The Radical Cost of Revival

Guest speaker Yan Hadley spoke tonight on the radical cost of revival. God Himself is eager to bless us abundantly (see Mal 3:10, Luke 6:38), but so often we are not willing to pay the price for revival. Ultimately, the unchanging cost of revival is radical change. If we want to see God move in sovereign power, we need to take to heart the steps outlined for us in 2 Chron 7:14:

  1. We are required to humble ourselves, accepting that we are nothing without God.

  2. We must seek God’s face whole-heartedly, accepting that seeking God requires time and effort.

  3. We must turn from sin (admitting that we are all sinners is not easy; being told we still follow ‘wicked ways’ is offensive, but without repentance from sin there will be no revival).

  4. We have to be serious about prayer and turn to God.

The change which God requires from us is internal but radical, requiring us to forsake everything to be His disciple (Luke 14:33).

  1. We must change our preconceived ideas. Is 55:8 reminds us that God’s thoughts are not the same as our thoughts; we are urged to trust in Him rather than rely on our own understanding. (Prov 3:5-6) We mustn’t put God in a box and expect to be able to control Him. We cannot ‘make revival happen‘, nor can we dictate how God works, but need to be open to what God wants to do and willing for Him to work in new ways.

  2. We must change in our preoccupation with self. John the Baptist realised that Jesus must increase; He had to decrease. (John 3:30) We need to lose our obsession with ourselves (‘me, my, I‘) and be more aware of the holiness of God. Our focus has to be more on God than on ourselves.

  3. We must change in our personal motivation. So often, we come to services to receive and be blessed, rather than to give and to bless. 1 Cor 14:26 reminds us of the need for each person to be involved in our gatherings, being prepared to give (‘a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation’). Ps 122:1 talked of the gladness felt by the psalmist in gathering together; Ps 100:4 talks of entering God’s courts with thanksgiving and praise. We have to prepare our hearts to gather together, expecting to meet with God as we do and showing reverence and awe before Him. (Ps 95:6)

Paying Attention

Despite the blustery weather today, we met at Cherry Tree Court this morning, where Garry spoke from Ex 24:1-2, 9-12 about the importance of paying attention. In this passage, God invites His people to hear from Him and calls Moses up onto the mountain to be there with Him. We might think it’s obvious that if Moses went up onto the mountain, He would be with God, but so often we can be physically present but thinking of other things (‘off with the fairies’, as some say) and God wants our whole-hearted attention.

Surveys have shown that the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds… but a 2015 survey discovered that a person’s attention span when surfing a webpage was just over 8 seconds. We are notoriously bad at paying attention to someone, always thinking of what things we should (or could) be doing. In reality, our ability to multi-task is not great; we need to focus on things separately to have maximum concentration and impact.

When we meet with God, He wants us to be focussed on Him. When we read His word, He wants this word to be a light to our paths, guiding us (see Ps 119:105). All His words are true (Ps 119:16); His word is a living word (Heb 4:12) and therefore demands our attention. We need fo fix this word in our hearts and mind (Deut 11:18), keeping it ‘cast’ there so that we can truly hear and digest what God is saying to us.

In the Parable of the Sower, God reminds us that His word is like seed scattered onto different soil. We must not let the world choke the seed or allow inattention to cause us to lose that seed. Instead, we need to pay careful attention to all God has to say to us and, as James reminds us, not just listen, but hear and obey. (Js 1:22-25)

Holy Dissatisfaction

I firmly believe that godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim 6:6) and that much of our dissatisfaction in life is fuelled by a consumerist society that thrives on discontent (after all, if you’re satisfied with your latest purchase, why would you buy anything else?!) So much of our angst in life – fuelling mental health issues and leaving us depressed, frustrated and always wanting more – comes because we have not learned the secret of being content in every situation (see Phil 4:12-13).

Having said that, there is also a tension in our lives because we were made for God and for perfection and yet we live in a fallen, imperfect world. ‘It’s not like it was before,’ as Aaron Shust sings in the poignant song, ‘Ever After’. Our hearts yearn for God and for more of Him. Like Pippa Gumbel who exclaimed in church one day, ‘there must be more than this!’, we recognise that we were made for so much more and so we live, content, with holy dissatisfaction. As with so many things in God, it’s a paradox.

I’m not satisfied with where I am with God. There is so much more of God to see, know and experience. As I read the book of Acts, my heart aches, for I cannot imagine having the faith of Peter or Paul and seeing what they saw. I believe in my head that God is the same and can do these things in our time, but there is a dissonance between what I believe and what I see. I am left on my knees, seeking God to revive us again. He is our only hope.

