Q: #37. What does it mean to have a revival?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Historically, revival meant something quite different than what it is often called today. In recent times, revival seems to be focused on emotional experiences, the love of God, laughing, happiness, singing, and dancing. There is little attention given to the bold preaching of God's word. Some churches even schedule revivals.
This is in great contrast to the revivals of the past. Some of the greatest revivals in history, led by such men as Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney, etc... had at their center one thing: repentance. The word of God was boldly preached, and people became so convicted about the holiness of God and their total unworthiness, that they fell to their knees in sorrow, contrition, humility, and reverence for God. The floors of the meeting places would be filled with people laying on the floor weeping. People were not focused on God's love, they were focused on God's mercy.
The word "revive" means to bring back to life, or to restore. This is what revival is supposed to be about. It is meant to bring back or restore our relationship with the Lord. And, what is it that breaks our fellowship and relationship with God: SIN. How do we bring back to life that fellowship and relationship: confession and repentance.
Great revivals of the past were never "scheduled." They happened suddenly and quite unexpectedly. And when they occurred, whole cities and counties were miraculously transformed. As these Christians became renewed in their walk with the Lord, they often found great joy and a renewed passion to share the gospel with the lost. This resulted in many others coming to faith in Christ. It is important to understand this point. In revival, one cannot be revived that was never alive. In other words, revival isn't about reviving or renewing non-Christians, since they have never been alive in the first place, but rather, it is about restoring life BACK to the Christian. Hence, the salvation of non-Christians is not what revival is about, however, it may be a byproduct or result of it.
In the Bible, we have a number of examples of what could be considered "revivals" of large groups of people. These revivals shared a common trait: God's people had fallen away from God into a backslidden condition, and as a result, their lives were miserable. However, when they repented and obeyed God, their lives were changed and "revived." For example:
(Judges 10) Israel had fallen into idolatry, and "the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel" and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines. Israel then cried out to the Lord in repentance, and God could "no longer bear the misery of Israel" (Judg 10:16). As a result, He sent a new leader to deliver them from captivity.
(2 Chr 15) Judah had strayed and backslidden. God raised up Azariah to boldly proclaim His word to King Asa and the people of Judah. As a result, they turned from their backslidden condition back to God, "and the Lord gave them rest" (2 Chr 15:15).
The book of Nehemiah contains a great example of what can constitute a true revival.
(Neh 1) Nehemiah intercedes on behalf of the sons of Israel in confession and repentance, and asks God for favor before the king to be allowed to return back to Jerusalem after the exile.
(Neh 2-4) God grants Nehemiah's request, and allows him to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, which had been destroyed when God allowed His people to be conquered because of their disobedience and refusal to repent.
(Neh 8) Ezra preached the word of God to the people in the city.
(Neh 9) The descendants of Israel confessed their sins "with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them." They spent one-fourth of the day reading from the book of the law, and another fourth in confession and worship.
(Neh 9:38) The Levites, priests, and leaders wrote up a new covenant to obey God.
(Neh 10) The rest of the people also took an oath to obey God.
Two other places to look at are (Joel 2:12-27)(Hosea 14). In addition, in (Dan 9:1-23), Daniel gives us an awesome prayer that should serve as an example to be used in revival.
When Christians turn back completely and wholeheartedly to the Lord in repentance, we will experience revival. So many Christians pray for this nation to experience revival and healing, but (2 Chr 7:14) says, "if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and heal their land." THIS is the formula for revival and healing. If you are personally in a backslidden condition, this is also how you can experience a revival in your own life. Humble yourself and repent, possibly even fasting, and when you do, you will find refreshing (Acts 3:19), mercy (Prov 28:13), and a new heart and spirit (Ezek 18:31).
(Isa 57:15) For thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, TO REVIVE the spirit of the humble, And to REVIVE the heart of the contrite ones. (caps emphasis mine)