Preparation for Revival
Notes of a message given on Sunday morning, by Pastor Alan Redpath on October 9, 1955.
As we approach another Keswick Convention many of us are deeply concerned that the Lord shall visit us with revival. Our hearts are hungry for Him, and continually the cry goes up to the throne: “Wilt thou not revive us again that thy people might rejoice in thee.”
I want to be clear that we understand what we are asking Him to do—not simply to give us converts. Evangelism is one thing; revival is another. Evangelism is the constant duty of the church. Revival is the conviction of the Spirit at work in the church. It is possible to have very successful evangelistic meetings without ever touching revival. To advertise outside a church that Evangelist X will conduct a revival from October 1–12 is to misrepresent the meaning of the word altogether. The greatest evangelistic campaign leaves a city comparatively untouched, while revival sweeps the community.
Finney defines revival as the “renewal of the first love of Christians, resulting in the conversion of sinners to God. It presupposes that the church is backslidden, and revival means conviction of sin and searching of hearts among God’s people. Revival is nothing less than a new beginning of obedience to God—a breaking of heart and getting down into the dust before Him, with deep humility and forsaking of sin. A revival breaks the power of the world and of sin over Christians. The charm of the world is broken and the power of sin is overcome. Truths to which our hearts are unresponsive suddenly become living. Whereas mind and conscience may assent to truth, when revival comes, obedience to the truth is the one thing that matters.”
So writes Charles Finney, and so our hearts beat in eager response. You can have evangelism without that, but until God moves in melting, moving power in His church, we are helpless to face the challenge of our time, and bankrupt of resources to live as Christians are intended to live in the light of the Cross.
Let us consider this chapter of God’s Word (2 Kings 3) for herein are contained some very precious thoughts to challenge and encourage us in our concern for revival in our times.
Prelude to Revival
What were the conditions in which God worked so mightily? At first sight they were most unpromising. Jehoram, king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, had invited Jehoshaphat, king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, to join him in a united effort to quell a rebellion of Moabites against Israel. On their way to the battle front they picked up another army in the wilderness of Edom. A strange alliance indeed. Judah—the people who had remained true to God—operating alongside backslidden Israel and heathen Edom. Impossible, surely, for God to bless then!
To make things worse (verse 9), in the course of their long march to engage the enemy, after seven days’ journey they ran short of water supply, and the whole campaign was in jeopardy because the three armies, well equipped no doubt, and with all necessary machinery, lacked the one thing essential for survival—water!
The reaction of the people is most interesting. The backslidden Israelites (verse 10) blamed the Lord and put the responsibility on Him for calling the three armies together to fight; whereas, in fact, they themselves had done that! But Jehoshaphat (verse 11) enquired of the Lord. Yes, among that great crowd, there were some who knew that the only answer to their predicament was in an intervention from Heaven. For their sake, God was prepared to act. Because among that crowd there were some who cared, who prayed, who trusted, God answered.
I am concerned mainly with this church today. Do we see the parallel? Here is a threefold army. Some who are true, some who are backslidden, and some who are unsaved. We have all the machinery and equipment, but we are helpless without the Rivers of living water. We have nothing but that to offer anyone which will meet the need of hungry and thirsty hearts. How completely those armies were reduced to helplessness. How completely are we!
In some religious circles the people are offered the craft of priesthood, the sensual approach of ritualism, the appeal of eloquence and oratory. We have none of that! We discount it all—we believe our Bible and we know it is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit, and without His working in great power, we are reduced to utter helplessness, and that is where we are at this moment. No impression being made on Chicago—only a trickle of conversions—a desperate effort to care of the equipment, to keep the machinery in operation. But oh! the hardness of the ground, and the thirst of our hearts for God.
Like the Israelites, some will say it’s the Lord’s responsibility. Nothing we can do about it except to keep going. Things have always been like this and always will be. But like Jehoshaphat, some are enquiring of the Lord, and praise His Name, without waiting for perfect conditions or a perfect people, for their sake, God is prepared to act now.
We have prayed, pleaded, and agonized, through seven long nights in the last two years, that He would rend the heavens and come down. What do we expect to happen? Have we understood what we are praying for—and the price that each one of us must pay if we would see our prayers answered?
Preparation for Revival
“Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches.” Some declare that revival is an act of God’s sovereignty which He can give, or withhold, at His pleasure, but church history does not support that view.
Finney declares, “Revival is not a miracle, but the result of the right use of appropriate means.” In other words, there is something more to do than pray. Make this valley full of ditches. Break up the hard ground. Make room for God to work.
Certainly He is Sovereign, but beware of making His Sovereignty a scapegoat for your sin. Tell a farmer that God is sovereign and the harvest is bound to come! If he didn’t plough, and sow and water, he would starve the world to death.
God forgive us, but we’re guilty of that very thing. The ground is as iron, heaven is as brass because prayer is not followed by obedience, repentance, confession—action!
“Make this valley full of ditches!” In every life here there are ditches to be dug if God would pour out blessing. Revival is one man obeying God fully. He gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey Him, but I only obey when I’ve seen sin as it is, and called it by its name. What about:
The ditch of no love to God—others have filled his place?
The ditch of no time for Bible—only read at random, without any meaning?
The ditch of no time for prayer—how many are never at Prayer Meeting?
The ditch of no concern for souls?
The ditch of no family altar?
The ditch of no faithful stewardship?
The ditch of being censorious and critical of others?
The ditch of undisciplined habits?
Make this valley full of ditches and expose all that to God. Dig it up to His view. Call it sin—plead for cleansing—get low at His feet. That’s the price of revival.
The Pattern of Revival
What do we expect to happen? A rushing mighty wind? Another Pentecost? Some amazing outward signs? These may follow, but they may not, and are rather to be mistrusted than regarded as an evidence of revival themselves. “Thus saith the Lord, ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain, yet that valley shall be filled with water” (verse 17).
When Elijah wanted rain, there was the cloud—the sound of abundance of rain, the floods and the tempest. But when God sent water to Elisha—none of that. How that water came, I know not, and I care not—all I know is it came!
He may send us revival with a rushing sound—with excitement and crowds. He may send it in a still small voice, like a clarion call—an alarm in the soul, never heard so clearly as now. But at all costs, may we not lose the blessing simply because we don’t believe it to be a blessing for it hasn’t come to us in the way we expected. I care not how He comes. “The wind bloweth where it listeth…thou canst not tell whence it cometh.” Be sure of this, He comes in great sufficiency—there was enough for man and beast. There will be enough for us all.
He comes most certainly (verse 20). “Behold! the country was filled with water.” Yes, there was amazement, and truly God will amaze us at what He bestows. “Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing. Then said they among the heathen, ‘The Lord hath done great things for them.’” “Oh! turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south” (Psalm 126). Yes, indeed, when He does that for His people we are as them that dream, to think we have lived so long without it.
He comes victoriously (verse 18). This is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand. Yes, revival brings victory and blessing among unsaved—greater things, far above all our asking. He comes suddenly (verse 20). In the morning when the meat offering was offered, the offering of consecration, all upon the altar, then the fire of the Lord fell. Then the country was full of water.
These things must happen if we fulfill the conditions. If they don’t the Bible is not true, and the promises of God are untrustworthy. A united evangelistic campaign in this city would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Revival would not cost us one penny in finance, but everything in terms of abandonment to the Lord.
Oh! for a flood-tide to overwhelm our sin, and fill us to overflowing with His Spirit. Will you dig the ditch in your heart and make room for Him NOW?