When Will There Be Revival?
By Oswald J. Smith
Have you ever seen revival? I have. It was on the mission fields of Europe before World War II. With great difficulty we elbowed our way through the vast crowd. What a sight it was to gaze into the sea of faces on the ground floor and away up in the overcrowded gallery! Scores were standing in the aisles, nor was there any possibility of their sitting down for the next three hours at least.
At the close of my message I felt led to pray and, as I did so, it seemed as though a tidal wave of blessing broke upon the audience. First a single sob, then another, and yet another, until at last individual expressions were lost in the moaning and weeping that broke out all over the congregation. When I opened my eyes, I saw the faces of dozens, with tears flowing down their cheeks, broken and mellowed by the Spirit of God.
They Needed No Urging Then –
No coaxing. I only had to give a word of invitation and they responded in scores. There was no room at the altar, and even if there had been, it would have been impossible for them to move from where they were, so dense was the crowd. But they lifted their hands and gave every evidence of a wholehearted response. How many passed into the Kingdom of Light, I do not know. How many opened their hearts and received the Holy Spirit in His fullness, I cannot say. But I do know that God worked in mighty power.
Sunday night a great wave of revival swept the audience, so that hundreds fell on their faces and wept before the Lord. Strong men sobbed aloud and with anguished faces gazed up, pleading with God to forgive and receive them.
People would walk thirty miles, or drive with horses and wagons two hundred miles, to attend meetings. Services lasted three hours or longer, and in some cases, three services were held each day, and still the people complained that they were not getting enough. In one place they met in a meeting of their own in the early morning hours before even the workers appeared on the scene, making four services in all each day.
No need to spend money on advertising. One told another and everybody came, until they were standing in the aisles, sitting in every available space on the platform, crowding the largest auditoriums, so that scarcely another person could squeeze in.
I remember preaching to three thousand in a Lutheran church, and how they listened! In the open air it was the same. For three hours I have seen them stand in the rain – men, women and children – so hungry were they!
And How God Worked!
From the very commencement the spirit of revival was in the air. They prayed, sang, and testified, the tears streaming down their cheeks. With stricken hearts they listened to the messages, and when the invitation was given, flocked to the front and falling on their knees, their eyes overflowing with tears, cried to God for mercy.
To describe the scenes that have been enacted by the Holy Ghost would be simply impossible; for what God wrought is nothing less than miraculous.
Each night the great auditorium was literally thronged, and during the closing days, crowded beyond capacity, gallery, platform and all, with people standing everywhere. Night after night souls came forward for salvation, and the altar was filled over and over again. Great numbers accepted Christ for the first time.
The ten o’clock morning meeting was the great time of the feast. The first morning, the main auditorium below was full, with a few in the choir seats. The second day there were more, and the third still more, and a glorious break began.
But on the fourth morning there was no room. The choir seats were filled. Extra chairs were then placed on the platform and wherever there was space. Still the people came, until at last, many were compelled to stand in the aisles.
Then the power of God fell on the audience. Men and women knelt everywhere, and oh, such prayers! Such tears! Such patience and confessions! Such joy and peace! Such testimonies! And how they sang! Truly it was Heaven on earth.
Momentous Years Ahead
Today, sinister forces are at work. False religions and the occult abound on every side. Moral standards have plunged to new depths. Home and family life are floundering. Children are abused and undisciplined. Young people seek their thrills in self-destroying drugs and alcohol. Crime is epidemic. Corruption has invaded highest ranks....
All creation groans. The birth pangs of a new age are now being felt throughout the world. Once again there is "the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees" (2 Sam. 5:24).
The days of the early Church were days of revival. Nothing but revival will ever solve the problems of the world today! All over the world there are those who are crying to God for another mighty manifestation of His power. Are those prayers going to be answered? Will revival come? And if it does, what will it be like? How much will it cost? Can we do anything to bring it about?
Can the prayer of Psalm 85:6 be answered in our day and generation? – "Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?"
Our eyes are upon God. He alone can revive His people and when He does, there will be joy the like of which the Church has not known for a generation!
May I ask and answer some very important questions. First of all, when do we need revival, or to make it more personal, when do you and I need revival?
When we have lost our first love, then it is that we need revival! (Rev. 2:1-5).
Do you remember, my friend, when you were first saved? Do you recall your love for souls, the realization of the presence of God in your life? Do you remember how you loved to pray and to testify and to sing the Gospel songs?
Do you recall how you were thrilled when you gave out tracts, and especially when you led someone to Christ? How eagerly in those days you worked for the Lord, how delighted you were to do something for Jesus. How you loved to read the Word of God!
But What About Today?
Do you no longer feel the thrill? Has the joy of the Lord departed from your heart? Are you neglecting His Word and prayer? Has that first love died, and is everything now commonplace? If that is so, then, my friend, you need revival.
"Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, Who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Rev. 2:1-5).
