MORE than eighty years ago God's servant wrote, "A revival of true godliness among us is the greatest and most urgent of all our needs. To seek this should be our first work."—ELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald, March 22, 1887.
It is not an exaggeration to say that if this condition was true at that time, it is much more so today. There is scarcely a church or group of Sabbathkeepers throughout the world field that does not look and yearn for a renewal of the breath of God in their midst. God has promised that "before the final visitation of God's judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times. The Spirit and power of God will be poured out upon His children."—The Great Controversy, p. 464.
So concerned is the enemy of souls that he will anticipate this time of Heaven-sent blessing by introducing counterfeit revivals. These movements of religious revival will contain some of the qualities of the genuine. Miracles of healing, conversion, and apparent manifestations of the Holy Spirit will be seen, but they will all fall short of the power that will be displayed as God moves upon the hearts of His obedient children in His remnant church.
What Is Revival?
A revival in the field of religion assumes that the church has retreated into a cold and legalistic profession, a condition of lukewarmness. When a large-scale movement toward godliness takes place within the church, that church can be said to be in a condition of revival. Revival is not an abnormal church state; rather, only when she enjoys a climate of revival can the church perform her God-given function of seeking and saving the lost. Revival alone engenders an atmosphere that enables sinners in Zion to be victorious in the battle against sin. Under its influence the blessed fruits and gifts of the Spirit become manifest in the lives of the church members.
God Is Willing to Revive His People
Some imagine that a revival is something so uncertain and unpredictable that no one knows when it comes and none can say when it goes. It is believed to be a special act of God occurring once in fifty years or so. The difficulty arises from the erroneous conception as to what a revival really is. It is not some strange flight of feeling and emotion foreign to normal Christian experience. There is only one norm for the Christian. This is clearly expressed by the Master in Luke 14:33: "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." David supplicates in Psalm 85:6, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?" Joy is always a manifestation of God's dwelling in a human heart. Do you desire to witness the stirrings of the Divine Presence in your life, in the members of your church? Listen to Jeremiah's answer: "Call upon me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (Jer. 33:3). Daniel has this to say, "But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Dan. 11:32). Revival, then, is living in that area of Christian life where marvelous evidences are seen of the presence and power of a miracle-working God.
Conditions of Revival
A genuine Heaven-sent awakening is the result of the carrying out of certain conditions laid down in the Word of God. There are unalterable laws that undergird every religious awakening. The simplest and most concise statement of conditions in God's Word is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." Let us briefly analyze this verse. After declaring the message is for God's people, the prophet lists four conditions essential to revival.
1. Shall Humble Themselves
This is the law of humiliation. It is the Holy Spirit's peculiar preparatory plan. The initial work of the Holy Spirit in preparing the way of the Lord is to work as a consuming flame. The humbling work of the Holy Spirit is the first gleam of a spiritual renewal. Foundations are laid in repentance. God has no other way to break open the proud human heart than through the cutting two-edged sword of the Holy Spirit.
The prayer that stems from a broken and contrite heart is the prayer that Heaven hears. Prayer for revival differs from every other kind of prayer. There is a sense of urgency in the prayer of one who has been humbled by the Spirit. There are unity and holy boldness in the corporate prayers of those who supplicate God for a renewal of spiritual life. The prayers that hasten revival are selfless prayers. They seek only the glory of God and the welfare of the church in the salvation of the unsaved. To save their people Moses and Paul were willing even to be blotted out of God's book. "Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written" (Ex. 32:32). "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Rom. 9:3). Spiritual concern will drive us, as it did Moses, to stand in the gap in an agony of prayer that leads us to say:
Lord, I know not how to go,
Till a blessing Thou bestow.
3. Seek My Face
There is only one to whom the humble praying soul can look. That is the One who suffered on the cross for him. The Master said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). None can face God's love revealed by the Crucified One and continue to love the ways of the sinful life.
4. Turn From Wicked Ways
A hallmark that ever manifests itself in the life of one who has had a confrontation with Calvary is the courageous passion to separate from any God-dishonoring habit or manner of life. Confession and restoration follow in the wake of a revelation of Christ inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The threefold promise that follows indicates that not only has this prayer been heard but the sin has been forgiven and spiritual health restored. The condition of spiritual health resulting from compliance with the divine prescription of 2 Chronicles 7:14 means revival, whether in the life of an individual or in the lives of a group of God's people.
Much could be written about conditions governing revival, but the foregoing fourfold set of conditions has been proved and tried. The second portion of this article will answer a question extremely important to every church pastor and leader.
(To be continued)