“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Paul said, “…the things which happened unto me…” and if you know Paul’s testimony, most of them were not good. He testifies in II Corinthians 11:24-28 and just enumerates the things that had happened unto him. When you talk about something that happened, in most cases it’s not something you intentionally did to yourself. It is a circumstance that came about, a happening. Something happened. It was unplanned. You weren’t prepared for it. Good things happen as well. Quite frequently, the things that happen to us are undesirable. We’re not really excited about it. Paul said in II Corinthians 11:24, “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” That’s what happened. He was preaching the Gospel, trying to get the Word of God out, trying to do the will of God. What happened? They gave him 39 stripes. That happened numerous times — five times.
He said, “Thrice was I beaten with rods,…” Three times when he was trying to serve God, he was beaten with rods. “…once was I stoned,…” He wasn’t on drugs. I believe they killed him and God raised him back to life at Lystra. I believe that’s what he testified about in II Corinthians when he talked about being caught up to the third heaven. He was beaten and scourged and stoned. He said, “…thrice I suffered shipwreck,…” That’s a blessing. He was headed somewhere and got shipwrecked. It really did turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It didn’t look or feel like a blessing. This is not how he planned it. He would not have asked for it to be this way, but there was a Divine design to every happening in his life.
Quite frequently, I’m afraid that when things happen, we fall apart and get so upset we lose sight of the will of God. When things happen, sometimes we change plans and leave the will of God rather than allowing the circumstance to produce the desired end.
He went on talking about things that happened to him. “…a night and a day I have been in the deep;” Verse 26, “In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers,…” That’s a real blessing, have somebody rob you. Bad things happen to good people, don’t they? Car accidents and things. Shipwreck he talked about, but car wrecks and disease and things that happen and you just can’t find any rhyme or reason to the circumstance. From your perspective looking at it, you can’t imagine how anything good could possibly come from this? I’m certain that whenever Paul was robbed, he wasn’t too excited about having the little bit he had taken away from him, having his life threatened, having money and belongings taken away by force. He said, “…in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;” He talked about the perils of life.
The world in which you and I live, there are some perilous things. There will be people that turn on you, sometimes your own countrymen. Sometimes it will be the heathen, but sometimes it will be the brethren. You can’t decide who does what as far as what they do to you. The only thing you can do is decide that you’ll respond as you should. He talks about, “In weariness and painfulness,…” If you don’t have any of that, you’re not working hard enough and you’re not old enough. You get a little bit older, you’ll know what pain is. You work hard enough, you’ll know what weariness is.
Once I was calling Bryan Sharp. I was in a Spanish conference. Ezequiel Salazar, who is a pastor in Los Angeles, California, was my interrupter — I mean interpreter. You say about three words, and he’d say 15. You say two and he’d say 10. I don’t know, maybe he was preaching his own sermon. I was preaching with Brother Salazar and I had only been sleeping a couple hours a night. I was completely exhausted. I had just flown in there preached and got a bite to eat and went back to the motel room. I laid down and when I woke up, it was five o’clock. It was a winter day and it was dark. When I woke up, immediately I looked at the clock. I started to kind of panic. I thought, “Is it five o’clock in the morning? Am I supposed to be getting ready to go to the airport? Is somebody coming to pick me up? Am I late for my ride?” I thought, “Is it five o’clock in the evening? Am I supposed to be getting ready for church? Where am I at?” I sat there for a little bit and it dawned on me that it was five o’clock in the evening. I said, “Okay, I got a little bit of time. I need to call Bryan Sharp.” I called and in my mind I’m in California because I’m preaching and Brother Salazar is my interpreter. Mary Joyce, Bryan’s wife, answered the telephone. I said, “Mary, is Bryan there?” She said, “Brother Corle, he’s out hunting.” I said, “Come on, Mary. Don’t mess with me. I’m too tired. Get him on the phone.” She said, “Brother Corle, he’s out hunting.” I said, “Mary, look. I’m in California. It’s five o’clock here. It’s seven o’clock there. It’s dark here. Don’t tell me he’s out hunting.” She said, “Brother Corle, it’s not dark here.” I’m sitting there thinking, “What’s happened? Some cataclysmic event has taken place while I was sleeping. What’s going on?” I said, “Just never mind.” So I hung up and I’m sitting on the edge of the bed trying to figure this out. All of a sudden it dawns on me. I’m not in California; I’m in New York, opposite coast, an hour later than Sharp. I didn’t know where I was at, didn’t know what was going on. Everything I tried to do, I was just in a cloud. Now if that never happened to you, you’re not working hard enough. You get too much sleep.
