We hear it all the time. “A revival is coming to America.” “We are praying for revival.” “Only revival will save America.” Everywhere you look, there are prophecies about the coming revival. But sometimes I wonder if most American Christians really want revival, or if they just want a religious experience that makes the feel good.
American Christians are comfortable. Even the poorest American is richer and safer than most people in the world. True revival would make them uncomfortable. True revival will mess you up.It will challenge you. It will change your perspective and your life. It will humble you when God moves on you in unexpected ways. It will explode your theology and understanding. It will put you at odds with the culture – even the modern Christian pop culture. So the question is do we really want revival? Here are some of the ways revival manifested itself in the book of Acts and throughout history.
Intense unified prayer proceeds a move of God. In Acts 2:1, the disciples were all praying in one place and one accord. Before the First Great Awakening, the Moravians started a prayer meeting in 1727 that lasted one hundred years. The Great Awakening was said to be in its greatest intensity between 1727 and 1757. If we truly want revival, we will pray for a spirit of revival prayer to sweep through the church.
Signs and Wonders Accompany Revival. This is hard for some to accept. When revival comes, it is messy. God moves in strange and unusual ways. I’ve heard some say the Holy Spirit is not weird. That doesn’t ring true when we look at historical results of revival.
Acts 2:2-3 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
The early Christian revival in Acts wasn’t the only one that had strange signs and wonders accompany it. Trypho said in the second century, “For the prophetical gifts remain with us even to the present time.” Sarah Edwards, wife of Great Awakening preacher Jonathan Edwards described an experience that incapacitated her for days which she described as “being swallowed up in God.” In the Cane Ridge revival in 1801, it was described this way. “20,000 people swirled about the grounds—watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.”
Laughing, crying, being slain in the Spirit, groaning, and other manifestations make make the modern church uncomfortable. Many have scorned Christians and churches where unusual signs and wonders occur, but if we truly want revival, we’ll have to accept the unusual and jump into the river of God.
Generosity and Self-Sacrifice accompany revival. Acts 2:45 says, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” In the Moravian revival, two men were willing to sell themselves in slavery to share the Gospel.
A spirit of holiness and repentance is always present in revival. In the book of Acts, Peter preached, “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God for lying to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19, new Christians brought their occult materials and burned them.
Throughout history repentance and holiness have also been a major part. During the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, and people held on to the church posts in fear of the judgement of God. During the Jesus revival in the 1970s, young men and women brought their drug to the altar and left them there. During the Welsh Revival, Reverend Hertford said this.
“I found the poor children whom Mr. A kept at school were increased to about thirty boys and girls. I went in immediately to the girls. As soon as I began to speak, some of them burst into tears, and their emotion rose higher and higher. But it was kept within bounds until I began to pray. A cry then arose, which spread from one to another, till almost all cried aloud for mercy, and would not be comforted.”
True revival will cause us to speak out about the sins of our culture and grieve over our own sins.
Missions and evangelism accompany revival. 3,000 were saved on the day of Pentecost. People accused the disciples of “turning the world upside down”. The Moravian movement sent out 300 missionaries and started the modern missionary movement. Charles Finney, during the Second Great Awakening, was president of Oberlin College when it sent missionaries all over the world.
If we really want God to move, we will yield to whatever God wants to do. Revival will mess up our church structure and services. It will change our lives and cause us to be willing to obey God no matter how it makes us look to others in the Christian world. God is too big to fit in your comfortable revival box. Let God move the way He chooses and let the River of God overflow.