National Revival: The Urgency of The Times
The window of opportunity for national revival will not remain open indefinitely. When Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem the people were shouting “Hosanna.” “Hosanna” means “Save us now!” We desperately need to discover that same urgency.
America is at a crossroads. Will we choose revival or judgment by the hand of a Holy God? I choose revival! How about you?
I think just about everyone would agree life can’t be lived in a constant state of urgency. In our present-day world, many live as though it is absolutely imperative that many things be done right now, when the truth is, it probably wouldn’t make much difference if they put it off until tomorrow, or even next week, for that matter.
I am not saying there can’t ever be an issue that demands prompt attention. I think anyone hearing a police loudspeaker sounding a call to evacuate their house immediately because a wildfire was rapidly approaching their neighborhood, would be wise to clear out as fast as possible. That would be a situation that definitely warrants an urgent response.
My topic for this chapter fits somewhere in between these two examples. It’s not something that has to be acted upon this very moment. Then again, neither is it a matter that should be neglected for very long. It does require attention, and it should be addressed sooner rather than later.
My subject for this chapter is national revival. Just as individual believers need to experience personal revival and the presence of Jesus in a powerful new way, individual churches need to experience revival and an overwhelming sense of the presence of the Lord. History proves that sometimes entire countries find themselves impacted by God manifesting Himself in a unique way when this happens.
You get glimpses of this latter miracle occurring in ancient Israel. Numerous times in the Old Testament, there are accounts of such times. Does everyone repent and turn back to the Lord? Of course not! However, generally speaking, a change in the direction on a national level takes place because a significant number of inhabitants are able to get things straightened out with the Lord.
In the past, believe it or not, America has experienced the same kind of transformation. Later in this chapter, I will tell you about one such time out of several times of spiritual revival in America.
Earlier, to make a point, I referred to a rapidly moving fire. If you were warned that one was approaching your neighborhood, it would be prudent to react quickly. Many people mistakenly believe all wildfires can be controlled. Firefighting experts insist that this isn’t true. Some fires can’t be stopped until they burn themselves out. Others cannot be controlled at all.
For example, in 1967, the Tasmanian fires in Australia came on the heels of a considerable drought. More than 110 known fires were burning on the morning of February 7, consuming more than 650,000 acres in about five hours.
American preachers of earlier generations had a much better feel than we do for what a revival can accomplish. They struggled, however, to come up with a vivid picture that would adequately convey the phenomenal power of a revival. The image they turned to most often was a sweeping wildfire blown by the winds of the Spirit and burning everything in its path. As sparks of a wildfire from one area that’s ablaze are carried by the wind to ignite somewhere else, so it is with revival. The stories of what has been happening in a given church are told elsewhere, and interest in the spreading of a Spirit-led revival grows.
I am convinced the time is now for pastors across the country to begin calling for a revival with a new sense of urgency, one that will sweep across the nation. We desperately need the immediate intervention of a spiritual force so overwhelming it would be impossible to harness, in part because so many fires would all be burning at the same time-110 in the Phoenix area, 110 in the Chicago area, another 110 around Atlanta, 110 more near L.A., and at least 110 around New York and Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C. In fact, I envision flash points touching down in towns, large and small, all across America.
For this kind of wildfire to begin and spread, churches everywhere must be convinced this rising tide of power, of national revival, is America’s only hope. The church has to be confident that God is both willing and able to do something amazing and blazing in our day. If He could bring Nineveh to her knees through the preaching of one reluctant prophet, what might happen in our time if there were many willing servants of the Lord eager to minister on His behalf?
Christians need to fully understand that absent another great revival, this country faces the risk of a terrible judgment at the hands of a holy God. Dr. Billy Graham, Dr. Henry Blackaby, James Robison, Pat Robertson, Bill McCartney, the late Bill Bright, and David Wilkerson, along with many other prominent Christian leaders, have expressed a fear that America is racing toward God’s judgment. Rapid deterioration in moral values continues in America and, as I said before, nothing neither new programs, education, counseling, nor anything else, seems to have a significant effect on the problem. It seems to worsen with every passing day.
