Written by: Ian Chew (Photo by: Caleb Chan)
My thoughts on revival
I have always been intrigued by the word “revival.” Even as a new believer, hearing it at a Christian meeting would stir a sense of awe and excitement in my spirit. I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly captivated me, but I believe it was because it always seemed to suggest a powerful and unprecedented move of God among His people. It was like an invitation to an adventure I could not resist, hence it became one of my life’s passions to see revival taking place in our generation.
As a youth, I recall diligently participating in prayer meetings to intercede for our nation. I attended conference after conference hoping to finally see revival break out. I was doing all I knew to do to usher in an outpouring of His Spirit. Admittedly, after some time, I felt my efforts were in vain and ineffective.
Nothing ever seem to happen. Where were the remarkable signs and wonders that happened in Acts 2? Where were the mass conversions? Why wasn’t there a visible manifestation in our nation? I was frustrated and disappointed.
Until one day, while reading a chapter of a 40-day prayer and fasting devotional, my mind was enlightened. The contents of that page highlighted a major flaw I had in my heart towards revival. As I reflected, I realised that I was more concerned about witnessing the dramatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit, instead of pursuing after the true meaning of revival: believers and pre-believers turning their hearts to God and loving Jesus.
A true revival will not come just because I attend a great Christian meeting. While our conferences are great and charged with emotions (these meetings are necessary in creating vision and synergy), the marks of revival are more to do with the following: a deep conviction of sin and a desire for holiness; unity among communities; and a genuine love for God and one another.
Since then, I was convinced that revival is not just a one-time event to be yearned for, but a lifestyle to be lived. Yes, God can pour out overwhelming power to accomplish in a few years what would normally take generations to achieve. The Azusa Street and Great Welsh Revivals are evidences of this.
Equally important is what we do in preparation, so that the flame of revival can be sustained when it arrives. Before revival comes to the earth, it first needs to be in our hearts. These are practical ways in which we can walk in revival culture:
In 1972, a group of ACS boys met regularly at their school’s clock tower to pray. As a result of those fervent prayers, the Holy Spirit moved in unprecedented ways, unseen in Singapore even until today. The fruits of that revival were bountiful — it helped shape the landscape of the Singaporean Church.
Needless to say, prayer is fundamental in the pursuit of revival. Every great spiritual awakening in history was preceded by the earnest prayers of faithful men. It is key to aligning our hearts to the Heavenly Father and unlocking God’s desire and purposes here on earth. When we partner God in prayer, His dominion and authority is established here on earth. It invites the Holy Spirit to move uninhibitedly.
2. Take action
A true inspiration to me — in my pursuit of living out revival — is a friend who dresses in a full Spider-Man costume and goes around healing the sick on the streets of Singapore. He is today joined by a group of people, and they regularly reach out to strangers in public. At times, the testimonies of their outreaches are so hard to believe. The people they minister to encounter God in miraculous ways, and turn their hearts to Jesus.
One of the signs of revival is an increase of the supernatural taking place among the Gentiles. In the book of Acts, wonders and signs were seen (Acts 2:43). While prayer is absolutely necessary, we are not called to be locked away from the world and resigned to intercession. We cannot fall into the trap of being comfortable in our Christian gatherings.
Moving beyond our intentions, we need to be active in going out and being “salt and light” to the world. The flames of revival are stirred when believers release healing, power, and wisdom wherever they go.
3. Keep the unity
Sometime last year, I was reading a book called “God’s Generals” by Roberts Liardon, which details the fascinating stories of past revivalists and healing ministers. While the book celebrated the successes of these incredible men and women of God, it also showed the failures that occurred in their lives. As I studied the Azusa Street and Great Welsh Revivals through the accounts of William J. Seymour and Evan Roberts, it became apparent that the revivals ended prematurely — the revival in Wales lasted a fleeting two years.
What truly disturbed me were the similar circumstances that contributed to the end of the revivals. Several reasons were cited, but it can be summarised in one word: disunity. Due to disagreements, jealousy, suspicion, competition, and manipulation for personal gain, what should have lasted for many years ended within only a few. I believe God never intends for revival to end. It is meant to be carried into each generation that comes after.
Reflecting upon the manner in which the Singaporean Church responded to the embezzlement charges brought against an influential church leader in the past year (among other social and moral issues), I have observed a painful division among God’s children. Walking in revival culture is to walk in the spirit of unity and culture of honour.
When revival comes, the enemy will exhaust all means and ways to bring division into the church, because a house divided by itself cannot stand. We need to stand firm and discern the schemes of the enemy. We are not called to be empire building, but Kingdom building. That means that the motivation for doing what we do is to strengthen and edify the body of Christ — it is never meant for self-promotion.
Walking in revival culture sustains an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, creating a movement that lasts. A true partnership between God and Man brings Matthew 6:10 to reality: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”