EVERYWHERE I travel to meet with church leaders, I’m told that the greatest longing in the hearts of their people is for hope and confidence in the fulfillment of God’s purposes. They wonder if God can really revive us again. They wonder if He will.
Usually, I’m faced with two kinds of questions: (1) “How can we be sure of this?” (similar to the one raised by Zechariah in Lk. 1:18), and (2) “How can this be?” (Mary’s question in Lk. 1:34, NKJV). Zechariah was rebuked because his question revealed a lack of confidence in God, while the virgin was affirmed because she sought to know the ways of God. The first question is significant for those who are struggling with the idea of a God-given awakening.
Recently, I traveled around one of America’s major cities, holding half-day “revival think tanks” with nearly 100 pastors who are active in the prayer movement there. Our goal was to talk about preaching a vision for revival in their churches. But in refreshingly honest discussions, the question kept arising again and again: “How can we be sure of this hoped-for revival?” Whenever that question surfaces in any of us-as we preach, as we teach, as we pray-we need to get it on the table. Peter tells us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Pet. 3:15).
In two of my recent books, The Hope at Hand and Messengers of Hope, I concentrated on what I call “The Seven Confidence Builders,” which restore hope that our praying and labors toward revival are not in vain. Let me summarize them:
1. The Decisive Person. God intends for His Son to be at the center of everything-at the end of history and every step along the way In revival, God dramatically intervenes to restore Christ’s rightful role as Redeemer King among His people and to more fully advance His kingdom among the nations. God’s commitment of His Son gives me unassailable confidence as I pray for revival.
2. Divine Pattern. God is faithful and consistent in all His ways. He has granted times of significant revival throughout the generations of His people, both in biblical history and church history. What He has done before, He is able and willing to do for our generation.
3. Dark Prospects. God knows our nation and the world face moral and spiritual crises and challenges beyond our resources and wisdom. Revival in the church, equal to the desperate needs of our time, is the hope He holds out for unleashing His saving power upon the world He loves. His glory among earth’s unreached is at stake.
4. Disturbing Paralysis. God knows that the desperate condition of the world is largely due to the church’s struggles with its own powerlessness, brokenness, dullness, and sin. As Andrew Murray argued in 1910, world evangelization will only accelerate to the degree the spiritual malaise of the church is dispelled through God-given revival. The only hope is for God to heal our paralysis and sin through an outpouring of the Spirit.
5. Dramatic Preparations. The contemporary missions movement worldwide, backed by unprecedented resources and cooperation, seems to many to be a prelude to revival. It’s as if God is setting the stage for a significant advance of the gospel. If this is His work, He will not fail to bring about its fulfillment: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6). Clearly, God is up to something extraordinary in world outreach.
6. Distinctive Praying. Anyone reading this magazine will not have missed how God is stirring up His people to pray for national and world revival. He will not let us pray in vain. The prayers coming forth from the church are His prayers. He has promised to hear and answer all prayers that are prayed according to His will.
7. Determined People. God is galvanizing a host of people worldwide who are convinced that revival is the only hope for the church and the nations. I call them “prisoners of hope” (Zech. 9:12). They are willing to pay any price to prepare the way for God to do it. God has put this heart within them. They are a chief sign-really the first phase-of an impending spiritual awakening to Christ.
Evangelical Tom Sine calls biblical hope a “wild hope.” When that wild hope possesses a Christian, she or he gladly heeds the words of Isaiah: “You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain.. . . lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’ See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power” (Is. 40:9-10).
May such a hope reign in our churches once again. And may you pray and prepare for revival with such boldness and confidence!