This Is Revival
April 3rd, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
THIS IS REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-3-60 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock message entitled This is Revival.
In the third chapter of the Book of Habakkuk is the prayer of the prophet of God, a prayer of Habakkuk the prophet:
O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
This man Habakkuk stood between the two great judgments of God. He stood between the two dates of the destructions of Israel and of Judah. Israel was destroyed in 722 BC [2 Kings 17:7-24], Judah was destroyed in 587 BC [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21], and between those dates this prophet stood. One of the judgments of God had already fallen, and the other had been predicted. That is why he says, "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" [Habakkuk 3:2]. For in the first part of his prophecy, the Lord had said to the preacher Habakkuk:
Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs.
They are terrible and dreadful . . .
Their horses are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: their horsemen shall spread themselves, and their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle that hasteth to its prey.
They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.
That’s the pronouncement of the judgment of God upon Judah, his land, his people, his country, and upon Jerusalem his city. And that’s why he says in his prayer, "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" [Habakkuk 3:2].
In the midst of that intercession before God – and I sometimes think of ourselves standing in the same kind of a time and place that Habakkuk stood, between the judgment of God upon this world in 1939 and 1944, in our First World War, and the judgment of God that seemingly is coming upon this world in maybe its last great Armageddon – "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" [Habakkuk 3:2]. It’s an unusual thing that he does.
He doesn’t turn to the military leaders and say, "We must teach war more intricately, and splendidly, and magnificently, and effectively." Nor does he speak of gathering resources and stockpiling materials in order to face an awful and terrible enemy. Nor does he speak of building academies for the Air Force, and sending young men to the academies in naval warfare, nor to other academies in strategy, in logistics, and in military maneuvering. Nor does he speak of the great tremendous resources of the nation that can be drawn upon in an hour of awful and dire and tragic peril. But the prophet does an unusual thing. As he stands this side of the first great judgment of God and looks upon the prediction of the coming and last judgment of the Lord, he says, "I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" [Habakkuk 3:2]. Then he turns to the one hope: "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]. For revival will save a nation.
It did in the days of Hezekiah, when those bitter, and ruthless, and merciless Assyrians swept down out of the north and destroyed the ten tribes of Samaria [2 Kings 17:5-6]; they also came down and swept over Judah, and surrounded Jerusalem, and held the whole nation in an iron grasp, in a mail fist [2 Kings 18:13-37; Isaiah 36:1-22]. And in those days was the great prayer revival under Hezekiah [2 Kings 19:14-19; Isaiah 37:14-21], and the Lord saved the nation of Judah [2 Kings 19:32-36; Isaiah 37:32-37]. England was saved in the days of the bloodbath that almost drowned France. In the days of its terrible, indescribable and horrible French Revolution, England would also have had a like tragic holocaust and a like tragic bloodbath had it not been for the great revival under the Wesleys and George Whitefield. Revival will save a nation.
Revival will save a city. It did so in the days of God’s judgment upon Nineveh when Jonah for forty days walked through the streets of that great heathen city and said, "Yet forty days, yet forty days, and God will judge Nineveh. God will destroy Nineveh" [Jonah 3:4]. The Book says that, from the king down to the lowest menial servant, they sat in sackcloth and turned in repentance and faith, and God spared the city [Jonah 3:5-10]. Revival will save a city. It did Antioch in the days of John Chrysostom. It did Florence in the days of Savonarola. Revival will save a city.
Revival will save a church. There never was a dead church but that could be revived if somebody in prayer, and in faith, and in intercession, and in commitment, and in great agony of prayer and appeal, if somebody would pay the price for the presence and the power and the moving Spirit of God upon a dead and lifeless people. Revival will save a church.
O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.
And that is the title of the sermon: This is Revival. This is revival: that refers to a Christian thing, it is a family word, it is a word that pertains to the house of God. Dead people do not have revival; they must be resurrected. The world does not have revival, the lost does not have revival; they are dead in trespasses and in unforgiven sins. It is God’s people who have revival, when the spark is made to burn like a flame. Second Chronicles 7:14 that we learned in childhood: "If My people will . . . I will." Revival is a Christian word. It is a family word. Revival is a church word. It is an assembly word. As Simon Peter wrote, "Judgment must begin at the house of God" [1 Peter 4:17]. The church cannot give what it does not possess. Revival belongs to us. It’s a church word. It’s a congregational word. It’s an assembly word. It’s our word.
