[7] Looking for and needing revival

Table of Contents for: Looking for and needing revival

a) Do we need revival?

Some are quite content to see the same group of people turning up at church every time.

Seed germinating in the ground and sprouting through it. Looking for and needing revival.

This can happen if the church has become stuck in doing services, running Bible groups, homegroups, etc and it all becomes a dry routine.
Yes it would be good for something ‘new’ to happen!

Another church can be grasping for the newest Bible course, the latest songs, the newest ways to worship, but even in all that activity it can seem hollow.

Others may be hoping for more people to come into church, but more than that – for unchurched people to find God and be saved.
Why aren’t we seeing lives changed, why aren’t we experiencing revival?
Perhaps we think that revival only happens in third world countries.

I’ve been in situations where a church group has been trying to move on and experience new growth.
Often a verse will be quoted when people are looking for revival:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

b) Why is ‘new’ good and ‘old’ out of date?

But what about revival?

I want to show you a more important OLD part.
The thought of ‘old’ may send you into a spin.
But why do so many people look down on anything old these days?

The problem is that everything is ‘improved’ and ‘new’.
Why is that, because these things couldn’t have been perfect to start with!

But God’s work is perfect.
He can’t be improved, neither can His works.

We can be such an arrogant generation!
All the modern technology does not change peoples hearts.
People are the same inside as they were thousands of years ago.
God’s message can’t be improved. (But methods must be changed to suit the generation).
God’s message is the perfect medicine for the disease of sin and death.
See the article: What should the Gospel message be?

Now I know that people can get stuck in the past.
They seem to spend their time looking back at how good things were when they were younger and this is often not very healthy.

c) How do you get revival? It’s good to look back

George Whitefield preaching to a crowd in the 18th Century - he was looking for revival.
George Whitefield preaching.

Many people have been revived by reading an old book on someone experiencing God in a new way.
John Wesley had started preaching but hadn’t experienced salvation for himself.
But when he heard a book being read, that was nearly 200 years old, it was the final piece of the jigsaw for John to be saved:

Wesley made contact with members of the Moravian Church led by August Gottlieb Spangenberg.
Wesley was impressed by their faith and piety, especially their belief that it was normal for a Christian to have assurance of faith.
The failure of his mission and encounters with the Moravians led Wesley to question his own faith.
He wrote in his journal, ‘I who went to America to convert others was never myself converted to God.’
Back in London, Wesley became friends with Moravian minister Peter Boehler and joined a Moravian small group called the Fetter Lane Society.
In May 1738, Wesley attended a Moravian meeting on Aldersgate Street where he felt spiritually transformed during a reading of Martin Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.
Wesley recounted that ‘I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’ “

‘First Great Awakening’ Wikipedia [iv]

If we look back in a correct way, it can challenge and enrich our faith.

I have found the life of George Whitefield inspiring.
God used this man to bring true, lasting revival to the United Kingdom in the 18th century (along with the Wesley’s and others).

d) Do you know how George Whitefield was revived himself?

George Whitefield preaching. Looking for and needing revival.
George Whitefield preaching [i].

He was thirsty for more of God and he may not have defined it as ‘looking for revival’.

Archbishop Seeker wrote in 1738 about the condition of society at that time:

In this we cannot be mistaken, that an open and professed disregard to religion is become, through a variety of unhappy causes, the distinguishing character of the present age.
This evil has already brought in such dissoluteness and contempt of principle in the highest part of the world, and such profligate intemperance and fearlessness of committing crimes in the lower, as must, if this torrent of impiety stop not, become absolutely fatal.”

Archbishop Seeker [2]

George Whitefield was reading a book from a century before him: ‘The Life of God in the Soul of Man’ by Henry Scougal and it alarmed him, he wrote:

God showed me that I must be born again, or be damned!
I learned that a man may go to church, say his prayers, receive the sacrament, and yet not be a Christian.
How did my heart rise and shudder, like a poor man that is afraid to look into his accounts-books, lest he should find himself bankrupt.
Shall I burn this book? Shall I throw it down?
Or shall I search it?
I did search it; and, holding the book in my hand, thus addressed the God of heaven and earth:
‘Lord, if I am not a Christian, or if I am not a real one, for Jesus Christ’s sake, show me what Christianity is that I may not be damned at last!’ “

George Whitefield [3]

You could say that he was asking for the ancient paths and asking where the good way is:

Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jeremiah 6:16

He read Matthew Henry’s commentary on the Bible which opened his mind to the wonder of God’s Word.
He prayed over the Bible passages and the Holy Spirit opened his mind to Biblical Truth.

Yes, revivals start by looking back at what God has done in the past and by returning to the Word of God.

I would also recommend looking at Matthew Henry’s Complete Bible Commentary which was originally written in 1706 in six volumes (not the Concise one volume).
It still has insights to ignite our faith in the 21st Century.

e) Last thoughts on revival from the Bible:

The Psalmist wrote:

I recall all you have done, O LORD;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
They are constantly in my thoughts.
cannot stop thinking about them.
O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
You are the God of miracles and wonders!
You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.”

Psalm 77:11-14

Notice the Psalmist is looking back at God’s mighty deeds, but he also says “You ARE the God of miracles…”
He doesn’t live in the past, His God now is a Holy God of power and who works miracles.

[i] This image is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1925.
[ii] Works by Thomas Seeker (Porteus and Stinton ed) Vol 5 p306.
[iii] George Whitefield – The life and times of the great evangelist of the 18th century revival by Arnold Dallimore p73.
Buy this book at: Banner of Truth.
[iv] ‘First Great Awakening’ Wikipedia

Here is a potted history of George Whitefield’s life:

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The Ultimate Documentary with Insight on George Whitefield

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