Revive Me! (4)
Revival comes inside-out.
My soul clings to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;
And let Your judgments help me. Psalm 119.25, 175
Not in our hands
In our day, many churches operate according to the idea that whatever we hope to gain in the way of blessings from God, we must take into our own hands to secure. This is most evident in our fixation on programs as the way to realize the promises of abundant life in Christ.
Churches feature a wide range and variety of programs, designed to address the needs of certain age groups or types of believers. Programs require planning, scheduling, reserving space, preparing leaders, arranging rooms, securing materials, providing refreshments, and accomplishing the business of the program within a preset time frame. Programs are strictly optional; if this or that opportunity seems to address your concern, then sign-up and come along. In most churches, programs are attended by only a portion of the congregation, which prompts church leaders to sponsor more programs to attract more of their members into the quest for a fuller experience of salvation.
Of course, we don’t see anything like this in the New Testament, where, typically, local churches existed and flourished with a minimum of coordination and scheduling, but under the continuous teaching, oversight, example, and care of capable shepherds, who were willing to spend and be spent to nurture the souls of God’s people (cf. Acts 20.28; 2 Cor. 12.15; Heb. 13.17; 1 Pet. 5.1-3; etc.).
In the case of revival, should we decide to pursue it, our default approach is to sponsor a program to make revival happen. Find a speaker, schedule the meetings, arrange for a song leader and music, advertise and publicize, secure rooms and refreshment – all the usual details of a typical church program, and all to ensure that our revival is a success. And by success we mean, well-attended and imparting some spiritual benefit to at least some people.
Our penchant for programming is one aspect of our captivity to the modern technique-and-technology society. But we cannot program revival. God does indeed use organized activities to accomplish His ends, including revival. But He tells us which activities we must engage in and how we must use them. And typically, our activities do nothing more than set the stage for God to do what only He can do in reviving His people, renewing their churches, and awakening the lost world to the Gospel.
In revival, God works from the inside-out to bring His people to higher stages and a more sustained experience of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
God’s Word and Spirit
Revival is the work of God’s Word and Spirit, as Jesus reminded us in John 6.63: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” If we want revival – and that is an if we still need to decide – then we must look to God, learn His will and ways, embrace His ends and means, and take up the activities He commands for revival to ensue.
This means we must look to His Word for the meaning of revival and the way God prescribes for us to achieve it. Throughout Psalm 119, the psalmist pleads with God to do the work of revival, crying, over and over, “Revive me!” If we are to be revived, and to know and sustain a marked improvement in our relationship with God, and greater fruitfulness in His calling, then God must do it. He must show us what revival is. He must impress upon us the need for revival. He must create such a desire for this great work in us that we will “give Him no rest” until He brings the blessings of revival to us (Is. 62.7).
The enhanced, growing, and sustained improvement in our walk with and work for the Lord which accompanies revival can only be realized on His terms, and as a work of His Spirit.
Beginning in the soul
The work of God for revival begins in the soul of every believer, as we have previously mentioned. God initiates this work by stimulating us to seek Him for revival (Ps. 80.18). Something about revival and our sense of need for it flips a switch in our soul, and we begin seeking the Lord to revive us.
This desire for revival quickens and focuses our mind, so that we want to discover more of what it means to be revived, and why a Holy Spirit-inspired psalmist would desire it so earnestly. As we begin to apply our minds to the Scripture, seeking to understand the promise of revival, our vision of it grows. We may discover, by means other than Scripture, that God has accomplished remarkable seasons of revival throughout the history of the Christian movement. This may further inform and inflame our vision of revival.
As our vision of revival grows, our hearts begin to hunger for it. Revival, we realize, is something we both very much need, and very much desire. God stirs our hearts to long for His reviving grace, that we might know more of the full and abundant life Jesus promised; that we might have more power to love God and our neighbors, and to fulfill our callings to be His witnesses; that we might see God’s Spirit move in the hearts of our lost friends and neighbors, so that many of them become followers of Christ; and that reviving grace can bring newness and restoration to our society and culture. Revival becomes something greatly to be desired, and eagerly to be sought, as God by His Word and Spirit engages our mind and heart for a vision of His reviving grace.
And thus revival becomes a priority in our soul – we must have revival; we are determined that God shall revive us; we begin earnestly seeking Him in prayer, and urging others to join us in this effort. God establishes revival as a high priority and value in our conscience, so that seeking revival begins to occupy a more prominent place in our lives and schedules.
Thus God begins in us, in our soul, a great and new work, the scope of which we are only just beginning to envision, and which, the more we learn about, the hungrier and thirstier we become to obtain it, by the grace and power of God.
God must revive us, or we will not be revived. We can’t cajole Him into following our programs, but we can seek Him to lead us into His. And that begins in our soul, where God calls His people to prayer: “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.”
1. Programs are not inherently wrong or evil; however, they can become an obstacle to a fuller experience of the Christian life. How?
2. We have to make up our minds that revival is something we really want. How can we know if we want it?
3. How will you know when God is beginning to revive you?
Next Steps – Preparation: Add Psalm 119.175 to those verses you are already using to seek the Lord for revival:
Let my soul live, and it shall praise You;
And let Your judgments help me.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.