The Moment of Revival
By Colin Peckham
Edited from a message delivered at the "Heart-Cry for Revival" Conference near Asheville, North Carolina, May 23-27, 2000.
Scripture reading: 2 Chronicles 7:1-4
In the 16th century we had the great European Reformation. In the 17th century there were continuing movements of the Spirit. In the 18th century we had the enormous spiritual upheaval in England under the ministry of George Whitfield and the Wesleys, when norms were established in the whole English-speaking world, which continue on until today. In the 19th century we had the great American ’58 revival and the ’59 revival in the United Kingdom, particularly in Ireland and in Scotland and England as well. Then in 1904-05 we had the revival in Wales, and this was really part of the previous century.
Since then there has been nothing in the Western World virtually of a national scale. It has been a dry time, an almost fruitless century in terms of great revivals in the West. It’s something which has driven people to prayer. It is something which has broken people’s hearts as they’ve cried to God.
But God is not dead! In Korea in the last twenty years, nine million people have been added to the Church. In Nepal, in 1951 there was not one known Christian in the country, and now there is one-half million. Suddenly it has happened! In China up to 6000 people are being born again every day. It’s the biggest revival that has happened in the history of the world. This is something very wonderful! In Africa in some places the Church is increasing at a far greater rate than the population, and in parts of South America as well.
God is moving in various places, and when we hear these stories, it comes to us with such great longing that God would come to us and meet us again at the point of our need. America has known revival, England has known revival, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland--the Western World has known the touch of God in many places. But now there’s a great drought, and we cry to God. There are centuries of waiting, which have given rise in the East to an explosion of new life. We behold the barrenness of our own present-day situation, and surely there is wrenched from our hearts a desperate cry, almost a gushing sob, "O Lord, do it here!"
My wife and I have just come from Japan. We had three conventions there in two weeks. On Friday morning of the first convention, a large convention, I was speaking on revival and God came down on that meeting. Scores of people sought the Lord. I was speaking by interpretation, and so the leader of the convention took over and handled these people who came and sought the Lord. Then they went back to their seats, and we were about to sing the last hymn. Suddenly a pastor from the back gave a great and a bitter cry after God, for the movement of the Spirit, and then again, this cry rent the whole atmosphere, and again the third time. Suddenly people were seeking God all over.
We went to the second convention and I was speaking for one week on revival. I said, "God is touching Korea and God is touching China," and the interpreter spoke. "Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God came to Japan?" Silence from the interpreter. So I said again, "Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God came to Japan?" Silence. So I said again, "It would be a wonderful thing if God came to Japan in revival power." Then I looked at the interpreter because he had translated nothing, and he was standing sobbing, sobbing. The burden of God was on him.
We need a sense of God in our meetings. There are so many ordinary meetings. You go to a meeting and you come out untouched. Where is God? We need the presence and the power of the Almighty God breaking our hearts, even as we’re listening to the word of God coming to us--we need the melting of God.
The Psalmist says, "Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Thy law" (Psalm 119:53). And he said again, "It is time for Thee to work, Lord, for they have made void Thy law" (Psalm 119:126). "Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence...." (Isaiah 64:1).
Preparation For Revival
In our Scripture text (2 Chronicles 7:1-4), we have the moment when God came. "When Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven...." So the preparation for revival was prayer. Prayer is essential.
We had a friend who is now in heaven, a man who had a great burden for revival. He started one hundred prayer meetings for revival in Northern Ireland. Most of them have died with the long wait and he has gone to Heaven. At the height of that movement, he was given an opportunity to speak at the Bangor worldwide missionary convention in Britain for ten minutes about these one hundred prayer meetings for revival.
Richard Cross was his name. He was a man of God who knew how to pray. I’ve been blessed mightily in times when we’ve had prayer together. But he was a man without tact. He got up and walked to the rostrum. The church was packed. He said, "All those of you praying for revival, stand up." There was no response. "Perhaps you didn’t hear me. I said, ‘All those of you praying for revival, stand up.’ Just two sisters at the back. Sleep on; take your rest." And Richard Cross sat down. He grasped the heart of it. Prayer is the preparation for revival.
At the beginning of the revival in the Hebrides (about 1949), two old ladies in one house, and six or eight elders and deacons in a barn were praying, night after night, month after month, until the fire fell. We were there recently doing research on the Hebrides revival, and we said to someone who was in that revival, "Was it just the two old ladies and the six or eight elders who prayed?"
"Oh no, Oh no," she said. "It was a community at prayer."
