This Is Revival


This Is Revival

January 8th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Shigionoth. 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 known; in wrath remember mercy.
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Dr.  W.  A.  Criswell

Habakkuk 3:1-2

1-08-78    7:30 p.m.


The message tonight is entitled: The Urgency Of The Hour, or Our Greatest Need, or This Is Revival.  It is taken out of the Book of Habakkuk and the texts are the first two verses of the last, the third chapter.  “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 years make it known:  in wrath, remember mercy [Habakkuk 3:1,2].

Of what is the prophet afraid?  When he said, “O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid” [Habakkuk 3:2]; he is referring to the judgments of God upon Israel.  And as the author of Hebrews avows, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31].   He is referring to the destruction of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, Samaria, in 722 BC by the Assyrians [2 Kings 17:7-23].  And he is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah by the Babylonians in 587 BC [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30].  And Habakkuk stood between the two.  The first had already happened, and he himself was the emissary and the messenger of God to announce the second [Habakkuk 1:6-10].

That is why he says: “O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid” [Habakkuk 3:2], the judgment of God that the Lord sent him to announce, to deliver, against his own people and his own city.  In the first chapter he is speaking for the Lord and says:

Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, 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 judgment and their dignity shall precede of themselves.

Their horses are swifter than the leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves: their horsemen shall spread themselves, they shall come from afar, they shall fly as a eagle that hasteth to the prey.

They shall all come up for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand.

They shall scoff at kings, and princes shall be a scorn unto them; they shall deride every stronghold; they shall heap dust, and take it.

[Habakkuk 1:6-10]

He himself was the emissary and ambassador of God to announce the coming destruction of Jerusalem and of Judah.  And that is why he says, “O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid” [Habakkuk 3:2].

He asks a question of the Lord.  When he is sent to announce that his own people would be destroyed by Babylonia and carried into captivity, he asks the question: “Lord, how is it, however we may be evil and wicked, we are not more evil and wicked than they.  How is it, Lord, that You allow them to destroy us?”  He says it like this in the thirteenth verse of the first chapter: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look upon iniquity: wherefore lookest Thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest Thy tongue when the wicked devoureth a man that is more righteous than he?” [Habakkuk 1:13]

“We may be vile and wicked, but they are not righteous, and why is it that You allow them to destroy us?”  And the answer comes from God in the twelfth verse: “O Lord, Thou hast ordained them for judgment; O mighty God, Thou hast established them for correction” [Habakkuk 1:12].

As Isaiah said it in Isaiah 10:5: They “are the rod of Mine anger and the staff. . .of Mine indignation.” That is the message of God to America today.  We cannot continue in drunkenness, and debauchery, and blasphemy, and desecration, and not face the inevitable judgment of Almighty God!  The Lord will raise up even these bitter and atheistic and communist nations to chasten us.

As Isaiah says, they “are the rod of His anger, and the staff of His indignation” [Isaiah 10:5].  It is hard for us to realize that America could be lost, that our nation could be destroyed, that we could be confronted by implacable and ruthless enemies, but that is an imponderable in the hands of Almighty God.  Not the Navy, not the Army, not the Marines, not the Air Force, but God.  “O Lord, I have heard Thy speech, and was afraid” [Habakkuk 3:2].  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31].

Then the prophet gave himself to the one recourse that is possible for us.  He prayed.  “O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in judgment and in wrath, remember mercy” [Habakkuk 3:2].  Revival will save a nation.  It saved Judah in the days of Hezekiah [2 Kings 18:1-7].  It saved England in the days of the Wesleys.

Revival will save a city.  It did Nineveh in the days of Jonah [Jonah 3:5-10].  It did Antioch in the days of John Chrysostom .  It did Florence, Italy, in the days of Savanarola.  And revival will save a home.  It will save a life.  It did yesterday.  It does today.  It will forever!  “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” [Habakkuk 3:2].

