The question, “Will revival come in our time?” is on the lips and in the hearts of God’s people everywhere. The way God works is not always easy to define and analyze. “He works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform,” and I would not want to be so presumptuous as to say that I understand all that is happening in the wonderful design and doings of God.
Three things, however, stand out in my mind: First, there is an urgent need for a real, genuine spiritual awakening. Second, God is infinitely able to bring about such an awakening. Third, there are definite signs and portents of revival in the world.
Back in the 1940s, a professor in one of our great universities wrote a book in which he stated that religious revivals were relegated to history and that no such awakening could conceivably take place in the world again. And early in my ministry, a well-meaning intellectual acquaintance of mine said, “Billy, your theology has 18th century stamped on it. This generation will never go for your interpretation of the Gospel.”
Despite those pronouncements, we saw during those years a resurgence of religious interest. It is difficult to analyze and dissect a religious movement; God does not always follow the same pattern in every generation. Whether we can analyze it or not, we rejoice in the fact that reports continue to come from around the world that men and women of all races are seeking God and trusting Christ as Lord and Master. What brought about this change of attitude and this resurgence of interest in the faith of our fathers?
Five Failures of Worldly Thinking
First, the philosophy of rationalism has failed to satisfy the mind. Life just doesn’t add up unless you take God into account. Our worship at the shrine of human knowledge has left us spiritually cold, empty and hungry. It has engendered skepticism, atheism, agnosticism and theological modernism with its offspring, but rationalism let us down. Its mental mumbo-jumbo fails to satisfy the deeper longings of the human heart. It fails to answer the fundamental questions of life: Who am I? For what purpose was I created? Where am I going?
Rationalism is religious and moral decay, intellectual confusion and spiritual disintegration. If humans were mind alone, perhaps rationalism would suffice. But the soul of a person cannot subsist on the stale bread of rationalism. Our hearts hunger for the living bread of God.
Second, modern political philosophies have failed to bring about the Utopia that people have dreamed of. Some countries have allowed their nations to become giant laboratories and their people guinea pigs in a colossal experiment—and we have seen some of those countries practically disintegrate before our eyes.
Third, materialism has failed to satisfy the soul. Man consists of body, mind and spirit. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Our bodies and minds have been preoccupied with gadgets and excessive indulgence in pleasure, but our souls have been starved.
Fourth, science has failed to bring peace to the world. The knowledge that a weapon exists that is capable of destroying all life upon this planet has done something to us. People everywhere are held in the clutches of fear of possible destruction. One day in 1954 I sat in the House of Commons and listened to a debate on the hydrogen bomb. Clement Atlee said words to this effect: “The problem that we are facing in the world today is not the hydrogen bomb but the unreliable nature of man.”
That’s it! A world that has worshipped at the shrine of human knowledge and has trusted in science to develop a livable world now faces the possibility of destruction.
Fifth, we are beginning to realize that human resourcefulness has reached the end of its tether. Human wisdom has failed to find the solution for the three basic problems that face us: the problem of sin, the problem of sorrow and the problem of death. Those who take serious stock of the inadequacy of worldly thinking to meet these basic problems will realize that they can only be answered with the help of God.
A Promise From God
From a human viewpoint, the world situation looks hopeless, but with God all things are possible. It is not all hopeless. The Bible still contains this verse of Scripture: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Here is a definite promise from God to help us, if we turn to Him.
We may not be in the midst of what theologians term a revival. But still, the fires of revival are everywhere. The promise of revival is definite. The need of revival is obvious. From the sincere hearts of Christians everywhere this prayer ascends to the throne of God: “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6).
What We Can Do
Many people have asked us, “What can I do?” There is a great deal that you can do.
First, if you have not done so, make an open confession of Christ, a clean-cut decision for Christ. Join an active, praying, spiritual church and put your time, talents and money at God’s disposal. Begin to live the Christian life, not passively nor indifferently but wholeheartedly for Christ. Let your light shine. Let people see that you have a faith that works, a Christ who gives you victory. And earnestly pray for a spiritual awakening. Pray for revival in your church, your community, your city and your country, all the while asking God to use you and lead you in winning others. A worldwide spiritual revival is our only hope if we are to survive as a human race.
Here is a promise with infinite possibilities: “For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones’” (Isaiah 57:15).
God is the author of revival. We Christians can prepare the atmosphere through our earnest prayer, exemplary living and being contrite and humble. But only God can revive the spirit and revive the heart of a person.
Many are asking these days, “What will revival do for the world?” “What would a worldwide revival do in practical terms?” A spiritual awakening will create moral stamina and consciousness, bring back the sanctity of the home, make marriage an institution instead of an experiment, strengthen the bulwarks of freedom and bring integrity back to people.
Individually, revival can come only as a result of a vital, personal relationship to God. In society, revival can be felt only as individuals interpret their faith into the language of everyday life and live the faith they profess, not only in the house of worship but in the home, the office, the shop and the streets.
I pray that men and women from shore to shore at this desperate and crucial hour in history will lift their hearts to God in repentance from sin and faith in Christ, and that they will begin living the Christian life. If you will, bow your head at this moment and say, “I will let Jesus come into my life. I want peace with God.” Christ will come in, save you from sin and make you a child of God (see John 1:11-12). ©1955 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: Greg Schneider/©2002 BGEA