When you have lost your burden for souls, then, too, you need revival!
Is it possible that you are on your way to Heaven while your loved ones are lost, and is it true that you have no burden, that your eyes are dry, that you can go on satisfied and contented, knowing perfectly well that you are going to Heaven while they are going to Hell?
What about that father or that mother of yours, what about your sons and daughters, what about your wife, your husband? Are you saved and are they lost – and yet is there no burden?
If I knew that I had sons or daughters who were not saved, I do not know how I could eat or sleep. It seems to me that I would want to stay up half the night and agonize in the presence of God on their behalf. I would take hold of the horns of the altar and never let go until they were saved. My eyes would be filled with tears and my heart with sorrow. I could not rest until they had made the great decision. How could I stand to have the circle broken?
God’s Word is that, "Thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31). I believe it. I claim it. I want every member of my family converted. I could not bear it if it were not so!
I cannot for the life of me understand how any minister can be satisfied to preach a Gospel sermon and then pronounce the benediction and go home without ever giving the people to whom he preached an opportunity of accepting Christ as Saviour there and then! How a minister can go on, Sunday after Sunday, without seeing anyone walk down the aisle to be saved, is truly beyond me.
A lawyer is out for a verdict, so is a minister, and if he is not, he should be, and if he does not get a verdict, there is something wrong somewhere – for God has promised fruit, and it is his privilege to reap as well as to sow.
My friend, if you do not have a burden for souls, let me say again, you need revival! If you are satisfied to go on year after year without results, remember, there is something wrong!
You had better get down on your knees and pray, in confession and penitence, until God opens the floodgates of Heaven and sends a revival to your own heart, and then after setting you on fire, enables you to kindle revival fires in the hearts of others, until at last your whole church will be aflame for God!
Now revival is, first of all, for the people of God. It is not for the unsaved, but never has there been a revival without the unsaved being brought to Christ!
Yet revival primarily has to do with the church and with God’s own people. You cannot revive fire after it has gone out. There must at least be a spark still remaining and if you blow on that spark you may rekindle the fire, but if the last spark has gone out, then there is no hope. You must start a new fire.
So it is with revival; there must be something to revive. The dead cannot be revived, they have to be awakened. But the Christian who is alive can be revived. Hence, revival commences with the people of God. But it is not very long, if God’s people have been set on fire, before the children of Satan will gather around the fire.
Nothing Attracts Like Fire!
People will run from all directions to see a house on fire. So it is with revival. When the Church is truly aflame, the world will see it and be attracted by it. Hence revival, while it has to do first of all with the Christian, always results in the salvation of souls.
The psalmist cried, "Wilt Thou not revive us again?" emphasizing the word "us" and referring, of course, to God’s people (Psa. 85:6).
Souls will be saved. There will be conviction, real old-fashioned, Holy Ghost conviction of sin!
Sin will become dreadful, awful, terrible! How lightly we look upon sin today. How horrible it is in the sight of God! We need revival to bring back a sense of the awfulness of sin! Hence there will be conviction – and salvation! Souls will be saved!
I referred earlier to the power of God, for that is what revival is – a manifestation of God’s power. "Ye know not ... the power of God" (Mark 12:24) is one of the most striking statements in God’s Word. How true it is today.
How Little We Know of God’s Power!
"The power of the Lord was present" is another such statement. When have we been able to say at the close of a service, "The power of the Lord was present"? (Luke 5:17).
Our services oftentimes are so cold, so formal, so ordinary, that there is no evidence of God’s presence whatever. "They were all amazed at the mighty power of God" (Luke 9:43).
When, I Ask Again, Have We Been Amazed?
What happens in our services to cause amazement? When last did we witness a manifestation of God’s power? Have we ever been amazed? Do we know anything about it, or are these experiences of the early Church truly foreign to us?
Do you know that when a revival is in progress – the very atmosphere in the community seems charged with the presence of God?
It was so in Kentucky around 1800 as strangers approached the place where the meetings were being held. As soon as they got within a certain distance there was a strange mysterious atmosphere that I can only explain by saying it was a consciousness of the presence of God.
They were sobered before they got to the building and as they approached nearer and nearer, they were conscious of an increasing realization of God’s presence. They knew that God was there!
When the early Methodist preachers came to Canada and the United States they did not come as pastors; they came as flaming revivalists and wherever they went they kindled revival fires....
Methodism was born in revival and as long as they had Methodist revivals, souls were saved in thousands. That is what God does when there is revival!
When Will There Be Revival?
We come now to the heart of the matter. When will there be revival?
That is the question that must now be answered. The church of today is in a pitiful condition. Revival is imperative! Nothing short of a great wave of evangelistic fervour and enthusiasm will ever restore God’s people to their spiritual heritage. Let us then face the question, "When will there be revival?"
