God often speaks to other people. To me, not so much. And yet ten years ago I distinctly heard God. Don’t worry, it was not an audible voice like those muttering homeless guys hear. It was ten words that took shape in my mind on the night after my eldest daughter’s wedding. It was a promise from God: “I am going to bless you and increase your house.” I wept for joy. But the days and weeks turned into years, and still no grandchildren were forthcoming. It wasn’t until seven years later that my eldest daughter informed me that Cindy and I were going to be grandparents. Luca was born on September 5th. He is now three years old and the lad has been more of a blessing to me than I can articulate. He has become more precious than career, a comfortable retirement, possessions, you name it. In short he is more precious to me than me myself.
A week ago my youngest daughter informed me that she is pregnant. Then last Friday my eldest daughter told me (via text) that she is also pregnant, again. My cup runneth over. My wife, Cindy, has nearly lost her mind with excitement and utter joy over the soon-to-be additions to our clan.
We are an immediate satisfaction society. But God does not act on our timetable, no matter how often we pray, beseech, plead, or throw a tantrum. I can’t stress that enough: God DOES NOT act on our schedule. We either have faith that he knows when and how it is best to bless his people, or we don’t. Ten years ago I was forty-nine years old. Back then I would not have appreciated grandchildren as much as I do now that I’m knocking on sixty and the things I once thought so important have faded into the background. The place I’m at has freed me to be completely present when I am with my grandson. He gets my undivided attention. So will the grandchildren who are on the way.
If God makes you a promise, he might deliver right away, or you might have to wait for it . . . a long time. With the benefit of hindsight (a skill I employ with expert proficiency), ten years ago I was not ready for grandchildren. In the church, we often hear it preached that God’s timing is perfect. That isn’t just a trite slogan to help us develop the admirable character trait of patience. It is a reality that must work itself into our faith. So why does God reveal what he intends to do and then he makes us wait, sometimes for many years? I don’t know, but I have a theory: he does it so we can see how much he has helped us grow and prepare for receiving his promised blessing. In other words, so he gets more veneration than he would if he’d simply given us the blessing right away. And that’s very appropriate.
It is common in the ecosystem of evangelical Christianity to hear pastors express a deep desire to experience revival in their churches. For instance, last Sunday I heard a youth pastor share her belief that revival will come through the youth. This made me curious about revival (church revival, not Creedence Clearwater Revival). I looked up the word “revival” in three common translations of the Bible, including the New International Version. I got zero (0) hits in each translation. Wow, the word “revival” is not mentioned in three common translations of the Bible. However, I did find a beautiful reference to the word “revive” in Psalm 85:5-6, which says:
“Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?”
Of course revivals are real in the church. There are confirmed examples of revivals happening throughout church history. Some revivals are local, others impact entire nations.
Clergy and laity supplications for revival take different forms. Some ask for church revival directly from God. Some desire the Holy Spirit to inspire revival in the church through the manifestation of supernatural events. Some seek revival by prodding the congregation to get off their . . . pew and take action, usually in the form of repentance for sins, service to the poor and evangelism. I am sure there are other catalysts that I have overlooked.
If you look up the word revival in the dictionary you will see words and phrases like: rejuvenation, vigor, restoration, awakening, a new production of an old play, revitalization. Such words and phrases imply physical and mental action and energy. If you look at the calendars, schedules and programs of many modern Christian churches, they are already running at a frenetic pace. I wonder how the typical modern church would squeeze a revival into their weekly schedule. Are we capable of recognizing a revival if it happened in our midst? Are we so abuzz with ministry activities that God is not inclined to compete with us for glory? In other words, is the church too busy for revival to happen? On the other hand, would a God-inspired revival take over despite our busyness and accomplish God’s intentions in the church and surrounding community? I think so. But are we willing to let go of the reins to God?
We make a mistake if we think spiritual matters like revivals have jump-start formulas. I suspect that God likes to choose the time, place and manner of revival. It seems spiritually astute to also recognize that God may never choose to manifest an awe-inspiring revival in the place where we go to church. I know a pastor (we’ll call him Jim) who saw a miracle-producing revival happening in a large church in a nearby town. The effects of the revival spread throughout the community. People were experiencing miraculous healings for everything from colds to cancer. Jim had an intense desire for a revival to happen in his church so he set about making a lot of changes in the church, changes geared towards inspiring revival. Years passed with no revival. In the process, Jim nearly destroyed the church. Hundreds of people left and he had to step down from his position as senior pastor before the church was damaged beyond recovery.
John 3:8 says:
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
This verse reminds me that we can’t pin the Holy Spirit down any more than we can pin down the wind. We simply don’t know when or how the Holy Spirit will alight in our midst in a supernatural way, including revival. I find this element of mystery in our faith to be cool. Besides, we don’t want a God we mortals can manipulate. We can pray for revival and prepare our hearts, but the final decision belongs to God.