We spoke to the widow of the minister who was there at the time. She was much younger than he. She said, "My husband preached there for a month before we got the call to go. He came back and he said, ‘It only needs a spark. The people are praying. The place is prepared.’" That’s the basis of the Hebrides revival.
In Northern Ireland, about 1859, four young men gathered together to pray. They prayed in the school hall in Kells, near Ballymena, where they gathered every night with a pile of peat under one arm to keep their bodies warm and a Bible under the other arm to keep their souls warm. Finally the fire fell from America across to Northern Ireland and suddenly Northern Ireland was ablaze.
William Burns of Cambuslang said, "Prayer unceasing and earnest is that wherein the great strength of revival lieth." John Wesley said, "God does nothing but by prayer and everything with it." D. L. Moody said, "Every movement of the Spirit can be traced to a bent figure." Matthew Henry said, "When God is going to do something wonderful He first sets His people apraying." Prayer is essential!
Prayer is exclusive. It was Solomon who prayed. Look at the first verse of this whole book of 2 Chronicles: "And Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly."
Solomon and the Lord talked together: "In that night did God appear unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee" (1:7). And Solomon said, "Give me now wisdom and knowledge..." (v. 10). God and Solomon were on speaking terms.
In chapter three, verse one, it says, "Then Solomon began to build the house of the Lord..." In chapter five at the end of verse thirteen, it says that Solomon praised the Lord and said, "The Lord is good; for His mercy endureth for ever. Then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord."
In verse fourteen of chapter six Solomon said, "O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like Thee in the heaven, nor in the earth; which keepest covenant, and showest mercy unto Thy servants, that walk before Thee with all their hearts."
Solomon had the right relationship with God. God was in heaven. God was great. He was not just a familiar friend. Solomon gave God His correct position. He said in effect, "I am here on earth, earthy, and God is great. I come as one who seeks the enormity of God, the greatness of God, the majesty of God, the glory of God." God is separate from man. He is the holy One and we come to Him who is transcendent that He might become imminent, right here, that we might know and sense the presence of the Lord.
Think of the story of John Smith in the Hebrides awakening. Those men were praying in the barn and he read Psalm 24: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation."
After John Smith read those words, he said to the others, "My brethren, it seems so much humbug for us to be waiting here night after night into the small hours of the morning, waiting before God, if my hands are not clean and my heart is not pure. My hands must be clean and my heart must be pure. O God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure? My brethren, are your hands clean? Are your hearts pure?"
At that moment God came to those men. Some of them fainted when God came down in revival power in that little barn. That was the beginning. They said they realized at that moment that the holiness of God and revival are linked inseparably; they cannot be taken apart. When God comes He reveals His holy presence, and we recognize that the holy God has come to dwell amongst us.
I repeat, prayer is exclusive. We can’t just bounce into the presence of God and say, "O Lord, yes, please send a revival," and then bounce back out again. This is a life; this is a burden; this is someone who knows the presence of God.
We can pray and pray and pray, but unless our hands are clean and our hearts are pure, how can we ascend into the presence of God? We need clean hands, friends. We need our deeds to be clean and our hearts to be pure. It is that which gives us the right to enter in and have access to the God who is a holy God. When we have access to that holy God, then we have a claim upon that which He is able to give, because we come in prayer, asking God to come.
Prayer Is Effective
Prayer is effective. In 1858 Charles Lamphier in New York was asked by some men to take over a little hall to keep it open, and he said he would. He had little cards printed and he went out himself to give them to the churches, announcing they were going to have a little prayer meeting in the middle of the day. So he waited there in that little hall. Not many people came that first day, but they said, "Let’s have it next week." So they had it the next week and there were many more and many more, and suddenly, it bred prayer meetings all over New York and suddenly it leapt to other cities and all across America. This great prayer movement continued, and at the height of that movement 50,000 people were coming to Christ every week. The people prayed, and God was able to move and work in a wonderful way.
In Korea there were three million Christians twenty-five years ago. There are twelve million Christians today. A Korean pastor came to Edinburgh, and I showed him around the Faith Mission College, and he was impressed. He said, "When you come to Korea, you come to see my church." So when I went to Korea I phoned him and he took me to his church.
This church was absolutely magnificent. There was a hall with around three thousand seats, and below that was a hall seating fifteen hundred, and beneath that were conference rooms--a great massive structure in the middle of Seoul with five layers of parking underneath it. Next to it was a five-story building of education and Sunday school, a huge structure. On the other side was a five-story accommodation block. We went in and all down the hall on both sides were doors close to each other. The pastor said, "These are prayer rooms. You can go in there singly or two or three or five--go in and pray." On the first level was the Western accommodations, the next level, the Eastern, Korean accommodations, and on the top again, prayer rooms. Prayer is in the very architecture of the building. Can you wonder that the church has exploded?
