FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 16, number 46, November 16, 2017
“If My people will. . . pray and seek My face. . . then I will hear from heaven, and forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:14
Two More Things Necessary for Revival
Yes, we must humble ourselves if we are to see revival, but we must also pray. By prayer I have in mind what we see in the prayer lives of men like Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul. All possessed a God exalting, man debasing spirit. These men prayed long, often, and with earnestness. They labored in prayer. They were relentless. They had faith in God whom they believed would answer them. They prayed alone and they prayed with others. They were focused on Christ and His kingdom. They were decreasing while Jesus was increasing.
By 1744, though pockets of revival were still present in the Great Awakening in America, England, Scotland, and Wales, ministers became alarmed that the revival fires were smoldering. A number of Scottish Presbyterian ministers called for weekly concerts of prayer, either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning. They agreed to pray in this manner for two years. Others soon joined them, including Jonathan Edwards and his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. What some church historians call a hidden revival fell upon the British Isles from 1790 to 1840. The Methodist Church, in 1791, the year of John Wesley’s death, had 72,000 members. Due to the hidden revival (called this because so few church historians note it, preferring instead to focus on the Great Awakening of 1735 and the 1859 and 1904 revivals), the Methodists had grown, through conversion growth, to over 360,000 by 1850. A total of 1,500,000 people, one in ten, were brought into non-Anglican churches in the British Isles from 1790 to 1840.
Without earnest prayer and without humbling ourselves before God, we cannot expect revival. But we must also seek God’s face. This is part and parcel of the first two components. The Hebrew word for seek means to search out, to strive after, to enquire. The same Hebrew word is used extensively in the Psalms. “And those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee; for Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee,” (9:10). “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the Lord,” (22:26). “He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of His salvation. This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Thy face—even Jacob,” (24:6). “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate in His temple. . . when Thou didst say, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to Thee, ‘Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek’” (27:4,8).
To seek God means that we desire Him and His presence more than our necessary food (Isaiah 58:5ff, Matthew 6:16), at times even more than marital, sexual intimacy (1 Corinthians 7:5). It means to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6, Isaiah 55:1, Psalm 42:1-2). It means that we keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1-3). It means that whatever things were gain to us, we count them but rubbish in order that we may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). It means that we refuse to set our minds on earthly things, remembering that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:19,20).
To seek the face of God is difficult in any historical and cultural context but modernity presents us with our own set of problems in this regard. The noise, the pace of life, all our technology constantly work to mitigate a zeal for God. Instead of coming in at night after a meeting and spending time with a good book, I tend to turn on the television and fritter away an hour or two before going to bed. Sometimes a television program particularly grabs my attention and I stay up too late at night, and do not get up early enough in the morning to spend lengthy time with God. And sometimes while meeting with God in the early morning hours I suddenly remember someone I “must” contact and quickly send a text message. The next thing I know I have wasted an hour of valuable “God time” on lesser things like e mail correspondence or reading my favorite on-line newspaper.
We do not seek the face of God because we are not desperate for holiness and revival. A man who has not had water in three days can think of nothing but getting water. He would pay any sum demanded to have that water because he knows it is a matter of life and death. A couple whose ten year old daughter is missing will pray earnestly, stay up all night, follow every lead, pay any sum required to get back their daughter. They are desperate. We are not desperate for revival because we are not overly concerned with the glory of God, His weightiness, His manifold attributes being displayed to a world of scoffers. We have our own salvation and that typically is enough for us. We are not grieved by the few numbers of converts we see in our churches. Perhaps we have comforted ourselves by wrongly applying the doctrine of election, thinking that the few conversions we see must be God’s eternal plan, failing to understand that we have no idea how many elect there are, failing to keep in mind that God’s benchmark is the book of Acts, that we ought to be seeing many conversions everywhere. Perhaps our lack of zeal for God, coupled with our natural cowardice, has convinced us that better days have passed us by, that God’s great work today is limited to what World Mission experts call the southern world of China, South America, India, and Africa.
What does it look like to seek God? This is not easy to quantify. We cannot simply put a measure of hours per day one spends alone in earnest prayer, though surely this must require some substantial investment of time. A man who says that he loves his wife but rarely sits down to talk with her, who refuses to spend any time with her, betrays his own profession. A man who says that quality of time with his children is more important than quantity of time is only half right. One may desire a filet mignon of excellent quality but at the same time he expects it to be larger and weightier than a postage stamp. To seek God’s face begins with a heartfelt desperation—a hunger and thirst for holiness, a zeal for the glory of God in the salvation and sanctification of sinners. There will be fervency, persistence, earnestness in prayer that will surely translate into longer times with God than one previously experienced. How long? I don’t know. It will vary from person to person. What about it, my friends? Will you seek God for revival? Will you pray for it?