In the most glorious invasions on earth, there are seasons when God makes Himself known on a nationwide level. We call these revivals when they descend on the church and renew sleeping believers, and awakenings when they bring lost, blinded men and women to life.
Our Recent Past
In the first 150 years of America’s existence, we experienced such movements every 30–50 years. The First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, the Prayer Revival of 1857–1858, and the worldwide impact of the Welsh Revival of 1904–1905 ushered millions into the kingdom in a matter of months. Although God used men and women, no single person could receive glory for these outpourings, because of the magnitude of their effect.
Many books speak of these great movements. Every spiritual historian would agree that these invasions are nothing less or more than the manifest (clear, recognizable, easily seen) visitations of the presence of God. In fact, I once heard the wonderful revivalist and historian Richard Owen Roberts say that real revival can be defined in one word: God!
Heaven Coming Down
These are seasons when God is reminding us in big ways what heaven is like. The church has been called to pray and work so that God’s kingdom will come and His will be done on earth as it is being done right now in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
We forget (or have never comprehended before) what heaven is like. During seasons of revival, we see a bit of heaven.
- We bask in the beauty of Jesus and gladly throw down our idols and worship Him alone.
- We witness the power of the Spirit and believe Him for great things.
- We embrace the sovereignty of God and lay aside our complaining discontent over petty issues and grow up to be bigger Christians.
- We unite in the mission of God and boldly join His agenda to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all the things He has commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20).
Back On Course
Divine, nationwide invasions give us critical course corrections and put us back on track. Without them, we begin to compare ourselves with ourselves, vainly thinking that our human plans and results are all God wants. We get sleepy and satisfied with our pitiful status quo. We get proud of our work (believing it is what WE have done), and claim the credit.
During revival, God blows away all of our silliness like chaff. He lifts our vision to remind us that He can do “exceedingly, abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
We see the “much more” of God. We humbly recognize that the endgame of this invasion is so He alone can again receive “glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever” (Ephesians 3:20-21). And we realize it is all from Him, for Him, by Him, and through Him.
Personally, corporately, and nationally, the greatest moments of our existence and the greatest movements for the kingdom happen when God manifests Himself—when His presence is clearly seen and felt. A. W. Tozer recognized this need for such an outpouring in our day:
The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His presence. The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter the Presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be enlarged (The Pursuit of God, p. 26).