To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power. . . . (2 Thessalonians 1:11–12 RSV)
God’s power is essential for daily life, but it can’t stop there. Every generation is called to go after the most forceful display of divine power. Martyn Lloyd-Jones declares, “There is no more important subject of the Christian church at this present hour, than this very question of the need of revival. . . it is second to none.”2
It’s the most important issue to us because our culture is winding down. Any spiritual energy and order we have is quickly disintegrating. Churches aren’t exempt. Movements that exploded on the scene with God’s power are now fossilizing into institutions.
One pastor describes his condition as “clinging to the decaying threads of a past experience.” It’s true. We’re all living on the diminishing energy of the previous revival. We can’t go much longer. That former wave has receded. But James Burns gives us hope, suggesting that even a receding wave “is gathering in power and volume to return, and to rush further in.”3
Revving up human effort isn’t the way to bring in the next revival. Only a determination to enter God’s gathering power will bring it.
Don’t give up because the wave hasn’t come yet. Instead, examine if you are in the early currents of that coming surge.
Something from the Other World
Even if you’re anxious because everything seems to be winding down, is revival really what you want? Often most of us simply desire a small blessing added to our human efforts. We seek God for a little boost.
But participants in past revivals describe it as anything but a little boost. David Brainerd says, “I stood amazed at the influence that seized the audience almost universally and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent. . . .”4
“There is something there from the other world,” explained a witness of the Welsh Revival. “You cannot say whence it came or whether it is going, but it moves and lives and reaches for you all the time.”5
Frank Bartleman, attending the Azusa Street Revival, confesses, “I have stopped more than once within two blocks of the place and prayed for strength before I dare go on. The presence of the Lord was so real.”6
These people don’t speak of a slight blessing. This is supernatural power taking over. It’s what Paul wants for the Thessalonians. His earlier letter tells how the gospel first arrives in the area. It comes “with power, and with the Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 1:5). That’s an irresistible force, not a slight bump.
Jesus promises the same. He tells his disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. . . .” (Acts 1:8).
Paul and Jesus agree. Revival power isn’t nebulous. It’s God’s dynamic energy!
Read Acts. Believers constantly go after Holy-Spirit-coming-on-you power. They want outpourings that “pervade the atmosphere like a contagion, and burst out in unexpected places as if carried by unseen hands.”7
Maybe you settle for less because all you’ve ever known is a small boost. This misunderstanding of power also affects our churches. We only desire a bit of help but God intends more. He wants us to know a power that’s moving, living, and reaching.
Evan Roberts as a young adult encounters this very power and then sees it impact the townships of Wales. Starting in 1904, a revival tsunami advances for a year and a half. One five-week period records more than twenty thousand people come into the kingdom of God. From his experience, Roberts declares, “revival comes from knowledge of the Holy Spirit and the way of co-working with him which enables him to work in revival power.”8
Get specific like Evan Roberts. Start co-working with the Spirit. Begin by asking for his power. Trust the Father’s promise. Who knows? What starts in you may take over an entire community.
Revival on the Shelf
Even if we are aware a revival wave is something powerful, we can still misunderstand it as being rare.
The letter to the Ephesians encourages continual infilling of the Spirit’s power (see Ephesians 5:18). Paul prays more power for the Thessalonians even though months earlier they had experienced a strong move of God. He’s always expecting more.
Here is God’s intended pattern: grow steady in grace but also expect surges of the Spirit’s power. If we’re not going for more encounters, energy starts to recede.
Even churches consider revival power rare. Charles Spurgeon warns of those who think revivals shouldn’t be expected every day. “That is the very reason why we do not get them,” Spurgeon roars. “If we had learned to expect them we should no doubt obtain them. But we put them on the shelf, as being curiosities of scripture history. . . .”9
I was saved at a camp meeting that comes from the Holiness Revival. It has gathered for more than one hundred twenty-five years. There’s a tendency among us who now attend to dismiss the original wave of power that started the camp as a past curiosity. Revival has become something embedded in the hard rock of history.
