A Skeptic’s Cry for Revival

I'm what you might call a natural skeptic—a cup half-empty, doubting Thomas, I don't think so kind of girl. To give a glimpse at how skeptical I tend to be, here's a smattering of things I can't get on board with, despite the best efforts of advertisers and authorities to convince me:

  1. Any product that claims to prevent or shorten illness. You know, like the one that is guaranteed help you "feel better faster" or your money back. How can they possibly know how long my cold would last if not for their super-amazing remedy?
  2. The idea that I can get my bathroom really clean without using any chemicals. If it's so easy to de-germ without them, why do hospitals still use them? Plus, I like the smell of bleach.
  3. Large aircraft "water landings"—I chuckle every time I fly and the flight attendants get to the part of the safety presentation when they pay homage to the amazing seat cushion/flotation device. You know, the one to be used in the event of a "water landing." I mean, who's ever heard of a 747 water landing? It's called a plane crash!

I mention these things not to boast in my skepticism but in acknowledgment of the bent of my heart. It will take some pretty convincing evidence to get me to put down my Clorox Cleanup.

Thankfully, we serve a God who delights in turning skeptics into believers.

I'll probably never put a whole lot of faith in the saving power of my airline seat cushion. And maybe that's okay. Maybe it doesn't matter to the Lord if my heart is a little skeptical when it comes to the claims of wellness companies and airlines. But when my skepticism spills over into Scripture . . . well, that's just wrong! Thankfully, we serve a God who delights in turning skeptics into believers.

A Time to Cry

In 2016, Revive Our Hearts is asking people to cry out that "God will soon be pleased to visit our land with His cleansing presence and glory." This theme will be woven throughout Revive Our Hearts programs and events in the coming year. "Cry Out" is a plea for earnest prayer for revival:

  • In our world
  • In our nations
  • In our churches
  • In our homes
  • In our hearts

Sounds great, right? Sure! Unless you're like me, a card-carrying member of the Like-That's-Going-to-Happen Society. You see, if I'm truly honest, I have to admit I've rarely prayed a fervent, earnest prayer for revival outside of my own heart. Even now, I'm trying to find a way to spin that statement differently, perhaps clean it up a little. But it's the truth, and the question at hand is "Why?"

Lord, Help My Unbelief

Staring my unholy attitude straight in the face I find a cold truth: I don't pray for revival because I don't actually believe it will happen.

Think about it. When you envision your unsaved family members, your less-than-committed church members, or your nation five, ten, twenty years down the road, do you see potential for a great harvest of souls and a return to a God-fearing society? If not, why?

Perhaps it's a weak sort of "Que Sera, Sera" view of theology. (It doesn't matter if I pray for revival, whatever is going to happen will happen, anyway.) Or maybe it's a fatalistic distortion of eschatology. (We're clearly headed for the end times. I might as well sit it out and wait for the Lord to meet me in the air!) But more than likely it boils down to plain vanilla unbelief. God has said, "Ask according to My will" (1 John 5:14), and I have said, "No."

On the Other Hand . . .

At the same time, I'm prompted to ask, is there any chance that as a Church, our collective neglect to pray for revival is also rooted in fear of what it will mean if a great spiritual awakening actually occurs? For example:

  • What would it mean for our country if the halls of our legislature were filled with believers at every point of the political spectrum, on both sides of the aisle?
  • What would it mean for our churches if our pews were full of hungry people and our nurseries filled with cranky babies? Would we rise up out of our comfort zone to meet those challenges head on?
  • What would it mean for our women's ministries and our friendships if we were inundated with new believers who asked hard questions? What if instead of our busy schedules and Pinterest fails, our coffee chats were riddled with tales of redemption told by women whose past experiences would likely peel the nail polish off the average suburban church mom? Are we willing to accept a holy disruption?

Resting on Our Laurels

Or maybe, just maybe, we don't pray for revival, personal or corporate, because we have no idea what that would actually look like in 2016. Perhaps we are seeking a Great Awakening of the past or we're disenchanted with the so-called revivals of recent decades that didn't exactly pan out. (If you'd like to read more about discernment and revival, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has written a great article here.)

So how can we know what to expect when we're anticipating revival? The answer is found in our only source of absolute truth, the Word of God.

A brief look at 2 Chronicles 34:1–4 gives us a basic summary of what biblical revival might entail. Let's take it a little at a time and glean what we can:

Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left (vv. 1–2).

Revival in the land of Judah began with personal obedience in the heart of Josiah, both to the will of his earthly father and to the ways of his heavenly Father. Revival in our time should be marked by obedience to the Lord and His Word and by an earnest desire in believers to submit to heavenly and earthly authority.

For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet a boy, he began to seek the God of David his father, and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, and the carved and the metal images (v. 3).

The revival that Josiah led began with his fervent desire to "seek the God of David his father" and was followed by action, specifically that of tearing down false idols. When and if revival occurs, we should expect to see those who have been renewed expressing a genuine thirst to know God—to taste and see that He is good.

In Josiah's experience, that came through the finding of the "Book of the Law" (1 Kings 22:8–11). And what was his reaction? The tearing of his clothes and grief over his sins and those of his people.

In our time, we should be looking for a strong desire among believers to open God's Word and know Him, a growing distaste for sin, and an eagerness to tear down anything we have placed above God in our lives and churches.

And they chopped down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and he cut down the incense altars that stood above them. And he broke in pieces the Asherim and the carved and the metal images, and he made dust of them and scattered it over the graves of those who had sacrificed to them (v. 4).

This purging of all things false goes on for several verses! It is thorough, continual, and far-reaching. What can we learn from this? True revival will not be half-hearted, not driven by a momentary emotional experience, and the revived will not be content to serve both God and self. It will be lasting and centered on the Savior.

Yeah, Right . . . Right?

Where does this leave a skeptic like me? Am I willing to pray for a sweeping revival that seems so far from where we are today? You just never know . . . .

Am I willing to pray for a sweeping revival that seems so far from where we are today?

On January 15, 2009, a plane took off from LaGuardia Airport and shortly thereafter lost power to both engines due to a collision with geese. In what has become known as the "Miracle on the Hudson," Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III and his crew ditched the engineless Airbus A319 right smack in the middle of the Hudson River. The crew quickly evacuated the aircraft, and its passengers were led to safety following one of the world's most successful "water landings."

Here is the reality, the beauty, and the joy of the Christian life: We serve a sovereign God who is able to do anything He wills, in utter disregard of how unlikely it seems. If He sees fit to bring revival to our land, there is nothing that you or I, atheists, or ISIS can do to stop it. Wouldn't that be a glorious day?

God has not called His people to be sarcastic skeptics but winsome warriors.

As for me, a heart change is in order. God has not called His people to be sarcastic skeptics but winsome warriors. In 2016, I will say, "Yes, Lord!" and cry out for awakening among the people of His choosing. Will you join me? How will you partner with Revive Our Hearts and add your voice to the cry this year?

Did you discover God’s Truth today?

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About the Author

Laura Elliott

Laura Elliott

Natives of Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, Laura Elliott and her husband, Michael endeavor to serve the Lord with gladness in Minnesota as they raise five sons and one daughter, while ministering at Chisago Lakes Baptist Church and School, where Michael serves as the school’s administrator. Laura’s passions include words, music, and encouraging women to pursue the God of Scripture in every season of life. In her so-called free time, you might find Laura cooking (or watching Food Network) at home in North Branch.

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