Scripture Reference: Acts 2:42-47
When God Works a Special Awakening upon His Church
In times past (and not so past in some places) the annual “Revival!” signs would sprout on church lawns. Known by insiders as a “week of meetings,” the annual revival event was expected to draw a large crowd to hear a proven preacher expound the gospel so folks could walk the aisle at decision time to be saved (or for you Calvinists, to walk the aisle to confess you have evidence you are already elect).
I have always been troubled, however, that a mighty work of God’s Spirit can be scheduled by a church committee a year in advance on the church calendar.
How would we know when God was going to “revive” his church?
What if God didn’t show up?
Is he allowed to show up at some other time during the year?
I’m not trying to be sarcastic here. These are legit questions. So I did some digging.
I found that “awakening movements” or renewal movements have happened many times in history. They are always unexpected. They surprise the revived church as much as anyone else. Real revival, one finds upon a little research, is an act of God. An act from God.
It is not an event planned by his church (complete with tent and a neon “Jesus Saves” sign).
And it usually appears during a time of immense dissatisfaction with the reigning spirituality. It seems that when people are hungry for God, he shows up in a special way. (Isn’t that just like him?)
Periods of renewal have specific characteristics. Renewal periods documented in the UK and the US include up to four major spiritual awakenings in the past three centuries. You may know about some of them from your history classes. One spurred the end of slavery in England under men like William Wilberforce. Another was a return to the ideals of personal piety and the study of scriptures in the new American colonies (think John Wesley and Methodism). Yet another was the awakening of the early 1800s that spread the gospel west of the Allegheny’s during westward expansion. Awakenings had great impact on oppressed labor, the poor, gave rise to hospitals, orphanages, colleges and schools. Most recent was the revival that spawned a huge Pentecostal/charismatic movement in early to mid 20th century ( a movement that continues globally to this day).
OK, that was a long paragraph. The point of it was to show that spiritual awakening movements really changed how people live, both inside and outside the church. Societies were changed. In fact, the church during these awakenings looked strikingly like the very first church in Acts 2.42-47.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. [New International Version]
Maybe this church in Acts is the official Bible snapshot of a church in the midst of awakening! This church determined that they would not disregard God’s empowering moment. They would and did resist being sucked in to the values of the culture around them. They would be the weird ones; the “different” folks. They would do their best to try and exhibit the heart of God and his priorities for human beings.
· Personal devotion to God was more important than simple identification with a religious group.
· Relationships of affection with one another became primary.
· Society outside the churches was transformed by the transformation of the Christians
· Prayer, disciple-building, and service characterized churches.
So what does all this mean for us today?
It means that rather than planting a sign that revival is going to happen next month, we acknowledge that God is in charge of awakenings, not us. And we should desire his coming to awaken us by his Holy Spirit. We should long for it. We should pray for it. This is not without precedent:
“Revive me according to Your loving kindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Your mouth.” Psalm 119:88
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said. Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' John 7:37-38
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
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your Presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your generous spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. Psalm 51:10-13
Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You? Psalm 85:6
I believe we should pray for renewal and repent of our complacency.
I believe YOU should pray for renewal and repent of your complacency.
I believe we must pray for a move of God upon this church and the churches of this city.
“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14