Whether your tradition is Holiness, Pentecostal, mainline denomination, or Charismatic, don’t presume the historic revival that birthed your movement is no longer available. God still moves his people forward by waves of revival.
Repent of making it rare. Expect the Spirit to come in power for this time in history.
Undercurrents of Faith
God releases revival, but don’t assume you have no part to play in it. Even though revival is supernatural you bear a responsibility in its coming.
Revival is like other expressions of God’s power, only it’s bigger! You’re involved in healing. Jesus says to heal the sick. It, too, is supernatural,
but God comes on the undercurrents of your faith. When you believe, healing is frequent. When you don’t, it becomes rare.
Revival is the same. If you disengage from the process hoping God will do it alone, you misunderstand revival. You must contribute toward its coming.
Paul says you contribute by offering your resolve. That doesn’t mean you simply wish things were better. Resolve is much stronger. It means you purpose to see revival.
Maybe you would like to see revival but there’s no resolve. In fact, you feel a million miles away from even wanting it. Charles Finney can help. He says to take the little impulse you find and ask God why you’re so weak. The Spirit might show you something like ingratitude, doubt, fear, or self-interest. Turn from what weakens you and ask for forgiveness. Then expect God to increase your resolve for a display of goodness.10
Start today. If you have no resolve, offer God the two things you have: repentance and faith. Watch him transform your weak impulses into a growing desire for revival. Keep asking until the Spirit forges your desire into a determined purpose.
Duncan Campbell is the pastor mentioned earlier who was “clinging to the decaying threads of a past experience.” With that faint impulse he repents and believes God to increase resolve. One morning the Spirit surprisingly comes to him through the undercurrents of his faith. He explains that “wave after wave of divine consciousness came over me and the love of the Savior flooded my being.”11
But it doesn’t end there. Beginning in 1949, Duncan Campbell and countless others see a massive wave of God’s goodness come on their collective resolve. The Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides is covered with revival power. Describing the effects of this wave of power, Campbell reports, “Of the hundreds who found Jesus Christ at that time, 75 percent of them were gloriously saved before they came near a meeting, before they heard a single sermon from myself or from any other minister in the parish, the power of God was moving. . . .”12
If you believe we need a movement of God’s power in our day, do as Duncan Campbell did. Offer God your weak impulse. Trade your “decaying threads” for a purpose that won’t relent until revival comes. Lord Jesus Christ, revive me! I repent of my weak resolve and ask your forgiveness. Send on me the irresistible force of your Spirit. Empower me to pursue revival until I see it.
If you’d like to read more about revival and how you can be involved in a powerful work of God, I wrote about it in my book, Revival Rising: Preparing for the Next Great Wave of Awakening. You can find it in the Seedbed store.
1. Duncan Campbell, The Price and Power of Revival (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1962), 66–67.
2. Mathew Backholer, Revival Fires and Awakenings: Thirty-Six Visitations of the Holy Spirit: A Call to Holiness, Prayer and Intercession for the Nations
(United Kingdom: ByFaith Media, 2012), 137.
3. James Burns, Revivals: Their Laws and Leaders (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1960), 32.
4. Winkie Pratney, Revival: Principles to Change the World (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1984), 15.
5. S. B. Shaw, The Great Revival in Wales (Pensacola, FL: Christian Life Books, 2002), 47.
6. Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street: An Eyewitness Account (Alachua, FL: Bridge-Logos, 1980), 67.
7. James Burns, Revivals, 21.
8. Backholer, Revival Fires and Awakenings, 16.
9. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Story of God’s Mighty Acts,” a sermon preached July 17, 1859, http://revival-library.org/index.php/resources-menu
10. Charles Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion (Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co.), 35–48.
11. Gilbert Egerton, Flame of God: Distinctives of Revival (Belfast, Northern Ireland: Ambassador Productions, 1987), 84–85.
12. Backholer, Revival Fires and Awakenings, 97.