Jesus prayed with strong crying and tears. Ordinarily Jesus gave very little evidence of strong emotion, but when He prayed, we read He prayed with strong crying and tears. Moses said, "Oh, this people have sinned a great sin...yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written" (Exodus 32:31-32). Paul said the same sort of thing: "For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans 9:3).
We were in a convention in Northern Ireland. We prayed in the morning and prayed in the afternoon and preached at night for a week. I will ever remember those prayer meetings. God came down and met us and broke us in the place of prayer. That’s the secret of the evening conquests. There were moments of tremendous power.
Martin Lloyd-Jones tells the story of a sea captain at the small church he pastored in Wales before he went to Westminster Chapel in London. At their normal weekly evening prayer meeting, this godly, retired sea captain was present. Martin Lloyd-Jones said, "We sang a hymn, and then I asked him to open in prayer He began to pray, but he was struggling. He couldn’t get words; he was having difficulty getting through. On he went, and he couldn’t get through. Ten minutes went by, and suddenly he broke into the presence of God. Suddenly the words began to flow."
Lloyd-Jones said, "We sat there. Oh, the presence of God! We were bathing in the wonderful presence of God as God came down into that meeting. He prayed on and on and on, and then eventually he said, ‘Amen.’ Then for the first time I looked at my watch: twenty-five to one!"
That’s a remarkable and unique occurrence and experience. But you see, Dr. Lloyd-Jones was totally "with him." What made Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ ministry was that he was a man of prayer as well as a great preacher. Prayer is so absolutely essential, and it is exclusive and effective.
The Peculiarity of Revival
When Solomon had made preparation for revival by prayer, then came the peculiarity of revival--fire! The fire came down from heaven. There are all kinds of fire these days. There are strange fires. There are man-made fires. We don’t want those. We want the true fire of God to break us and make us.
Fire illuminates. It shines on the sacred page. The Holy Spirit, the fire, shines upon the Word and the Word becomes real. It lives and we have something to say because it is living. Sermons live because the fire has fallen on us and upon the sacred page and enlightened the page and we understand. It’s become something we grasp and then others grasp it too. Fire illuminates, and fire warms our hearts. It’s wonderful when the Holy Ghost falls upon a group of people and there’s a warmth.
The fire cleanses. "He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver..." (Malachi 3:3). At some potteries where fine bone china is produced, at an early stage that beautiful, dainty cup is placed in the flame which goes right through that cup and burns and removes and destroys all unwanted matter. When we sit under the ministry of the Holy Ghost and the fire falls upon us, the fire goes right through us. It’s a dynamic cleansing. God comes to us and cleanses.
Fire unifies. Sunday school picnics are useful and good and you get to know people on that level, but that won’t unite the church. The thing that unites the church is the fire of God falling on the congregation, the fire coming down and causing our hearts to melt, causing us to weep in His presence.
Fire attracts. There is something wonderfully attractive about the fire of God resting upon a person, the light of the Lord upon him. Fire melts. What a wonderful thing it is when God comes down and melts our hearts.
I remember when I was just a young worker in the field of evangelism and we were in a big tent. I was on the platform playing an instrument. An old man was preaching on the names of God and he got to El Shaddai. He spent an hour and ten minutes preaching on El Shaddai. God was with him, and God suddenly came down on a thousand people. The fire fell! About three or four or five hundred of them sought God. They came out to the front and they took up all the space. The aisles were full; some knelt right where they were. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. I was just out of Bible College and was just learning about the works of the Holy Spirit. Here, suddenly, I saw people seeking God.
A respected man, a former preacher, came walking among the people, wherever he could get a place to put his feet. He found a place on the mat right in front of me and knelt down, and I heard him pray. He said, "Lord, forgive me for having something against Brother L____ all these years." Brother L____ was the farmer upon whose farm that convention was being held. Brother L____ was sitting right there and he heard it. He got up and walked toward him and knelt down in front of him. Putting his arm across his shoulders he said, "Lord, forgive me for having something against this brother for all this time." God was uniting; God was melting our hearts. I looked in amazement at God’s mighty working.
Dear friends, how often do we have that kind of thing in our churches? When God comes down you know it! When God comes down the power of God is sensed, and you know your heart is broken.
I remember another occasion when we were working in a tent. It was hot and the tent was pitched out in the hot sun. An old man was preaching on the gates of Jerusalem--the water gate, the sheep gate, etc., and every morning it went on. They had prayed into the night for God’s moving, but the circumstances of the day meetings were impossible. It was so hot. People sat there trying to keep their eyes open. He droned on and on about the gates. Eventually he said, "Amen."
