As we look around, it’s really easy to think we’re in need of a revival, but are we actually ready for it?
When I started hearing this term thrown around in light of an insane year (pandemic, election, riots) and I’ll just add on a personal level, 3 hurricanes in 6 weeks, and the tea I drank every day for years suddenly being discontinued. Ok, that last one I tease about, but if something could go wrong, 2020 seems to be the time for it right? The other day I said to my husband after we got more bummer news, “2020 baby!” Because it kind of just feels normal at this point for everything to go so wrong.
But because of that, so many of us are left yearning for revival, echoing the Old Testament words. Oh that God would heal our land!!
“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14
I latch on to that “heal their land” bit. I want to experience that! I’ll admit, I’ve had a twisted view of revival. I always thought if I could pick the time I lived in, I’d pick a time of revival, like The Great Awakening or something. I have this idealistic picture that life just worked for them. Believers were serious about God, there was unity and surely that meant life had to be a little easier right?
Here’s the thing: Revival isn’t about our comfort.
Revival in America isn’t about getting the political leaders we want and all the right legislation to pass. It’s not about ending the conflicts in our streets. Some of that might result from revival, but we can’t desire revival because we want life to be more comfortable.
Revival actually requires things to get really uncomfortable.
Throughout history, revivals were moments of turning towards God. They required desperation and confession unlike what I think much of our country is currently prepared for.
Are we ready to talk about hell and acknowledge just how desperate we are for saving?
I was reading Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill and I got quite uncomfortable about all the hell talk. We live in an age of grace and it’s clipped the wings of the truth necessary to ever experience revival. I heard a pastor say he didn’t think we were ready for revival because as soon as someone starts confessing in prayer, we want to ta-ta them and cover it with grace without really acknowledging the depths of our sins required to really turn to God.
Want to know what I did as I was reading Ravenhill’s book? I downloaded Francis Chan’s book called Erasing Hell, the Biblical argument for the fact that hell is real. Is that weird? Like don’t I know hell is real? The language of Ravenhill and revival preachers is so strong though that it would be easy to want to refute it as too harsh. Where’s the love in that?
The answer? The love starts with repentance. The love starts when we realize our destiny apart from God.
And if we aren’t ready for that necessary part of love, I think we’ll be longing for revival wondering if God fell asleep or stopped caring.
As I’ve studied revivals through history, here’s what I’ve seen:
1. They humbled themselves and confessed their sins.
There was desperation I don’t think we’re seeing right now. Instead, we see a nation ready to justify every action. Without humility, we have no hope. Ravenhill says “Today God is bypassing men–not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient.” Are we ready to confess our own sins or are we too busy talking about how the other side is worse?
2. They grieved the state of what happens to lost souls.
I’ve already said, revivals weren’t about getting back to Comfort Level 10. They’re about seeking the lost. They were about acknowledging the depths of our depravity apart from God. They were about seeing an overwhelming number of people return to or be introduced to Jesus. Ravenhill said “Almost a million persons in the world die each week without Christ. Is this nothing to you?” How much are we grieving the lives lost to coronavirus with no thought that millions have died in the same timespan destined for eternity apart from God? That shakes me up. And if we’re not ready to confront that reality, I don’t think we’re really ready for revival. I think mostly? We’re ready for a break.
3. They prayed fervently.
Many revivals involved praying through the night. I don’t think this is a prescription that prayer must happen between 10 pm and 4 am obviously, but it sure exemplifies the desperation, the heart and fervor. Can we even fathom staying up all night to pray? Two sisters prayed through the night two nights a week for 18 months before the Hebrides revival started. If I’m honest, I get exhausted just imagining that. But that is precisely what made the way. It wasn’t casual prayer. It was persistent and passionate.
4. They repented and turned to God.
It’s not just about confessing. It’s not just about a really great spiritual high we get from Christian camp. It’s about turning away from sin and toward God. This is hard to do and we can’t do it on our own. But God is with us. God gives us the strength to resist temptation. All too often though, I knowingly choose the foolish choice. Why? Because it doesn’t seem to harm anything. Because I can rationalize 6 ways to Sunday why it’s not a big deal. Repentance takes a deliberate choice and when we come humbling, confessing, desperate, and devoted to prayer, it’s possible.
The big question is, do we still want revival?
If this is what it would take to experience it, are we ready for it? This looks different than what I was looking for and maybe many of us during this unprecedented time would look for, but I think this way yields more joy and authentic fruit than anything we could come up with our own. It addresses what lasts for a lifetime instead of putting a bandaid on a very temporary moment in time.
If you think I have this all figured out and I share it from a snooty soapbox, I’m actually right there with you. I love my comforts. I want things to “go back to normal” as much as possible. The Lord is shaking loose a lot of the things I put my identity and faith in so I can see the bigger picture. As you read all this, just know, it doesn’t all have to make sense today. I pray the Lord speaks the exact word we each need to hear from this!
This is part 1 in a two part series on experiencing a revival. Make sure to check back Thursday for the second installment!