Many years ago I sought to understand why so many people were praying for revival and yet there seemed to be so little of what people were praying for around!
Historically there have been some amazing times when God seemed to intervene sovereignly in response to the prayers of the saints, but those moments have been rare. But when you research these you generally discover that what may seem to have been a spontaneous and sovereign move of God, has invariably been God’s response to the intercessions of men and women who have not just been praying for revival, but who have humbled themselves before Him in holy fear!
History tells us that the Kingdom of God has been built more by the perseverance of the saints than revival manifestations. And yet we all still seek the reality of God’s presence and his revival power to more fully enable us to do the work He has called us to do.
On one occasion, I took time out with the Lord to ask Him the hard questions about why it seems so few of the prayers for revival were getting answered – for there certainly seemed to be a lot of people praying for it. The answer I got surprised me. It was as if the Lord simply said, “They’re praying for the wrong thing!” I then had a problem – how can it be wrong for people to be praying for the reviving power of God?
My next question was more to the point. “What, Lord, should we be praying for?” The answer came as three words – but I had to thoroughly search the Scriptures for the first word, before the Lord gave me the second one, and so on. The first word God gave me was Vision. As I studied the Scriptures, skimming through the stories from Genesis to Revelation, I realised that the normal way God speaks to His people about what He wants them to do is through vision. No wonder it says that “without vision people are perishing.” (Proverbs 29:18). I suddenly realised that instead of praying for revival, we should be seeking God’s vision for our lives, so that we will then be praying into the plans and purposes of God and not just praying for something we blandly called revival to land on us from the heavenly realms!
The next word the Lord gave me was Faith. On the face of it the meaning of this was obvious, but the more I meditated on the word faith, I realised that what God was saying to me was that the purpose of faith was to enable us to trust Him, come what may. So that, when God gives vision, faith trusts in what God has said, and does not doubt that what God has said can and will happen – but only when the third word the Lord gave me is put into action.
The third word? Obedience. It is obedience to move forward in action that ensures the things that began with vision from God will be finally fulfilled. James tells us that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Or, to paraphrase its meaning you might say. Even if you have a vision from God and the faith to trust Him, unless you start acting in order to fulfil the vision, nothing is going to happen.
Noah embodies all three words in his extraordinary life. He had a vision from God about the ark. He required an enormous amount of faith to trust that such a crazy idea actually came from God in the first place. But then he had to spend a large number of years being obedient to what God had said. There was no sign of any great revival throughout the years of working on the ark. But when it was finished and the rains came, it became the most important symbol of revival and salvation the world had ever known! You might say that Noah’s obedience saved the whole of the human race – now, that being the case, you might also say, that Noah experienced extraordinary revival!
But how did it happen – through perseverance and determination to be obedient to what God had asked him to do. And therein lies what I believe is one of the most important lessons we need to learn, understand and put into practice in these days.
Unless we learn how to hear from God, as to what he has envisioned for our lives, and then exercise the dynamic faith which enables us to trust God whatever the circumstances, and finally to use our human resources and energy to walk in obedience to what God has said, then the likelihood is that revival will elude us. But if we observe the protocol of God and live a life of vision, faith and obedience we may just discover, like Noah, that we are living in the revival reality of experiencing the purposes of God being fulfilled beneath our feet as we walk in his ways.
If we walk like this, I know from experience that we will have the living reality of God’s presence and power transforming our own lives and the lives of those around us.
Thanks for an excellent post Mr. Horrobin. It makes a lot of sense that revival is not necessarily the goal, but a by-product of other things that we should be pursuing and practicing (vision, faith, obedience). Jesus (and Paul and the other NT writers) never said to pray for revival, as such.
I also wonder if the point you made early in your post is also significant, about having humility and a holy fear of God. I think these qualities are often lacking in most churches and Christian groups, as is the unity of believers, which I think is also of great importance. I think we need to have much greater unity of purpose, and love for one another, if the Spirit will work through us powerfully.
Thanks again for this excellent instruction. I intend to begin praying regularly about God’s vision for my life. I’ve prayed about knowing God’s calling on my life, which is similar, but I can see how important this is and how I’ve got to persist in prayer about it.
Our church in Crestview Florida has been reading the book by David Platt, “Radical”.
It is a refreshing book about my faith and taking it back from the American dream. I love it when God takes someone from half way around the world in England and puts it also in the teaching of someone in the states. Just for a time like this!
Thank you for being faithful in the word that the Lord gives you. Vision, faith and obedience. Yes it is the word of the Lord. We have a powerful God who speaks through His servants. We just have to listen!
God bless you for the things you do.
Peter, The word you received is exactly where it’s at! And it’s not enough just to seek for a vision, we need to seek what is God’s vision. The Old Covenant people of God stayed in the wilderness for so long because they didn’t really know what they were to do, and when they saw what they had to do they didn’t believe they could do it. Also they didn’t really know who they were. The “rapture at any moment” scenario has dulled the vision of the Church. God has set His plan for the Church into the Scriptures for those who will continue to seek, and it’s not about being raptured out of the world at any moment; it’s about rising up in victory and taking the world for Christ. In other words fulfilling the Great Commission. I will be sending you a copy of my book, “The Other Bible Code” meanwhile I hope you will check out my blog spot http://valpym.blogspot.com
Timing is always the doubtful position … whether we heard God and what the timeline is on the vision. For me, that’s been the difficult part of a vision I had 11 years ago. If it’s God, then I know my husband and I will both have the same “go ahead” when it’s time and for now … it’s not that time. I always wonder why God gives us visions so far ahead, especially when it’s quite obvious it’s nothing that we could accomplish on our own .. that it’s only something HE could do through us. Maybe knowing the vision somehow molds and shapes us as time passes by until it’s the right moment and it all comes together – the vision and our being prepared for it.
These words really resonated with me – and encouraged me. We carried a vision for 20 years and finally are able to move into the commencement of that vision. Now, however, we must rely on faith, as we must commit everything we have and are, to step into the work of doing what we believe God has called us to do. This tests our faith constantly, as we struggle with major questions: did we hear God right? are we doing this the right way? how will God provide the resources to carry this through? will we have the strength that we need? It is difficult, yet as we wrestle with our questions, we find ourselves with no choice but to obey (no matter how foolish it looks to others) because the only other option feels like spiritual death to us. God challenges us to not be the ones who bury our talent in the ground because we are afraid. Only God knows what lies ahead and we trust Him. Vision-Faith-Obedience.
Great insight! I also think that the term “revival” is often misused in the same way that schoolchildren misuse the word “revision”. You can’t “revise” what you didn’t learn in the first place, nor can you “revive” what wasn’t alive in the first place.
“and not just praying for something we blandly called revival to land on us from the heavenly realms!”
That is a very telling comment and really struck me. I have heard many preachers calling and longing for revival in that way. I forget who made the comment but it was along the lines that if we knew what revival really involved, we wouldn’t be so quick to pray for it! If I recall correctly, the thinking was that the history of revivals has been a period of real and deep intercession followed by a such an experience of the fear of God that all those touched by this sort of revival walked in repentance and a desire to live a holy life pleasing to the Lord. It was revival at a price.