The leader of the meeting got up and he said, "Perhaps God has spoken to you this morning. We’re going to sing a hymn, and if God wants you to seek Him, you come while we sing this hymn." So we sleepily opened our books and began to sing, droning along and suddenly--I can only describe it as "the Holy Ghost fell upon the congregation." Suddenly God came! Suddenly everyone was aware of the presence of God. I looked in amazement--people sobbing, people weeping, people coming forward, people kneeling just where they were all over the place.
I was at the back. I sat with my face in my hands and wept. My heart was broken in the presence of God. The heat was still there. The impossible condition was still there, but God had come in spite of the impossible condition. God had descended upon the place; the fire of God had fallen. What changes of lives took place that morning. God had swept in. Oh, for such meetings, "When God comes down our souls to greet, and glory crowns the mercy seat!" Oh, that our hearts would break in the presence of God and that we would meet Him with all our hearts, finding Him wonderfully sufficient to satisfy all our needs.
The Price of Revival
"Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices." The price of revival is the burnt offering and the sacrifices. There is a price to pay. There are sacrifices. Our reputation has to go sometimes. When we are regarded as one of the most spiritual people around, and we know we have to confess something and we have to get rid of it, then there is a big fight.
In the Canadian Revival in 1970-72, there was a young man who had a Master’s Degree and his job hung on his degree. Then came the revival. There he stood: "What must I do, because I cheated to get this degree?" Eventually he paid the price. He wrote a letter to the university and he sent back the Master’s. He wrote a letter to his employers and said, "I’m sorry, but I no longer have this degree; therefore, I can no longer hold this job." He lost his job, but he got right with God.
There are people who pray for revival, and when it comes they will oppose it because it cuts across things they hold dear but which are contrary to God’s will, and they don’t want to give them up. They say, "Oh, this is just sensationalism; this is emotionalism. Nonsense...nonsense. It’s not revival." And they will oppose the work of God. It’s a sign spoken against.
I was once preaching at a place, and it was the hardest campaign I ever worked in my life. Nothing much happened. After the last meeting I went to the house of the man who had been with me on the platform through the week, sitting there, introducing me, singing, leading the worship, etc. He had gone to his house already, and I went to say goodby as I was leaving early the next morning. I knocked on the door. He saw who it was and said, "Hang on, I’m coming." He came out and he sat in my car, and he started to weep, and he wept for half an hour. He said, "Do you know why you’ve been having a hard time? I am living in sin, and she comes every night into the congregation and sits in front of me and looks up and laughs at me throughout the meeting."
Here am I all week on my face before God, crying out, "God, what’s happening? Why is there no break? What’s the matter with the spirit? There’s a terrible spirit in this place. Lord, please, is there something in me?" and I’m looking inside and saying, "Please, God, cleanse my heart." All the time it was him. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. May God have mercy on us all and keep us pure. There’s a moral price to pay.
And there’s a social price. There are friendships that have to be given up. There are children who have to be placed on the altar. I remember a man who attended about thirty years of conventions and he rejoiced every year to see the young people standing for the missionary hymn and giving themselves to the work of the Lord. Wonderful! Wonderful! Then his daughter stood up. Oh, it got too close to the bone. "Ah, my daughter! My daughter going to the mission field? No!" He nearly had a heart attack. They had to rush his son, who was a doctor, two hundred miles through the night to attend to the father. He saved his life.
But she said, "Daddy, Abraham gave up Isaac." "Yes, but Isaac wasn’t like my daughter." Children have to be placed on the altar.
Parents have to be placed on the altar. Friends have to be placed on the altar. Possessions have to be placed on the altar. Time has to be placed on the altar. Sometimes it is easy to write out a check, but to give yourself, to actually give yourself is a price.
John Calvin said, "I give Thee all. I keep back nothing for myself." And so we say before God, "The dearest idol I have known, what’er that idol be, help me to tear it from my heart, and worship only Thee."
For the fire to fall on your congregation, pastor, it must fall on you. You must know the pain-filled fellowship of the pierced hand. You must know what it means to weep in the secret place.
Remember that wonderful advice that was given in Joel: "Give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?" So "Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar" (Joel 2:17). They weren’t weeping in the presence of the nation of Israel. They were weeping in the presence of their own people--the priests, the ministers, let them weep, let them bear the burden. Let them say, "Lord, don’t let the heathen cast Thy name out." My friend, that kind of burden is absolutely essential. There is a spiritual price.