What is revival?   Revival is a Christian word.  It is a family word.  The lost are not revived.  They are dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1].  The lost need to be resurrected.  They need to be—they need to be born.  They need life out of death.  It is the Christian people.  It is the family of God that are to be revived, our love for God and our love for the work of the Lord from a spark, fanned into a flaming fire.

What is revival?   Revival is a church word.  It is an assembly word.  As Peter writes in the fourth chapter of his first epistle, “Judgment must begin in the house of God” [1 Peter 4:17].  The church can never give what it does not possess.  There must be here first the presence of the Lord and all the joy and gladness that pertains to the bountiful goodnesses of God; that is revival.

What is revival?   Revival is a normal word.  We are not straining after some monstrous experience alien to the mind of God.  But we are turning our hearts upward and our hands upward to receive from God’s gracious goodness all of the bountiful and heavenly blessings He has for us who love Him.  It is a normal word.

What would you think of a father whose children were sick and in bed all year long.  And the father says, “But do not worry, let it be no concern or worry to you.  You see, next year, my children will be up for another week.”  What would you think of a father who said that?   His children, down all the time, and once a year they were up for maybe a week?

That monstrous designation is also true of us.  We are to be revived, normally.  We are to be up, normally.  Our lives are to be overflowing with joy and gladness and praise every day of the week.  And the church is to be quickened with the presence and the power and the Spirit of God.  It is a normal word.

Well, how can we live up triumphantly, blessedly, the life of a revived soul?   This is how.  Revival comes first by confession and contrition.  “O God, forgive me my stubborn pride.  God, forgive me my sterile unfruitfulness.  Forgive me my lack of burden.”

Maybe praying because we cannot pray; crying because we cannot cry; weeping because we cannot weep; burdened because we are not burdened.  Full of concern and care because we are indifferent.  Bleeding, crying hearts coming back to Calvary; that is the beginning of real revival.  This is revival.  The spirit of agony in prayer and intercession; praying first for ourselves, for the carnal nature drags us ever down and down, as Jacob at Peniel wrestling with the angel all night long [Genesis 32:24-31].

Isaiah said: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that He cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear [Isaiah 59:1-2].

That is why in the old-time church we had the mourner’s bench.  It is not easy to forsake sin.  It is not easy to deny the flesh.  It is not easy to live the revived and victorious life.  We must pray before God, before whose eyes our very souls are open and naked.  And we must pray in burden for the lost.  It must be a care and a concern to us whether the people are saved or lost.

Paul begins the ninth chapter of his Book of Romans with this word: “I have great continual heaviness and burden of heart.  For I could wish myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” [Romans 9:2-3].  And he began the tenth chapter with the same word: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved” [Romans 10:1].

It is not revival when we go through the days of the week and never think of the lost who are all around us.  And it is not revival when we come into the assembly of the church of the living God, and it is no burden to us whether the people respond to the invitation to accept Christ or not.  Revival is a burden for the lost that they might be saved.

This is revival; a spirit of oneness, of unity, of togetherness in the Lord.  The great Pentecostal chapter in Acts 2:1 begins like this: “And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”; no charismatic spirit among them, but all given to one great dedication.  That is the revival in the church.  And that is a spirit that God uses to save, to find the lost.

I looked through a magazine one time and followed through pictures.  It was one of the most effective stories and yet one of the saddest that I ever saw.  The first picture was of a vast, vast wheat field in western Kansas.  I have seen fields just like that.  From horizon from horizon, just the fields of wheat, tall, waving stalks of grain as far as the eye could see.  That was the first picture.

The second picture was of the distress of a mother who was in a farmhouse in the middle of that vast wheat field.  She had a little, little boy, and he had somehow wandered away from that house into that field.  She couldn’t find him.  She called for her husband.  They searched.  They finally called for the neighbors, and they searched.  One went this way, one went that way, one another way and they searched through that vast, illimitable field for that little boy and could not find him.

