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What is revival and what causes it to break out? Is there anything we can do to help usher revival in?
Those are important questions. If you ask them to ten different theologians, you will probably get ten different answers, all based on theory and on their human understanding. But if you talk to the people who are actually living the revival, you will get quite another perspective. Their perspective doesn't "tie up" all nice and neatly with theological bows, but it is the advancement of the kingdom of God through His power and His great love.
Revival is not something we hope to experience at some future date. It is happening right now, at this very minute and hour. It is happening in many places in the world, and one of the most dramatic outbreaks started in Mozambique and is spreading from there into many other parts of Africa. Countless thousands of Muslims have already turned to the Lord, and over 7000 new churches have been planted to accomodate the new converts. That is a rate of over two new churches each day over the past 8 yaers -- all comprised primarily of new converts.
This revival has some of the earmarks you might expect: countless salvations, church plants, healings, miracles and many demonstarations of God's love and power, including things like raising people from the dead and multiplying food. That all sounds very exciting, and it is.
But there is another dimension to revival that we must not overlook: passion for God, sacrificial compassion for our fellow men, radical faith and obedience, laying aside our agendas for His, and at times suffering to advance the Kingdom of God.
I know that things like "suffering" or "laying aside our agendas for His" do not sound very attractive. Many of us want to think of revival as "pleasant," where we have amazing encounters with God that do not interfere with our comfortable lifestyle. There are times when God, in His mercy and great love, meets us in amazing ways and overwhelms our senses with an increased preception of His wonderful nearness. We love to experience that. It is a part of revival, but it is not the whole picture.
If you want real revival, you will find that there is more to it than wonderful experiences with God. He has an agenda--to win the lost to Himself and to reclaim His rule and reign in this world. And that agenda is what revival is all about. If you want to work with the Lord to accomplish His purposes, there will to be times when He puts you in uncomfortable situations. You may find yourself in intense spiritual warfare, or you may suffer persecution. The "hard stuff" comes along with revival--it is part of the package.
Look at the first revival, recorded in the book of Acts. Notice that many of the early Christians were persecuted for their faith, and some were martyred. Revival is not about us being comfortable here in this life--it is about God's kingdom advancing. It is about breaking the power of the devil to oppress people and to blind them from the gospel. Revival is about working with God to accomplish His purposes, such as the salvation of the lost and the advancement of His kingdom. At times it caries a high price tag. That may sound harsh, but suffering and discomfort come along with the signs and wonders and miracles and manifest presence of God. It is a part of the same package.
That shouldn't surprise us. Valuable things don't come cheap, someone has to pay a price for them. Jesus had to pay a huge price tag to give us the wonderful gift of salvation. The first century church in Jerusalem was ilterally planted on the blood of the martyrs--yes, the power of God flowed, but there was also a lot of enemy resistance.
Look at the book of Acts. Peter was a key leader in the first revival. He moved in the manifest power of God. Acts 3 records a time when Peter and John passed a lame man as they went to the temple to pray. They carried revival, and when revival touched this man, he was instantly and completely healed. That was a big deal and many people came to the Lord because of if. That is exciting stuff, but it is only part of the picture. The power and anoniting were there, but there was also a huge price tag of not-so-exciting suffering. You see it all over the book of Acts, but let me point out an example or two. Herod executed John's brother James in Acts 12, and he wanted to do the same to Peter. God allowed James to be martyred, but He spared Peter so that Peter could keep spreading the revival.
Peter lived on to experience some amazing things in this revival; for example, he saw people get healed when his shadow fell on them (Acts 5:15). But God did not spare Peter from suffering. He was beaten and imprisoned multiple times, and at times he had to live in hiding and hold undergound church meetings.
Paul was another key leader in the first revival. He started as an active opponent of revival, until his conversion in Acts 9. Then he became a missionary who brought the revival to many places in the "known world" of that time. He also planted an amazing number of churches. Paul moved strongly in revival power and anointing, but he also suffered persecution for doing so. He detailed some of it in 2 Corinthians 11:23-26, including things like behing hungry, being beaten for his faith, being unfairly imprisoned, being shipwrecked and facing many other dangers.
What made Peter and Paul willing go through all of that just to carry the revival?
They had a passionate love for God; He was so important to them that they were willing to do whatever He needed them to do. In addition, they also loved their fellow man; they did not want to see people die without Jesus and go to Hell. They did not want to see people oppressed and under the bondage of the devil. So they preached the gospel and they healed the sick and they cast out demons and did miracles. (In short, they did what Jesus had done, just like He said they would in John 14:12-14).
They did not chase after revival--they lived revival. They carried it with them. It went wherever they went; no matter where they were, revival happened.
There are two short passages that talk about what they lived and about what motivated them: John 22:36-39 and John 5:19.
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." [NIV]
Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner." [NKJV]
God wants to do the same thing in your life today. He wants you to live revival, and He wants these same passages to come alive in your life. You can become a carrier of HIs presence, a carrier of revival. Then you will see manifestations of His presence and glory break out around you.
So back to the origianl question: What ushers in revival?
God does--it is His agenda and He is doing it now.
But He is looking for volunteers to work with Him to accomplish His purposes. He is looking for people whose lives will be characterized by those same two verses. He is looking for people who have a passionate love for God. He is looking for people who open their hearts to have compassion (love) for the lost. He is looking for people who will lay aside their own agenda to take up His, who are motivated to do so because they love Him so much.
Would you like to be a part of that? Would you like to know what modern-day revival looks like in practical terms? Would you like to know how can you start living in God's revival?
Let's turn to three people for answers--people who have been living the revival for some time now. All three are key leaders in the Mozambique revival, which is spreading to many other parts of Africa and around the world. These three people have been involved in planting thousands of churches in the past ten years. They have seen many come to the Lord, they have seen food multiply to feed the hungry. They have seen may sick bodies get healed, and one of them has even raised several people from the dead. They walk in the power of God, but they also walk in incredibly close intimacy with Him and abide in His presence.
All three of them have been living the revival for some time now, and they have very helpful things to share with us. So who are they? They are Heidi and Rolland Baker and Surprise Sithole.
Here is the plan:
But we will have one more lesson before they start teaching, so that we can get to know these people a little better. The next lesson will share their stories of how God moved in their life to bring them into that place of revival.