by Bill EfflerStir the Flame
Revival describes what God does, both in the life of a congregation and in the life of an individual. In Leviticus 6.8-13 the people of God are instructed to keep the altar fire going. "Do not let the fire go out," commands the Lord. God's fire within each congregation and each individual life must be tended to, must be revived, if the fire is to be kept ablaze.
Spiritual fires get started for many reasons. People may seek Christ because of internal fear. People may seek Christ because of external pressure. People may seek Christ when placed in an environment of emotionalism. People even come to Christ in the environments of academia! However, spiritual commitments made because of fear, pressure, emotionalism, or head knowledge will eventually fade out-unless love takes over.
Yet even people who are "on fire" for the Lord and make authentic commitments will, at times, experience a "flickering of their flame." True disciples of Jesus will heed the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, "stir up the gift of God which is in thee" (2 Tim. 1:6).
Four signs alert us to the possibility that personal revival is needed. Personal revival is needed when our first love is not as passionate as it once was. The Ephesians needed reviving and were told, "You have forsaken your first love." What is a person to do when first love is lost? The Lord's practical counsel is, "do the things you did at first" (Rev. 2:5).
Personal revival is needed when vision has blurred. Paul warned there would come a day when people would prefer blindness to sight (2 Tim 3:1f.). Jesus taught that only the "pure in heart will see God" (Matt. 5:8). People who have failing vision would do well to pay careful attention to what is going on in their own lives and remember Jesus' piercing query: "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and not pay attention (or see) the plank in your own eye?" (Matt. 7:3).
Personal revival is needed when our eternal purpose is not as clearly defined as it once was. People who lose moral, marital, or ministry purpose have lost God's "29:11 number" (Jer. 29:11: "I know the plans I have for you."). What are people to do when they have lost God's purpose? People are to "...call upon the Lord, pray…and I will listen." (Jer. 29.12,13).
Jeremiah 29:11 [NIV]. has a beautiful "I will/ you will" rhythm, which finds it's balance in the opening statement, "I know the plans I have for you," and concludes with the promise, "you [will] prosper."
Personal revival is also needed when initial convictions are no longer deeply held. The church of Sardis was a church with depleted conviction. The Lord describes the people as having a "reputation of being alive, yet are dead." Those who rely on their reputation may be living a life with little to no conviction. What is a life with little conviction to do? Jesus says, "Strengthen what remains" (Rev. 3:2); "Remember what you have received" (Rev. 3.3); "Obey… repent… and wake up…" (Rev. 3:3). These five commands carry direct and practical implications.
As a pastor, university professor, family counselor, father, and husband I have become convinced genuine revival takes a person on a journey that includes both the head and the heart. Charles Finney, the revivalist preacher, knew this and wrote in his Systematic Theology, ‘Theology (our thinking) is so related to psychology (our being) that the successful study of one without a knowledge of the other is impossible."
What we feel, see, do, and think represent four points that are part of personal revival: Emotions, vision, ministry, and thinking centered in a living personal relationship with Christ always bring to a flame revival fires!
William B. Effler is assistant professor of Pastoral Studies at Lee University.
He is the author of Turning the Church Inside Out