He talked about being in weariness. He talked about being in perils. He talked about painfulness. He talked about watchings often, staying up through the night praying, crying out to God. He talked about hunger. Nobody usually stays hungry intentionally. It’s because there is a lack of food. If you have hunger and there is food, you go ahead and satisfy the hunger. You eat. He’s talking about need. You understand some things that happened to him. He was without what he needed — his physical provision, sometimes. That was not by choice. It wasn’t a planned fast in this case. He talks about fastings a little bit later, “…in fastings often, in cold…” where he didn’t have the heat he’d like to have. “…and nakedness.” He didn’t have the proper clothing. He said, “Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.” Carrying the burdens and the heartaches of other people, people I love, people that are going through it. He said, “You don’t begin to know.”
Brother Hyles said to me several years ago when we were in a meeting together, “You know, Doc, when you know as many people as we know, traveling like we do, if you’re not careful, you just cry all the time.” It’s the truth. The more people you know, the more heartache you know about. Somebody that you love is going through it all the time. Somebody is in a mess all the time. Somebody is hurting all the time. The more people you know, it just multiplies the heartache and burden.
Paul said that he had started these churches. He won these converts. He loved these people and he said, “You don’t begin to know the burden that falls on me daily with the care of the churches and the concern about the direction they go.” He was worried about the church in Galatia. It was going the wrong direction. He had a hand in that thing and it had taken a turn for the worse. That letter would imply that.
Paul said, “…the things which happened unto me…” and I want you to understand most of the things that happened unto him according to his own testimony in II Corinthians 11, most of them were not good. It’s not that nothing good ever happens by chance, and really it’s not by chance. The things that come, the things that happen that you didn’t plan, they come upon you. A lot of them are not good.
Paul said, “…the things which happened unto me…” They have fallen out, not to my destruction. He said, “…the things which happened unto me…” God’s intention was not to destroy me by allowing them to happen.
The first thing people want to do when something undesirable happens is question, “If God loves me, why did He?” and “If there is a loving God, why would He?” The first thing we want to do is question the integrity of God or the love of God or the goodness of God, instead of understanding that everything that God allows in my life has an end to it. It has a Divine purpose. Sometimes the good things don’t produce what the bad things produce. You understand that, don’t you?
Job talked about how God afflicted him. Do you know what he said? He said, “For God maketh my heart soft,…” (Job 23:16) Affliction will do that to you. The good times will callous you. God prospers His people, too, but sometimes prosperity will callous you. Sometimes it will get you cooled down and indifferent to spiritual things. It will get you satisfied with something less than God’s best. He said, “…the things which happened unto me have fallen out…” not to my destruction, but they “…have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;” He said, “The Gospel has gotten out as the result of my calamity. These undesirable circumstances in every case had a Divine purpose and there is some way that they made a difference for somebody and enabled me to get the Gospel to somebody or tendered somebody’s heart, or God used my testimony to affect them. I wouldn’t have chosen any of these things. They just happened. I would have planned it different, but it happened different than I planned it.” God knew what He was doing. It didn’t just happen. It happened with design. It happened with the hand of God in the background orchestrating everything that came to pass in my life. He said, “It happened to the furtherance of the Gospel.”
I understand there is human intent and things. In verses 15-18, Paul talks about human intent. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” People sometimes have bad intent, but even when they have ill intent, God has a purpose. He could prevent that stuff. He’s still in charge. On your worst day, He’s in charge. When it looks like your whole world is falling apart, He’s in charge. He’s not afflicting you to destroy you or to be unkind to you. There is a Divine purpose.
If you recall in Genesis 50:20, we find Joseph, who was a godly young man, and he was preferred by his father because he was a blessing. The Bible tells us that his brethren hated him. They cast him into a pit and sold him into slavery. Then he was lied about and imprisoned. Then he was forgotten by the one man that could have helped him. Here he is in a strange land for a number of years. It didn’t look good for him, but four times in that passage of Scripture it says, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” Intertwined with all those negative circumstances, four times it says, “And the Lord was with Joseph.” If you gauged it like we do, if you looked at the circumstances in Joseph’s life, it didn’t look like God was within a million miles, but the Lord was with Joseph. God was at work in the life of Joseph. God was making a prime minister for Egypt. God was raising somebody up that could win the heart of the king of Egypt. God was making a refuge for His people, a place for them to go in the coming famine. God was doing some stuff behind the scenes. The things that God was doing were not immediate. They were down the road, but it took years of preparation. It took hardship. It took sorrow. It took affliction. It took betrayal. It took a number of things to make him what God intended for him to be.
