“There is no subject which is of greater importance to the Christian church at the present time than that of revival. It should be the theme of our constant meditation, preaching and prayers.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)
Much of the Christian life is plodding. And that’s ok because there’s glory in faithful, long-haul plodding with Jesus over the course of a lifetime. Yet earlier this year while studying the topic of revival, I came across a rebuke quote from J.I. Packer that stopped me in my tracks. He said, “Do not neglect the revival dimension of your ministry.” For many of us, amid the busyness and routines of our ministries, such a reminder is as startling as it is vital for our present cultural moment.
Revival is a special season that God gives to the church in different times and places, where his normal (and good!) means of advancing his kingdom are intensified so more spiritual ground is taken in a period of months than what is usually gained in a decade. It’s an extraordinary and sovereign work of God that reinvigorates believers with spiritual life and awakens unbelievers to spiritual life.
We cannot work one up, just like we cannot make it rain. But we can repent of our all-too-often small views of God, prepare the fields of our lives, and seek God on his terms. Here’s what the prophet Hosea says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hos. 10:12).
Break up the Fallow Ground
Fallow fields have yielded a crop in the past, yet are presently lying idle and barren. Ground that once was teeming with life, but has been left untended and therefore has hardened and been overrun with weeds, needing to be broken up with the plough once again. We can repent of our all-too-often small views of God, prepare the fields of our lives, and seek God on his terms. Click To Tweet
Hosea is speaking to us. To believers and to churches who have become dry with God. To Christians who in the midst of the noise and drama and hyper-charged political tensions of our time, have lost sight of God’s mission. To pastors who talk a good game and present well on Sundays, but whose carpeted floors cannot remember the weight of our knees in prayer. In his famous essay, Miracles Follow the Plough, A.W. Tozer writes:
“The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plough . . . it can be counted upon to remain always the same while the fields around it change from brown to green and back to brown again. Safe and undisturbed, it sprawls lazily in the sunshine, the picture of sleepy contentment. But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquillity: Never does it see the miracle of growth; never does it feel the motions of mounting life nor see the wonders of bursting seed nor the beauty of ripening grain. Fruit it can never know because it is afraid of the plough . . .. The ploughed life is the life that has, in the act of repentance, thrown down the protecting fences and sent the plough of confession into the soul.”
To break up our fallow ground is a prophetic call to intentionally disrupt the way things currently are in our lives. To learn the excuses that our flesh loves to make, and to bring those excuses into the light. To practice individual and corporate repentance, by disrupting our small views of God with biblical truth. To do whatever it takes to expose our well-disguised rhythms of God-avoidance, where we keep him at arm’s length, and to instead press Hosea’s call back down deep into our hearts, “for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” The answers that our world is looking for will not be worked up by human cleverness, grit, or political reforms. They come down to us from above. Click To Tweet
Times of Refreshing
The answers that our world is looking for will not be worked up by human cleverness, grit, or political reforms. They come down to us from above. God loves to meet us in the place of honesty about our need for him, with his own reviving, righteous power. In fact, Hosea’s words sound uncannily like the New Testament preaching of Peter:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20).
Peter is saying that between Christ’s resurrection and his promised return, God intends to send “times of refreshing” (plural!), where he makes the nearness of his presence tangibly known among his people. Consider this for yourself. How would your own life and church look if you were to face the very real troubles and frustrations that have latched onto you right now from the location of the felt presence of the risen Jesus? And what if one of the primary reasons we currently “have not” is that we, quite frankly, have simply “asked not”?
Ploughing and Revival in Moravia
In 1722, a few hundred Christian misfits settled in Moravia on the land of Nicolas Zinzendorf, fleeing persecution from their own countries. Their first five years as a community were basically the lived experience of the comments section on YouTube or Facebook—divided, tribalistic, quarrelling. Yet Zinzendorf and others covenanted to break up the fallow ground and seek the Lord for what only he could do. And on August 13th, 1727, God rained down times of refreshing that produced a harvest of relational beauty, newness of life, and one of the greatest mission movements in the history of the world. Zinzendorf’s reflection of that day was, “The whole place represented truly a visible habitation of God among men.” What if one of the primary reasons we currently “have not” is that we, quite frankly, have simply “asked not”? Click To Tweet
That’s what we all want for our churches, “a visible habitation of God” among us. What if we were to break up the fallow ground in our own hearts with repentance, and stubbornly go before God and ask for such stories of renewal in our own divided times?
If we’re willing to get honest with him about our need, then we have zero reason to expect that he is unwilling to meet us with showers of grace. I can’t help but think that the strife, powerlessness, and fracturing across much of the church right now actually makes us the perfect candidates for revival. If we’re willing, that is, to take Hosea seriously and settle it in our hearts to “break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord.”