A SEASON FOR REVIVAL
I was born and raised in a “winter state.” I jokingly say Fairbanks, Alaska has 4 seasons; Early winter, winter, late winter, and next winter! Actually, in Fairbanks, spring, summer, and fall are brief seasons and winter is long.
History demonstrates that spiritual revivals have seasons like an Alaskan summer- they are greatly desired but they are always too brief. The difference is, Alaskans can depend on the certainty of summer but revivals are never guaranteed. That makes a season for revival more necessary and even more urgent.
I believe we are in the early spring of such a season now. I believe revival is coming, but like summer in my hometown-the season for revival won’t last long.
A REALIZATION ABOUT SEASONS
A few years ago I was invited to participate on a panel discussion with some pastors from my denomination. The subject before us was, “Spiritual Awakening and Revival.” Each of us had plenty of opportunity to speak but one question left us all a little speechless. The moderator asked us about the principles for “maintaining” a revival. No one had a convincing answer to that serious question.
I couldn’t get the question out of my mind. A few days later it occurred to me that no revival in history has ever been maintained. Let me say that again. No revival has ever lasted. Every revival has had a season. Even the firey dynamics surrounding Pentecost eventually cooled. God is still the same, but the results of spiritual awakening- in every recorded instance- eventually become the recollections of an aging generation longing for “the good old days” until at last the eyewitnesses are gone, and the revival is archived into our history books.
Review the history of awakenings and you will find they all had a starting point and then either suddenly declined or gradually disappeared. The seasons change.
I was saved during a season of Spiritual Awakening usually referred to as “The Jesus Movement.” It was as close to spontaneous combustion as anything I’ve ever seen. One day there were no “Jesus Freaks” in my town. Then, suddenly they were everywhere. No one in my large High School could ignore the Jesus People. Yet, a few years later, I returned to Fairbanks and the phenomenon had ended. The same was true across the nation.
I once asked Dr J. Edwin Orr what happened to all the Jesus Freaks. His answer was intentionally humorous but still somewhat true. He said, “They are all clothed and in their right minds and sitting in Chuck Smith’s church in Costa Mesa, California.” In other words, the Jesus Movement had a season. Numerous positive results remained but a page had turned. The seasons had changed.
THE URGENCY OF NOW
The Great Awakening, The Second Great Awakening, The Prayer Revival of 1857-58, The Welsh Revival, The Shantung Revival, The Jesus Movement- they all ebbed away from the center stage of history. We know revivals do not last indefinitely. That is part of their character. That’s also why they are so desperately needed. God uses genuine revivals to awaken God’s people, sweep thousands into the Kingdom, change the way the church operates, and eventually affect the entire culture. Would you agree we need a spiritual awakening now?
To the glory of God, there are growing signs today of a coming revival. A few weeks ago, Greg Laurie, commenting on the sense that revival is possible in our times said, “I think the times in which we are living are similar to the ’60’s. And what happened at the end of the ’60’s was a revival called the Jesus Movement-the Jesus Revolution. And this is what I’m praying for. I’m seeing seeds of it-I’m seeing potential- I’m seeing more people talking about it. It seems like people in the church are collectively starting to get the memo- we need divine intervention and we need it now!” (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ronnie-floyd-on-life-and-leadership-today/id1211279930?mt=2&i=1000385952046) Yes. We need Revival and we need it now.
SIGNS OF CHANGING SEASONS
I live in Austin. It’s hot in the summer. Two days ago it was 107 degrees! No matter how hot the Texas summer gets, however, eventually we wake up one morning to the wind blowing in cooler temperatures. We can feel the changing seasons in the wind. The same is true in spiritual matters. We sometimes sense the winds are shifting and something fresh is in the air. We begin to see the seasons changing.
One such indication-and a highly significant one- is the evidence of an unprecedented prayer movement gaining momentum around the world. The prayer movement is one clear sign God is mobilizing His Church for Awakening. For example, In my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, several of our leaders are relentlessly calling for repentance, prayer for Spiritual Awakening, and a renewed emphasis on evangelism. Our immediate past President, for instance, Dr Ronnie Floyd has labored tirelessly for revival in our day, even long before he served as our leader. His pursuit for a national spiritual awakening, equally shared by many others, continues today. One more example is our current President, Dr. Steve Gaines, who has made the call to prayer for revival a chief pillar of his tenure as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. There are many others with a similar passion reaching across all denominational lines.
There are numerous other examples of the growing prayer movement and they all point in the same direction. The winds are shifting. Are we entering a new season of spiritual awakening and revival? I certainly believe we are.
The lessons of history, however, offer us both a hope and a warning. Remember, every revival eventually ended. But I wonder how many never quite got started? How many times have we been close to a new beginning only to lapse back into spiritual drought? Is that even possible? I believe it is. In fact, I believe we could miss a move of God completely. How is that possible? It has happened before. Jesus once cried out to a stubborn and prayer-less people about their incredible missed opportunity. He said with a broken heart, “For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:43-44)
Did you hear that tragic pronouncement? “You did not know the time of your visitation.” You can miss a work of the Spirit! An entire generation once missed the presence of God among them. And judgment followed.
REMEMBER THE QUAKERS?
How can we miss the coming Revival? Is it even possible? Yes. You can miss it! One example from history ought to terrify all of us. Prior to the Great Awakening, the Quakers were among the most influential citizens in Colonial America. They were a leading denomination. But when God began to move in the colonies, the Quakers opposed the revival on theological grounds. By the time the Great Awakening had fully matured, and had dramatically reshaped the colonies into what would soon become the United States of America, the Quakers were on their way to becoming what they are today-a minor footnote in our history. Remember, God doesn’t need us in revival- we desperately need Him! And when His Spirit begins to bring “seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” we need to move with Him not in opposition to Him.
The next time you drive by an empty church parking lot on a Sunday morning, or hear about a denomination rapidly declining, don’t ask about a new church growth method. Ask yourself how everything would be different if Revival comes. And pray.
For several reasons, I believe Revival is coming, but this opportunity will not last forever. Revivals come in seasons and I for one am ready for our long national winter of doubt and rebellion to end and for a season of refreshing from the presence of the Lord to come. Will you pray with me about a season of revival?