Growing up, I remember the announcement every year in church: “Ladies, please sign up to bring food for next week’s revival services.” I loved that announcement. Why? Several reasons: Home-made fried chicken, sour dough bread, mashed potatoes, and CHOCOLATE PIE!!!
Revival: The very word has different meanings for different people. For some, it means week-long meetings in the Fall and Spring (with lots of fried chicken). For others it means gathering for services two or three times a day for intense worship and prayer.
The biblical concept of revival refers to an awakening in which the souls of believers are stirred toward greater affections for Christ. It is a time in which men draw close to God as God draws close to them (James 4:8) and the presence of God seems unusually strong (Psalm 16:11).
I can’t imagine any believer who does not desire revival. Which begs the question, “Who is responsible for revival? -God or man?” Since only God can grant revival, should we take a passive “wait and see” position, or is there something we can be doing to prepare for revival? It really comes down to the age-old issue of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.
God has given men the responsibility to break up “fallow ground,” (Jeremiah 4:3) knowing that He alone can bring revival. R.C. Sproul and Archie Parrish point out that, “the role of the Church is not to produce revival but to prepare for it.” II Chronicles 7:14 highlights man’s responsibility to “humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways…” before God sovereignly “…hear(s) from heaven and forgive(s) their sin and heal(s) their land.”
Such a situation occurred with Charles Simeon, the eighteenth-century pastor who, despite heavy resistance from his congregation, prayed eleven years for revival. During the twelfth year, God brought a revival resulting in a ministry that raised up Inter-Varsity, the Cambridge Seven, a mission to China, and C.T. Studd.
Referencing Isaiah 62 in his book Revival, Martyn Lloyd-Jones proclaims, “Give him no rest, give yourself no rest. Keep on. Bombard God. Bombard heaven until the answers come.” Certainly, this is a call to responsibility. But the very act of calling upon God admits man’s dependence on His sovereignty.
In the late twentieth century, Dr. Cornell Haan joined other evangelicals in an effort to draw believers to pray for revival. The effort was named the “Lighthouse Movement,” calling for people to become lighthouses of prayer in their neighborhoods and communities. Haan expressed his belief in man’s responsibility to pray for revival as well as God’s exclusive ability to grant it.
When one looks at the history of revival, it is obvious that revival comes in answer to prayer. And who sets the church to praying? It is God himself. If God is stirring the church to pray, then how can we believe anything else but that revival is on the way? He is calling His church –and you as a lighthouse– to pray!
Another way to view the implications of man’s responsibility and God’s sovereignty is in the ways Scripture describes the Spirit’s work in revival. At this point, Lloyd-Jones makes a clarification explaining that being filled with the Spirit is man’s responsibility while revival is a work of God’s sovereignty. He states:
Now, that is precisely what happens in revival. It is God pouring forth his Spirit, filling his people again. It is not that which is talked of in Ephesians 5:18, which is the command to us, “Go on being filled with the Spirit.” That is something you and I do, but this is something that is done to us.
So what can we do -in light of God’s sovereignty- to prepare and plead for revival?
1) Start by “breaking up your fallow ground” (Jeremiah 4:3). Till the soil of your heart. Repent of sin and humble yourself before God.
3) Pray, Pray, and Pray. Beg God for revival. Ask Him to start in your own heart. Call upon Him to awaken your church. Be so bold as to plea for a global movement of His spirit around the world!