God expects us to be fruitful and not in a state of barrenness. Barrenness is when we don’t see growth; there is stagnation, no vision, no dreams, no penetration into the community, no salvations, no transformation.
We read in Jeremiah 2:21 that God ‘has planted you a noble vine’:
I planted you in the land like a special vine of the very best stock. Why in the world have you turned into something like a wild vine that produces rotten, foul-smelling grapes?Jeremiah 2:21
The seed or vine that Jesus planted was a powerful body, alive in the Spirit, a church with influence that turned the world upside down. But that seed planted 2,000 years ago has turned into a degenerated plant, a church no longer putting the Kingdom of God first, no longer burdened to reach the lost, a church influenced by the culture of consumerism. Jesus spoiled principalities and powers through His resurrection, and He delegated power and authority to His church. In fact, we are told ‘the same power that raised Jesus from the dead now dwells in us’.
Why then are our lives barren instead of bearing fruit? Why are we afraid and timid in sharing the gospel, instead of living by faith, seizing every moment of opportunity?
Over past weeks I have been challenged by reading stories of some of the greatest revivals the world has known. Revival is not something that we can switch on and off at will. God alone is the orchestrator of revival. It is in revival that God stirs the church and blows His Holy Spirit on us, and as He does so, it bursts into life again. I believe that the seed that was planted is still good, it contains Gods DNA, it is supernatural, it carries a mystery. But we need the Spirit of God to water the seed, for you and I to get rid of the weeds in our lives (such as busyness, materialism, apathy and unbelief).
Nineteen kings in the northern kingdoms of Israel did not experience revival. Yet in Judah, eight kings tapped God’s power and found renewing and reviving in the midst of compliancy and apostasy. I believe that we have much to learn about past revivals in this land and around the world, because they all have similar characteristics:
Each revival occurred during a time of darkness and deep decay in the nation: in the reign of each king there was spiritual hardness of heart and national depression. The third Great Awakening in America occurred at the time of the Great Depression. America was experiencing a great boom in wealth and prosperity, but all that changed in August 1857 when there was a financial collapse. Americans had abandoned God for their wealth; God was no longer important and their wealth was gone.
Each revival brought about the rebuilding of the altar of prayer: one man who was frustrated at the indifference in the lives of people to the gospel, began to pray. Jeremiah Lanphier started his first prayer meeting where six people joined him. The following week twenty people joined him and on the day when the New York stock market crashed, one hundred people were meeting for prayer. In April 1858, forty thousand people were meeting to pray and by 1859, more than one million people had received Christ as their saviour.
Each revival began with a consecrated man of God, who was not afraid to speak the truth: when Jeremiah began to speak with prophetic truth, people didn’t like the way he preached because he spoke truth into their lives. So they threw him into a dungeon and tried to kill him. Today’s church is compromising to the influence of the culture around them.
Each revival caused radical repentance: the Welsh revival in 1904 and the Hebridean revival in 1950 both saw mass repentance. If God is to pour our His Spirit on the nation, the church needs to come to repentance.
Each revival restored purity and holiness: some of the hallmarks of the world’s great revivals were integrity, honesty, authenticity. People were hungry for God, and they were real! Under Hezekiah people carried out buckets loads of rubbish from the temple and we too need to get rid of rubbish. Revival brings not legalism, but a purity of heart, a thirst to love God more.
Each revival restored the power of the written word: true revival makes people love the Word. Shallowness will be the outcome if our experience of God is based on emotional worship and not grounded in the Word of God.
Each revival restored the true order of worship: we see that when the kings of Judah experienced revival, they first pulled down the altars of Baal and then restored true worship to the living God. Worship is a lifestyle lived before God, not a ritual for Sunday mornings.
Let us worship, let us pray ‘Lord do it again’, ‘revive me in the midst of years’.