Humility always comes before exaltation. God had to humble him so he could raise him up and use him. God had to bring him down so He could bless him. Joseph finally revealed himself to his brethren, and then his brethren, when their father died, were afraid of him. They thought, “Now that our father is gone, the only reason Joseph hasn’t done us in is because of Dad. Now that Dad is gone, we have had it.” They began to plead with him and tell him lies, telling him their father said this and their father said that. Do this; do that. Joseph was wise enough to understand that his brethren had evil intent, but they could not have done anything they had done to him without God permitting it. He said in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Sometimes people that do things to you, their intent is evil, but God can take their evil intent and use it for His glory. God can take their evil intent and behind the scenes have a Divine will, and even though their intent is to destroy you, God can use the very thing that they intend to destroy you with to raise you up.
Paul said, “…the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;” He said, “A lot of things happened to me. Some of them weren’t very desirable.” As a matter of fact, many of them weren’t very desirable, but he said, “They have fallen out. The outcome, the end result has been the furtherance of the Gospel. It hasn’t been my destruction. I’m still here. God wasn’t going to grind me to powder with the circumstances.” Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” How many things? All things. That’s the good ones and the bad ones.
He didn’t say all things are good, but all things work together for good. How many of you like biscuits? I don’t eat more than half a dozen at a time. Biscuits have several ingredients. I’ll tell you what is really good. Go out to the kitchen and get in the flour bag. You get a big scoop of flour and put it in your mouth. Mmm. Isn’t that good? You don’t like flour? I thought you liked biscuits. It’s one of the main ingredients. Well, maybe one of the other ingredients. You may not like the flour, but I’ll tell you what is really good. The shortening in biscuits, go out there and scoop a big scoop of shortening out of the can. Ummm, yummy! Huh? You don’t like shortening either? I thought you like biscuits. You like biscuits but you don’t like any of the ingredients. Yet once they are all mixed together and go through the fire, you like the outcome.
That’s the way life is. It’s made up of a bunch of ingredients. Any single ingredient by itself may not be very palatable, but God knows what He is doing. All these things work together for good, for your good, for the common good, for the furtherance of the Gospel, for the glory of God. He knows what He’s doing. People get bitter because of one circumstance that’s unpalatable. The truth is if they’d let God do what He’s doing in their lives without getting bitter, they’d like the outcome. Paul said, “The things, mostly negative things, the things that have happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel.” “…all things work together for good to them that love God,…”
In Luke 23, you’ll remember Calvary looked like defeat, didn’t it? The only reason I’m going to Heaven is because of something that was a bitter pill for the Son of God. He drank that cup gladly. The truth is He became sin for you and me. When He died there at Calvary, it looked like defeat, but it was victory. It wasn’t just victory for Him; it was victory for me and for you. It was eternal life for us. What happened at Calvary was necessary.
I don’t believe Jesus shrank from the suffering of Calvary physically. I think the thing that He shrank from in His heart was to become sin, the perfect, sinless Son of God. He said, “…Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me:…” I hate sin. I don’t want to become sin. I’ve never touched anything defiling. Our fellowship has never been broken, but if this is the only way, if it will further the Gospel, if it will make salvation available to a bunch of sinners, “…not my will, but thine, be done.” There are a lot of times your will is in conflict with the furtherance of the Gospel. There are a lot of times that the things that you would like to happen cannot happen and the common good be served. It would be better for you, but worse for the cause. Can I remind you there is something bigger than all of us? There is a cause out there bigger than me, bigger than you, bigger than our ministry, bigger than our church, bigger than life. It’s big. That’s what Jesus came and died for.
In Acts 5, the Bible tells us that the apostles were beaten and threatened. Do you know what the outcome was? Jerusalem turned right-side up. The heathen crowd said they turned it upside down, but what they were doing was bringing people to repentance and turning it right-side up. It looked upside down to the heathen. It looked upside down to the religious lost, but really what they were doing was setting the record straight and turning people from sin to Christ, getting them born again. The Gospel was being furthered, but it wasn’t very palatable. It wasn’t very enjoyable for the apostles to be beaten, to be threatened.
