Revive Us O Lord!
If ever there was a time for revival among the Lord's people, it is now. The dismal state of affairs in the Church is abysmally low and seems to be declining steadily. Though it is difficult to know what is truly occurring in the hearts of the saints, there are key indicators that lend credence to this claim. Attendance levels in many meetings are low and getting worse. There has always seemed to be a problem with many believers in the present generation adhering to this biblical priority. But in recent years the attendance level in many assemblies has dropped significantly. Just a few years ago when fears over "Y2K" were at their highest, the question on everyone's lips was: "What will become of things?" But when the new millennium arrived and all the hype died down so did the saints. We are in danger of becoming like Israel who had complacently "settled on their lees" (Zeph. 1:12) and were in jeopardy of judgment from the Lord. Attendance in some assemblies is so poor, that many have had to cancel some of their meetings or had to adjust their fellowship and outreach programs due to lack of participation by the saints. Sadly, many of the Lord's people do not see their responsibility and privilege to enjoy fellowship with each other and sit under the sound of God's Word in order to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18), a knowledge that multiplies our grace and peace. (2 Peter 1:2) Nor do they realize the long-term consequences in their personal and family lives of sowing to the flesh and not to the Spirit (Gal. 6:8) - consequences such as a lack of peace, joy, victory, and confidence in the Lord.
But not only is there declining attendance and a general paring down of spiritual activity, but also a strong spiritual malaise characterizes many a meeting. Long pauses during the prayer time belie the appearance of spiritual vitality. Less time is set aside for prayer alone - a common practice in some assemblies. Unfortunately career ambitions and family interests and sports programs are given a higher priority than the things of the Lord usurping the place of the corporate prayer meeting, and most likely private devotional time. Commercial Babylon has spread its long tentacles and cast its dark shadow over many in society, including believers. Spiritual defections continue at an alarming rate as many Demas-like believers join hands with the world system for temporary advantage. Casual, not spiritual conversation marks the language of the saints and worldly dress reflects the downward trend and lack of reverence in the meeting. There is a growing tolerance of "gray" areas by the Lord's people -- things once avoided in the past for its appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22) but which today bring about no shame of face. Simply put, there is just not the same fragrance of holiness wafting through the local assembly.
Why is this? What has changed to make conditions so desperate and the need for revival so great? Perhaps it is our busy schedules and complex lifestyles - the maddening pace to keep up with the latest trend and obtain the newest piece of technology, a snare that only entangles us further in the affairs of this life. (2 Tim. 2:4) Perhaps it is the allowance of worldly or immoral influences into the home - brought in by the Trojan horse of television or the advent of computers and the Internet. The searching spotlight of the Word of God no doubt would sadly reveal the sins of the saints - a condition similar to that which existed in Ezekiel's day. (Read Ezekiel 8!)
Whatever the reasons may be for this appalling spiritual decline, there is an desperate, immediate need to pull out of the dive. It should cause all of us to cry out:
Revive Thy work, O Lord!
Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead,
And make Thy people hear.
Indeed it is a bleak picture and perhaps what is being stated is nothing new - indeed it has been stated many times before. But what is being said simply is this: unless there is a dramatic, deliberate, and conscientious effort by the Lord's people an every level to counter the downward slide, there will be an exponential decline as things go from bad to worse. We may soon have to reach up to touch bottom. That effort needs to start at every level -- with those in leadership as well as the entire assembly. Some assemblies have tried to counter the trend by adopting new and fanciful methods to "spice up" the menu, but unless its basis is in scripture it would be no different than if David put new wheels on the Philistine cart. (2 Sam. 6) When Jacob finally got serious about going back to Bethel--the place where he first met the Lord - God told him to arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. The fact that God told him to "arise" indicated a call to a higher spiritual level. Jacob resolved in his own heart and then instructed those who were with him to put away the foreign gods that were among them, to be clean and to change their garments. They had allowed the world to have its way in their lives and they needed to make a radical departure from it if they were going to enjoy communion with the Lord, which they did once they reestablished an altar in the land. (Gen. 35:1-7) When the Israelites in Nehemiah's day began their revival, they stood united at the Water gate, opened the scriptures and had it explained to them from morning to midday. As they came under divine conviction for sin, they too were revived as a people (Neh. 8) because they centered their lives on the Word of God. And the same holds true for all the other revivals in Scripture like those under Josiah, Hezekiah, Manasseh and others - there was a deliberate tearing down of those things that were contrary to the Scriptures. It took effort, it took energy and it took sacrifice, but it had to be done in order to recapture the glory of the Lord and experience His hand of blessing. And it needs to be done with us as well.
Like Joshua, we need to realize that time is moving on and there "remaineth yet very much land to be possessed." (Josh. 13:1) Our heart cry together as a body of believers should always be now more than ever: "Revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy." (Hab. 3:2) Oh, Lord send a revival, and let it begin with me.
O Lord, Thy work revive,
In Zion's gloomy hour;
And make her dying graces live
By Thy restoring power