Personal revival is for God’s people-those who by faith in Jesus Christ have received salvation and belong to Him. People who do not belong to God cannot be “revived”; they first must be regenerated!
Revival is when God’s people are restored to spiritual vitality or health. A God-given conviction of sin amongst God’s people is a basic characteristic of revival. This conviction of sin later extends to the unsaved which is referred to as spiritual awakening; large numbers of unbelievers experiencing the new birth to spiritual life in a short period of time. (see Fresh Encounter by Henry T. Blackaby & Claude V. King)
Personal revival therefore begins when the believer chooses to face his own sins honestly and thoroughly. Personal revival precedes corporate revival. This is the desire of these 21 Days – personal and corporate revival! By setting aside time in these 21 Days for searching our hearts and listening to the Lord in a more intense fashion, God can revive us! I submit the following four issues as key areas needing to be addressed among the emerging generation:
- A wrong perspective of God and sin
- Conformity within Christianity
- Busy schedules
A Proper Perspective of God and Sin
When I was younger in the faith, I used to think that part of prayer was selling a godly idea to God and convincing him to buy into it then He’ll finance your request! I had a mindset that He is too busy handling many calls from different parts of the world and therefore I need to work a little bit harder to get his attention. Whenever I would find Christians praying so hard, I used to think that they had not yet got Him interested. It’s not until I noticed from the Bible that actually, all redemption stories recorded therein began with God. Be it Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Jonah or even Jesus! In each of these instances God was the initiator! Romans 5:8 says, “But God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
God is more concerned about the state of His people than we think. In Ezekiel 37:1-2, “The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which [was] full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, [there were] very many in the open valley; and, lo, [they were] very dry.” Who saw the dry bones first? God! He took the prophet and positioned him that he may see them. Not to condemn him but to have him gain God’s perspective.
In 2 Corinthians 7:3 Paul writes, “I speak not [this] to condemn [you]: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with [you].” When we acknowledge that God has thought about us, schemed a plan how to rescue us long before He shows us our filthiness, our attitude about God changes! We find confidence in returning to Him. We gain a clearer perspective; our prayers then aim to catch His heart, so that we are broken by what breaks His heart and moved by what moves Him.
In the same breath, the God who loves us so much also hates sin. Phoebe Kigira remarked that, “Sin to God is not just breaking a rule, but betrayal of love as that of a bride to her groom.” I have stayed with my lovely wife through the whole period of labour during the birth of our two children. I watched in horror twice, the indescribable pain and agony she underwent. All because of sin! God has put it that way as a constant reminder to us of how bad He hates sin and its painful consequences. (Genesis 3:16) Sin is so bad that it demanded God the Son to leave His heavenly throne to become the atoning sacrifice. Would you voice out a prayer I have constructed from Jerry Bridges, pursuit of Holiness? “God help me to hate sin as much as you do.”
Conforming Within Christianity
Often a young person will feel discontented with his own spiritual state but on looking around he realizes that the spiritual state of those around him is in a similar state. He becomes familiar and though his conscious pricks him, he finds comfort in the company of carnal Christians.
When I believed in Jesus in my third year in campus, God put in me an insatiable hunger for His word. I remember rising up at 4am each morning to read my Bible and within three months I had finished the New Testament. As I kept reading I noticed inconsistencies between what I read and the practice in my own life and the lives of most of my friends in the campus Christian union. I also realized that I had accepted such a lifestyle since it was the norm yet deep within I longed to see the power of the gospel at work in my life. It is at this point that many students are ‘made to conform’……..that’s the way we do things here. Don’t be too radical or fanatical.