In Acts 7 we find Stephen being stoned. There was a certain young man that held their garments while they stoned Stephen. His name was Saul. The Bible says as they stoned Stephen, his face was as the face of an angel. He said, “…Lord, lay not this sin to their charge…” He saw Jesus standing as he fell to his death, and testified verbally. There was a young man there that was a persecutor, who never got over what he saw. The things that happened to Stephen had fallen out to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Do you remember when Paul finally met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus? Jesus said, “…it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” A prick was something kind of like the electric cattle prods today. If you’re moving animals, you use an electric cattle prod. In Biblical times, they used a pointed stick — a prick. Their intention was not to wound the animal, just to create enough discomfort to get them headed where they’re supposed to be. What the Lord said to Paul was, ever since the death of Stephen, you’ve been under conviction and fighting it. You’ve been kicking against the pricks. You’ve made it more painful than it had to be. You’ve wounded your own conscience by fighting conviction kicking against the pricks instead of cooperating and responding. What happened to Stephen was necessary. It wasn’t very palatable. Do you understand the Apostle Paul penned by the inspiration of God 100 chapters of the Bible? Do you realize he started dozens of churches in Asia Minor? Do you realize there are multitudes and multitudes of people saved because of the ministry that God gave the Apostle Paul? Do you understand that Stephen didn’t have 10,000 converts personally, but he did have one? It was the result of him taking the right stand with the right spirit, dying with grace. The things that happened unto him happened to the furtherance of the Gospel. One guy got saved that had been the enemy of the Gospel as a result of what happened to Stephen. Paul just never got over what he saw on that day.
In Acts chapter 8, the Bible tells us there was a great persecution. Do you know what happened? They went everywhere preaching the Word. They were driven out of Jerusalem by a persecution. They were pushed out of their homeland, driven from their roots and their moorings, but the end result was here they are going every direction but they’re taking the Gospel with them. They spread the Gospel everywhere. It wasn’t an easy thing that got the Gospel out; it was persecution. It was being driven from their homeland. The things that happened unto them were not things they would have chosen. Those things that happened were for the furtherance of the Gospel.
In Acts chapter 16, Paul and Barnabas had a demon possessed girl saved. It caused a great ruckus. The people were making a living on her calamity with her problem because she was reading fortunes and palms. She was into every kind of reading. Somebody was making wealth on that. The Bible tells us they got beaten up and thrown into prison for soulwinning. What happened? The Bible says that at midnight they praised God and sang praises and prayed. The Bible says the prisoners heard them. If they had been griping and complaining, the prisoners would have heard that, too. If they had been saying, “I just don’t know why God let this happen to me.” The prisoners would have heard that, too. They understood that there is a Divine plan in everything that happens unto us. They were doing the will of God and some bad stuff happened. They were doing the will of God and things they didn’t expect to happen happened, things they didn’t want to happen happened.
Do you know what the outcome was? They praised God and they prayed and got an answer. They had compassion on their enemy because when the fella was about to take his life Paul said, “…Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” That was after the earthquake that God sent in answer to prayer. That was after the bands had been loosed and the doors had been opened and they had been set free from their bonds. Do you know what happened? The jailor got saved. His family got saved. Revival broke out in the prison. If you don’t think revival broke out in that prison, just read the text. There was an earthquake and the doors were opened. The bands were loosed. It was midnight. Everybody was at liberty. They could have escaped. The jailor thought they had. “But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” If you don’t think that is a revival, go to any state penitentiary, open the prison doors for about 15 minutes at midnight and see if you can say, “We’re all here.” I’m telling you, they weren’t worried about getting out. They wanted to find out who his God was, but Paul and Silas had to end up in prison for the furtherance of the Gospel. They had to be beaten and suffer hardship for the furtherance of the Gospel.
We’ve been listening to these charismatics so long we start believing the gospel of health, wealth, and prosperity, and if you’re right with God, nothing negative ever happens. That’s not so. Read your Bible. Everybody that is doing the will of God has some things come into their lives that they would not ask for, that they do not enjoy. God never requires you to enjoy the negative things, but He does want you to endure them and stay right with Him. He does want you to come to the conclusion that He’s smarter than you, and there is a Divine design to everything that He permits, and that there is good that will come from this even if you can’t figure it out.
