Saturday, November 9, 2013

Joel: The Cry for Revival

Joel 1:13-14 Put on sackcloth, O priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God. Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.

The book of Joel is a call to revival and it begins with the leadership: "Put on sackcloth, O priests... Summon the elders... and cry out to the Lord." When a pastor/priest/elder looks down from his pulpit and see a listless congregation without life, they must be the first ones to take action. And the first call to action is crying out the Lord. Sometime the solution is obvious (and will be revealed later in Joel), but too often, our habits and traditions blind us to the obvious.

There has been books written about revivals, usually by Western authors who tend to look at Christianity from a Christendom perspective. There has been much prayer for revival over the years in Singapore, but it's not here. The problem isn't our prayer but it's our expectation. We are looking to revival to grow our churches, but is that what revival is for?

Revival is nothing less than a re-alignment of God's people with God's purpose. I've leaders telling me they are praying for revival in their congregations, and that's about all they do. Revival, like Charles Finney, is as simple as sowing and reaping in farming. It's not the "sudden work" of God. Charles Finney writes that we can have revival anytime we want. Revival is not some unpredictable and sovereign work of God, but a normal work with God. If we want to read a book on revival, try Acts. Revival starts from the Day of Pentecost and it never ends.

I still can remember a brother in the prison service who kept telling me he was praying for revival in the prison. But I told him revival was already happening--people were getting saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. But he was waiting for some sudden outbreak, like an disease that infected the whole prison population. But revival starts with one individual at a time.

When church leaders pray for revival, they are often expecting some kind of mass "breakout" movement when believers are suddenly revitalized and ready to do--but do what? For some revival means more vital worship; for others, it is more greater attendance at their Sunday services; and still others it is more people coming to serve in their various weekend ministries. But is that what revival is for?

When we cry out to the Lord, we should be asking Him what He wants us to do, rather than asking Him to do what is supposed to be our work. Revival is not just "all God" but a cooperation between God and His leaders. Charles Finney compares revival to farming--if we want a harvest, we have to plough the ground and sow seeds. No farmers just spend his days praying and expect to see a harvest. So should we. Revival will come as surely as harvest comes from sowing and seeding. But the kind of revival God wants is that which lead to salvation of lost people. Before we pray for revival, ask ourselves if we really want more non-believers coming to our church?

Hosea has called us to "break up the fallow ground," which is a reference to repentance. But repentance is not necessary a repentance of sins of commission. Very often in the churches that I've visited, it's the sins of omission. It's not what we have done that has caused us to lose our passion for God; it's what we have not done.

May we ask God to open our eyes to see what His purpose is for revival and ask ourselves if we really want revival because there are churches that pray for revival but are not getting it because they want revival to serve their purposes, not God's.

Father, cause Your priests, elders, pastors to seek You earnestly for the outpouring of Your Spirit. Open our eyes to re-align our purposes with Your purpose for revival. Amen.

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