Do you remember waking up this morning? Things began gradually to invade your consciousness-morning light, alarm clock, the smell of coffee, squealing children, the day’s agenda-until you could not roll over and go back to sleep. You had to get up and get on with the day.
That’s the image Scripture portrays of revival – a spiritual “awakening” to Christ and all that He is. We experience a foretaste of it every morning as we awaken to the day and get out of bed.
Scripture often alludes to God’s people waking up: “Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor” (Is. 52:1); And “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14) are among them.
When Dr. Ebenezer Porter, president emeritus of Andover Seminary, was asked in 1830 to deliver a series of lectures on his firsthand observations of the Second Great Awakening in our nation, he gave this definition of revival: “When the Redeemer comes in the triumphs of His grace to visit His churches, then His true followers are seen waking up from their apathy, and going forth to welcome the King of Zion with an energy and earnestness and ardor of affection greatly surpassing their first love.”
Is that what you and I pray for as we seek God for revival? When we pray for spiritual awakening, what are we asking God to awaken us from? What do we hope He’ll awaken us to?
In revival, God awakens us from a condition of sleep. Sleep is a time of inactivity, idleness, inertia, dormancy. While we sleep, we are blind to the things around us. We have no concerns, no intentions, no responses. Snuggled in bed, we are defenseless and vulnerable to any enemy that lurks nearby. As we slumber, possibilities and opportunities pass us by; we cannot take advantage of them. Our dreams and nightmares are virtual reality at best; they are not real, not substantial, not lasting.
Once we’re out of bed, however, our life takes on a dynamic energy. Awakened, we can see and hear and care and act. We are vigilant to danger, and we can take advantage of what the day promises. We can see things as they really are.
Seeing Things As They Really Are
The parallel needs little comment. In revival, the living Christ opens our eyes to Himself and His mission; brings us back to reality about our churches, our world and His Throne; gives us power to press His purposes into new territory; enables us to defend against the enemy and seize the day-God’s Day. Paul said: “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber?.The night is nearly over; the day is almost here?.let us behave decently, as in the daytime?.clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ?.” (Ro. 13:11-14).
In revival, God awakens us so that we can fully engage Christ for who He is-the way jumping into the shower helps us tackle a new morning. Think about it: when you woke up this morning, everything you needed for the hours ahead-clothes, books, daytimer, car, friends, credit cards, hands and feet, songs to whistle-was already there. It was all just waiting for you to regain consciousness. The daybreak itself was not of your own doing-it was God’s gift, waiting for you to open your eyes and see it. It’s just as Isaiah 60 says: get up, because the light of God is already shining!
This is why I am so hopeful. Hopeful that our nation can be turned around spiritually. That the task of reaching over two billion people can be completed in this generation. That my church can be revived into a base of operations for God’s Kingdom to help transform my city. That my own soul can be quickened with the vitality of holy living. I’m hopeful because everything needed for all of this to happen is already given to us-already alive among us, already committed to us for total victory. It’s all there, just like the dawn every morning. All we have to do is wake up to it. Christ already shines on our nation, on the unreached, on our cities and churches. He is shining right now, in all of His fullness for His people, even if we’re too groggy to notice.
WAKE UP, GOD!
Do you know what my first prayer for awakening is? “Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old” (Is. 51:9). I pray for God to wake up! Isaiah says that when the Spirit goes into action in powerful new ways, it almost feels, by contrast, as if a moment earlier He had been sleeping. But when God wakes up, then His people wake up. When Christ shines, we can rise-and the world around us! Even wise virgins may fall asleep (Mt. 25:1-13), but not for long. The Bridegroom is on His way, for arrival, for revival, for awakening. He is the sunrise before our prayers, and for our prayers. Who wants to sleep through that?