Preparing our hearts for revival
The hour is late... a three-part series by Baptist minister Don Attenborough
As we look at the state of our world today with its increasing ungodliness, violence, crime, economic difficulties, wars and rumours of wars that may draw world powers into another world war, it's not hard to see that the judgement of God hangs over us and the time of our Christ’s Second Coming therefore must be very close indeed; but before he is fully seen by all there is of course the rapture of the Church! (1 Thess 4: 15-18)
The hour is late, as someone has described the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus, just ‘five minutes before midnight’ in the history of the world; the midnight moment of our Lord’s return like a ‘thief in the night’ who comes unexpectedly; but God is merciful and continues to shake the nations and is, I believe, about to shake our nation bringing the revival we so desperately need.
It has been said that ‘When Christianity retreats, evil steps in to fill the gap!’; that is just what is happening in our nation today, the Church has become generally worldly and lukewarm in its love for Christ and is in great need of hearing and acknowledging the wake up calls God is issuing in many ways.
False religions increase all around us and get stronger year on year along with a growth anti-religious thinking; I say ‘generally’ because there are some areas where the church is indeed growing, and I obviously rejoice when I hear of those various communities of believers in this or that part of our country faithfully serving and witnessing for Christ in their communities, and bearing fruit for him.
I am convinced then that the rapture, that time when Jesus takes his Church out of the world just prior to his Second Coming and before the start of the great tribulation, is at hand, but God is faithful and does not want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9); so he waits for his people to pray as never before for an awakening of the Church.
Such an awakening will be a time of refreshing, renewal and revival on a scale, I believe, unlike any other before it within our nation. It will be a time when God will pour out the Holy Spirit drawing the Church back to a deeper relationship with him and this will result in a fresh and re-energised emphasis on evangelism when thousands upon thousands will be converted to Christ.
True God-sent revival of the church has always brought not just renewal for the Church, but widespread conversion to Jesus.
What we need today more than anything else is to see God’s glory falling on our nation as he fell on many occasions in the life of Israel in the Old Testament, and the Church in the New Testament, to restore them back to where they should be in their relationship with him; they were times when the glory of God descended to the amazement of the people.
What we need in the UK today is a mighty manifestation of the glory of God in revival power with signs following. Revival is when God reveals himself in awesome holiness and irresistible power; it is a time, as one Christian writer expressed it,
“…when he visits the world of men and women to impart a fresh vision of his power and grace, which simultaneously reveals our sinfulness, inadequacy and desperate need of his mercy. During times of revival God's people are restored from backsliding, carelessness and inactivity and they become preoccupied with the things of God; they become intensely prayerful, attending God's house more frequently for fellowship and worship, they develop a hunger for the preached word which illuminates and powerfully penetrates the hearts of its hearers bringing conviction of our sin. Believers develop a new passion for souls and become deeply concerned about the spiritual welfare of the lost.”
Some say ‘It is not revival we need but repentance’. Study again the history of revival, it begins with repentance and renews and refreshes the souls of spiritually dead believers!
In the Welsh revival of 1905 the nation was changed in a matter of weeks. Thousands upon thousands of unsaved people were, in a short time, moved by a heavenly influence to get right with God.
The public houses and places of leisure were almost emptied and work areas were ablaze with talk about salvation; the old hymns were sung on the way to, and down the mines and new ones were composed; the churches over-flowed with the unconverted wanting to get saved from God’s coming judgement on the world for its sin and rejection of his Son Jesus Christ.
Revival is a sovereign act of God that renews God’s people through repentance and a fresh baptism in the Holy Spirit with major affects on the whole community, or communities where it starts; the fire of the Spirit then spreads out consuming all in its path! For God’s people it’s a fresh discovery of Jesus and a fresh baptism of Holy Spirit fire, yet it is also God’s response to the heart cry of his people in prayer for their nation, their cities, their towns, their villages, their local communities, their neighbours and their unsaved family!
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was, I believe, never meant to end; the Spirit fell and thousands of people were converted to faith in Christ. Yes, it all began at Pentecost 2000 years ago, but time and again God’s people have lost their way and in his mercy through the centuries God has stepped in and revived them again and again sending times of refreshing and fulfilling his promise to pour water on the spiritually dry ground; he is still doing so around the world today.
In this way God fulfils and keeps his promise in Ezekiel 34:26 “And I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing.” I am reminded as I write of an old ‘Sankey’ hymn which has the chorus:
“Showers of blessing, Showers of blessing we see,
Mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead!”
Yet there are those that argue there will be no revival and it is therefore useless spending time praying for it. If that were true, then I ask ‘why is it in the scriptures and why did the prophets of old plead with God for it?’ Isaiah cried out to God with the words, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down that the mountains would tremble before you!” Is that not a cry for renewal and revival?
Isn’t the Psalmist cry in Psalm 85: 4 “Restore us again, O God our Saviour”, a heart felt plea for revival? Didn’t Josiah, Ezra and Nehemiah, among others, see renewal and revival in their day? Yes they did! Why? Because God is merciful and loves his people, and none of us know when we have passed the point whereby judgement on a nation and on a sleeping Church has been reached and cannot be averted, so we here and read of revival throughout the history of the Church! Why has God given revival again and again if there is no promise?
The Gospel is being preached in every corner of the globe and increasing more and more through the internet, Christian television and radio and ever more Christian books being written and with copies of the bible now in almost every language.
If we search the internet through Christian news sites we will discover amazing things happening in the Church; like in North Africa from Mauritania to Libya and in particularly in Algeria where Muslims are coming to Christ in large numbers.
There is revival in Egypt among Coptic believers where churches are packed out; also in war-torn Iraq and in China where within a few years the nation is set to have the largest population of Christian in the world.
We must not forget that the African continent as a whole has risen from 9 million Christians to 541 million in the last century, but as the Archbishop of York John Sentamu said earlier this year, “…it is renewal and revival, both at a personal and corporate level that are necessary today…Christians today must do a regular spiritual workout with honest self examination conducted in the searchlight of Christ’s all seeing, ever gracious love.”
The constant news of growth in the Christian faith and the news of renewal and revival around the world are both amazing and breathtaking; but it also points to the closeness of Christ’s Second Coming when the full number of the saints has been gathered in and Jesus comes to collect them. (Romans 11: 25 & Mark 13: 26-27) In the meantime there is constant need to pray for renewal and revival for where there is renewal there can be revival and where there is revival there is always renewal.
In all the revivals I have ever read about, there is at their heart the spirit of prayer. The passage often quoted from the Old Testament when Christians are speaking of prayer about revival is that of 2 Chron 7:14, “If my who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, the will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
I believe, unlike some, that this text is ever true for us as it was for Israel, as all scripture through all generations is for the believer’s instruction (2 Tim 3:16). I believe that what is vitally important for us all today is that we prepare our hearts for revival!
This three part series continues with part two: 'How to prepare our lives for revival'
Don Attenborough is a Baptist minister