When is the first time you remember seeing God move? The first time you remember being aware of his presence, seeing him change lives, or knowing he was near? I remember seeing God save young people, some of whom were hippie-types. I remember our church converting a skating rink into a “One Way Christian Night Club.” I remember wanting to know Jesus personally. I was 11.
When was the last time you saw him move? Just last week I had the honor of helping someone place their faith in Christ alone for salvation. That never gets old. Sunday, as I taught on my Sharing Jesus book for my friend Kie Bowman at Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, I sensed God’s good hand, and was renewed in my heart that God called me to encourage believers in evangelism. How about you? When did you last see him answer prayer, change a life, or change your life?
When is the next time you will see him move? Are you anticipating his work in your life?
I know what you may be thinking: “Hang on, you are asking questions about our experiences–isn’t it a dangerous thing to focus on our experiences?” Yes, but no more dangerous than to ignore the reality that our God is living and active and at work in our world. The Word of God, his unchanging truth, is always the arbiter of our experience. But the Bible that guides us teems with accounts of the activity of God at work in the world.
I’m always wary of people who overly emphasize experience. But I’m concerned about the other side of this: believers who interpret the Bible by their non-experience. We have an entire generation who has never really seen God move in power, except in spots here and there. The cumulative effect can be to develop a suspicion toward anything out of the ordinary. We could even become agnostics toward spiritual awakening. Jonathan Edwards wrote several of his treatises on revival to respond to professing believers who were skeptical of the work of God.
God has moved mightily in the past. We see it throughout the Word, as I noted above. We see it in history, through powerful missionary movements, in remarkable stories of God’s people standing firm in persecution, and in great revival movements. I love to tell my students some of the stories of revival. For some, it’s a stimulus to seek God with a fresh heart. For others, I fear it’s just some stories totally detached from their experience with Christ.
We don’t seek revival for the experience of it. We pray for a God-intervention, an awakening, to know God more. We ask for God’s power to be more effective in serving him and to bring more glory to his name. We pray for God to awaken the church because God can do more in a week of his activity than we can do in a decade in our own power.
There is another thing: an awakening really does change things. It changes the church, and it sweeps many into the kingdom of God. I’ve seen bits and pieces of this in my life on earth. I’ve never been the same from such visitations.
Don’t seek an experience, but don’t be suspicious of them either. Seek the face of God more than his hand, and walk with him with deep affection, and pray for revival. Like the Psalmist prayed in Psalm 85, and Habakkuk prayed, and as Isaiah prayed in 64:1. Our world is a mess, and our hope is in God.
By the way, several years ago a professor of mine named Malcolm McDow and I wrote a history of awakenings called Firefall. More recently we updated it. If you are hungry to know more about how God has moved in the past to be stirred to pray today, you can get it here. My life has been shaped greatly by the stories of revival.
One more thing: I warn my students, and I want to warn you–you can be in the middle of the activity of God and miss him at work. You wouldn’t be the first. That reality drives me to prayer. I believe our God is at work in powerful ways, and I don’t want to miss being a part of his activity. As you pray, pray for revival.