There will be revival – when God’s people pay the price, and when I say that I realize that certain objections will be raised. I am perfectly familiar with the fact that there are two distinct views in regard to revival.
There are those who tell us that revival cannot be worked up; it must be prayed down and that, therefore, we have nothing whatever to do with it. God is sovereign. He works when He wants to work and no man can ever hinder or hurry Him. Our part is to pray. We can do no more.
Then there is the other view, the view that man has a great deal to do with it and that after all, man is responsible!
It reminds me of two farmers. The one takes a look at his fields and says to himself, "I would like to have a crop this year. However, it is none of my business. There is nothing I can do about it," and with that he goes into his house, sits down in front of the open grate fire and prays for a crop.
The other farmer says, "I, too, would like to have a crop and there is a great deal for me to do. I am sure I can have one if I do my part."
He Goes to Work!
He ploughs the ground. He harrows and rolls it and then he plants the seed and after he has done all that he knows is necessary, he then looks to God to send the sunshine and the rain and with perfect confidence, looks forward to the days of harvest.
Which of the two farmers would you prefer? I think, without a moment’s hesitation, I would choose the second. As a matter of fact, he is the only one using common sense. So it is with revival. God sends it, I know, but there is a great deal that you and I can do, a great deal that you and I will have to do before there can be revival!
It is my conviction, and I base what I have to say on my own personal experience, as well as on the histories of the revivals I have studied, it is my conviction, I say, that any church, or any community, can have a revival at any time, if it wants to pay the price.
Charles G. Finney proved again and again that he could have a revival anywhere if he met the conditions. Oftentimes he went to a community, barren and indifferent, where the people showed no interest at all in the things of God. He met the conditions, and as a result even in those communities, there was a great, sweeping revival!
As a matter of fact, revival always comes in days of spiritual declension. When the need is the greatest, God pours water on the thirsty ground and on the parched soil. It is then it is needed most!
"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring" (Isa. 44:3).
There never was a darker day in England than the day in which John Wesley carried on his work, but it was in that day that revival broke out everywhere. It was so in connection with the great Irish revival of 1859 and the Welsh revival of 1904.
It was so in the United States of America in the days of Charles G. Finney. It is so today. If ever we needed a revival, it is NOW!
Now let me ask you this question: How did Finney achieve revival? Remember, to the very day of his death, he was a revivalist. He continually carried on soul-winning work. He never lost his burden for the lost. How was he able to maintain such a ministry?
Every day of his life he made it a point to be alone with God and have a quiet time over the Bible. Every day he made time for prayer. He never allowed a single day to pass by without meeting his Lord. That is the answer.
May I say that for over half a century now, I have observed the Morning Watch. I would never dream of going to my work without first meeting God!
Morning after morning I go to my study and wait upon my Lord. First of all I pore over the pages of the Bible and then I give myself to prayer and supplication.
Thus I meet God before meeting men – and He solves my problems before I come to them. The Morning Watch has meant everything to me, and my ministry would be weak, powerless and ineffective without it.
Have You a Time to Meet God?
Have you a place to meet God? Has there ever been a day in your life since you were converted when you have failed to open the pages of the Sacred Book and study the Word of God? Have you allowed a single day to go by without pouring out your heart in prayer and supplication?
My friend, if you want to maintain the spirituality that God has given you, if you want a continuous revival in your heart, you will have to learn to meet the Lord Jesus Christ from day to day.
The manna, remember, was gathered daily. You, too, will have to gather it daily, or you will never amount to anything in the service of God (Ex. 16:4-5).
There were times when Finney felt that he was getting cold, when he realized that his heart was becoming chilled. At every such time he resorted to extra hours of prayer. One time he spent a whole winter never reading another book, never reading a newspaper, never reading anything else but the Bible, and that he read on his knees.
Turning from everything else, he pored over the pages of the Sacred Book and gave himself to prayer – in order that he might not lose the fire of revival. He wanted to keep a spirit of revival burning in his soul, and that is how he did it. Again and again, he says, he received fresh baptisms of the Spirit of God, especially while he was spending time in prayer, or poring over the sacred pages of the Word of God.
"Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
Time after time, the power of God came down upon Finney until his heart was warmed and set on fire once more. Then he went out to hold revival services and once again he saw conviction of sin fall upon the people and hundreds upon hundreds were converted.
One of the greatest dangers of the ministry is to know the power of God in youth and then to lose it. There are so many who were once on fire, who were once interested in revival, but who have now lost the fire and have been set aside. It is easy to settle down in a comfortable parish, get a good income, enjoy all the luxuries of life, have everything run smoothly, and then lose your burden for souls!
It is so easy for the passion for souls to leave you and for you to become mechanical. To be on fire when you are young, then to grow cold as the years come and go, is an experience that should never be yours. The only way to maintain the spirit of revival is to see to it that there is continuous brokenness of heart.
– From The Evangelical Christian.