By John Elias
The word revival means the gracious visitation of God to His people in the ordinances of the gospel and by the outpouring of the Spirit. The results of revival include the bringing to life of that which was spiritually dead and the converting of sinners. In addition, the work of the church (Hab. 3:2), the hearts of God's people (Ps. 85:6), the Spirit's sanctifying work (Isa. 57:15), and the prayers, sermons, and worship of the church are profoundly benefited.
There is no true revival except of God's doing. He "quickeneth all things" (1 Tim. 6:13, KJV). When the Holy Spirit works in a special way through the ministry of the gospel, then the unregenerate are raised to spiritual life, the sleeping are awakened, backsliders are restored, and lives are renewed and rearranged.
Some false things may pass under the name of revival: excitement unrelated to the fear of God; fear without a clear view of being lost without Christ; decisions apart from the power of spiritual life. Some may make a decision to join a denomination of Christians, yet they remain without the Spirit despite their profession of faith.
In fact, in movements that seek revival, there is a danger of leading people to think that to make a profession of faith is religion enough. Preachers may terrify their audiences instead of enlightening them by showing the danger of being without a profession of faith rather than showing the danger of being without godliness. Such tactics can multiply the numbers of their party without getting people safely transferred from the power of Satan to God.
Some may strive for the benefits of revival in order to justify a ministry that lacks the Spirit or to prove that their methods are right contrary to the assertions of others. However, when God brings revival, He works in recognizable ways.
The false retreat and disappear when the Lord comes. In the brightness of sunshine, candlelight is extinguished. The men who are under His gracious and holy operations are different from all others. They are self-denying, humble men who abhor sin, lament because of it, and loathe themselves because of their own sinfulness. The sovereign grace of God, which alone could save sinners such as themselves, produces a spirit of wonder and praise within their hearts. "Not unto us but unto Him" is their whole song.
In true revival there is:
A reviving of true doctrine and practice of the truth, an attitude of humility and willing obedience, and deep enjoyment of God.
The conviction and conversion of sinners through Christ as well as crowds of people coming to the church to learn the ways of the Lord.
The glorification of God's grace manifested in the person of Christ and the unity and effectiveness of the body in accomplishing its purpose on earth.
A marked difference in believers who now embrace spiritual disciplines, change their behavior, fill their thoughts and speech with the things of God, and adopt eternal values and priorities. Some will be ready to ask, "What is the cause of this great change in the behavior of men under the Word as compared with what it was before? Why do they tremble and mourn and rejoice while others do not do so under the same sermons?" However, is it not more reasonable to ask how any of us can read and hear the Word of God without its having any effect upon us? It may be answered:
Because we do not consider that it is the Word of God.
Because we do not believe that they are words about real things, and not falsehoods and fables.
Because we do not understand that they apply to us. Things visible affect men because they are regarded as real, concrete things, but they behave toward the words of God as they do toward unfounded, false fables. Nevertheless, when the Spirit of God works savingly on men, He applies the truths of the divine Word to their mind and conscience, and they are then seen to be real. They hear God speaking through His Word to them. They appreciate the worth and feel the infinite weight of the things in the Bible. They look on the things that are not seen with new eyes of faith.
When the Spirit of God convicts sinners, they see what the law of God requires of them, and that it threatens them. As they hear about the bad miserable condition of sinners, they see the sinfulness of their own condition, and they hear the sentence of condemnation from the throne of God! Is it not reasonable to fear and mourn? Who shall stand?
In this condition, when they then encounter a Savior and a free salvation solely of grace, how can they but rejoice? Then the things of the Spirit fill their affections. Is it not reasonable for them to love and praise God, delight in His work, and seek to live to His pleasure? It is then that the poorness of earth and of all temporal things will be revealed to them. They see themselves as strangers on the earth. They follow Christ and travel toward a better country, despising the world. When God visits His church, according to His promises, effects follow that make people shout, "This is the finger of God!"
The church does not feel the need for revival as it should. God alone can make the blessings of a revival to be valued. He has promised, and He will fulfill. Let us pray fervently in faith, expecting the fulfillment of His precious promises. God in His grace can lay bare His arms, grant a true revival, and perform a true reformation. Let us pray without tiring, and let us wait without becoming weary. Oh, let Him hurry, let Him hurry! Amen.