A feeling of discontentment developed within me that wouldn’t go away. The Holy Spirit was convicting me of sins in my life. I resolved to literally obey the word of God irrespective of what my Christian friends would think. I could not be deterred; I wanted all that God had said in His word. Shortly after, God brought my way powerful resources that stirred up my heart to pursue Him even more passionately. God has used books like God Chasers by Tommy Tenney, The Call to Discipleship by Juan Ortiz Carlos, The Pursuit of Holiness and Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges and True Discipleship by William Mc Donald to expound His world and lay my life bear before Him. I started to invest in biographies of heroes of faith from past generations whose lives became a great inspiration.
You must refuse to compare yourself with the Christian community or even family members around you but rather allow God’s word to be the yardstick of your spirituality. Are you filled of the Holy Spirit? Are you ministering in your spiritual gifts? Is there evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life? (1 Thessalonians 1:5) The portrait of a Christian as demonstrated in book of Acts is not a super Christian but the normal Christian. Any falling away from this is the abnormal state.
We normally wait for the top echelon leadership to initiate what the Holy Spirit is already saying to us; some have waited for really long. We imagine that somebody will do it somehow; we entertain emotions of inferiority and feelings of inadequacy. We try to get the attention of the big names in Christian circles to implement it. So we get into spiritual laziness and stagnation.
Yet in history we discover that often it took ordinary men and in several instances students with no spiritual titles or high social status to join hands with likeminded students on their campus and begin to cry out for their own souls. My team leader once warned me; always remember that revival often starts from the periphery and unexpected quarters! Not from long deliberations and long committee meetings but on our knees. God has used inexperienced students with no public titles to ignite great revivals in history. If He is prodding you through His Holy Spirit by allowing you to see the state of the dry bones in your life then He means business with you.
Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:21, “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, [and] prepared unto every good work.” Our inertness amounts to personal disobedience. Delayed obedience is equated to disobedience; therefore we must choose to respond instantly to the initial prompting of the Holy Spirit. “It takes only good men to do nothing for evil to triumph,” said Edmund Burke. How many things has God spoken to you on which you have not acted?
In most of our meeting halls today, the clock is placed in front of the congregation. Men are always in a hurry to move to the next item on their schedule. My elder brother once remarked that people get weary of listening to sermons today only to stand outside after church service over an hour chatting with friends. He challenges me a lot. Now he is reading the Bible cover to cover for the twenty-fifth round! Where does he get the time in this fast-paced life? The way we budget our time speaks louder about what we value.
Whenever our schedules are overburdening, the most likely item to be compromised is our quiet time devotion! Are you consistent in your bible reading and study? How much time do you spend in prayer everyday? Martin Luther commented, “I am so busy today I must spend at least 3hrs in prayer!” Until we are ready to demonstrate to God that He is not part of our day’s program but the central theme of our lives, we are yet to catch the hem of his garment.
Be willing to spend time with Him without the restraint of modern day busy schedules. Regain the lost spiritual disciplines of consistent Bible reading, fasting, scripture memory and scriptural meditation. I believe that in the upcoming 21days, we will choose to put aside many good things that may seek our attention. God will take the pre-eminence share of our private hours. I suggest that we also fast the things that seem to draw us away from spending time with God. The fasting should also include what we listen to, read and spend time doing. I recently heard an encouraging commitment from a student who had just returned from a six month mission exposure among an unreached people group. He had resolved to reduce time spent on facebook to a maximum of 1hr per day!
Some of us may need to cut down on the hours spent on TV and internet. As a family, we recently moved the TV from our living room after we noticed we were sleeping late and thus waking up late, eating away our precious time for morning devotions. I have suffered greatly under the bondage of busy schedules even in ministry and resolved to turn my public ministry to be an overflow of my private fellowship with Jesus. We must safeguard our devotion time with the Lord jealously for there we draw our spiritual food. (Deuteronomy 17:19) Each of us must determine before the Lord, what is the ‘weight‘ that hinders us from spending quality time with Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1)
In the 1904 Welsh revival, Evan Roberts’ message had four points that are still relevant today;
- You must put away any unconfessed sin
- You must put away any doubtful habit
- You must obey the Spirit promptly
- You must confess Christ Publicly