So what do you think is our greatest need as a nation?
Interestingly, in a Wall Street Journal article, written in 1947 (two years after the Second World War), a writer made this observation: “What America needs more than railway extension, western irrigation, a low tariff, a bigger cotton crop, and larger wheat crop is a revival of religion. The kind that father and mother used to have. A religion that counted it good business to take time for family worship each morning right in the middle of the wheat harvest.”
In short, according to this writer, what America needs most is a revival of religion—a religion that is based on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his book—The Secret of Christian Joy—published in 1938, Vance Havner (1901–1986) also made a similar observation: “The greatest need of America is an old-fashioned, heaven-born, God-sent revival.” I do believe too that today our greatest need as a nation is true revival.
Now, what is revival? In his book Revival: A People Saturated With God, Brian H. Edwards gives what I think is a comprehensive definition of revival: “A true Holy Spirit revival is a remarkable increase in the spiritual life of a larger number of God’s people, accompanied by an awesome awareness of the presence of God, intensity of prayer and praise, a deep conviction of sin with a passionate longing for holiness and unusual effectiveness in evangelism, leading to the salvation of many unbelievers.”
Noticeably, revival can only be experienced by believers—by those who have been made alive by the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Christ. An unbeliever—a spiritually dead person cannot be revived; he must first be born again, because there is no life to be revived in him. Yet, remember that God is pleased to use the revival of his people to bring many sinners to true repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Or as Edwards says, revival leads to “the salvation of many unbelievers.”
Oh, may we sincerely pray with the hymn writer William Mackay (1839–1885),
Revive us again–fill each heart with thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Revive us again.
The scriptural background for this hymn is Psalm 85:4–7: “Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.”
Revival is ultimately the work of our sovereign God, not primarily for our good, but for his own glory. Oh, let’s not stop crying out to God to pour out his Spirit on us as a nation—to heal our broken land. Nothing is impossible with God! Could it be one of the reasons why we don’t experience revival is because we don’t earnestly ask for it? As James tells us, “You do not have, because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
And before we pray to God to revive the church in our country, we first need to ask God to revive ourselves. Revival must begin with us believers. The English evangelist Rodney “Gipsy” Smith (1860–1947) was once asked the secret of revival. His reply is convicting: “Go home. Take a piece of chalk. Draw a circle around yourself. Then pray, ‘O Lord, revive everything inside this circle.’” This ought to be your prayer and my prayer: “O Lord, revive me first.”
Has it really been your prayer in the past few weeks that God will revive your heart? How quick we are to see the need for others to be changed, overlooking our own need for revival. We see the speck in other’s eye but do not notice the log in our own eyes (Matthew 7:3). Before we criticize others, we first need to examine ourselves. Before we ask God to revive our nation and our leaders, we first need to ask God to revive us.
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