Revival remains one of the more mysterious concepts of Christian experience. Those who have experienced it, long to see it again. Those who have only heard of it are forced to live vicariously through someone else’s experience (at least for a period of time).
I get excited when I hear people pray for God to move in a fresh way, or revive His people, or that we would see a mighty movement of God. We need all of that–IF IT’S TRULY LED BY GOD. But history shows that Christians will chase after an experience (with or without God). That’s scary! Another unsettling idea taught by Scripture and history is that people are not past “helping God out” when they think He’s not moving according to their schedule or liking.
With humanity’s desire for an experience, with our chronic impatience, with our uncanny ability to think we know what God wants at all times, AND with the mysterious nature of revival–there’s a lot of room for confusion. That being said, I wanted to share several myths related to revival.
Myth One: Revival is when people get saved.
Salvation is often the result of God’s reviving work in the church, but salvation is not revival. It is impossible to be “revived”—if you have never been “vived” to begin with. It sounds strange but it makes a good point. Ephesians 2 describes humanity as spiritually dead apart from Christ. Spiritually dead people need regeneration; spiritually alive people (who may be wrestling with the flesh, distracted by the world, or unfocused on intimacy with God) need revival.
Myth Two: Revival can be scheduled.
To be fair, we need to set aside times for renewal, refreshment, and restoration in God’s presence. We need those times daily in our devotional life. We also need times periodically where we can just get away and focus on God. On both of those, you can plan, prepare, and pray, but you still can’t pencil in a movement of God. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried to plan a move a God, strategize a move a God, organize a move a God, and even fast up a move of God. I’m not saying that God doesn’t honor prayer and fasting. I am saying that God’s Spirit still moves as He wishes and that’s not always according to our schedule.
Myth Three: Revival does not hurt.
True revival can be one of the most painful events a person or a church will ever experience (at least in the short term). When God brings about true spiritual awareness, when God confronts us about temporal things that have taken our eyes off Him, when God destroys the sacred cows of church life, when God dismantles poor theology, and convict us of pet sins, and calls us to reconcile with those we’ve wronged, when He burdens us to stop living for self and start living in light of eternity—it’s not easy. Revival can be painful for a period of time.
Myth Four: Revival comes “neatly packaged.”
Maybe you’ve seen a scene like this in a movie. Someone orders food in an old diner. The customer asks for a BLT, fries, and apple pie. The waitress yells to the cook, “Give me a pig in the garden, grease sticks, and patriotism on a plate.” The customer wonders how their order translated into what they just heard.
What if our prayers for revival are received by God in the same way? People ask God to send revival, help our weaknesses, grow our faith, or strengthen our prayer life. It’s almost like God hears, “Give me a week where three appliances die, a side order of drama in my family, 6 months of insomnia, and a puppy.”
We want God to teach us these lessons in private, while reading the Bible, sipping a good cup of coffee, at a cabin in Colorado. But God doesn’t roll like that. God teaches us through life. He realigns us through difficulty, pain, and problems. He shows what’s on the inside right after problems expose our true character. He calls us to intimacy in the context of tragedy. He develops our prayer life when we have nowhere to go but Him. Revival is not always “neatly packaged.” Sometimes it looks like a whirlwind of problems.
Pull all of that information together. Every believer goes through times when they need God’s reviving work in their life. We need to honestly pray for God’s help, His timing, and His unmistakeable presence. But we also need to be okay with God acting in His ways, according to His wisdom, to accomplish His purposes.
Spiritual experiences become reviving moments when they are led by God.