The Quiet Revival
1 Kings 19:11-12, ESV
And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.
The Lord was not in the earthquake.
He was in the low whisper.
I believe we’re in a day when we need to hear that low whisper.
A quiet revival.
Some will miss this revival because it doesn’t have the fireworks and trumpets they might expect.
After years of experience in the charismatic-pentecostal movement, I found that “we had a good meeting” was often defined by an emotional climax at some point during the gathering, usually during worship or during an altar call. Sometimes, the preacher would incite the crowd until it seemed to be achieved. We shouted, we wept, we got excited, we were inspired, we “met with God.” We had a “good meeting.”
Though I’m in no way undermining the need to experience God (nor writing off all that happened in those meetings), I do think it’s easy in such an environment to become an experience-driven Christian. Unwittingly, a lower view of Scripture sets in, at least in practice, and the marks of true faith, it is thought, are zeal, visible passion (“fire”), and pursuit of these experiences.
Some call this revival.
But as I study church history, and observe what is happening in our day, I see a different kind of revival. Though the 18th Century Revival (the U.S. and the U.K.), for example, did have spiritual and emotional manifestations, these were often considered a sideshow and were surrounded by controversy. The real mark of this revival was gospel truth exploding in the hearts of hearers as the likes of George Whitefield, John Wesley, Gilbert Tennant, and Jonathan Edwards preached. Whitefield preached “the new birth”; Wesley preached “the witness of the Spirit”; Tennant preached “love to Christ”; Edwards preached “sin and grace.” All preached the finished work of Christ.
Biblically, what is the fruit of a real move of God when the gospel is preached?
Paul said, “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5, NASB). The marks of a gospel-revival?
Love from a pure heart.
A good conscience.
A sincere faith.
This is the quiet revival. It’s not as flamboyant, demonstrative, and Hollywood as some would hope. It’s the inward work of grace transforming the heart, rescuing it from fear of punishment (1 John 4:16-18), from condemnation (Romans 8:1), from pride (Galatians 2:21), and from vanity (John 5:41). It’s the joy of sonship (Galatians 4:6-7) and true worship (John 4:23).
Some who experience this quiet revival may have previously known guilt for not fitting into the frenzy that sometimes accompanies the experience-driven worlds. But when revelation comes, and they place their faith in the finished work of Christ, all is at rest. They finally find the solace of mind and heart they seek. And then true worship begins. Love emerges and all its fruits. But those requesting signs may dismiss such a work. They cannot hear the thunder, see flashes of lightning, or feel the earthquake. But the Lord was in the gentle whisper.
Does that mean we shouldn’t pursue experiences with God? Of course not, but if we will obsess more about being gospel-centered than about euphoric experiences, we’ll find that there is an “experience” that is so real, so deep, and so permanent when we see the glory of the finished work of the cross that all else will pale. Further, anything we do experience will only build on the gospel's work in our lives, not replace it.
Perhaps some in the church have become obsessed with miracles, signs, and wonders because they’ve failed to see the glory of the gospel itself? When we fail to see the beauty, magnificence, and glory of the gospel, it becomes necessary to replace it with other obsessions. This will only lead to emptiness, no matter how good in its own right a sign or a wonder may be. Such gospel-omission is what gives rise to many of the trends in the church today.
Paul said, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24, NASB).
As in Paul’s day, we have those who pursue signs and those who split theological hairs thinking they’ll attain special knowledge, but Paul puts the cookies on the low shelf when he says, “We preach Christ crucified.” He points to the gospel as the thing that will really provide what all search for: the life of the Spirit.
Join this quiet revival by rejecting every other affection that may capture your imagination, and make your great goal to understand this simple concept that bears infinite glory: Jesus Christ crucified. Then enjoy the journey of vista after vista of discovering the grace of God. Then, when you smile at the thought of it, and someone asks you what they are seeing, just tell them you are experiencing revival. A quiet one.