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Lord send us a revival

Many churches have revival meetings. Few actually experience revival. The late Stephen Olford said, “Revival is that strange and sovereign work of God in which he visits his own people, restoring, reanimating, and releasing them into the fullness of his blessing.” There is just no doubt that we need revival. David, in Psalm 85 answers four questions about revival.

What is revival?

Revival is a time when God shows up. God shows Himself, and everything else we are going to say about revival— it’s all happening because God shows up. When revival comes, evidences of God’s love are all around. “Show us your unfailing love.” (Vs. 7) And where there is the presence of God, there is His glory. “So our land will be filled with his glory.” (Vs. 9) “Glory” is God revealed, and revival is a time when God reveals Himself beyond the “normal” ways.

Revival is a time of overflowing blessings. “Lord, you poured out blessings on your land!” (Vs. 1) “Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings. Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.” (Vs. 12) That word “blessings,” translated, “hast been favorable unto,” in the KJV, is word that means “pleased.” It refers to all that comes one’s way when someone is pleased. Revival is a time when God is pleased with His people— and because of that, He is prone to open the floodgates of His blessings and soak His people. There is in this the idea of “overflow.” When God’s people are experiencing revival— the effects— the blessings— God’s people cannot contain— there is an overflow, and others around benefit from revival.

Revival is a time when God’s judgment is nowhere around. Speaking of a past revival experience, David says, “You held back your fury. You kept back your blazing anger.” (Vs. 3) His question: “Will you be angry with us always? Will you prolong your wrath to all generations?” (Vs. 5) His request: “Put aside your anger against us once more.” (Vs. 4) God’s judgment comes in many forms, but it is nowhere to be found when revival comes.

Revival is a time of restoration. “You restored the fortunes of Israel.” (Vs. 1) When revival comes much is restored. Relationships between people— relationships with God— restored. When revival comes there is a turning back to God.

Revival is a time of mass forgiveness. Revival isn’t just a person here or there receiving God’s forgiveness. It’s a time when the masses are being forgiven by God. “You forgave the guilt of your people— yes, you covered all their sins.” (Vs. 2) It’s a time when the masses come face to face with their sin, and seek God’s forgiveness. —Revival is a time of mass salvation. “Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” (Vs. 7) “Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him…” (Vs. 9) Masses of people finding Christ— churches being filled with people desiring to hear the gospel— baptisteries constantly filled with water— that’s part of God’s overflow when revival comes.

Revival is a time of mass rejoicing. “Won’t you revive us again, so your people can rejoice in you?” (Vs. 6) That word “rejoice” is a wonderful word. The original word means “to brighten up, to be gleeful, to cheer up, to be very glad, joyful, merry.” During revival— what’s happening around us— causes us to be happy— to brighten up. When revival comes people are joyous and happy. And the rejoicing is “in” the Lord.

Historians have studied the great revivals that have taken place in the last few hundred years, and what they discovered common to all is exactly what the Psalmist experienced.

Who needs revival?

“But let them not return to their foolish ways.” (Vs. 8) The psalmist— and the people who were seeking revival were people who were more interested in their thing— “their foolish ways,” than they were the ways of God. The word “foolish” speaks of “being silly”— of accomplishing nothing. The people who needed revival are those who were not fulfilling God’s purpose for them.

Who needs revival? Those who are not what God wants them to be. Those who are not doing what God wants them to do. Those who have chosen their own “foolish” way, rather than follow “God’s paths.”

Individuals need revival. Churches need revival. Nations need revival. Our nation needs revival. History records nations experiencing revival— nations returning to God— and they have always started among God’s people.

If our nation is to experience revival, it will be from the overflow of revival among God’s people. It must start with the church.

What causes revival? What can we as God’s people do to set the stage for revival?

Repentance. Just as there is a “turning” that continues to occur when revival occurs, there is a returning that must occur among God’s people before revival comes. “You forgave the guilt of your people— yes, you covered all their sins.” (Vs. 2) The Bible is clear throughout that for God to forgive, His people must repent. We must turn from our wrong direction— “foolishness,” and turn toward God. Repentance always gets a favorable response from God.

There must be an emphasis on the Word of God. Knowing it. Believing it. Doing it. The Psalmist speaks of this. “I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying…” (Vs. 8) “Truth springs up from the earth…” (Vs. 11) I’m afraid most Christians pick and choose parts of God’s Word— and may or may not take it seriously. That won’t bring revival.

God’s people must be people of prayer. “I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying…” (Vs. 8) Yes, God speaks through His Word, but we also hear from God as we engage Him in prayer.

God’s people must be people of holiness. Rather than being caught up in the “foolish ways” (Vs. 8) of the world, we must be holy, distinct, different, and set apart. Revival won’t come to God’s people if the church looks like the world.

God’s people must be preoccupied with righteousness— with doing what’s right. Motivated— not by emotion, not by what is politically correct, not by what makes friends and influences people, not by what’s in it for us— but by what’s right. “Righteousness goes as a herald before him, preparing the way for his steps.” (Vs. 13)

We spoke of what historically happens during revival. But what historically precedes revival? These same things described by the Psalmist.

Who sends revival?

It’s this truth we need to lay over everything we’ve said about revival. God sends revival. Throughout this whole psalm, the psalmist is addressing the only Person who can send revival. God is addressed directly five times, and pronouns referring to God are used 26 times. “Won’t you revive us again…?” (Vs. 5)

There is a great mystery regarding revival. The Bible is clear that God wants to send revival. Yet there have been people and groups of people who prayed for revival, and tried to meet all the “requirements,” yet revival still did not come. But this we know: God sends revival in partnership with His people. The psalmist explains: “Unfailing love [that’s God] and truth [that’s our desire for truth] have met together. Righteousness [that’s our concern for what is right] and peace [that’s the peace that God wants us to experience] have kissed.” (Vs. 10) He’s describing the point of revival. If revival doesn’t come— it’s not God’s fault. It’s us.

The revival that took place in New England back in the 1700s was called “The Great Awakening.” Its origin is traced back to a single sermon— a condemnation sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But here’s the thing. He had preached that same sermon several times, even to the church he was pastoring. Each time, there was no response. But on this one occasion, to this one group of people, this same preacher, preached this same sermon—and… God sent revival. Some in that service caught hold of the backs of the pews fearing they would slip into the pit of hell. Many thought that the Day of Judgment had suddenly come. And the overflow blessed all of colonial America. What was the difference? Some how, and in some way— this particular group of people had prepared the way for God to send revival— and He did!

Sending revival is God’s prerogative. But in this partnership, God’s people must set the stage for revival, and consistently ask God to visit. David has told us how to begin setting the stage for revival. Nothing— nothing could be better for you, for me, for the church, for our nation— than revival.

“Lord, send a revival. Lord, send a revival. Lord, send a revival. And let it begin in me.”