About 15 months ago, Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of First Baptist Church, Grand Caymans (what a place to suffer for Jesus, huh!?), posted an article describing how he had been encouraged after reading one of the Jonathan Edawrds works I mentioned in a post earlier this week. I too was encouraged by this, and reminded that revival as we’re defining it (a fresh awareness of the glory and nearness of God) can only happen by God’s hand, and thus my role is to pray for Him to revive my heart and our church. Read and enjoy, and be similarly encouraged.
Recently I dusted off my copy of Jonathan Edwards’ The Surprising Work of God, an account of the revivals in New England in the 1730s. I’ve been freshly stirred by Edwards’ recounting of the Lord’s work in that spiritual awakening. Consider how he described the affect on the daily life of the people:
“The people seemed to follow their worldly business more as a part of their duty than from any attachment they had to it. It now seemed that the temptation was to neglect worldly affairs too much and to spend too much time in the immediate exercise of religion. This was highly misrepresented by reports that were spread into other regions, as though the people here had completely thrown aside all worldly business and had committed themselves entirely to reading and praying and such religious exercises.
“Although people did not ordinarily neglect their worldly business, religion was the great concern among all sorts of people. The world was simply incidental to them. The only thing on their minds was to obtain the kingdom of heaven, and everyone appeared to be pressing into it. The fixedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hidden; it appeared on their faces. It then was a dreadful thing among us to be out of Christ, in danger every day of dropping into hell. Indeed, the people were intent upon escaping for their lives and fleeing from the wrath to come (Matt. 3:7).”
Can you imagine? Here were a people accused of neglecting the world and spending too much time in heavenly things. I love how Edwards describes them: “The world was simply incidental to them.” Don’t you get the sense that so much of today’s Christian living is afflicted with the opposite problem? Heaven is incidental to us, so we neglect it and we’re too much involved in worldly pursuits.
Edwards goes on to describe the effect:
“There was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world. Those who were typically the vainest and loosest, and those who had been inclined to think and speak lightly of vital and practical religion, were now generally subject to great awakenings. The work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and it increased more and more. Souls literally came by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day, for many months at a time, sinners were brought out of darkness into marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9), delivered out of a horrible pit and from the miry clay, and set upon a rock witha new song of praise to God in their mouths (Ps. 40:2-3).
“This work of God, as it went on and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious change in the town, so that in the following spring and summer of 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God. It has never been so full o f love and joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then. There were remarkable signs of God’s presence in almost every household. It was a time of joy in families because salvation had been brought to them: parents rejoiced over their children as if they had again been born, and husbands rejoiced over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The workings of God were then seen in His sanctuary (Ps. 68:24), the Lord’s Day was a delight (Isa. 58:13), and His tabernacles were amiable (Ps. 84:1).”
Perhaps you live in a place that needs to be filled with the presence of God, with the joy and love that comes from His presence? Perhaps you dwell where “a great effusion of the Spirit of God” is desperately needed? I live in such a place. The church I shepherd is such a people. My own home is such a place. Indeed, my very soul needs this renovating, reviving work of God.
Consider this supernatural work at its height:
“This work seemed to be at its greates height in this town in the early part of the spring, in March and April. At that time, God’s work in the conversion of souls was carried on among us in such a wonderful manner that, so far as I can judge, it appears to have been at the rate of at least four people a day, or nearly thirty in a week, for five or six weeks in a row. When God took the work in His own hands in such a remarkable manner, there was as much done in a day or two as was usually done in a year with all the effort and blessing that are usually allotted to men.”
My soul cries out, “God take this work in your own hands!” Can you imagine a season where at least four people per day every day are born again by the Spirit’s working?! And that for five or six weeks! I would rejoice if it were just one day–today. I’d be overcome if it were a week. But I’d lose my mind with joy to know weeks or months of Spirit-wrought revival, a great in-gathering of souls for our Savior!
Oh, come Lord Jesus! Revive your people and renew sinners! Bring in the ransomed with a great demonstration of your Spirit’s power. Come, Lord Jesus, come!