We cannot afford to have ordinary meetings. We cannot depend upon our ability or on our charm or our theology or our training or our oratory or our human ability or our rapport with people or people’s respect. We cannot afford to depend upon our theological training or our good library or our keen mind. We cannot afford to stand on those things because those things are not going to break a person’s heart.
What we need to have is a word from the Lord, a word which enters into their hearts. For that to happen, we have to break. That’s the spiritual price. I call it my "agony time."
I was at the camp of which I spoke earlier, when we prayed in the morning and prayed in the afternoon and preached at night. We went through that week on one occasion, and it was Friday. They were good meetings, lots of people coming; the place was packed out. There was good fellowship and people appreciated the meetings, but there was no break, and my heart was breaking. I walked along the huge cement strip that they had there, and I walked and walked and eventually found a building that they had almost demolished but they had left one wall standing. I got behind that wall and I leaned on the wall and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. It broke my heart.
"Lord, we need Your presence. We need the glory. We need the breaking presence of God. We need the power of the Almighty that breaks the hearts of these people. They’ve heard the Gospel so many times; they’ve heard the truth so many times. We need the melting power of God in our midst. Come, God, come!" It broke my heart that day. I went back and preached that night, and God came to that convention in a wonderful way. You’ve got to pay the price.
Not many people are willing to pay the price. And because they don’t pay it, their ministry becomes ordinary--good, biblical, but ordinary. The dynamic, the fire, the glory, the power are absent. There is good teaching, but they know nothing of the wind...the breath...the breaking. We’ve got to have that. Once you have touched that, you are spoiled for everything else.
The Purpose of Revival
After the fire consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, we read that "the glory of the Lord filled the house" (2 Chronicles 7:1). This is the purpose of revival. It’s not our glory, and it’s not the salvation of souls. It’s not the blessing of Christians. It’s not the vindication of our doctrine; it’s not the establishment of our church, and it’s not the blessing of our denomination. It’s the glory of God! He shows Himself mighty on behalf of those who have paid the price. "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together..." (Isaiah 40:5).
We read in the New Testament, "The light...of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). He becomes real and we see Him. Hallelujah! He dominates the scene. He fills our vision, and He becomes the fairest of ten thousand, the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star as we’ve never seen Him before. He ravishes our hearts, and we know Him and love Him and give ourselves to Him in consecration afresh because we see Him.
The purpose of revival is the coming of the Master and the glory of the Lord. "We beheld His glory," said John, "the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). He was writing at the end of his life, and he saw that when he was a young man. John says in effect, "We beheld His glory. I’ll never forget it. I’m an old man now, but that glorious moment when we beheld His glory, oh, what a moment! God came, the glory of His power, the glory of His presence!" We can say with Moses, I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory."
The Produce of Revival
"When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever" (2 Chronicles 7:3). There was a sense of awe. We must never lose the sense of awe. Worshiping, they said in effect, "God is great. God is good. God is glorious. God made all these things. God, I stand in Your presence. By Thy grace I have access. Who am I that I should have access? Oh, You are so great! And as You come down from transcendency to become imminent right here, I bend, I bow." They bowed; their faces were on the pavement. There is a sense of awe, and a sense of unworthiness. Who am I that God should come to me? We have a sense of joyfulness. We say, "Praise the Lord!" There was joy!
I was in a Bible College in Cape Town, South Africa for twelve and a half years. One year, 1972, God came to that college for a whole term. The students put away their studies. They gathered in groups. What a sense of prayer! What a sense of love! It was almost tangible as they moved amongst each other. There was such a difference. God was there. The corridors rang with joy. Oh, the joy of those days! The praise of those days! They praised the Lord. They rejoiced in His presence. How we need God like this! How we need God to come amongst us in this way. How we need God to pour out His Spirit that we shall see the glory of God.
There was a man called Gypsy Smith years ago. He was a preacher. He took a piece of chalk on one occasion, and he drew a circle on the ground all around him. Then he threw the chalk away and got into the circle. He got down on his knees, and he said, "Lord, I need reviving, and I’m not coming out of this circle until revival has come into the circle." Anyone need some chalk?
Shall we not confess with Gypsy Smith our lack of revived hearts? Confess our failure, confess our laziness, confess our lack of dedication, our lack of motivation, our lack of love. Confess our cold heart. The heart can get very cold in the ministerial world. We get so full of activity and lose the touch of God and our heart can grow cold and hard. It needs the plow of God to go into it. Oh, let us go to God in prayer!
– Dr. Colin Peckham is former principal of Faith Mission Bible College, Edinburgh, Scotland, and an author, evangelist and revivalist in Great Britain and abroad.