“Revival is coming!” Often proclaimed with anticipation and enthusiasm, this hope has devolved into a mantra on the lips of wearied preachers and disheartened believers. While I am usually optimistic, I sense this expectation has become a crutch of laziness for many Christians. Too often, those who proclaim the dawn of a new age live disconnected from the cost they must pay of personal sacrifice. Sustaining revival means there must be a cultivating of relationships in discipleship as the lost draw near to an eternal awareness of salvation. It’s impossible to invite people into a relationship with Jesus when you are emotionally unavailable or destructive in fostering relationships.
Could the hindrance to God’s coming work be due to our negligence of healthy fundamental relationships in our lives? Are we so foolish not to see the contradiction of being relationally broken while expecting the lost to perceive God as whole and loving? Do we truly want God to move in our community? Then it will take the discipline of seeking Jesus morning after morning to change our character into His nature. It will take the sacrifice of fasting and prayer to transform entire church communities into sanctuaries of hope and devotion. It will take a sacrificial and heart-rending commitment to love those who don’t care much for you or Jesus. (Luke 6:32) It will mean restoring relationships within our marriages, workplaces, and neighborhoods.
If we casually wait for God to move while refusing to be changed by the life-altering love we are promoting to the lost, then a revival is not what we are pursuing. We’re hoping for the benefits of a revival culture without paying the price to make it happen. If you, as a follower of Jesus, find yourself hating those who stand contrary to your political or personal beliefs, then the love of God is not working through you. Love is most clearly expressed when given at the cost of your discomfort. I’m not saying we must endorse sin or endure needless abuse, but we cannot entertain the option of hating our enemies. In fact, we’re directed to love them. (Matthew 5:44) The only group of people with whom Jesus had difficulty was those who claimed to know God but acted in a way that entirely misrepresented His loving, forgiving character.
I often chat with those whom I affectionately call “revival junkies.” They tell me how they hope to live one day in an environment where everyone knows Jesus. In response, I ask about their current work condition only to find they are dissatisfied with co-workers and bosses due to blatant sinful behaviors. When I propose that God has placed them in their specific role to disciple and save the lost, it doesn’t take long until they feel that God is “leading them” to another job, church, or community. This passive refusal to count the cost and make sacrifices has produced groups of ardent revival fans entertained with occasional supernatural experiences as they drive from one revival-vending church to the next.
Revival junkies notoriously pass the buck of relational work with statements like, “if it’s God’s will, then my friend will find Jesus.” God has made His will clear. He desires a relationship with everyone. On the other hand, our mandate aligns with the mission Jesus carried out. He unveiled to the world a clear image of God’s relational heart. He revealed to be a Father who longed for a wayward son, a shepherd who searched for a stray lamb, a woman who searched vigilantly for a valued coin. (Luke 15:4-32) As Jesus revealed God’s nature, we’ve been commissioned with the same purpose. Through the avenue of disciple-making, God has “committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
The belief that God will do all the work in restoring the lives of those in our families, churches, and communities in a singular moment of revival is a passive and broken view of God’s sovereign power. Could it be that in obeying the mild promptings of the Holy Spirit, we could foster a significant work of God’s power in our own lives? The urges to faithfully pray for your enemies, kindly respond to those who hate you, and give of yourself to those who cannot return your kindness are tremors of the revival for which you are praying. These self-sacrificing behaviors can serve to be the destabilizing charges that can loosen the enemy’s grip on the lives of many. We can set the stage for God’s power to work through us as we follow through on these heart-changing directives. Historically, every revival has been born through the birth pains of personal sacrifice. Men and women laid down their pride, offenses, agendas, finances, and time to give way to God’s work through them to their generation.
In your life, if the pressures of daily living are already straining the fundamental relationships of marriage, work, friendships, and church, it is predictable that the explosive essence of revival will only destroy your fractured relational infrastructure. It’s worth noting that the turbulent waters of relational contentions extinguished the fires of every historic revival. Many revival leaders fell into the trap of believing God was vindicating their hardened hearts rather than seeing the grace of God extended to them to repair their broken relationships.
As we eagerly hope for the year ahead, rather than chanting the songs of revival to come, my prayer is that we become a people who are a relational conduit for revival. We can only transfer the power of God’s love when we adopt a willingness to lay down our lives for those God has placed around us.