‘When You move, hearts awaken
Broken lives will be redeemed
Here and now, as in Heaven
Let revival be released

Hear our cry.
Heal our land.
Oh God, we pray for revival.
What You’ve done before,
You can do again.
Oh God, we pray for revival.

God of grace, God of salvation,
We are desperate on our knees.
You can save this generation.
Let revival be released.

Like a river running through the barren land
Let mercy flow, revive us again.
Move in power, save us by Your mighty hand
Let mercy flow, revive us again.
Like a river running through the barren land
Let mercy flow, revive us again.
Move in power, save us by Your mighty hand
Let mercy flow, revive us again.
Revive us again.’ (‘Revive Us Again’, Phil Wickham)

 

The Extraordinary God

The truth is that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things, as Peter demonstrates in Acts 9:32-42. The healing and resurrection we see there are not because of Peter’s strength or power. They are evidence of God’s strength and power, that He is a God of the impossible (see Luke 1:37; Jer 32:17).

So often, we forget this, bringing God down to our size or seeking to limit Him in some ways. Matt Redman says, ‘Worship songs will never be able to paint the full picture of God’s glory, but it’s so important that we aim high and give our best effort to conveying Him as fully as we can.’ We need to see God in all His magnificence, power, glory and majesty in order to grasp something of His nature and understand His purposes for our lives. Peter was nothing special, an impulsive, outspoken fisherman, but in God, he became a man who saw miracles, deliverances, healings and resurrection.

When our focus is on our extraordinary God, we too can see extraordinary things happen and can be in a partnership which goes beyond our wildest dreams.

The Ordinary People

The book of Acts is a tale of miraculous, extraordinary stories, and Acts 9:32-43 is no exception; in this passage, the apostle Peter is seen healing a paralysed man named Aeneas and raising a woman (Tabitha or Dorcas) from the dead. It’s easy to feel daunted by these stories if we are not seeing those things in our own lives, but whilst we do well to seek God for the miraculous, we also see the intimate and personal in these stories and can learn much from these too.

God cares for the individual, as every healing and miracle in the New Testament demonstrates. A paralysed man, bedridden for eight years, comes to find new energy and life. A widow who ‘was always doing good and helping the poor’ (Acts 9:36) is given the opportunity for further service. One thing we need to remember as the story often focuses on the apostle with their miraculous ministry and frequent persecution is that behind-the-scenes, so to speak, go countless acts of service which are usually largely unseen and unknown. Tom Wright comments that Tabitha represents the ‘unsung heroines who have got on with what they do best and have done it to the glory of God.’ (‘Acts For Everyone Pt 1’, P 154) There are many people who, ‘like her, lived their lives in faith and hope, bearing the sorrows of life no doubt as well as celebrating its joys, and finding in the small acts of service to others a fulfilment of the gospel within their own sphere, using traditional skills to the glory of God.’ (ibid.) He goes on to say, ‘Luke is right to draw our eyes down to the small-scale and immediate, in case we should ever forget that these are the people who form the heart of the church, while the apostles and evangelists go about making important decisions, getting locked up, stoned or shipwrecked, preaching great sermons, writing great letters and generally being great and good all over the place.’ (ibid., P 154-155)

Most of us will not be famous in the world’s eyes and may never see the kind of miracles we read about in the Bible. But we can be like Tabitha, using our gifts and talents to serve God in the mundane. We are just ordinary people and see nothing special in our service. God sees the heart, however, and values everything that is offered to Him in faith. Apparently ordinary people are not ordinary to God.

Better Than…

At our recent Team Building Day, we were offered the challenge of explaining the gospel using a random object: a newspaper, a torch, a piece of string and so on. As we rose to that challenge, Gemma commented that she could think of a Christian song in relation to most of these objects, but not chocolate…

Never one to avoid a challenge, Garry set about rectifying that situation, and tonight we had the world premiere of his song ‘Better Than…’ which reminds us God’s love is better than anything – even chocolate!

Better than any chocolate,
Better than any cake,
Better than any ice cream, even with a flake!

And it’s better than money
Or anything it buys,
‘Cos you can never buy a love that never dies.

Oh, the love of God
So high, so deep, so wide.
Yes, the love of God
Means God is by my side.

Oh, the love of God,
The reason why I sing.
Oh, the love of God,
It’s better than anything.