Discerning The Times
By Dave Butts
Jesus said to the crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?" (Luke 12:54-56).
How do we understand the times in which we live? Jesus certainly seems to expect us to have the ability to correctly interpret the general moves of God within a generation. He criticized the religious leaders of His day who, having access to the prophetic Word, still did not understand the coming of the Messiah and all that entailed for them. If they missed it, we must assume that we also can fail to discern the times. It is very possible for Christians to get so caught up in everyday living that we never stop and look at the overarching plans and purposes of God for our day.
How then, shall we understand our times? Can we emulate the men of Issachar of whom it was said, they understood the times in which they lived and knew what Israel must do? (1 Chr. 12:32).
In the section below, I share with you some quotes from men of our own generation as well as the two preceding generations who have looked intently into the Word of God and at our world. Their comments are enlightening, encouraging, and challenging. As you will read, it becomes clear that what God is doing in our day is wrapped around prayer, revival and finishing the task of world evangelization. May our lives be joined with the grand purposes of God for our times.
"Dr. A.T. Pierson said it well, when he said that no revival has ever come except by that kind (Upper Room) of praying, and (he continued) no revival has continued beyond the continuation of the same kind of praying. It’s like a fire – what gets it started is what it takes to keep it burning." – Armin Gesswein
"After studying prayer and spiritual awakenings for 60 years I’ve reached this conclusion…whenever God is ready to do something new with His people, He always sets them praying." – Dr. Edwin Orr
"Without a doubt, the major opportunity before us is the potential of a historic revival akin to the first great awakening…. The encouraging ‘sign’ of an impending awakening is the grass-roots prayer movement God is raising up...." – Paul Cedar
"Never before in living memory has prayer been rising so rapidly on the agenda of Christian leaders across our nation. Is the great revival on the way? – C. Peter Wagner
"When people sense the Lord is near, they also want to talk with Him. Revival and prayer always go together." – David Mains
"When God is about to give His people the expected good, He pours out a Spirit of prayer, and it is a good sign that He is coming toward them in mercy. Then when you see the expected end approaching, ‘then you shall call upon Me’ (Jer. 29:11-12). Note, promises are given not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer: and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it. When Daniel understood the 70 years were near expiring, then he set his face with more fervency than ever to seek the Lord (Dan. 9:2-3)." – Matthew Henry
"When prayers and strong pleas for revival are made to God both day and night; when the children of God find they can no longer tolerate the absence of revival blessings; when extraordinary seeking of an extraordinary outpouring becomes extraordinarily earnest; and when the burden of prayer for revival becomes almost unbearable, then let praying hearts take courage, for the Spirit of God who is the spirit of revival has brought His people to this place for a purpose." – Richard Owen Roberts
"It’s not like an earthquake. It’s more like being lifted by the tide, a surging tide of God’s grace. Across the world, the new decade is marked by the emergence of city-wide prayer meetings. Some of the largest pastoral prayer meetings in United States history have recently taken place….What is God up to? We can only wonder at His tactics, but His motives are clear enough. He loves us. He has not abandoned our generation. He governs in the affairs of people and nations, and He is setting the stage for harvest." – John Dawson
"There have been revivals without much preaching, but there has never been a mighty revival without mighty prayer." – R.A. Torrey
"Once again, today God has raised up a multitude who are willing to pay the price both by praying and by preaching, so that the Church might encounter the full panorama of who Christ is. And to the extent that they succeed – to the degree God restores in us an ‘abounding hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,’ and does so for the Church worldwide – to that degree we will experience a true world revival." – David Bryant
"A movement of prayer for the world must first target on our own spiritual blindness. Once Christ is revealed in the midst of His Church, we will be spiritually propelled into the urgent ministry given us to extend His kingdom among the nations." – David Bryant
We live in exciting times for those who belong to the Lord Jesus. As we look, both to the Word and the world in which we live, we can join with the Lord in His work of intercession, revival, and drawing people to Himself. Our prayers will become pleadings for the fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:14: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."