For the last several years, there has been an increasing cry for a fresh move of God in our country, for a new spiritual awakening. Is it coming? Are the days of revival near? Could we see America shaken by the Word and the Spirit?
In my recent book Saving a Sick America, I shared my deep and fervent hope that another great awakening could be at hand, something that could rock our nation from coast to coast. So, I'm certainly not one to say, "It's too late for America!"
And the Lord knows how desperately we need revival. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that, without a national awakening, in just one generation America could collapse into spiritual anarchy.
So, the question is not, "Do we need revival?" nor is the question, "Is God willing to send revival?"
Instead, the question is, "Do we really want revival? Will we welcome a divine visitation if it came?"
Or, to ask the question even more pointedly, "As God's people, do we really want Him to visit us afresh, or are we content to remain in our compromised spiritual state?"
Do you remember what happened in the Gadarenes according to Mark 5? There was a demonized man there who had terrorized the region: "He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones" (Mark 5:3-5).
What happened next was extraordinary.
Jesus drove the demons out of the man – there were many of them, perhaps in the thousands – sending these wicked spirits into a herd of pigs. And, Mark records, "the herd, numbering about 2,000, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea" (Mark 5:13).
The herdsmen shared the whole story in the city, as a result of which the people came flocking to see this man who had been so wondrously set free by the Lord. "And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion [of demons], sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region" (Mark 5:15-17).
What kind of response was this? You would have thought they would be begging Jesus to stay, bringing their sick and afflicted to Him. Instead, they begged Him to depart.
Why? His visit rocked their world. It was too intense, too disruptive, too much.
Better to have this tormented man in their midst than to have this kind of upheaval.
Better to have the status quo, with all its misery and bondage, than to have a divine, up-close and personal encounter with the Lord.
Better to live in spiritual darkness than to have pigs throwing themselves into the sea.
Plus, as long as we have a crazy man in our midst, we can make excuses for our own bad habits and choices. Now that he's clothed and in his right mind, it's getting a little uncomfortable for us. Before, when he was committing X-rated sins, our R-rated sins weren't too bad. Now that's he's a new man, it's making us look bad.
"Jesus, we'd prefer it if you left!"
Will that be our attitude when Jesus comes to visit us afresh? Will we say, "Lord, that's a bit too much! Things here weren't so bad before, and since You've been around, normal life has been disrupted. It's a little too intense for our comfort. Now that You've stirred things up, people are getting almost fanatical about faith, walking and talking and living as if the Bible was true and heaven and hell were real. Jesus, please leave!"
You see, revival is not simply a matter of holding a series of special, long meetings with lots of singing and preaching and emotion, mixed with some falling and shaking and crying out.
No, revival speaks of a holy God coming in the midst of His people with fresh conviction, revealing our sin and our guilt and our coldness and our hypocrisy, calling us to repentance.
As Charles Finney said, "A revival always includes conviction of sin on the part of the Church. Backslidden [Christians] cannot wake up and begin right away in the service of God, without deep searchings of heart. The fountains of sin need to be broken up. In a true revival, Christians are always brought under such conviction; they see their sins in such a light that often they find it impossible to maintain a hope of their acceptance with God. It does not always go that extent, but there are always, in a genuine revival, deep convictions of sin, and often cases of abandoning all hope."
Finney also explained that, "A revival is nothing else than a new beginning of obedience to God. Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down into the dust before God, with deep humility, and a forsaking of sin."
What does this look like in real life?
There can be days of weeping and months of soul-searching. There can be radical breakthroughs with shouts of joy and celebration. And there can be a holy and divine shaking that rocks our religious structures and challenges our religious structures. Do we really want God to come and visit in power?
Listen to these words from the prophet Malachi: "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap" (Mal. 3:1-2).
The Lord comes as a refiner's fire. Is that what we really want?
I deeply and fervently hope and pray that God sends another great awakening to our nation. But unless our hunger and thirst go deeper, I'm concerned that when revival comes, we will not be ready for it.
The best thing we can do, then, is get alone with God and cry out daily with all our hearts, "Lord, send a fresh wave of your Spirit, starting right here with me!"
If enough of us get desperately hungry, the Lord will come and fill.