THIS IS REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-26-58 7:30 p.m.
Now as the pastor preaches tonight, we are not to move, we are not to leave the auditorium; we are to be quiet, quiet, still before God, listening with all of our might, praying for the hour and the service. This is the introduction of a year of revival for us, all of us who make up the family of this beloved fellowship. It is our prayer that this year we shall baptize 500 converts in the name of Christ our Savior. We have divided that out: 245 for you who are in our fellowship of chapel and mission, and 255 for us who convene down here in this downtown church. We have never approached that figure. Year before last we had a few over 400 who were baptized. This last associational year, we baptized about 340 or 50. It is our prayerful resolve under God and with His help, all of us together, to win at least 500 lost people to Christ this year, and to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. I am speaking tonight therefore of this year of revival. In the third chapter of the Book of Habakkuk and the second verse, is a wonderful prayer by the prophet of God: "O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy" [Habakkuk 3:2].
"O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known." Revival is a family name, it is a Christian name. Revival is a word for the people of God. It is a word for the saved. The Latin word "revivere, revivery" from which "revival" comes means "resuscitation"; it means "a quickening, moving power"; it means "to make to live again." And "revival" never refers to the dead. "Revival" could never pertain to the lost; for the lost need a resurrection. It is God’s people who are revived, who are rekindled, who are quickened and made sensitive to the work and appeal of Christ. It is a family Christian word, "revival." We are the people who are revived, we who are saved, we who are in the church. That famous, famous promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14 refers to the people of God: "If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." That is revival. And the promise and the appeal is addressed to the people of God! "If My people, who are called by My name!" Revival never depends upon the world or upon the lost! Revival is a Christian word, a family word.
Not only that, but revival is a church word. It is an assembly word. It is a word that refers to the house of God. First Peter says, listen to it, "For judgment must begin at the house of God!" [1 Peter 4:17]. Not in a honky-tonk, not in a saloon, not in a roadhouse, not in a brothel. Revival begins; the judgment of God begins in the household of faith! The church can never give what it does not possess. The great fountain source of blessings must arise in the household of faith, in the church of God.
Another thing, revival is a normal word. We are not to pray for any revival as though we were beseeching God for a passing glorious experience. We are to pray for revival, the normal life, and the normal devotion and commitment of the people of God. God doesn’t expect us to be cold, and apathetic, and listless, and indifferent, and backslidden; in those conditions, we are sick and not well. But God expects us to be fervent and alive and tremendously given to the work of the Lord in the earth. What would you think of a father, when you asked him about his children, he said, "Oh, our children, well, they are well, they are healthy a week or two or a month in the year; then the rest of the time they are sick in bed. But don’t you worry about my children: within another year, they will surely be up and well for another week or for another month"? We would say the father did not, he did not equate what we ought to expect in our children. He’d be an unhappy and a miserable father who was content with his children sick all the time and maybe well a month or two in the year. So it is in the household of God. For us to be in a state of revival for a week or for two weeks and then sick the rest of the time is not what God means for His church, nor is it the will of God for His people. We are to pray for revival: Lord, Lord, this coming Lord’s Day is to be a great day and a great hour; and this Wednesday night is to be a great prayer meeting hour; and this night, where we are now, is to be a great hour; and every Sunday and every service of the church is to be a great revival outpouring of the Spirit of God. Then when we have a protracted series of meetings, then we have it on Monday too, then we have it on Tuesday also, and on Thursday and Friday and Saturday again: the church in a normal state of the quickening unction and moving of the presence of God in our midst. "The Lord added unto His church daily those who were being saved" [Acts 2:47]. It is a normal word.
Now may I speak of the way of revival? There is not anything peculiar or abnormal in the revival experience, the outpouring of the Spirit of God, the quickening of His presence among us, and the saving of the lost, and the edification of His saints. There are certain laws that inhere in the nature of God and God in the physical, natural, outward world, as in the inward and spiritual world – God works by those laws. That’s God. I’m not to ask Him, "Why?" but there are laws of sowing and laws of reaping in the field and in the heart and soul of mankind.
The only book that I know that has been written within the last hundred years of tremendous import concerning revival is by Charles G. Finney, one of the great soulwinners and preachers and revivalists of all time. And from that book I copied these words:
Revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means. There is as direct an influence from God to produce a crop of grain as there is to produce a revival. There has long been an idea prevalent that promoting religion has something peculiar in it, not to be judged by the ordinary rules of cause and effect. No doctrine is more dangerous than this to the prosperity of the church, and nothing more absurd. Suppose a man were to go and preach that doctrine among the farmers regarding their sowing of grain. Let him tell the farmers, God is a sovereign, and will give them a crop only when it pleases Him and that for them to plow and plant and labor as if they expected to raise a crop is very wrong, that there is no connection between the means and the results on which they can depend. Supposing the farmer should believe such a doctrine. Why, they would starve the world to death. The connection is as clear in religion as it is when the farmer sows his grain.
