The Day of Revival
March 13th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
THE DAY OF REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-13-77 8:15 a.m.
And now, this will be the beginning service of our week of Good News Dallas, our Living Proof appeal for souls. And from this beginning moment, until it reaches its final climactic hour next Sunday night, may the Spirit of God in power, in enlightenment, in understanding, in conviction, and in saving grace , move wondrously among us.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Day of Revival – This is Revival. It is a message built upon the third chapter and the first two verses of the prophet Habakkuk:
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.
What does he mean when he says, "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid?" [Habakkuk 3:2]. He stood between the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC [2 Kings 17:18], and the destruction of the Southern Kingdom of Judah in 587 BC [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:1-34; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21]. One of them had already come to pass. The Assyrians had already destroyed Samaria and the Northern Kingdom. And the other, he himself had been sent of the Lord God to predict. He wrote in the first chapter of his prophecy:
Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess it . . . they are terrible and dreadful. . .They shall come for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.
That is what he meant when he said, "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" [Habakkuk 3:2], standing between the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the destruction of his own nation, and the captivity of his own people.
In that same chapter he asks God, "Lord, I do not understand. However evil Judah may be, and however my people may have transgressed, yet are we not evil like the heathen and uncircumcised Chaldeans? [Habakkuk 1:4, 13]. Why, O Lord my God?" And the Lord replied, "I have ordained them for judgment, and I have established them for correction" [Habakkuk 1:12]. Isaiah asked God that same question when he predicted the destruction of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom; and the Lord replied in Isaiah 10:5, "Assyria is the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of My indignation." War is a judgment of Almighty God, and we stand in the same place and in the same conditions as did prophet Habakkuk.
He covered a time in his prophecy of one hundred thirty-five years, between 722 [BC] and 587 [BC]; but in my lifetime – in my lifetime – I have seen America plunge into four different wars. World War I, I well remember; World War II, I was pastor of this church; and the Korean War, and the war in Vietnam. In the last two, we lost one hundred thousand American men, slain. And we are blind and living in a fool’s paradise if we are not aware that our enemies, by day and by night, plot our annihilation and our complete destruction. And they are winning; they are finding superiority in every weapon of conflict and they are gradually taking over the populations and the nations of the world. War is a judgment of Almighty God, "O Assyria, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5]. When a people forget God, when they drift away from God, they face an inevitable judgment, and whether or not America lives or dies lies in the imponderables of Almighty God.
America, according to the Word of the Lord, cannot survive in decadence, and in drunkenness, and in debauchery, and in desecration. You see a handwriting of God on the wall in America in the things that you read in your daily papers. One is the decay, and the decadence, and the destruction of the cities of America. What you find in the bankruptcy of New York City, you are beginning to find in every city of the nation; including – by the admission of our own city council and paid leadership, of the city of Dallas – the same seeds that have produced the destruction, and decay, and bankruptcy of New York City is found in us, and in all of the cities of America. First, it is spiritually bankrupt; then follows the inevitable judgment of God. Who would look upon New York City as a great spiritual community of God, or any other city in America?
Late at night I walked with a friend through the streets of New York. I said to him, as I bid him goodbye, goodnight, "New York City reminds me of one vast interminable bar." Not only repeated in the streets of the city, but repeated in the homes of the people. When I went to bed in my hotel room, I turned on the television. I happened to be in the middle of watching a panel. The man at this end said, "There are more than two hundred thousand alcoholics in New York." And the man at this end of the panel in the discussion said, "And there are more than one million family members that are being destroyed by the alcohol in the home." That’s one town! That’s one city! Over two hundred thousand alcoholics; drug addiction – alcohol is liquid pot – whatever alters the mind is a drug, alcohol is a drug; two hundred thousand and more hopeless alcoholics, and a million family members who are being destroyed by it in one town in America.
The curve of criminal statistics is rising furiously in every western nation of the world, and most so in America. Terrorism, and violence, and crime, are becoming a way of life in America. So much so that our women, and in many places even our men, are afraid to venture out on the streets of the city. You can’t imagine such. And every year there are more than one million boys and girls who are entering careers of crime. When you look at violence on TV, why should we be surprised? When you look at the way they are taught in our schools, that they are animals, why would we think it strange they should act like it? Even in the city of Dallas there have been violent repercussions from the community and from the preachers about using as a reference book, not a text, but as a reference book the creation story of Genesis; some other alternative to the impossible theory of evolution.
