We need reviving

 

We need reviving. In this I am not just talking about the much anticipated revival of Christianity prophesied to start in Invercargill; I am not talking only about the Big Tent Revival in Gala Street in November; I am not only talking about the need for revival in this city or nation. I am talking about revival within us.

 

The first need in the church today is not a widespread revival which will produce more Christians, but an inward revival which will produce better Christians.[1]

 

Ezekiel 37 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

 

If you have been around church for any length of time, you can get dry periods: Dry periods when you can’t hear God; dry periods when it seems that your prayer life and reading the Word can seem like eating dust; dry periods when you don’t think you could stand yet another boring sermon or sing any more songs of joy when you feel anything but joyful.

 

Dry times are to be expected. We cannot live on the mountain tops where God is all the time, we need to go down in the valleys where there are shadows and raging rivers because in those valleys is growth.

 

Edmund Hillary and Tensing could only stay on the top of Mt Everest for a few minutes. They could not live there. They reached the summit on 29 May 1953, climbing the South Col route. Before descending, they stopped at the summit long enough to take photographs and to bury some sweets and a small cross in the snow. They could stay no longer. They had to return to Base Camp and life, because the air was so thin and their oxygen was running out. So do we.

 

We would love to stay on the mountain top of experiencing God in dramatic ways but we cannot live there – the air there is too rarified, we need to come down to the valley.

 

In the valleys, we may experience dryness – a lack of the feeling of the presence of God. That does not mean that God has left us.

 

Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will be with you.

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Merton describes such a time where we are entering the night in which he is present without any image, invisible, inscrutable, and beyond any satisfactory mental representation.[2]

 

It’s guaranteed that there will be times of dryness in our walk with God.  But be assured we will not stay in that dry time forever.

 

Outside of us, there are people who were once on fire with passion for God, who not only have gone cold, but they have wizened up and become dry bones, scattered across the valley.

 

There is nothing drier than a valley of dried bones – no flesh, no marrow, no gristle, nothing that even a dog can gnaw on.

 

Yet God showed this picture to the prophet Ezekiel, a valley of dried bones.  This picture was not to discourage Ezekiel but to encourage him.  God said I can make these useless bones which are fit only to be ground up and used as fertilizer, I can make these bones live again.

 

the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.

 

God then says breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

 

The word for breath is the same word used for the Holy Spirit – ruach.   We live when the Holy Spirit comes and gives us life.

 

Not only can God revive dry bones, he can resurrect the dead. You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.

 

I am not talking here about physical dead, but those whose faith has died.

 

There is a saying that where there is breath, there is life. But in God’s economy there is not even a need for breath. God can restore faith; he can bring to life that which is dead.

 

In my favourite movie of all time The Princess Bride, the hero Westley has been tortured and killed, and his friends take him to Miracle Max, played by Billy Crystal.

 

Miracle Max: [Lifts and drops the arm of the dead Westley] I've seen worse… It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do. Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

 

We would say that there are people around whose faith is dead, that they are dry bones.  But God would echo the sentiment of Miracle Max, they are only mostly dead.

 

Where we see death, God sees the possibility of revival.  Where we give up, God says it is not the end. When we say, get the shovel, God says get me the defibrillator.

 

God sees dry bones and says they will live. And he will bring about that life, bringing the bones, sinews and flesh and skin, and most importantly, the breath and they will live again.

 

Don’t despair over a world that seems to have gone cold to God, a world where the breath of God seems to be absent, because God can change that.

 

He can change it in us, he can change it in our friends, he can change it in our neighbourhood, he can change it in our city and our nation.

 

God can revive dry bones.

 

The real indication of revival is not a good preacher or a good singer - it is the amount of our collected hunger.[3]

If sermons and songs were going to save our cities and nations, then they would have been saved a long time ago. True wide scale revival requires a supernatural encounter with the manifested presence of God. This happens when we create and collect emptiness by diverting our hunger from man to him.[4]

 

I like that term used by Tommy Tenney – when we create and collect emptiness – that speaks to me of dry bones, empty of life and sustenance.

 

Revival comes within us and in our society when we are empty. Something that has life does not need reviving. It is the dead who need life. It echoes Jesus’ words: I come not for the healthy, but the sick.

 

Hear the words – hunger, emptiness, dryness. Those are the conditions for revival.

 

How hungry are you? How empty are you? How dry are you?

 

It may seem an odd thing to say but you are ripe for revival when you acknowledge that condition within yourself and acknowledge that our city is in that same condition.

The valley of dry bones will be made to live again.

 

Sage words of advice come from Richard Foster, who writes: Go, even if you don't feel like it. Go, even if worship has been discouraging and dry before. Go, praying. Go, expecting. Go looking for God to do a new and living work among you.[5]

 

In your life, expect that God will revive you. In your friends expect that God will revive their faith. In this city, expect that God will revive faith.    

 

Psalm 71:19 You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. You will increase my honor,and comfort me once again.

 

Call out to him in your hunger and dryness. Pray for God to enliven you through His Spirit.

 

Do not listen to the nay-sayers who will tell you it is not possible.  When the Israelites returned from exile, their opponent Sanballat, of the Samarian army heard they were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and he mocked them, saying “Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burned ones at that?” (Nehemiah 4:2)  A few verses later Nehemiah could report that “we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together to half its height; for the people had a mind to work.

 

Burned stones, as useless as dried bones, but they were revived.

 

Do you have a mind for revival? Do you have a mind for your own revival?  Remember the words I quoted at the start: The first need in the church today is an inward revival which will produce better Christians.

 

Revival starts with our dry bones.

 

In the words of an old hymn:

Our quicken’d souls awake and rise

From the long sleep of death;

On heavenly things we fix our eyes,

And praise employs our breath.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,

“Behold I freely give

The living water—thirsty one,

Stoop down, and drink, and live.”

I came to Jesus, and I drank

Of that life-giving stream;

My thirst was quench’d, my soul revived,

And now I live in him.[6]



[1] John E Hunter Limiting God 92

 

[2] Thomas Merton Contemplative prayer 77

 

[3] Tommy Tenney The God Catchers 98

[4] Tommy Tenney The God Catchers 107

[5] Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline 214

 

[6] Spurgeon, C. H. The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (p. 500).