Revival and John Wesley
'The church has nothing to do but to save souls; therefore spend and be spent in this work…bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance' (John Wesley).
'Revival is when God is tired of being misrepresented by the people, so God shows up to represent himself…'
There has been a great deal written about revival and revivals. How you view this phenomenon will depend on where you are in the country, or the world for that matter. So let us define our terms.
We must start with Holy Scripture! In the Word of God the Psalmist cries out to God, 'Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?' (Psalm 85:6 NIV).
In scripture we see many hints and examples of the revival phenomena. We could mention the tremendous visitation of God described in the beginning of 2 Chronicles. Solomon dedicates the Temple and prays under the anointing of the Holy Spirit (2 Chron 6:41-42) and then we're told in chapter 7: 'When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple'. And I love the next bit when we're told, 'The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it'. After that amazing scene the people responded in the only way possible - 'When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying, "He is good: his love endures for ever"' (2 Chron 7:1-3 NIV).
Question: When was the last time you couldn't get into the chapel because the glory of the Lord was hovering over the building and the congregation was worshipping in the street? Now we're talking about the power of God! Equally dramatic tales can be told of large crowds crying out 'What must I do to be saved' during Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
Question: When did someone, crying out under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, last stop you preaching mid-sentence? Perhaps God in his mercy has allowed you to see the seeds of revival? I know in my five years since leaving Wesley College I've been allowed to see God move in amazing power here on the Isle of Wight. I've seen things happen beyond my wildest imaginings, and I regard all these things as seeds of revival with grateful thanks to God.
Charles G. Finney defined revival in these terms: 'A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience with God'.
I rather like that definition, because it is suitably ambiguous! Like revivals during the course of history, just when you think there is some set pattern, programme or practice - the whole thing has to be rethought, because the next 'new beginning' with God refuses to fit into any finite boundary or logic. Praise God for that! You see, when we consider the nature of revival we look into the portals of the Kingdom of Heaven itself. When we speak of revival we are actually talking of God's sovereign power. How can we ever quantify or fully understand the heart of the Living God?
Here are a couple more definitions of revival, which I don't have space to unpack here!
'Revival, as Protestant theology has used the word for 250 years, means God's quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work in their lives'
And here's another one:
'The whole theory of revivals is involved in these two facts; viz. that the influence of the Holy Spirit is concerned in every instance of sound conversion, and that this influence is granted in more copious measure and in greater power at some times than at others. When these facts concur, there is a revival of religion'
A Brief Testimony
Let me briefly tell you about Geof, an unemployed builder living in the small village of Wroxall here on the Island. He encountered God - and the poor man didn't stand a chance! I'd invited all the village folk to hear a visiting evangelist. They duly came in reasonable numbers more out of curiosity than anything else. There was a couple whom my wife knew through working at the local primary school, the aforementioned Geof and his then girl friend, Dawn. Even though our evangelistic meeting ran rather late they slipped out early because they needed to get back to their babysitter. Anyway, to cut a long testimony short, Dawn received Christ as her Saviour a few weeks later after some follow up, but Geof managed to hold out for a further two weeks and two days!
Then God showed up! Geof was standing in his kitchen when the Spirit of God came upon him. He went into his lounge wondering what was going on and said his whole lounge filled up with a rushing wind sound (it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it again!). He called to Dawn and she wisely told him to get upstairs, get on his knees and invite Jesus in to his life. As he fell to his knees Jesus appeared to him in a vision. Jesus was standing before Geof smiling. Geof saw two roads before him and he was at the junction. Jesus was standing by a narrow road and Geof was facing towards a broad road that led off somewhere, which he didn't want to go! As Geof struggled to turn towards Jesus and the narrow road the Lord gave Geof a passport and pulled him to his feet and said 'Follow Me!' I could go on, but I've run out of space!
As you can imagine I was quite encouraged as Geof shared all this with me! Bear in mind he knew very little about the Bible. He didn't know about Acts 2, he didn't know about the 'narrow way' or the 'broad way that leads to destruction' (Matthew 7), and he didn't know about the concept of our citizenship [the passport] in Philippians 3:20! The Holy Spirit had supernaturally and directly revealed it all to him. As I visited Geof and Dawn each week I came away amazed, because the Holy Spirit was discipling them and I could hardly keep up.
Are you expectant for God to move in power where you are? Or have you got it all sewn up in a neat and clever theological package? I do hope not! I firmly believe that we get as much of God as we expect and hunger for.
If you're dry and empty ask God for an appetite for him. Repent and fast until you receive the fire of his anointing. I believe revival starts in individual hearts. As individual hearts catch alight for God the heat and power grows and God graciously moves.
The Rev Mark Lawrence is a minister in the Ventnor Area of the East Wight Circuit , Isle of Wight.