And the human misery in America works for the dissolution of our people. Every day, every day there are more than three thousand homes that are broken up by divorce in America. We have six percent of the world’s population; we have fifty percent of the whole world’s divorce. Edward Gibbon, in that greatest of all histories, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, gave five reasons for the destruction of the empire – and not one of them was external, they all were internal – the Roman Empire decayed from the inside.
I want to give you an instance of the secularization of our culture and society in Dallas, in the Bible belt. In last week’s paper, there always is published what is called a GUIDE; it’s a little magazine, in the daily newspaper. So on the front page of this issue of the GUIDE is "What to do on Sunday morning"; it’s the main cover article. So, we read what you can do on Sunday morning, and first it lists if you are hungry and want to eat, there are seven bakeries; and it lists seven bakeries. Then in the middle of the morning, if you are still hungry, it lists nine places where you can eat a brunch. Then if you are interested in reading, it lists three newsstands where you can buy reading material. Then it lists two flea markets where you can waste your money on junk. Then it lists a Gray Line tour. Then it names the Dallas Zoo you can go to, or the historical wax museum, or the Chapman Auto Museum. Then it lists the golf courses that are open on Sunday morning, and then the public shooting range, and then the motorcycling trails, and then the model airplane flying, and then the basketball at a recreational center, and then the DeGolyer estate you can walk through; and then the hiking, and biking, and jogging, and bird watching, and dog walking, and the sitting in the park, and the flying of a kite. Then I come to the last paragraph and I thought, "Surely, there will be some mention of going to church." So I came to the last sentence, "Oh yes, there is one other possibility." I thought they would say something about God there. "Oh yes, there is one other possibility," this is the closing sentence, "you can spend your Sunday mornings writing songs about what bummers Sunday mornings are. Some people have gotten rich doing it, we hear." That is in Dallas; that is what we have in Dallas. No syllable or no reference that on Sunday morning you might go to church, that there is such a thing as a church in Dallas, that the doors are open and we might well attend. We live in an increasingly secular society; the whole fabric of it is increasingly material, and its values are of this world.
What shall we do in the day of judgment? What shall we do in the day of visitation? What shall we do when God calls us into account? "O Assyria, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff of Mine indignation" [Isaiah 10:5]. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked" [Galatians 6:7]. What a nation sows, what a state sows, what a city sows, what a family sows, what a soul sows, he shall reap [Galatians 6:7]. That is why, I’m just explaining why, the prophet said, "O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid" [Habakkuk 3:2].
What did he do? What was his response? How did he react? A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, "A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet [Habakkuk 3:1],O Lord, O God, revive Thy work in the midst of the years," as God bared His mighty hand in days passed, O God, do it again! "O Lord, in the midst of the years make it known," as God spared and saved His people in days passed, O God, do it again! "In wrath remember mercy" [Habakkuk 3:2]. He prayed for revival; that there might be revival; that the people might turn back to God, and that God in His divine mercy might spare and save the people.
Revival will save a nation. Revival saved the nation of Judah under Hezekiah, in the great moving of the Spirit of God under that wonderful, righteous, and godly king [Isaiah 37:36]. Revival will save a nation. God spared England in the great Wesleyan revival. When the French were plunged in an indescribable bloody revolution, in England the people were gathering together in the name of the Lord. Revival saved England.
Revival will save a city. It did so in the days of Nineveh. When God sent word, "Forty days and Nineveh shall be destroyed," and the people repented, sat in sackcloth and ashes, and God saved the city [Jonah 3:1-10]. Revival saved Antioch, when it was under an imperial edict of destruction and John Chrysostom stood up and brought the people to a great nearness to God.
Revival will save a church and a denomination. It was interesting to me, when I published that book Why I Preach That The Bible Is Literally True, the half-infidels – called "liberals" in the convention – took that as an affront. And some of them said, as I read, "Criswell has set back the Southern Baptist Convention twenty years." I wish I could have set back the Southern Baptist Convention one hundred twenty years, to the great revival between Finney and Moody, when fifty thousand souls were saved every week. I wish I could have set back the convention two hundred twenty years, to the days of the Great Awakening, under George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards; laid the foundation for our democratic free republic. I wish I could set back the convention two thousand years, to the days of the great revival at Pentecost, and at Antioch, and at Ephesus, and at Thessalonica, and at Corinth, and finally in Rome itself; praying for revival.
