By Jonathan Goforth
A missionary once remarked apologetically to me: “I have always longed for revival; but my station is so out-of-the-way that it is impossible for me to obtain the services of an evangelist.”
As if the Spirit of God is necessarily limited in His workings to a select few! We wish to state most emphatically as our conviction that God’s revival may be had when we will and where we will.
Our reading of the Word of God makes it inconceivable to us that the Holy Spirit should be willing, even for a day, to delay His work. We may be sure that where there is a lack of the fullness of God, it is ever due to man’s lack of faith and obedience.
If God the Holy Spirit is not glorifying Jesus Christ in the world today as at Pentecost, it is we who are to blame! After all, what is revival but simply the Spirit of God fully controlling the surrendered life? It must always be possible, then, when man yields. The sin of unyieldedness alone can keep us from revival.
But—are we ready to pay the price of Holy Ghost Revival?
Preparing by Prayer
The history of revival shows plainly that all movements of the Spirit have started in prayer. Yet is it not right there that many of us wilt and falter at the cost? The Bible does not tell us very much of what went on in that Upper Room in Jerusalem between our Lord’s ascension and the Day of Pentecost.
But we may be reasonably certain that little band of disciples begrudged every minute that was spent off their knees. There was so much to be got rid of, so many hindering things to be laid away, so much dross to be consumed. We know that all subsequent outpourings of the Spirit were linked with prayer.
“And when they had prayed,” Luke tells us, “the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the Word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31, kjv). It is not likely that the Eternal Spirit of God has grown weary.
Surely we may count on it—that the blessing is waiting for us, if we will only get down on our knees and ask for it.
It was intense, believing prayer that had so much to do with the revival which, in 1907, brought 50,000 Koreans to Christ. We are convinced, too, that all movements of the Spirit in China, which have come within our own experience, may be traced to prayer. After one particularly moving series of meetings, a missionary remarked to me: “Since the Lord did so much with our small amount of praying, what might He . . . have done if we had prayed as we ought?”
“What is the secret of revival?” a great evangelist was once asked.
“There is no secret,” he replied. “Revival always comes in answer to prayer.”
Believing and Pleading the Promises of God
The Author of the Bible is being greatly dishonored these days by the doubt cast upon His Word. It must, indeed, be a cause of intense grief to Him that the Book which alone testified of the Lord Jesus should be lightly esteemed by man.
Unless the Bible is to us in very truth the Word of God, our prayers can be naught but sheer mockery. There never has been a revival except where there have been Christian men and women thoroughly believing in and wholeheartedly pleading the promises of God!
The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is the only weapon which has ever been mightily used in revival (Eph. 6:17). Where it has been given for what it claims to be, the Word of God has always been like a sharp, two-edged sword, like fire, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces (Heb. 4:12; Jer. 23:29).
Exalting the Lord Jesus Christ
Finally, the call to revival must be a call to exalt Jesus Christ in our hearts as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is like an Everest peak, rising from the level plain. There must be room only for Him, if we would have Him dwell with us at all. Every idol must be smashed; every darling Isaac laid on the altar; every urge of self denied! Then and then only can we expect the larger fields to open before us.
Brethren, the Spirit of God is with us still. Pentecost is yet within our grasp! If revival is being withheld from us, it is because some idol remains still enthroned, because we still insist in placing our reliance in human schemes, because we still refuse to face the unchangeable truth that it is: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
JONATHAN GOFORTH (1859–1936) was a Canadian Presbyterian missionary who became the foremost missionary revivalist in China in the early 20th century. This article is excerpted from his book By My Spirit.
Taken from Prayer Connect magazine