There is nothing abnormal or peculiar about producing a great spiritual result and reward for God! Our Lord has certain ways and laws of His own being; they are inherent in His own nature. And when God’s people give themselves to that obedience and to that intercession, then God does something, like He reaches down and makes a little grain to sprout, and He gives the full-blown harvest. So God rewards His people when in obedience and in intercession they give themselves to the spirit of revival, the moving of God among us.
Now, may I point it out: this is revival! This is revival! This is revival! First, the spirit of humiliation, of contrition, of confession, of repentance among us: "O Lord, forgive me of my vanity and pride, my hardness of heart, my unburdened soul, my unfruitfulness. O God, forgive me." That is revival: praying because I cannot pray, weeping because I cannot weep, crying because I cannot cry, burdened because my heart is not burdened, in contrition and humiliation and in confession before God. "O Lord, O Lord, forgive me." Revival is never the sounding of the trumpet and the beating of the drum. But revival is the sobbing of God’s people as they turn their faces back to Calvary and kneel at the foot of the cross [Luke 23:33]. In the great, great picture of the revival that shall come some day to the nation of Israel, it says:
I will pour upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Israel the Spirit of grace and of supplications, beseeching: and they shall look upon Him whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for Him . . . And they shall be in bitterness, as one who is in bitterness who has lost his only son.
And in that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem . . . And the land shall mourn, every family apart.
And when that day comes of confession and contrition and mourning and weeping,
Then there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
That is revival! Contrition and mourning and weeping and confession before God, "O Lord, O Lord, my hard heart and my unfruitful life."
This is revival: an awesome sense of the majesty and holiness and the presence of God in our midst; never without it, never without it. "And when Jacob awoke he said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other than the house of God" [Genesis 28:17]. And Isaiah said, as he looked upon the Lord, "Woe is me! for I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips, and I live in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" [Isaiah 6:5]. And on the isle of Patmos, lonely and exiled, taken there to die of starvation and exposure, the sainted John heard behind him a great voice, and turning to see the voice that spake unto him, he saw the vision of our glorified Lord, there with His burning, shining, glorious face [Revelation 1:9-16]. And what did he do? Why, he walked up to Him and shook Him by the hand and slapped Him on the back and said, "Hi there, old pal of mine." Is that what he did? When John saw the Lord on the isle of Patmos, why, they walked through the fields together, and joked in jest, as good friends should and do – no! Never! This is revival: a sense of the majesty and holiness, oh how high above us, of the great Lord God in heaven. This is what he did: "And he fell at His feet as one that is dead" [Revelation 1:17]. There is no such thing as revival in familiarity with God, "Pal old pal, buddy old buddy," no sir! We are sinners in His sight [2 Chronicles 6:36; Romans 3:23], and God is high and lifted up [Isaiah 6:1]. And something has to happen to get us together. God is so high, and we so low and so lost and so sinful. And that sense of the awful holiness and majesty of God, and our infinite need – that is revival.
Reading through one of these old musty books, I read something out of a diary, more than a hundred years ago. They had a tremendous prayer meeting. It was in the morning, prayed until the afternoon. And that afternoon there was a man by the name of Thomas John, who was alone in the field. And a friend approached him and said to him, "Brother John, did you ever see anything like that, that great host of people on their faces before God in prayer and intercession?" And Thomas John replied, and he said, "Sir, I never saw a one of them. I never saw a one of them. I saw only God." And after a while, Thomas John left the field. And the friend approached him again and said, "Where are you going, Brother John?" And Brother John replied, "I am going home. This is a dreadful place. I am leaving. I am too weak to bear the glory!" My soul, you and I are on such familiar terms with God, we never think of taking off our shoes, this is holy ground; God is not that near to us. Oh buddy, buddy, and we go out that door, oh pal of mine, and we go out that door. But never that awful sense, "This is a dreadful place, my soul cannot bear the glory; God high and lifted up, and we mortal, poor, lost sinners." That is revival.
This is revival: the burden and the travail in the soul, the agony and intercession that people be saved. Most of the time my heart is cold and indifferent, removed and far away. If the world is lost and dying, I do not feel it. If people come to church and are not saved, it is no care to me. Most of the time I stay backslidden. This is revival: when there is travail in soul, when there is agony of heart, when there is intercession in spirit, when it matters to us whether people are saved or lost. In that great passage in the sixty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, "When Zion travailed, then she brought forth her children" [Isaiah 66:8]. That wonderful psalm is still the Word of God, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" [Psalm 126:5-6]. These are the fruit of our prayers, of our tears, of our care, and of our intercession. That is revival: the burden of soul, the agony of spirit, the intercession of prayer. That is revival.
