What Does Revival Look Like?
By Dave Butts
Many Christians are praying for revival without understanding what the end result might be if their prayers are truly answered. What might revival look like? We sometimes look to revivals in the past to catch a glimpse; however, the great revivals of history demonstrated unique characteristics that were often determined by the culture of their day. What God does in the future might look completely different.
There is a place, however, where we might find unchanging principles that will characterize revivals of both the past and the future. God’s Word speaks much of revival and spiritual awakening. Sometimes the Bible tells of the difficult situations that prompt God’s people to cry out for revival. At other times, it helps us understand the type of praying and passion that prepares the way for a fresh move of God. In Isaiah 35, the entire chapter gives us a wonderful picture of the hope toward which we are praying.
As you read the text below, please ask the Lord to point out to you these characteristics of revival: new life, the presence of God, strength, healing, outpouring of the Spirit, a lifestyle marked by holiness, and resulting joy:
"The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.
"Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; ...He will come with vengeance; with divine retribution He will come to save you.’
"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy.
"Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isaiah 35).
One of the first signs of revival is new life. Whether it is an individual or a church, when revival begins, there is evidence of life and growth. The very word, "revive," means to bring back to life. Isaiah draws a picture of a dry desert that appears to be lacking in life. But when it begins to rain, the buried seed bursts into the glorious color of life.
This new life is marked by a fresh vision of God: "they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God." What older writers have often called, "the manifest presence of God" is spoken of here. The presence of God’s Spirit in the life of a believer is a Biblical fact. The great need for revival, however, is indicated by the failure of most believers to walk in an awareness of His presence. In times of revival, God’s presence is manifested in such a way that believers are often overwhelmed by the experience.
Renewed strength is often an indicator that God is moving in a new way in our life. The natural tendency is to wear down and burn out in service and ministry. The fresh awareness of Christ working within us through His Spirit often calls forth new levels of energy and productivity among Kingdom workers.
The outpouring of God’s precious Holy Spirit is many times accompanied by physical healing. The deep work of God within the spirit of an individual often spills over to touch the body as well. Isaiah speaks of the blind, deaf, lame and mute experiencing a healing touch from the Lord. What will happen universally for the people of God in eternity, happens in the Lord’s timing and choosing in the midst of revival.
Water is often a symbol for the Holy Spirit. In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus poured out water in Jerusalem on the greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles. The Apostle John interpreted this accurately for us by saying that Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit who would become a gushing stream coming forth from within us. In this, he echoes the imagery of Isaiah who described water gushing forth in the wilderness…a dry place, and streams in the midst of the wilderness.
When we pray for revival, one of the clearest results will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon believers. Life-giving, pure, renewing water flows from the lives of Christians, attracting others who find themselves strangely thirsty in the midst of this spiritual abundance.
Revival always produces a change in lifestyle. We ought to view with suspicion any supposed move of God that does not result in a life of increased holiness. If the Spirit of holiness has been poured out in fresh waves, we will see a new passion to live lives that please the Lord in every way.
It will not surprise us to see that overwhelming joy is one of the most visible marks of revival. What other response could there be for the believer who has suddenly been made aware of the loving presence of Christ in a fresh new way? As our lives experience His life, the fullness of His Spirit produces joy that absolutely overwhelms any tendency toward sighing or crying. Isaiah’s description of "everlasting joy" crowning our heads places this joy in a very prominent place in our lives where all can see what God has done.
What are you expecting to see when revival comes? Let the prophet Isaiah keep you focused on what God desires to happen in the midst of this next great awakening. May this great vision of a holy, healed, strong and joyful people keep you praying fervently for revival in our day!