Summary: Whta is revival and what are it’s true characteristics? Let’s explore through Habbakuk what it’s about and stir our hearts to cry to God for His powerful work in our day.
HABBAKUK CH 3 V 2
One modern religious scholar has said: ‘…we will not see the large scale revival’s that were witnessed, for example, during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries…There is simply not the required sociological, psychological and spiritual soil needed for such Christian seeds to take root.’
Is the possibility of true revival in Europe now dead? I certainly don’t believe so. Though we live in a society that’s no longer influenced by the Christian faith this isn’t any barrier to God. The English Evangelist John Blanchard has said: ‘Some time ago a piece of graffiti scrawled on a wall in New York announced, “God is dead. Nietzsche.’ Underneath someone added, ‘Nietzsche is dead. God.” Quite!’
Habakkuk can tell us something about real revival. The Jews of Habakkuk’s day had rebelled seriously against God and he prayed hard about this, but God didn’t seem to do anything - and it really got to him. Ch 1 v 2 ‘How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?’
Then the Prophet got God’s answer. The Babylonians – a people far worse than the Jews – were coming to punish the Jews in Habakkuk’s lifetime. Ch 1 v 6 ‘I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own.’
This created an even bigger problem in Habakkuk’s mind. ‘How can God, who is just and good, who hates evil, send against His people a nation that He openly admits makes a god of its own might?’ Part of God’s answer was that He was still in total control, and the Babylonians – though used by God to fulfil His purpose – would afterwards themselves fall and be crushed because of their pride.
This whole amazing scenario compelled Habakkuk to cry even more in prayer to God. His burden? That God would show mercy and revive His people: Ch 3 v 2 ‘LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew [revive] them in our day, in our time make them known.’ As God’s people we need something of Habakkuk’s burden. But we need to ask the question…
WHAT IS REVIVAL?
God’s work, not our effort
Ch 3 v 2(a) ‘LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD.’ Before anything else we must start with God. You might sometimes hear a Church or evangelist announce: ‘We’re going to hold a revival.’ That’s an impossibility. You can hold a series of special meetings which is what is often meant by revival, but that isn’t revival as the bible teaches it to be. Revival isn’t a work of man; it’s something God does. It’s given from above; not manufactured below.
Duncan Campbell: ‘It takes the supernatural to break the bonds of the natural. You can make a community mission-conscious. You can make a community crusade-conscious. But only God can make a community God-conscious.’ Duncan Campbell’s succinct definition of revival is: ‘A community saturated with God.’
This is what Habakkuk recognised – the people needed reviving and for that to happen God had to work and so he prayed hard for it: Ch 3 v 2(b) ‘Renew [or revive] them [your deeds] in our day, in our time make them known.’
The Church first, then the world
You can’t revive the world; only the church can be revived. What do I mean by that? You may get back from holiday and find your prized houseplant badly sagging so you give it some water and it perks up; you may doze off in front of a lovely warm campfire, and wake up to find the fire’s almost died. So you gently fan the red embers and add a bit of fuel, and fire builds up again; you may pull somebody unconscious out of a river with barely a pulse no breath in them. So you give him the kiss of life and it kick starts everything back to normal.
What’s common to each example here, is that there’s life there to be revived. It’s not a case of life being given, but life already present being restored; rekindled; re-animated. Can’t revive the world – it has no spiritual life – you can only revive God’s people.
In 1700’s Britain there was a big revival called ‘The Great Awakening.’ One of the leading preachers God used was a Church of England minister, George Whitefield. The discussion between a Baronet and a friend went like this: ‘This Mr Whitfield is truly a great man – he is the founder of a new religion.’ ‘A new religion sir’ exclaimed the friend. ‘Yes, said the Baronet, ‘What do you call it?’ The friend’s response? ‘Nothing but the old religion revived with energy and heated as if the minister really meant what he said.’