Don’t ever think that revival will begin out there. Could you name a honky-tonk in which you expected one to begin? Could you name a nightclub? Could you name a dance parlor? Could you name a ballroom? Could you name a great hotel convocation? Just where would you suppose that revival begins? Does it begin in the legislature, in the assembly? Does it begin out there in the business world and in mercantile establishments?
Those people are committed to other things. Some are selling, and some are buying, and some are legislating, and some are interested in the pleasures of the night and of a passing hour. If there is such a thing as revival, it has to begin where God says it begins: in the house of the Lord, among the people of God [2 Chronicles 7:14-16]. Revival is a church word. It is an assembly word. "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].
Revival is a normal word. We’re not speaking of some monstrous experience alien to the mind of God. Revival is a normal word and ought to be the normal life of the church. What would you think of a father who said of his children, "My children are up for two weeks in the year, but the rest of the time they’re sick abed. But do not worry, after the passing of another year, my children will be up again for two or three weeks, maybe." What would you think? That would be the most abnormal kind of a life that a man could describe or think of for his children: that for the weeks and the weeks and the months of the year they’re sick, then for maybe two weeks they’re well. It is no different with the church. For us to be revived two weeks in a year, then the rest of the time we’re phlegmatic, and lethargic, and dead, and listless, and lifeless and sterile, and barren, and unfruitful, is of all things abnormal. Revival is a normal word.
Revival ought to be the expected life in the family and among the children of God. Every service ought to be a revival service. Every day ought to be a soul-winning day. Every time we gather together it ought to be a hallelujah and glorious fellowship in the Lord. Revival is no extraneous word or far-fetched word; revival is a normal word and ought to characterize the full abounding overflowing life of the people of the Lord. We’re not announcing some unusual thing, nor are we reaching after some monstrous experience; it is just that the tides of the glory of the Lord might overflow, might come in, that we might be lifted nearer and closer, that we might sing a little oftener, and pray a little more earnestly, and that we might seek these who are lost a little more zealously and fervently, and that God might have us especially in these days of appeal. "O Lord, wilt Thou not revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known" [Habakkuk 3:2].
This is revival: the spirit of contrition and confession on the part of God’s people. "O Lord, forgive me my pride and my unfruitfulness, and the barrenness and sterility of my life. O Lord, forgive my lack of concern, my hard and unburdened heart. O God, I’m not what I ought to be; I’m not what I can be. O God, remember me." That is revival: maybe crying because we can’t cry, maybe weeping because we can’t weep, maybe burdened because we’re not burdened, maybe full of care because we don’t care, maybe praying because we can’t pray.
Listen, revival is not going down the street beating on a drum and blowing a trumpet. Revival is God’s people coming back to Calvary and kneeling in humility and in confession and in contrition. Revival is a sense of our need and of our sinfulness in the awful awareness of the presence and the glory, and the holiness, and the purity, and the wonder of God. Revival begins in an awareness of the reality and the nearness and the closeness of Almighty God.
When Jacob arose from his stone pillar upon which he had slept for the night and had seen the vision of the angel ladder, Jacob said, "How dreadful is this place! for God is here and I knew it not. This is none other than the very gate to heaven; this is Bethel, the house of God" [Genesis 28:16-17, 19]. That is revival: an awareness of the nearness of God and our dread, our sense of lack and need and sinfulness in His presence.
Isaiah: "Oh, I am undone, I am undone, I am destroyed, surely I shall die; for mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts. I am a sinful man, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" [Isaiah 6:5]. That is revival.
This is revival. Simon Peter bowing at the feet of Jesus, after Jesus had spoken marvelous words of hope and salvation in the boat of the fisherman, Simon Peter bowing at His feet, kneeling before the Lord and saying, "Lord, I am not worthy to be in Thy presence. Lord, depart from me; I am a sinful man, I am not worthy that You be in my boat or live in my house, or visit in my home, or speak to such as I. Lord depart from me; I am a sinful man" [Luke 5:8]. That is revival.
This is revival. When the apostle John thinking he was by himself on the lonely isle of Patmos to die of exposure and of famine, when he heard a great voice back of him, he turned to see the voice that spake unto him, and being turned, he saw the Lord Jesus Christ in His glory and in His beauty, and in His wonder and in His power [Revelation 1:9-13]. And when he did, what did he do? Did he go over there and shake hands with Him and say, "Hi"? Did he go over there and look at Him as an equal, face to face?
