The Church may cry out that it “wants a move of God,” but this request cannot be answered without giving ourselves to thorough heart preparation. “Sow for yourselves righteousness,” Hosea exhorts us, “reap steadfast love. Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness on you” (10:12).
Hosea outlines three stages in the heart’s renewal: (1) heart preparation, (2) prevailing prayer, and (3) spiritual revival (spiritual rain). We must understand that is only out of a heart plowed deep that proceeds the kind of prevailing prayer which brings true spiritual revival.
God reveals this pattern again in 2 Chronicles 7:14 when He promises that, if those “who are called by My name will 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 heal their land.”
The pattern is the same: heart preparation is coupled with prevailing prayer and revival follows.
When most people pray for revival, they are probably asking for a wonderful experience at church at 11:00 am. Revival is so much more than a Sunday morning experience. When a believer prays for revival, he or she is asking God for life-shaking experiences at a personal cost. In revival, the seeker confronts sin and repents deeply. It’s agonizing; it’s consuming.
Revival crashes our calendars, interrupts TV times, and demands our full attention. When we pray for revival, we typically assume we are asking God to “sic ‘em” on the bad guys.
Little do we realize that revival begins with us, the people of God.
Revival is divine intervention in the normal course of spiritual things. God reveals Himself to man in such awful holiness and irresistible power that human personalities are overshadowed and human programs are abandoned. Man retires to the background because God has taken the field.
Charles Finney, the Father of Modern Revivalism, describes the process of breaking up our fallow ground. “You must remove every obstruction,” Finney counsels. “Things may be left that you think little things, and you may wonder why you do not feel as you wish to in your walk with God, when the reason is that your proud and carnal mind has covered up something which God required you to confess and remove.”
Finney continues, “Break up all the ground and turn it over. Don’t balk it, as the farmers say; don’t turn aside for little difficulties; drive the plow right through them, beam deep, and turn the ground all up, so that it may all be mellow and soft, and fit to receive the seed and bear fruit a hundred fold.”
The most common harbinger of revival is the prostration of convicted souls. Such heavy conviction characterized the revivals of George Whitefield and John Wesley. Lady Huntingdon wrote to Whitefield about those who were crying out and falling down at his meetings and advised him not to remove them, as he had been doing, for it dampened the meetings.
“You are making a mistake,” she urged him. “Don’t be wiser than God. Let them cry out; it will do a great deal more good than your preaching.”
Revival is Holiness and Conviction of Sin
In his book Revival: A People Saturated with God, Brian Edwards explains that one of the most singular evidences of genuine revival is a deepening conviction of sin and a growing passion for holiness. In revival, people weep over sin and are consumed with the desire to consecrate their lives to the Lord.
“Revival is always a revival of holiness,” Edwards writes, “And it begins with a terrible conviction of sin. It is often the form that this conviction of sin takes that troubles those who read of revival. Sometimes the experience is crushing. People weep uncontrollably, and worse! But there is no such thing as a revival without tears of conviction and sorrow.”
This has been the testimony of the Church throughout its history. Fresh encounters with the glory of God release conviction of sin and a desire for holiness. Whenever God manifests His Presence in power and people stand before the holiness and majesty of His Glory, they are undone (Isaiah 6).
In the 1940s, a group of missionaries in India began praying for revival. “We began to become so desperate for revival that we read Hosea 10:12. First God showed us that our life was practically prayerless except for our routine morning and evening devotions. We became acutely aware of our need for persistent intercession. What followed was deep conviction of personal sin. One thing after another was revealed to us that had to come out and it broke our hearts.”
Arthur Wallis recounts the testimony of a member of a deeply devoted group praying for revival on the Isle of Lewis in 1949. She had asked the Lord to reveal anything in her that that was hindering revival. She writes, “It was as though scales fell from my eyes and I saw my heart as I had never yet seen it. Although I had confessed all my sins to God, I had to confess something to someone I had wronged for years. I wept for hours [and] cried to God for strength to confess. After some days I confessed part, but not the whole. I had a measure of
peace, but knew that God wanted absolute obedience.”
At the next prayer meeting the story of Ananias and Sapphira was read, the solemn account of two who “kept back part of the price” (Acts 5). The sister was moved, but thought that God was speaking to someone else. The following night she went to bed feeling wretched. In the early hours she awoke, feeling God’s hand upon her, and His holy presence filled the room. She cried aloud, “O Lord, I can’t bear it! What must I do?”
The Lord said, “Are you prepared to pay the price of revival?”
“What is the price, Lord?”
“A full confession,” was the answer.
She cried out, “How can I pay it, Lord?” Afraid to live and afraid to die,
she spent the night in agony of soul. The next day this sister made full confession with tears to the one concerned, feeling that had she not done so her life would be taken away.
This is the testimony of the history of the church: encounters with the glory of God produce deep conviction of sin and a desire for holiness. As so many continue to seek a Third Great Awakening in America and the nations of the earth, may we recognize today that full confessions of our sin, deep conviction, and canceling drive thru church services on Sunday mornings are absolutely necessary to prepare for what is coming. In fact, God is looking for a people who are going to daily examine their own hearts as we get ready for the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ. It’s time to break up the fallow ground!
Marked for Eternity,