The next picture was all of the people who heard of that little boy being lost, they joined hands, one, one, one, in a great sweep, and they said, “Let us go through this wheat field and comb it from one side to the other until we find that little boy.”   And the next little picture was of that long line of friends and neighbors, joining hands, going through that vast wheat field finding the lad.

The last picture would break your heart.  It was one of the saddest I have ever seen.  It was a picture of the father standing over the body of his little boy.  They had finally found him, but the lad was dead, and underneath, the words of the father as he cried, “O God, that we had joined hands before.”

You couldn’t forget a thing like that.  There is in revival in the church and in the hearts of the people, a true unity, intercession, the spirit of seeking and searching, always that seeking note.  That is revival.  This is revival; a hungering and a thirsting after God.

The first verse of the sixty-third Psalm is this: “O God, Thou art my God;  early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee as in a dry and thirsty land” [Psalm 63:1].   Psalm 42, the first verse begins like this: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God” [Psalm 42:1].

There is a profound meaning in that to us who have found the Lord.  Have you drunk of the water of this life and still thirst?    Have you found the emptiness of the rewards of the world?   Is there still a longing in your heart for something more than the flesh and the world could afford?

You will find it in God, not in the world.  Bobby Burns wrote it like this:

But pleasures are like poppies spread,

You seize the flow’r, the bloom is shed;

Or like the snow falls in the river,

A moment white—then melts for ever;

Or like the borealis race,

That flit ere you can point their place;

Or like the rainbow’s lovely form

Evanishing amid the storm.

[“Tam o’Shanter,” Robert Burns].

 How empty and how fleeting are the pleasures and rewards of this world.  Thirsting in the world.  The hymn writer said it:

If you are tired of the load of your sin,

Let Jesus come into your heart;

If you desire a new life to begin,

Let Jesus come into your heart.

Just now, your doubtings give o’er;

Just now, reject Him no more;

Just now, throw open the door;

Let Jesus come into your heart.

[“Let Jesus Come into Your Heart,” Lelia N. Morris]

 That is revival.  This is revival—the spirit of affirmation, of response and commitment.  Like one of the men said to me in this very auditorium, “Pastor, I have said no to God for the last time, I’m coming.  I’m coming.  I’ve said no to God for the last time.  I’m coming.  I’m coming.”

Do it, do it.  Do it.  The spirit of rejection?  No.  The spirit of unbelief?  No.  The spirit of affirmation?  Yes.  The spirit of answering God’s call?  Yes.  The spirit of commitment?  Yes.  Lord, I am coming.

I have decided to follow Jesus;

. . .

                        No turning back, No turning back.

                        . . .

Should no one join me, I still will follow,

No turning back.

 . . .

The world behind me, the cross before me;

. . .

I have decided to follow Jesus

No turning back.

[from “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus,” Simeon Marak, 1920]

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 and who will go with me?

Leaving the paths of sin,

Taught by the Bible, lead by the Spirit,

Thus shall we enter in.

[from “I Am Resolved,” Palmer Hartsough]

And that is our appeal to your heart tonight, finding life, abounding and abundant; finding salvation in the loving goodness of Christ Jesus; giving your heart to the faith for which He came to die in our stead [Hebrews 10:5-14]; to be raised for our justification [Romans 4:25]; to give us victory every day of this pilgrimage; and someday coming again in glory and triumph [Revelation 1:7; 19:11-16]; it is ours for the having.  It is ours for the asking.  It is ours for the taking.  It is ours for the believing and the trusting [Romans 10:9-13].  It is ours for the coming and the committing.  Make the decision now.  “Pastor, I have decided for God, and I am on the way.  I have said no to Him for the last time.  Here I am and here I come.”   In the balcony round, a family you, a couple, or just one somebody you; in the press of people on this lower floor; down one of these aisles, “Pastor, I have made that decision now.  I am coming now.  I have decided for God.  I am on the way.”   May angels attend you and the Holy Spirit bless you as you come, while we stand and while we sing.