I have never understood the familiarity of some people before God. I cannot understand that, I cannot enter into that, however I may try. God is near, and God loves us, and God is our Father; but oh my soul, I am so small, a worm of the dust, and God is so great. My place is not haughty, proud, as an equal. My place before God is on my knees, it’s on my face. Lord, Lord, Thou art so great; and I am so small. Thou art so worthy, and I am so unworthy. Thou art so mighty and so holy and so exalted, and I am so sinful and so of the dust of the ground. This is revival: a bowing, a contrition, a sense of the awareness of God and of our unworthiness in His sight.
This is revival: God’s people coming back, drawing near, and kneeling at the foot of the cross. This is revival: a pouring out of the soul in prayer and in intercession, praying for ourselves, "Lord, Lord," for ourselves, and praying for others, especially for the lost.
Robert Murray M’Cheyne, an incomparable preacher, had a watch. And on the dial of the watch he had a sunset painted, and underneath the sunset the words of the Master: "The night cometh" [John 9:4]. And he painted the sunset on his watch and the words of our Lord, "For the night cometh," to remind him that every time that he looked at it, he would bring to remembrance the responsibility he owed to God in his ministry. He wore himself out and died when he was twenty-nine years old. But he made an impression upon the theological world that is as alive today and as regnant and powerful this minute as he was in the days when he lived.
Oh, that that remembrance, that that reminder might be with us and especially in these present hours! I don’t have forever. I have a little while. The setting sun, "The night cometh, when no man can work" [John 9:4], what I must do, I must do now. Is there somebody I’m interested in? Let’s pray for them now. Is there somebody we ought to invite to Christ? Let us invite them now. Is there some thing God would have us do, let us do it now. That is revival: a sense of intercession, and of appeal, and of burden for ourselves and for others.
This is revival: a spirit of great unanimity, and harmony, and fellowship, and intercession among the people of the Lord. Pentecost began, second chapter of the Book of Acts and the first verse, "And they were all with one accord in one place" [Acts 2:1]. All of them in prayer, in one accord, in one place; that is revival [Acts 1:13-15]. There’s no such thing as a church being great and strong in the work of the Lord that is full of divisiveness, that is full of cliques, that is full of separateness and pulling apart, that is eaten out an honeycomb with envy and jealously and sardonic criticism. God’s people are in revival when they’re all together, of one heart and one spirit in the worship and service of our Master. Our hearts are as one. We’re together in it. It’s our soul. It’s our life. It’s our prayer. It’s our appeal. We are together in this thing unto God.
I heard in an evangelistic conference one of the most remarkable and unusual illustrations I ever listened to. I can’t tell it good because I’m not an outdoor man; wish I were. I wish I liked to hunt but I don’t. I wish I liked to fish but I don’t. I wish I liked to play golf but I don’t. I wish I liked to go out but I don’t.
All I like to do is preach and pastor this church; and that’s terrible. I need to get away from it sometimes. I would do better if I did get away from it, but I don’t have any interest. Isn’t that awful? All of my life I grew up studying and preaching. Well, God makes us different ways.
This fellow was an outdoor man. He liked to go hunting, and he liked to be out, and he’d stay up all night just treeing a possum, something like that – which is the most foolish thing to me, but he likes it – all night long. He was invited on a big hunt down there in the ranch country west of San Antonio. So he eagerly accepted. Big ranchman down there, going on a wolf hunt with his pack of favorite hounds, so he describes, you know, how they go out and they get on their horses, and those hounds are away, and he’s a neophyte; this preacher whose telling the story.
But those are old-timers out there hunting wolves and one of them begins baying, baying, baying, and he thinks, "Oh, they’ve got on a trail, they’re after a wolf." And the old ranchman says, "No, no, that’s just a pup. He’s after an armadillo." Little while later, that "ow, ow" again; "Aw that’s not the one, he’s just chasing a rabbit." And after a while they listened and there’s the awfulest fight going on you ever saw. "No, they haven’t found a wolf, they’re just fighting among themselves. Those dogs have stopped chasing the wolf, and they’ve gone to fighting among themselves; nothing happening."
And then as they go along and ride, why, the old ranchman stops his horse, and he cups his ear, and he says, "Listen, listen." And way in the distance there, he says, "That’s the voice of old Trailer. Come on, men, they’ve found the trail. They’re running a wolf." And this fellow describes how those horses get into the way, and they finally overtake those dogs, and they’re on the trail.