This is revival: the great oneness and unity of the spirit of the people in the congregation of the Lord. "And they were with one accord in one place, all of them together," and Pentecost, Pentecost" [Acts 2:1]. There’s no Pentecost without it. All of us committed. Six hundred icicles don’t make a flame. Two thousand eight hundred icicles here tonight wouldn’t make a flame. It’s all of us in one heart, in one appeal, in one accord, making intercession to God, waiting for the fullness, for the blessing, for the baptism, for the enduement from above. Why, bless your heart, the easiest thing that I know for Christian people to fall into is to fall into dissidence, and cynicism, and criticism, and coldness, and unhappiness, to look with a jaundiced eye, to look in askance, to be critical in spirit and in heart and in nature. It is easy to fall into that. Your chapels can be divided into a thousand pieces by it. The spirit is gone, the oneness of appeal and intercession is gone, and joy is gone, and happiness is gone, and praise is gone, and Pentecost is gone. What makes Pentecost possible is a great convocation of God’s people, in one heart, and in one spirit, all of us united in that great intercession. Our fetter is loosed, think of it, free in the Spirit of the Lord; our hard hearts softened, all of us sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord; and great mountains of frost and snow melting within us. And God has us, every one of us, in one great united prayerful appeal, "O God, remember me. And Lord, save the lost." This is revival.
May I say just one other? This is revival: a hungering and a thirsting after God. "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God" [Psalm 42:1]. Is there a word from the Lord? Is there an experience we’ve had? Is there something Jesus has whispered to the soul? Is there? Has God done something today? Has God done something for you? This is revival: if the people should come to the pastor and say, "Pastor, we haven’t had a testimony meeting in memory, let’s have a testimony meeting; I’ve got something to say, what God has done for me." Has God done anything for us? This is revival: if the people should come and say to me, "Pastor, one prayer meeting a week is not enough: we must have two prayer meetings a week." This is revival: "Pastor, to have a Sunday school lesson once a week is not enough. I must be taught more of the Word of God. Is there not another class? Is there not another time?" This is revival: "Pastor, my heart is burdened; so few are saved, so few are converted. Pastor, we must pray more, we must visit more, we must intercede more, work more, give ourselves to God more." This is revival. And when God’s people give themselves to that intercession, and to that work, and to that ministry, and to that prayer, O Lord, what God will do.
In the second Kings, in the third chapter, Elisha the prophet said to a people who were living in a dry and thirsty land, "Thus saith the Lord, Make the valley full of ditches, a dry desert of a valley, make it full of ditches. Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind nor rain; but the valley shall be full of water" [2 Kings 3:16-17]. And the measure of their faith was how deep they dug the ditches. And according to the Word of God, it came to pass, written there in the Book [2 Kings 3:20]. This dry valley, fill it full of ditches, for rain is coming. And I say, the measure of their faith: how deep and how many did they dig of the ditches. Oh, in a dry and a thirsty land, did you never on a sultry day see the storm clouds gather and God’s artillery reverberate through the sky, and lift up your face and a few great drops of rain fall? It has begun to rain. Did you ever in the house of God lift up your face in expectancy and prayer? And though the drops were few, beyond was the promise and the showers of blessing fell.
Showers of blessing we need
Raindrops of mercy round us are falling;
But for the showers we plead.
["There Shall be Showers of Blessing," Daniel Webster Whittle]
O for the floods on a thirsty land!
O for a mighty revival!
O for a sanctified fearless band,
Ready to hail its arrival!
["Abundant Life," William Leslie]
This year, this day, dedicated to the saving of the lost, to the baptizing of our converts, to the preaching of the gospel, to prayer and to intercession, this year, our year of revival.
While we sing our song, somebody in this throng who tonight will give his heart in trust to Christ, would you come? "Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God." Is there somebody you tonight who would put his life in the fellowship of the church? "Here I am, pastor, and here I come." Is there a family you to put your lives with us in this intercession, in this appeal, in this work? Would you come tonight? However God shall say the word and lead the way, would you make it now? Would you make it now, tonight, this night, this blessed and precious hour, when God is near and the Spirit is here? "I take Jesus as my Savior. I trust Him; and here I come, openly and publicly to confess Him as Lord of my life." Would you? Make it now. Coming into the church, by letter, by baptism, by statement, however God shall lead the way and the Spirit say the word, would you come? While we stand and while we sing.
REVIVAL THE URGENCY OF THE HOUR
Habakkuk prays for revival
1. Revival will
save a nation
2. Revival will
save a city
3. Revival will
save a people
II. What is revival?
A. Revival is a
B. Revival is a church
C. Revival is a normal
III. Characteristics of revival
A. Spirit of contrition
B. Burden and
intercession for the lost
C. Spirit of unity
D. Spirit of commitment