Since the beginning of mankind, God has never allowed any nation to embrace sin to the degree now seen in America and remain exempt from punishment. This is especially true when the people had the Word of God available to them as we do. The Bible warns us that we shall be held accountable for how we make use of the resources and opportunities God has given us. We need to take Luke 12:48 seriously. I am going to repeat what it says:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
In other words, American citizens can’t live as though they will never have to pay a price for evil behavior. Even Israel, God chosen people, did not get a pass on that.
The ancient warning of the prophet Amos is appropriate our day as well. He said, “Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire; it will devour, and Bethel will have no one to quench it” (Amos 5:6). It’s as though this man of God was saying, “Choose your fire�either revival or judgment.” Even if a backslidden America is the beast/superpower in Revelation 13, those same two options are the only ones available from which we must choose. In fact, it just may be that government officials opposing Christian standards will one day gain so much control they will become a tool of God’s judgment. As most of us can see, this is already beginning to happen. Could God be warning us?
However, for the sake of the Christian community, our children, and grandchildren, I will do all that I can to see that the believers of this generation say, “We choose revival.”
But we must sense the urgency of the times. Our window of opportunity won’t remain open forever�we need to respond while God is still calling. We don’t have unlimited options or any way of knowing how long they might last. We would do well to learn from what happened in
Noah’s day. Those people obviously waited too long. Will we?
We humans don’t have as much control of things as we often would like to believe. Even in the matter of conversion, a person is to respond when God calls. Said differently, the Lord is under no obligation to show up at our convenience. We should not realistically expect the great ruler of the universe to jump whenever we snap our fingers.
That’s why nonbelievers are encouraged to say “yes” to Jesus before they leave an evangelistic outreach event or a church service. God has drawn so close to them, it seems as though He is whispering their name in an audible voice. “Not now,” the person t h inks, “I’ll pray on my own when I get home.” More often than riot, it never happens. People should be informed that when the Lord prompts them, the Holy Spirit is drawing them, and they should respond immediately. The Lord may not draw them unto
Himself again. He is not our servant. Instead, we are to serve Him. He is the master. This is one of the first lessons every Christian must learn and acknowledge. We are to answer whenever He calls, not the other way around.
Regarding the matter of national revival, there will undoubtedly come a time when God is no longer sympathetic to the cries of His people. Listen to these words of the prophet Jeremiah regarding Israel: “Then the LORD said to me: Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence!'” (Jeremiah 15:1)
The very same sobering concept is again expressed in Ezekiel 14: 12-14: “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, even if these three men Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord.
Clearly an entire nation can sin away its day of grace, just as an individual can. America is edging closer and closer to such a time. The window of opportunity for national revival will not remain open indefinitely. Consequently, we need to develop a sense of urgency, the power found in “Hosanna”,”Save us now!” That was the cry of the people in the city of Jerusalem as Christ rode in seated on a donkey. Had He been riding on a stallion, it would have meant He was coming as a warrior! According to John, that is exactly what He does ride in Revelation 19: 11-16: “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and dean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode a donkey, still considered a noble animal in that day. To the people of that time, it meant He was coming in peace.
“Hosanna!” or “Save us now!” was the yell of a jubilant crowd as they spread palm branches and their cloaks before Him. “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they screamed. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. This is the opportune time, Jesus. We believe you are the long-awaited Messiah. Save us now!”
And Jesus did. He definitely responded to their cry of “Save us now!” … but not in the way they had expected.
Even so, their sense of urgency needs to be recreated in our (lay. Jesus, we need you to act now! Show us your mighty power. Send us another national Spirit-operated revival. Now, as then, our most urgent need is still, “Hosanna! Save us now!”
I hope you are able to fully comprehend what I mean by saying that “the window of opportunity for national revival will not remain open indefinitely.” Consequently, it is imperative that we, like the Jewish people who watched Jesus ride a donkey into Jerusalem, discover the urgency of “Hosanna” , “Save us now!” I want to use American history to show you exactly what that looks like in practical terms.
The effects of a powerful revival usually last only a generation or two. What happens is when people draw near to the Lord during revival, He blesses them in numerous ways. Unfortunately, their children soon begin to take this wonderful inheritance for granted. Ultimately, they prize the many benefits more than the One providing them. Complacency sets in and their hearts start to grow cold to the things of the Lord. Sadly, this story is typical and oft-repeated.