In Daniel chapter 6, the Bible tells us that Daniel was cast into the den of lions, not a lion’s den. It could be an empty lion’s den, but he was dumped into a den of lions. The result was God protected him. I’m sure he had some anxious moments. They kept those lions pretty hungry. If you don’t think they were hungry, when Daniel was taken out and those who accused him were cast in it says that the lions had mastery of them and brake their bones before they hit the bottom of the pit. They didn’t even let them hit the ground before they started devouring them, but they didn’t harm Daniel. Why? Because God has control over all that stuff, but don’t get the idea he didn’t have some anxious moments. He was human like you. He didn’t care much for hungry lions, at least up close and personal. He wasn’t too excited about it. He wouldn’t have asked for that, but that’s what it took. He would not cease praying to save his life. He was willing to put his life on the line. The things that happened unto Daniel being cast into the den of lions, it did have an end. You say, “What happened?” When he got taken back out of the den of lions the king said, “I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.” (Daniel 6:26) It sounds to me like he got saved. If he didn’t, he sure got the fire scared out of him. He got the fear of God put in him, came to the realization that there is a living God. It’s Daniel’s God. Daniel had to go in a den of lions for that to be a reality.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the burning fiery furnace, I don’t imagine they were too excited about that. Another decree came from the king who declared that their God was the living God and it had impacted him. It affected his entire kingdom.
In Ruth 2:3, the Bible tells us when Ruth came back with Naomi “And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers: and her hap was…” Her hap — this just happened. This wasn’t planned. She didn’t know where she was. She had no motive or intention. She wasn’t trying to manipulate any circumstance. It just happened this way, but if you know the program of God you know about Boaz and Ruth. You know it didn’t just happen, but it tells us, “…and her hap was to light on a part of the field belonging unto Boaz, who was of the kindred of Elimelech.” The seedline of the Saviour. This Gentile girl got in right there. It wasn’t an accident, folks. There was design to it. As far as she was concerned it was her hap. She didn’t plan it, didn’t know what was planned. She just went out and found a place where she could glean after the reapers. God made sure she landed in the right spot.
The Lord knows what He is doing in our lives. Sometimes it’s our hap to suffer. Sometimes it’s our hap to prosper. Sometimes it’s our hap to be in a place, we don’t even know why we’re there. Certainly it’s our hap to be in a circumstance we can’t figure out and say, “I don’t know what good could come of this. I can’t see any good reason.”
Romans 11:25 talks about the blindness of Israel as a nation. “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” They’re blind. It’s kind of frustrating. I’ve been to Israel a couple times and tried to talk to some Jews. You can’t talk to them. It’s easier to talk to just about anybody than to talk to a Jew about the Gospel. They’re blind. They can’t see, but could I tell you the church age falls in that blind spot for them. God extended His grace to us. He’s coming back to them. Don’t worry about it. He hadn’t forgotten them. They’re still His chosen nation.
I’ve been working on a sermon on this subject, but I really believe a lot of the circumstances we’re facing with the weather and all these hurricanes, tornados, and natural disasters and earthquakes, we’ve been messing with that little nation of Israel. The Bible talks about the dividing of the land, and when you divide the land it’s going to bring judgment. That’s this road map. We just need to mind our own business and let them kill their own terrorists. Those Palestinians are a bunch of squatters from eight or nine countries. There are no Palestinian people. I defy you to find their history. It started in modern times with Yasser Arafat. They have no history beyond him. If you check their heritage, they come from eight or nine different Muslim nations. They didn’t live there once and were thrust out and came back to reclaim what was taken. They came as squatters to try to take away what was rightfully Israel’s. We need to stay out of that. That’s not our business. You let that sovereign nation take care of it. We start tampering trying to get Israel to give away what God placed in their hand, and God is going to deal with us. You mark her down. He’s serious about that little nation of Israel. We didn’t threaten them militarily. We just put so much financial pressure on them they went ahead and yielded. I believe we’re under judgment today because of that. Maybe it will bring us to repentance. Maybe it will bring a national revival. Maybe God will use some of these negatives to bring to pass the furtherance of the Gospel in America. We’ve just about become a heathen nation. We’re in a tragic state. I’ve never seen so much apathy and indifference among the people of God. Just total unconcern, everything else is more important. They squeeze God in on occasion, if they don’t have anything else to do, but everything else is back burner. We’re in a bad way spiritually in America, but that blindness was for the church age. He said, “…blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
In I Corinthians 10:11, speaking of the judgment of God on Israel He says, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” He said that everything that happened to the Old Testament Jew in judgment was done for an example to us and they’re written for our admonition. The reason God judged them was to give us fair warning, and He put it in Scripture so we’d know, so we’d be admonished by it. It was an example to us and an admonishment to us.
