As the year ends, people seem to be talking about a “change for the better.” However, one can get mighty fed up with the way things still are, or how some systems continue to work. At times, we get so frustrated with people and ourselves. Then as Christians, we painfully realize that the corruption and sins in the Church often are worse than any crisis in society. If Christianity claims to have the solution for the world’s problem, how in the world are we going to deal with and solve our own problems within? When are we going to live and work together as Christians? We then can become bewildered as to why God doesn’t do something about all this, right?
“Oh Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!” was the prayerful plea of God’s perplexed prophet in the late 7th century BC. Habakkuk’s burning desire was that God would somehow revive His work in the midst of all that was happening! Notice this prayer stems out of what God had revealed to and burdened Habakkuk with. During his ministry there were at least three reasons that led to his cry for revival. First, he had looked around at the perversity of God’s own people. There was strife, violence, injustice, and iniquity within God’s community. Because God seemed passive, His covenant people kept blatantly violating His holy law and spurning His authority over their lives.
Secondly, as Habakkuk looked ahead, he envisioned the coming punishment by Israel’s political enemy, the lethal Babylonians! A righteous God, though often patient with His wayward children, cannot wink at sin. Judgment must ensue. But most importantly, he looked up to catch a glimpse of the power and the glory of a gracious Lord. Now Habakkuk, on behalf of his nation, begs God in His wrath to remember mercy and send a revival.
Even today concerned Christians in the Church, like Habakkuk, long for revival. While we hear about how it has happened to others in the past or somewhere else, we crave for it to happen to us here and again. What then is revival? Coming from the Latin (re-viva) it literally means “to quicken,” to stir afresh what is alive, but dormant. It is the restoration of spiritual vitality and vigor. Revival is the reversal of and antidote for the process of backsliding. Simply put, it is the Church of Jesus Christ falling in love all over again with her Lord.
When revival occurs in the Church the result will be effective mission and evangelism in our society. Vance Havner once addressed the misplaced emphasis on evangelism without revival. He clarified how “evangelism is the proclamation of the gospel with the purpose of winning the lost to Christ. Revival is the fresh work of the Holy Spirit among Christians to bring them to confession of sins, renewed dedication, and loving zeal for service.”
We often want the results of revival without God reviving us–the effects without the cause! King David ardently sought the restoration of the joy of his salvation and a renewed spirit. He was fully convinced that then and then only, could he teach transgressors God’s ways and sinners would be converted (Ps. 51:12, 13). Evangelism is a by-product of revival and a revived church is an effectively useful church in and for world evangelization.
Revival is divine refreshing that comes from above always and only the work of God. In Isaiah 57:15 we note that our God exists in order to revive His people. This means that we can have revival as long as God is around! He dwells with His contrite children in order to revive them. While God alone revives, His people can cause him to send a revival and so need to be ready for it!