by Tracy Laird
Revival is an interesting word, and one that we hear tossed around a lot these days. As we’ve discussed before, our nation was founded by Christian men, on Christian principles and morals, with Christian ideals and hopes for the future. But there’s no doubt that today our nation is in drastic need of “revival” and a return to the ways of God.
And there have been periods of revival on a nationwide scale, the most famous being the “Great Awakening” lead by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield around 1740. But it’s been a long time since we’ve seen such a wide-scale movement of the Holy Spirit. Why do you suppose this is?
I think largely because we need “vival” before there could be a “re”-vival. We cannot expect a great movement of God in our nation until there’s a great repentance on an individual basis in our own churches. Instead of praying so much for our nation, maybe we should pray for ourselves. We’ve become so comfortable on Sunday mornings. We come to Sunday School, sing a few songs, and hear a little preaching … and go right on with our lives with little apparent change. Some don’t like to hear this, but the evidence of this “comfortable Christianity” isn’t hard to find …it’s clearly seen in the lack of attendance and participation by our church membership. One set of statistics I’ve found recently indicated that only 1 out of 3 SBC church members attends on Sunday morning, only 12 out of every 100 on the roll attends on Sunday nights, and even fewer on Wednesday.
Tonight, I want you to take a few minutes and think. Search deep inside your hearts and minds and ask, what would revival look like in my own life, in our church? What would it mean? What would you or I do differently? How would we think about ourselves, our families, our church, our community? How would we see and understand the things going on in the world around us?
What would need to change in my life and yours? Are we truly living the way God desires for us to live, doing what needs to be done, saying what needs to be said both inside and outside of this building? Are we living lives purposefully separated from sin? Are we walking daily in the Spirit of God, living by the Word of God to accomplish the purposes of God?
The word “revival” is not found in either the Old or New Testament. And the word “revive” is found only 7 times in the OT, not once in the NT. So this is the passage I want us to consider tonight.
“1 LORD, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. 2 Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. 3 Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. 4 Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. 5 Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? 6 Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? 7 Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. 8 I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. 9 Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12 Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. 13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.”
The word “revive” here in verse 6 is a Hebrew word meaning to live, have life, remain alive, sustain life, live prosperously, live for ever, be quickened, be alive, be restored to life or health.
What has to happen in our lives for revival to occur? In verse 2 of Psalm 85, we see that first God has “forgiven the iniquity” and “covered all” the sin of His people. To be forgiven, we must first recognize our condition before God and repent. We must ask Him to correct us, forgive us, to give us His strength to overcome the sin in our own lives whether it’s sin of ‘commission’ (things we do when we shouldn’t) or ‘omission’ (things we don’t do when we should). We must intentionally seek to NOT do our will but His. We must be obedient to the commands and doctrines in His Word.
In verse 4 the Psalmist cries, “Turn us, O God of our salvation …” We cannot turn on our own. I am not good enough to do this by myself, and neither are you. But thank God that He is … He is good enough, He is merciful enough, He is loving enough to provide a way of salvation. What more could motivate us to lives of obedience and service?
In 1863, William Mackay wrote a hymn that we used to sing, based on this passage in Psalm 85 called, “Revive us Again”. I want you to really hear these words.
We praise Thee, O God!
For the Son of Thy love,
For Jesus Who died,
And is now gone above.
We praise Thee, O God!
For Thy Spirit of light,
Who hath shown us our Savior,
And scattered our night.
All glory and praise
To the Lamb that was slain,
Who hath borne all our sins,
And hath cleansed every stain.
All glory and praise
To the God of all grace,
Who hast brought us, and sought us,
And guided our ways.
Revive us again;
Fill each heart with Thy love;
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
Revive us again.
This is what revival looks like. In the fear of God’s wrath, we will repent and be forgiven. In his commentary on the Psalm we read earlier, John Gill says,
“… the anger of God is very fierce against sin and sinners; it is poured forth like fire, and there is no abiding it; but, with respect to the Lord’s people, it is pacified by the death of his Son; or he is pacified towards them for all that they have done, for the sake of his righteousness and sacrifice; and which appears to them when he manifests his love and pardoning grace to their souls;”
When we seek God’s face, we will turn from our comfort in true revival. We will “rejoice” (v. 6). We will “hear” the Word and “not turn again to folly” (v. 8). Salvation will be found by those that “fear him” (v. 9). We will declare the “mercy and truth” (v. 10) of redemption that can only be found in the Son of God.
Revival is not something we do … it’s something God does in us. It’s not just a series of extra meetings one or two weeks out of the year to hear a different preacher. We can’t work up a revival on our own any more than we can work up a hurricane. Only God can do this.
But we have a part in this. God has chosen throughout history to work THROUGH men and women to accomplish His purposes. I think we have this notion that God can and will send a revival with no effort or minimal effort on our part. Instead of praying for God to send a revival to someone or somewhere else, we need to pray in submission to His will that He will revive us, stir our own hearts to action. We need to pray for the grace and strength to ask forgiveness for and to fight the sins in our own lives.
One of my favorite preachers is Vance Havner and this is part of his testimony of revival. He says,
“I had been brought up in a Christian home, under old-fashioned preaching – sin black, hell hot, judgment certain, eternity long, and salvation free. I was converted during an old-fashioned revival – not a modern, fashionable, harmless little revival, but an old-fashioned revival that stirred the saints and saved sinners and set the angels rejoicing and put the devil’s program in reverse … where ‘grace taught our hearts to fear and grace our fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour we first believed’.”
And just as God won’t save someone against their will, He will not bring revival in us if we don’t truly want it. If we’re comfortable, if we don’t want to change things, if we like things the way they are … there’s no point in praying for revival, because it won’t come. So I ask you to consider this question again as I ask myself the same … do I really want revival in my own life? Do you? What will it take for true revival to happen? Here’s an interesting bit of history … the revival, the Great Awakening that started in 1740, began in the church pews. Church members were the ones repenting and being saved. That’s how true revival began to spread.
I mentioned earlier that the word “revival” isn’t found in Scripture. Instead, God consistently urges His people, like wandering sheep, to “return” to Him.
2 Chronicles 30:9
“For if ye turn again unto the LORD, your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land: for the LORD your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn away his face from you, if ye return unto him.”
What a beautiful verse of Scripture. Are we willing to return to God and His Word? Are we willing for revival to come in our lives? I pray that we are.
by Tracy Laird