In 1983 Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn provided a concise explanation as to why, in his opinion, the horrors of Soviet communism occurred. He said, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
Those with any spiritual perception at all are burdened – yea, alarmed – by the accelerating moral and spiritual decline of the United States of America. Clearly, people in our nation have forgotten God. But this is not the first country and culture to experience a dramatic downward turn. When I was a college student I read A. Skevington Wood’s study of the ministry of John Wesley entitled, The Burning Heart. Wood did not romanticize or exaggerate Wesley’s experiences. Wesley was often subjected to verbal and physical abuse for his preaching. Yet the response to his message was amazing. During this dramatic season of revival thousands across Great Britain turned in faith to Christ. The impact of what became known as “the Great Awakening” was so powerful that the culture of a great empire was tangibly changed for the better.
The conditions in which Wesley ministered were not identical to our own. But they were not entirely different. The back cover of my copy of The Burning Heart had a striking description. “It was an age of violence, sexual permissiveness, and alcoholism. The church was corroded by secularism, despised by the intellectuals, and consistently ignored by the masses. It was 18th century England.” The writer’s point was obvious. What God did in the days of the Great Awakening He could do again. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” I thought as I read this book, “if I could see such a revival in my lifetime.” I still think this.
Recently, I read a blog post by a Bible scholar who argued that revival in our day is impossible. We are living in the final days before Christ returns, he contended, therefore no great awakening can come. I disagree. There is no passage in Scripture which limits the ministry of the Holy Spirit in this 21st century. On the contrary, a study of revivals in the Bible shows that at times they came when they seemed least likely and were little anticipated.
There was revival in the days of King Hezekiah. However, before this second-to-last of the good kings of Judah died, Isaiah the prophet delivered to him a pronouncement of divine judgment. The wealth of the nation would be carried away and his descendents would be slaves in the palace of the king of Babylon. Following Hezekiah came the long reign of a wicked king who practiced idolatry and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. Then King Amon ruled, imitating his father’s evil. Josiah next ascended the throne. And during his reign there was revival. In the days of King Josiah idolatry was rejected, the house of God was repaired, the word of God was recovered, and the worship of God was restored. The Bible records that the character of this awakening was such that it surpassed in some ways all that came in prior centuries back to the days of the Judges.
Sadly, the revival under Josiah did not last. Revivals never do. And the judgment Isaiah predicted came to pass shortly after Josiah’s death. But between the time God’s judgment was pronounced and the time judgment occurred, there was a sweeping revival.
The saints in our day, as in every day since the Lord ascended back to heaven, are to be “looking for the blessed hope, and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Ti. 2:13) But while we wait expectantly for Christ’s return, there is every reason for the Christian to believe that the Spirit of God will still strive with men, and to hope and pray for revival such as God sent in other times. Surely, judgment day approaches. Jesus may soon appear. But if the Lord tarries His coming, my prayer is that, as He has in the past, God will send a great revival with the apathetic awakened, backsliders restored, and sinners converted to Christ. I still believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13)