.Prayer of Surrender
God I pray and yearn for your move once again in our world, I receive the call of yours to join the mighty move of your spirit in the times we are living in. I surrender and pledge myself for this great cause. Sanctify me, prepare me, equip me and use me along with all those you have chosen in your foreknowledge. I yield myself in to your guiding hands. ‘Do it again, Lord!’ Amen.
I see a generation
Rising up to take their place
With selfless faith, with selfless faith
I see a near revival
Stirring as we pray and seek
We’re on our knees, we’re on our knees
Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna in the highest