When you hear the word “Revival” what comes to your mind. Here’s what I think of . . . five-days . . . Spring and/or Fall . . . Suits . . . “Loud” Preaching . . . Big Tents . . . etc. These thoughts are what I would call misconceptions or wrong ideas about revival. While five-days might be the length of a renewal among God’s people, it doesn’t have to be just that time frame . . . While it could occur in the Spring and/or Fall, it doesn’t have to happen during that time . . . While it used to be a popular thing to meet under a tent, it doesn’t have to be in any particular surroundings or environment . . . Preaching doesn’t have to be “Loud” . . . etc.
I say these are misconceptions because this is not what makes Revival really a Revival. Revival has no certain place and no certain time. Revival can happen anywhere and anytime. But there are elements that have to be in place. Revival is about the heart of a Christ-follower. That is where “revival” truly begins. Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker speaks about a man by the name of Gypsy Smith.
Rodney “Gypsy” Smith was powerfully used of God preaching to millions as he crisscrossed the Atlantic Ocean forty-five times. He never received a formal education, yet he lectured at Harvard. He grew up in a gypsy camp outside London, yet he was invited to the Whitehouse by two different presidents. Everywhere he went, it seemed like revival was on his heels. Gypsy revealed his secret to a delegation of revival seekers that asked him how they could make a difference with their lives the way he had with his life.
His answer was simple but yet profound. It was as timely and timeless now as it was a hundred years ago. He said if you really want revival and you want to see revival take place this is what you do . . . “Go home. Lock yourself in your room. Kneel down in the middle of the floor, and with a piece of chalk, draw a circle around yourself. There, on your knees, pray fervently and brokenly that God would start a revival within that chalk circle.” (Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker, p. 215).
By definition, revival means, “bring back to life and to restore.” Revival has nothing to with the culture and everything to do with the church. Revival is coming back or waking up. Revival is getting back to the Christian life as it was meant to be lived. Our new series, Code Blue is all about revival and coming back to life within the church. If you have ever watched a medical drama or been in the hospital and heard them say, “Code Blue” it means someone has lost all signs of life and needs to be brought back.
Within the church to be revived is to wake up from a state of sleep. C. S. Lewis once said, “A moderately bad man knows he is not very good. A thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. . . . You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.” In other words, if you think you are a great person with no problems, then you are really more asleep than you realize.
So often what we do is confuse the meaning of revival and awakening. America does indeed need an awakening, but the church does indeed needs a revival. We often use the words revival and awakening interchangeably, but there is a distinction. An awakening is when a nation comes alive spiritually, sees its need for God, and turns to Him. A revival is when God’s people come back to life again. Today we are talking about The Beginning Of Revival. Our Big Idea for this series is . . . Revival inside the church brings awakening outside in the culture.
Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that he shows up Himself. But it has to start with us being broken over our sin, broken over the conditions of the world and the church and falling down in repentance begging God to work in us and through us. True, genuine revival happens within that circle. If you and I are willing to stand before God, draw that circle, stand in that circle and pray for revival to begin within that circle, revival will break out within the church and there will be an awakening within the culture.
To “set the stage” for this new series, Code Blue I want us to look at one of the greatest revivals and awakenings that has ever happened in the Bible. If you have your Bible, turn with me to the small book of Jonah. The book of Jonah is a very small book in the Old Testament in a section of God’s Word known as the minor prophets. It is not put there because what happened during that time or what they had to say was not as important as the others but that their content is shorter. Very important message but less words than the major prophets.
The book of Jonah could be summed up like this . . . God said “Go,” but Jonah said “No,” and God said “Oh?” Jonah reluctantly obeyed and a great revival broke out in Nineveh. It took God longer to prepare His servant and get him to obey His call than it did for the entire godless city of Nineveh to repent. Things haven’t changed much. They are still pretty much the same. It still takes longer to get Christians motivated to share the gospel than for sinners to repent.
God’s call for revival will always come because God wants what is best and right for us. But sometimes when we are confronted with drawing that circle and getting inside that circle we run away from it. Our posture to God’s call will be determined by our position. Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3).
The ancient city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which was the superpower of that day. The population of Nineveh was around 1 million, about the size of San Francisco. It was a very big city for ancient times. The Ninevites lived large, driving the best chariots and enjoying the finest food and the most exotic entertainment. They had a business and commercial system like none in the world.
But the Ninevites were really cruel people and were known for their savagery. When the Ninevites would conquer a nation, they often would torture their prisoners before they executed them. Rather than hide their depravity, they celebrated it and proclaimed it. They even built monuments to their own cruelty. So Jonah really did not like the Ninevites. And knowing God like he knew God, Jonah knew if these people repented God would forgive. So rather than being rid of an archenemy, they would still be around to haunt and torture them.