And I didn’t know this, but he said, "When they’re trailing a wolf, every dog is just one right after another, single file, duck line of them, just like that." And he said, "Old Trailer was at the front a-howling, and a-barking, and a-chasing that wolf, and all of these others right behind him." And he said, "As I noticed, as I followed along as fast as that horse would run," he says, "I noticed that the pups weren’t chasing any rabbits anymore, and they weren’t going after armadillos anymore, and I noticed," he says, "the dogs weren’t fighting among themselves anymore, they were on the trail after the wolf."
And he used that as an illustration about revival in the church of God. He says, "When you got people after the lost, and praying for the souls of men, and doing what God wants them to do," he says, "they’re not rabbit chasing anymore, and they’re not fighting among themselves, but they’re all on the trail." Oh, that was a good illustration, I thought! You know me, I may convert myself and be a hunter yet, you can’t tell.
But what that preacher’s talking about, oh I knew. I’ve seen my people, and do, chasing rabbits, after little things! I’ve seen my people fight in the church! Just kills my soul. But when we’re after the big thing, you don’t need to worry about all that; just giving ourselves to God and God’s work, and it means more to us than anything in this earth to see people saved, and to see the house of the Lord built up, and to see people get right with God. Oh, that’s revival!
This is revival: a hungering and a thirsting after the Lord. That’s the reason I had you read that beautiful incomparable Psalm, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for the Lord, for the living God" [Psalm 42:1-2].
I grew up, as most of you know, in a tragic part, in a tragic time of our country. I grew up when the Dust Bowl was at its worst in western Oklahoma, and eastern New Mexico, and western Texas. Our farm, we lived on a farm when I was a little fellow, our farm was blasted by the winds and the drought. I lived to see the day when the drifts of sand covered the fence around our field. I walked over the fence that surrounded our field, and the fence was beneath my feet. We lost everything we had. The drought and the wind blew it away.
I remember a time in the heat of the summer and the blast of the wind, I remember the time when the field was sear and yellow, and the pasture was burned and crisp, and the cows had no food and no grass, and the whole earth turned to a furnace, the heavens were iron and the earth was brass. I remember that it rained. Oh, I stood as a small, small boy by the side of my father at the backdoor of the house, and as the showers fell and as the rains came and the dry thirsty land drank up the blessings from heaven, my father lifted his arms to God and shouted, just like a man would shout. And it amazed me, for he was very retiring and unexpressive. And I said, "Father, why are you shouting?" And he said, "Son, this is life. This is life, life for the pasture, life for the crops, life for the home. This is life."
Oh, for the flood on the thirsty land!
Oh, for a mighty revival!
Oh, for a fearless, sanctified band,
Ready to hail its arrival!
["Under the Burden of Guilt and Care," author unknown]
This is revival.
Oh, why not? Why not? Why should a church live in lifeless lethargy? Why should our lives be filled with barren sterility? Why not the fullness of the tides of the Spirit of God, rolling in, filling the church, filling our souls, filling our lives, filling our hearts. O God, that the joy of our salvation might sweep us up to the very gates of glory.
I must close. This is the beginning of three full weeks of appeal. As we have opportunity, let us share in them; this week with our children, their parents, their leaders; the next week, every day at noon at the Palace Theater, every evening here with Dr. Feazer in the church, and the following week, our Jewish fellowship, Good Neighbor Week. God bless us as we open our hearts to the marvelous outpouring of the Pentecostal Spirit of God from heaven [Acts 2:1-4].
And now may it begin this morning. May it begin in you. Somebody you, give his heart to Jesus, coming down one of these stairways, into the front, give the preacher your hand. "Pastor, today I give my heart to God; here I am, and here I come." Would you this morning? Is there a family to put their lives with us in the church? Is there a couple to come? As God shall say the word and lead the way, would you make it now? Many, many of you, "Today, pastor, today, here I come, and here I am," while we stand and while we sing.
I. What is revival?
A. Revival is a
B. Revival is a church
C. Revival is a normal
II. This is revival
A. The spirit of
contrition and confession
B. The spirit of
travail and agony in prayer
1. For ourselves
2. For the lost
C. The spirit of unity
D. The spirit of
hungering and thirsting for God
E. The spirit of
weeping and rejoicing