CANTON, Ga. (BP) — Southern Baptists want revival but, sadly, for the wrong reasons, Henry Blackaby once told me.
“Until we want revival for the glory of God, God will not send it,” the “Experiencing God” author said over lunch one day at the North American Mission Board.
Blackaby’s statement was one I’ve never forgotten.
One of the reasons it caught my attention was that I had not, as I should have, appropriately connected the dots between revival and the glory of God. Though I had prayed daily for God to send revival, I confess that I had not given much thought to revival and God’s glory.
My desire for revival had been prompted primarily by what I saw happening in our churches and culture. Many of our churches are plateaued or in decline; in some, without wanting to be overly judgmental, the spiritual fervor might best be described as lukewarm.
As to our culture, it is in a major mess and the mess keeps getting messier all the time. Paganism is surging. Morality is in decline. The Judeo-Christian ethic is routinely rejected at almost all levels of American life including in our government, educational systems and, sadly, in many homes. These three institutions are foundational to keeping our nation functioning upon the principles established by our founders who acted under God’s guiding hand.
These scenarios had driven me to pray for revival. But if I may be honest about my motives, I’ll make this confession: More than anything, I prayed for revival because I grieved for what is coming for my children and, particularly, my precious grandchildren because of the deterioration of life as we once experienced it in America. As the mess gets even worse, what will the future hold for them if God doesn’t send revival?
I may be a selfish grandfather, but for the sake of those I love, I want to see God do something that will change the plight I see coming to our nation.
And what about revival and the glory of God? God help me to always remember that what God does, He does for His glory. We like to add the words “and for our good,” but whether it turns out for our good, it always must redound first and foremost to His glory. I fear that many of us may need a refresher course on just how high a premium God places on His glory.
One of the New Testament uses of “doxa,” or glory, speaks to giving honor to the repute and splendor of God. Acknowledging and extolling Him as worthy of all honor is to be priority. Surely if I love Him and value who He is and the grand and glorious way in which He has valued me, then how can I do less than make His glory a priority in my life, and a priority in that for which I pray? As the apostle Paul commands, “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
So let’s connect the dots. If revival comes, in what ways would God receive glory?
1. Through the changed lives of believers
When the Spirit moves in revival, it has always begun with the body of Christ first experiencing its dynamic impact. The church moves from being Laodicean in temperature to being first-century, Acts 4 alive to God. A spiritual fervor that we don’t see much today is experienced. A renewed love for God and others manifests itself in God-honoring ways. It would be a new day for His church should it happen today and all the glory would have to go to God.
2. Through the conversion of multitudes of lost people.
In the Layman’s Prayer Revival of 1857, the last major revival America has seen, it is estimated that a million souls were saved. The U.S. population was about 15 million at the time. With our national population being over 300 million today, a similar revival today would equivalently result in over 20 million conversions. And think about it: If heaven rejoices when one soul repents and turns to Christ, just imagine the heavenly hallelujah that 20 million new souls would bring. Surely, God would be glorified!
3. Through a national spiritual awakening
When the church is on fire and people are being saved, the unsaved cannot help but notice that the God in heaven is making a unique visit to earth. The late evangelism professor Roy Fish appropriately titled his book about the 1858 revival “When Heaven Touched Earth.” In such an awakening, a God consciousness takes place that will impact the greater society as previous great awakenings have done. In the end, great glory will redound to God.
So let’s continue to pray for revival and do it for the reason that God would be glorified. And perhaps God will forgive an old granddad, if in addition, he also prays selfishly wanting revival for the sake of his grandkids.