Jonah’s attitude was like, “This entire nation is my enemy and they are so cruel and wicked they deserved to be destroyed. It serves them right to be punished. They don’t deserve to be forgiven and honestly I don’t want them to be spared God’s punishment.” Because Jonah was not in the right place in his heart. When your heart is not in the right place your feet will run away. When your heart is not right your feet will run! He ran from God’s call to be His messenger to the city of Nineveh. Rather than going to Nineveh, he went in the totally opposite direction to Tarshish as it says, 3 So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:3).
Before you are quick to jump on Jonah you need to ask yourself, “Have I ever tried to run from God and His will for my life?” We did establish that the Ninevites were the enemies of Jonah and all the Jews. They were the Nazis and al Qaeda of their day. Asking Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach would be like taking a Jew living in Germany during Hitler’s tyranny to go to Berlin and preach to the Nazis. Or, going to an Israeli today and asking him to go preach to the nation of Iran because God is going to judge them if he doesn’t. So, “Have you ever tried to run from God and His will for your life?”
What Jonah figured out on the ship is you can’t outrun God. No matter how much you don’t want to get in that circle, God will not give up. What he realized was that When your position is not right God will continue to pursue you. When you are running from God it will be obvious to you that God is pursuing you. 11 For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:11-12). There had been storms on the sea. It probably was not uncommon to have storms but with this one they all knew something was different. When confronted by it, Jonah even admitted he knew why it was happening.
So here Jonah’s situation goes from bad to worse and probably to the worst of the worst. God will sometimes use a situation to put you in the right place. 17 And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. (Jonah 1:17). What happened here is for the first time ever, rather than man eating fish the fish ate the man. He has gone from running, to the ship, to the sea and now to the belly of a fish.
You notice that in the story of Jonah this is the first time where he actually prays and cries out to God. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, (Jonah 2:1). He has hit a low and God is using the belly of the fish to get his attention. Some people might say, “If I was in the belly of a fish, I think I would be crying out to God and I think that would get my attention.” My question is, “Why does it have to be the belly of a fish?” There are some things that happen in life that God can and will use to put us in right relationship with Him and to bring Him glory and we can sometimes just miss it.
It could be as simple as an encounter with somebody . . . It could be a common life occurrence or situation . . . Or, it could be a tragedy that wakes us up to the reality of who God is and what He can and wants to be in your life. What we have seen in recent days is the eternal impression my niece, Mackenzie has left on all of us, this community and beyond. We have seen many people realize they didn’t know Jesus as their Savior and become a Christ-follower . . . We have seen many people say they were not where they need to be spiritually but they have been very challenged and convicted to change all that.
What about you? Has there been a “fish belly moment” for you lately? Have you had an encounter with somebody that looking back was God’s way of reaching out to you. Have you had a common life occurrence or situation happen to you that caused you to question where you are? More specifically, has the tragic death of Mackenzie and her legacy of a life lived “worthy of the gospel” gotten your attention?
Whatever it is we know something for sure . . . God keeps pursuing you because He loves you. God never lets up and never relents in His pursuit of you because He cares about you, He loves you and He wants you to pursue His plan for your life. Whenever and wherever you cry out to God He hears you. God always responds when you reach out to Him. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. (Jonah 2:1-2).
It doesn’t matter where you have been or where you are. When you cry out to God He hears you. It doesn’t matter what you have done or are doing. When you cry out to God He hears you. God always wants to redeem your past and reclaim you for the future! If you have been running from God, stop running and cry out to Him. If you have been a life that is not honoring to God . . . STOP IT! Let today be the day that you begin fresh and new. Draw your circle! Jump into that circle and cry out to God!
Everybody bow your heads with me for a moment. If you know you need Jesus in your life to be your Savior cry out to Him. Say this with me, “Jesus, I know I am a sinner in need of a Savior and I am sorry for my sin. Right now I surrender all that I am and all that I will ever be to You. Come into my life and be my Lord and my Savior. I am beginning today as a brand new creation in Jesus. I am a believer in Jesus Christ and from now on Jesus, I am living for you.”
If you are someone who would say that you have been a Christian but you have been running from God and living a life that is not “worthy of the gospel” cry out to Him right now. Say this with me, “Jesus, I am so tired of running. I don’t want to run from You anymore. I want to run into Your arms. Jesus, I am tired of living a life that is not honoring to You. I now want to live my life to honor You and glorify You.
When you came in you received a bracelet that says, “Revive Me Lord.” Throughout this series I want all of us to wear this and pray this prayer everyday . . . “Revive Me Lord.” “Draw your circle” and pray, “Revive Me Lord. Begin a revival and let it begin with me!”