To give you a specific example, beginning in the 1730s and lasting at least a generation, America experienced a remarkable period of history known as the Great Awakening. By the early 1790s, however, the religious scene was totally different. Spiritual decline had once again set in.
After years of deprivation and struggle, suffering from the Revolutionary War had taken its toll. It is not uncommon for the fighting and killing of war to have a negative effect on the morals of the people involved.
Infidelity, imported from our military ally France, had swept across our nation, even infecting the lives of a number of influential individuals. They even had the audacity to deny the very existence of God, who ever so recently had been incredibly gracious in preserving America during the “Great Awakening” revival, influencing the basic principles set down in our Constitution.
In colleges all across the land, infidel clubs were organized with the express purpose of destroying what they had labeled the’, Christian “superstition.” In the western frontier, which at that time consisted of states like Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, laws lessness ruled.
Deplorable moral conditions, coupled with the falling-away of many churches, prompted twenty three New England clergy to circulate a letter calling on their congregants to pray for revival. Their request was straight forward and to the point, saying let there be “public prayer and praise, accompanied with such instruction from God’s Word, as might be judged proper, on every first Tuesday of the four quarters of the year, beginning with the first Tuesday of January
1795 at two o’clock in the afternoon … and so continue, from quarter to quarter, and from year to year, until, the good providence of God prospering our efforts, we shall obtain the blessing for which we pray.”
The response was overwhelming. In fact, all across the country, everyday believers entered into “covenants” to spend an entire day in prayer, I especially want you to pay attention to this, once a month. Christians were meeting once a month for all-day prayer for revival. There can be little doubt they were sensing the urgency of the situation!
Many also pledged to spend a half-hour every Saturday night, plus another thirty minutes every Sunday morning before church praying for revival. Can you picture this happening now?
Church members formed Aaron and Hur Societies to hold up the hands of their pastors. You may be wondering what Aaron and Hur had to do with this spiritual warfare taking place. The answer is found in the Old Testament, where a special incident of warfare involved Aaron and Hur in a unique way. Exodus 17:8-16 says:
“The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’
“So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.
“When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on one side, one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely erase the memory of the Amalekites from under heaven.’
“Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, Tor hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord. The Lord will be at war against the Amalekites from generation to generation.”
I believe the last part of this passage relates to the spirit of the Amalekites, or the ways of the world, which Christians are still at war with today.
Another important influence growing out of these prayer meetings of the late 1700s came about as seminary students began to meet regularly to study the histories of revival. How, when, and why had God shown His powerful hand in days past? They sought detailed answers to these questions.
Given the expressed urgency of believers throughout the country, it wasn’t long before fire from heaven began to fall. What has been called America’s Second Great Awakening was characterized by three C’s colleges, camp meetings, and churches. Space doesn’t allow me to do much more than cite a few relevant illustrations.
Colleges: Yale, for example, became a hotbed of unbelief and criticism of the Bible. Providentially, who should be made the new president of Yale in 1795 but the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, a man who had been one of the key figures in the Great Awakening some fifty years earlier.
His name was Timothy Dwight, and the students gave him a list of lecture topics designed to make him sweat. The one he chose first was “Is the Bible the Word of God?” He then announced he would preach a chapel series in which he would respond to each of their negative arguments. His powerful messages soon began to change things on campus. In 1802, revival hit in full force when seventy-five in a student body of 230 (or about one in three) were soundly convicted. Of that seventy-five, nearly half later entered the ministry.
Camp Meetings: Imagine a large outdoor space with people constantly arriving on horseback or in covered wagons. That is what a camp meeting was like in those days. Following is a description of what you might have seen. There was no public-address system, so several services were going on at the same time. When people responded to a sermon, they didn’t go up front or into an inquiry room. Instead, they actually entered an area formed by a variety of ministers holding hands to create what they called a “sacred circle.” Inside that circle, those who came forward would kneel and pray, being under deep conviction by the Holy Spirit.
Here’s how a Presbyterian minister described what he observed:
A memorable meeting was held at Cane Ridge in August 1801. The roads were crowded with wagons, carriages, horses, and footmen moving to the solemn camp. Between twenty and thirty thousand persons were assembled. Four or five preachers spoke at the same time in different parts of the encampment without confusion. The Methodist and Baptist preachers aided in the work, and all appeared cordially united with it. The salvation of sinners was the one object. We all engaged in singing the same songs, all united in prayer, all preached the same gospel. The numbers converted will be known only in eternity.
