Revival: The Need and the Formula
All born-again believers have experienced revival. The day God forgave our sins, He brought our souls from a state of spiritual death to spiritual life, and that is what revival means—to bring to life. In His very nature, God is a reviver. He alone has the power to bring the dead to life, and it is something He loves to do.
In the Bible, captivity is often an illustration for spiritual death and separation from God, and the captive’s liberation represents spiritual life and a new relationship with God. Psalm 85 is an example of this. Verses 1-2 begin, “Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin.” The writer was saying that the Israelites had been captives of sin, and God forgave their sin and set them free. At some point, though, the people must have turned away from God, because the Psalmist went on to pray in verse 4, “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.” Verse 6 says, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” He understood that to have God’s blessing once again, the people needed to be turned toward God, and then the result would be that the people would rejoice once again in Him.
As the members of God’s Church, we can relate to this prayer. We were once slaves to sin, but God delivered us through His salvation. Yet throughout our Christian journey, there is a need to examine our hearts and ask the Lord to look on us. If anything is amiss, that area of our lives needs to be turned toward God in order for us to have His continued blessing in our hearts.
The word “revive” in verse 6 of Psalm 85 is translated from the Hebrew word chayah, and it can refer to bringing the dead to life but it has a few other meanings as well: to keep alive, to recover, repair, and restore. God is certainly able to do all those things. Just as a sinner is in need of God’s life-giving power, the believer is in need of His life-sustaining power, so both depend upon God for revival in that sense.
We need to be a people on fire for the Lord, with testimonies burning brightly in our hearts. If that is not the case, we can be encouraged to know that God is a reviver, and it is something He loves to do.
When we look around the world today, we see a great need for revival. Many who are dead in sin need to be raised to new life in Christ, and the Church itself needs renewal and restoration. We need to be a people on fire for the Lord, with testimonies burning brightly in our hearts. If that is not the case, we can be encouraged to know that God is a reviver, and it is something He loves to do.
A revival in evil days
In the days of the prophet Habakkuk, the Israelites had turned against God and were living wickedly. The national and religious leaders were corrupt and sin abounded. It was an evil time. Eventually, God spoke through the prophets and revealed that the Israelites would be conquered by the Babylonians and taken captive for seventy years. Judgment was imminent.
That was the setting of the prophet’s prayer in Habakkuk 3:2, “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.” The prophet knew that according to God’s Word, judgment for the people’s rebellion was coming. Still, his prayer was, “O Lord, revive thy work.” Habakkuk wanted it to be made known that God was still God, and He revives. Even though God’s Word is final and the seventy years of captivity were carried out, the prayer went out for God to revive.
God answered the prophet’s prayer. We find in Scripture where even in times of bondage, God raised up individuals who knew and loved God, and who lived righteously in Babylon. We read of Daniel’s witness in the land of captivity, and of the three Hebrew boys who had great influence. In those days of judgment against the Israelites, the kings of the earth recognized the one, true God. Nebuchadnezzar and Darius proved the God of Daniel. Even in the midst of captivity, God revived the work. This is what Habakkuk was praying for.
Today, Christians are “in the midst of the years” in a sense. The Word of God reveals events that will happen within the Church in the end times, some of which we already see being fulfilled. Matthew 24:12 says, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” We see that happening. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3 we read, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” We ourselves have seen people who were following the Lord, and now have fallen away. God’s Word is true. In 2 Timothy 4:3 we read, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” I grew up under the sound of this Gospel, and I am thankful that the words I heard as a boy still ring true today. We pray we will never find ourselves in a place where we do not endure sound doctrine, yet there are some who do just that, embracing false doctrines which clearly contradict what Scripture teaches.
We know God’s Word is true, and the prophecies are imminent. They are coming to pass already. Yet, that should not discourage God’s people from praying for revival.
We know God’s Word is true, and the prophecies are imminent. They are coming to pass already. Yet, that should not discourage God’s people from praying for revival. In fact, I believe these warnings are written to incite us to ask God to revive us even in the midst of these times. We do not want to be discouraged by it; it should put us to our knees! Our prayer is nothing short of what Habakkuk prayed, “Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years.” Even as some fall away and their love grows cold, our desire is for God to send a revival and make His power known.
Though God allowed the Israelites to be taken captive, He was never going to abandon Israel. That was never His intent; His intent was to draw them back to Himself. Likewise, God will not abandon His Church in these days. He is still drawing people to Himself, and our prayers can make a difference.
God’s unchanging formula for revival
What brings revival? Though it may seem a great feat that would require some complicated process, it is actually very simple. God has given a formula for it in Scripture, and it is still effective today.
In the Book of 2 Chronicles we read that after King Solomon built the first Temple, God made a promise of revival to the Israelites. At the moment that the promise was given, the people were not in need of reviving. They had just dedicated God’s Temple and seen His fire consume their sacrifices. His glory filled the Temple, and in response, the people fell down and worshiped Him. They held a week-long celebration, and afterward God came to Solomon by night with a message. He said that in the event the people would someday turn away from Him and forfeit His blessing, there was a formula for restoration: “If my people, which 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” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
This formula has four steps: humble yourself, pray, seek God, and turn from your wicked ways. When we do that, God is bound by His Word to send reviving into our souls.
This formula has four steps: humble yourself, pray, seek God, and turn from your wicked ways. When we do that, God is bound by His Word to send reviving into our souls. This works for both the unbeliever in need of regeneration, and the believer in need of God’s life-sustaining power. Our God is a reviver, and He is still in the business of reviving souls who will turn to Him. He wants to do it, and He will.
The starting point
We want to see the depths of revival—not just a scattering of some victories here and there, but a great revival. It will have to start somewhere, and in reading Psalm 85, Habakkuk’s prayer, and the formula given to King Solomon, it seems that a revival must begin with God’s own people. The Psalmist said, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” and the prophet prayed, “Revive thy work,” and the formula from God begins, “If my people...” That leaves it up to us as believers. The Gospel cannot make much forward progress unless God’s people are revived themselves. We need to be walking closely with Him, led by His Spirit each day. Paul wrote in Romans 13:11-12, “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.”
The prophet Habakkuk said, “I have heard thy judgment to come.” That means he was aware of the spiritual situation of his time. We too must understand the days in which we live and carry a burden for the need of the day. The Lord is coming soon, and no doubt each of us knows at least one person who is not ready for His return. That alone should send us to our knees seeking revival. When we understand the judgment that is coming, we will humble ourselves and pray, as the prophet did, and God will hear and answer.
This is not a time to get discouraged; it is a time for reviving. God is still working, and He loves His Church. Salvation is still for all people, and a close walk with God is available for everyone. He is capable of reviving us individually and corporately, and that is exactly what He wants to do. He will show Himself strong amidst all the turmoil that exists in our world today. God did it for the Israelites, and He will do it for His people today.