And revival will save a human life and a human soul. I know that so well, for I was saved in a revival. Revival brings to the people a renewed searching of heart, a renewed commitment, a new consecration. Revival brings people close to God. Revival bows a people in prayer, revival sets our hearts attune to heaven. Revival fills our souls with joy and unspeakable gladness. In revival, we come before our God naked, soul searching before the Lord, "Lord, forgive me my sterile, and empty, and barren life. I am not what I could be. I am not what I can be. I am not by God’s grace what I am going to be." That’s revival!
Revival burdens our hearts for the lost; praying by name, "This is my friend, this is my neighbor," or, "This is the member beloved in my family." It brings to us a burden of intercession. And revival carries with it real revival, always carries with it an incomparable joy in the harvest. People are always saved in a real revival. That is the mark of God’s moving presence in the services, in the congregation, and in the praying of the people; God always gives us souls.
A man said to me when I talked to him about the Lord – having been prayed for, witnessed to, invited to the Savior – when I talked to him, he said to me, "I have said no to God for the last time; I am coming." And he did and I baptized him; that is revival, "I have said no to God for the last time. When the Lord speaks, I am listening. When God sends for me, I am answering with my life." That is revival.
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher,
things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.
["I Am Resolved"; Palmer Hartsough]
I have decided to follow Jesus,
no turning back.
Should no one join me, I still will follow,
The world behind me, the cross before me,
no turning back.
["I have Decided to Follow Jesus"; Hindu melody attr. to S. Sundar Singh]
That is revival!
Where you are, could it begin in you? If there were just you in some quiet, hidden-away place, could it begin in your heart? God doesn’t need the thousands and the thousands; He said to Gideon, "These thirty-two thousand are too many." When twenty-two thousand went home, He said, "These that are left are too many." And when God chose just three hundred, that’s all God needed [Judges 7:1-7]. We are not looking for revival in the great mass on the outside of the will of God; it doesn’t start there. They are not praying, they are not searching the mind of God; revival starts with us. "O Lord, wilt Thou not revive Thy work in the midst of the years?" [Habakkuk 3:2]. It begins in us; a great reconsecration and rededication, a new commitment. And when it begins in us, the inevitable harvest always is bestowed: God gives us souls, God gives us families, God gives us people; how we need a revival among our young people, how we need a revival among our adults. How we need a revival among all of us, and when we are recommitted to God, He always gives us a gracious harvest. This is the sign of His pleasure, that God has accepted us in our praying and in our intercession. Lord, do it again. In the midst of the years, now, O Lord, send us revival!
In this moment that follows after, we will stand and sing a hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, to give your heart to Jesus, "The Lord has spoken to me, and here I am"; the whole family of you, "God has spoken to us, and we’re coming; here is my wife and these are our children, and we are all coming today," or just one somebody you. It’s not the voice of a man that calls; I am but an echo, a voice in the wilderness. It is God who speaks to the human heart. It is God who convicts and converts. It is God who makes invitation.
While we stand in a moment and sing this appeal, in this balcony round, in the throng on this lower floor, "I have said, ‘No!’ to God for the last time; I’m coming. I am giving my life to Him today." Or, "I am coming to put my life with these dear people in the fellowship of this precious church." Make the decision now in your heart; and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up walking down that stairway, coming down this aisle, on the first note of the first stanza, while we stand and while we sing.
READY FOR REAL REVIVAL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. "I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid."
A. Why Habakkuk was afraid
1. He lived between destruction of Northern and Southern Kingdoms
2. War is a judgment of God
B. Afraid today of the judgment of God
1. Wars in our lifetime
2. Decay of our witness
3. Increase in crime and violence
4. Dissolution of the home, society
II. Habakkuk prayed for revival
A. Revival will save a nation
B. Revival will save a city
C. Revival will save a church and denomination
D. Revival will save a soul
1. Begins with reconsecration