`Many things transpired in the meeting, which were so much like miracles that they had the same effect as miracles on unbelievers. By them many were convinced that Jesus was the Christ, and were persuaded to submit to Him. This meeting continued six or seven days and nights, and would have continued longer, but food for such a multitude failed. To this meeting many had come from Ohio and other distant parts. These returned home and diffused the same spirit in their respective neighbor-hoods, and similar results followed. So low had religion sunk, and such carelessness had prevailed everywhere, I had thought that nothing common could have arrested and held the attention of the people.”
Churches: There were no outstanding personalities to whom everyone looked and no one assuming the role George Whitefield had played in the first Great Awakening. Instead, pastor after pastor in church after church wrote exciting reports about the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of their flock.
For example, in 1798 one minister reported his feelings prior to the breakthrough this way: “No fond parent ever watched the fever of his child at the hour of its crisis with more anxious and interested feelings than numbers of God’s praying friends watched the work of the Spirit at this critical moment. The thought of it going off were more dreadful than the grave.”
Now that’s urgency!
This pastor’s concerns were rewarded. The meeting house was filled service after service, and it was just a few days before he counted more than sixty converts.
The window of opportunity for national revival will not remain open indefinitely. Consequently, we need to discover the urgency of “Hosanna”,”Save us now!”
If Jesus were to attend your church service in bodily form, and, you could call Him up for a short interview, how do you think He would answer the following question? Jesus, on a scale of one to ten, ten being an intense sense of urgency regarding the need for national revival, where would You place the average American Christian?
What do you think the Son of God would say?
What if you asked Him the same question regarding the average member of your church congregation? On a scale of one to ten, ten being an intense sense of urgency regarding the need for national revival, Jesus, where would You place the average member of my church?
How might He respond if you asked Him to tell you privately where He would place you as an individual on that same scale regarding an intense sense of urgency about the need for national revival?
What would His answer reveal about the future of America and of our children and grandchildren?
Because the window of opportunity for national revival won’t remain open indefinitely, I am going to ask you to seriously consider the following challenge.
Are you willing to assume the role of a modern-day “Aaron and Hur” to start praying for your pastor, your church, and our country? It doesn’t matter if you pray alone or with a partner. Starting this week, I want you to begin praying earnestly, with a sense of urgency, for revival in the church where you attend, as well as every other church across the land. Set aside just fifteen minutes at least once during the week. This can be done at any time during the week. But continue your commitment of fifteen minutes per week for ten consecutive weeks.
You are to pray for your church, your pastor (or pastors), and anyone else the Lord lays on your heart, as well as every of Christian church in America. Ask for a Spirit-led revival. Include praying for the Lord to honor us with a season of His presence.
You don’t have to make up your mind immediately. If you say yes, however, the ten weeks should begin immediately. If you say yes a week from now, your ten weeks will begin then. Of course, you can re-commit for another ten weeks when your first ten weeks come to an end. I hope you will. Where I have had an opportunity to personally share this prayer request, I have been blessed with the response, as more often than not several would commit to pray for revival more often than once a week.
Let me also suggest you write down your commitment and post it on your refrigerator or that place where you post your reminders. In our busy world, it’s not uncommon for any of us to forget things. Especially in those areas of spiritual importance as the enemy is always going to be at work, using any means he can, to side track us in any commitment we make to God.
Daniel had to pray for twenty-one days and not stop until he obtained his answer. We learn from Daniel 10:11-14 that we must be persistent and stick with it. We cannot pray for a thing once, then cease, and call that prayer the prayer of faith. Daniel’s answer did not come for twenty-one days because the Bible says an archangel with the message was hindered by the devil.
Realize this commitment to pray is a start, and though small, it could be much more significant than most of us are able to comprehend. It could even be the impetus for a renewed sense of urgency marking a clear declaration of who we are and what we truly want God to accomplish through us!
How long must the Christian community pray for a Spirit-led-revival before it happens? Obviously, I don’t know! I do believe the devil will strongly resist, so we must be persistent and persevere.
The above article, “National Revival: The Urgency of The Times” was written by Bob Fraley. The article was excerpted from Fraley’s book Revival or Judgment?
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”