Do you remember the blind man in John chapter nine? The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Why is that man blind? Because of his sin or his parents’ sin?”
Jesus said, “Neither.” He wasn’t saying that the man or his parents had not sinned. He said that the affliction wasn’t because of sin. Do you know what He told them? “This man’s affliction is for the glory of God.” He said, “He had to be blind so I could heal him and show the power and glory of God.” This fella at random, it wasn’t because of something he had done wrong. It wasn’t because God was angry with him. This man had to be blind. It just was his hap to be blind, so that the Lord Jesus could give glory to the Father.
The truth is things don’t just happen, folks. I’ve broken down all over the world. I told my wife years ago, “Honey, I am going to get an airplane license.” She was serious. She said, “I’m not flying with you.” I said, “Why?” She said, “Every thing you get in breaks down. I want to break down on the ground.” So I never went and got my pilot’s license. That’s why I’m still alive.
I broke down everywhere in the world. You name it. I can show you spots all the way across 70 and 76 and 40. I’ve got spots all over the place, towns where I’ve been towed in, lost the rearend of the vehicle, lost the transmission, lost a clutch, lost the engine, lost a wheel. I’ve had preacherboys change tires and go ten miles and have wheels flying down through the median because they didn’t tighten the bolts. I’ve broken down all over the place, but do you know what? I have won people to Christ all over the place when I’ve been broke down. I didn’t always handle it real well. I don’t like this stuff. How dare God mess with my plans?
I was supposed to be in Phoenix for a Revival Fires Conference. I went to Martinsburg to catch my airplane. They told me that I wasn’t on the list. I said, “I’ve got to be on the list. Right here is my ticket. I bought it two months ago.”
They said, “Something happened and there is a glitch in the computer. You’re not in there.” I said, “You’ve got to get me on the plane.” They said, “We can’t. It’s full. There is another one going out in two hours.” I said, “Look, you’ve got to get me on this airplane.”
They told me that they’re not going to get me on the airplane. I was mad — I mean righteously indignant. I went over and sat down and crossed my arms and pouted. I was mad. Finally they got me on the next airplane, flew me to Pittsburgh. It was already clear. I’m not going to make it. I’m the main speaker in a Revival Fires Conference, co-hosting it. I’m not going to get there. I was mad. “You bunch of dumb bells. They can’t even keep your name in the computer. Throw the stinkin thing out and write it on a piece of paper.” I flew to Pittsburgh and they put me on this plane to Phoenix. Every seat is full. They jammed me in a seat on the aisle. There is a guy beside me and a guy at the window. The guy in front of me decides he wants to lay on my lap. He lays his seat down. Then the stewardess comes back the aisle and jams the cart up against my arm. She said, “Would you like something to eat?”
I said, “What would I do with it, sit it on his head? No, I don’t want anything to eat. I just want to get where I’m going.” I had a wonderful spirit She said, “Would you like something to drink?”
I thought about that for a minute. “Yes, Ma’am, I’ll take a cup of coffee.” She sat a cup of coffee down there. You’ve got to understand this guy is laying on me. I’ve got somebody tight against me on this side and the cart is here. I can’t touch my coffee. I’m just looking at it. The girl working the rows behind me tells the girl up in the front, “I need two bottles of wine.” She picks them up by the small neck and hands them to the girl back here who grabs them by the bottom and when she squeezed, they popped up in the air. I could see it happening, but I couldn’t do a thing about it. They hit my coffee and dumped the whole cup of hot coffee on my leg, and down on my seat. She said, “Oh, oh, I’m sorry.”
I said, “That fixed everything. It’s okay now. You’re sorry.” I’m soaked in coffee, missing my engagement. Then the fella beside me tried to console me. He said, “The same thing happened to me last week.” I said, “Really?” I wouldn’t even speak to him. I got great comfort out of the fact that somebody dumped coffee. I don’t care what happened to you last week. I’m sitting there stewing. I was just mad. I’m not talking to nobody. I’m sitting on the airplane and the Lord just smote my heart.
He said, “Dummy, what are you going out there to Phoenix for?” “I’m going out there to preach and try to challenge them people to be soulwinners and live for God.” “Like you’re doing?” “Well, you know.” I said, “Okay, Lord, ease up. I’ll talk to him.” Finally I turned to talk to this guy. I said, “Have you ever been saved?” He said, “What do you mean saved?”
I pulled my New Testament out and showed the old boy how to get saved.”
He got under conviction and just started sobbing. I said to him, “Now if you want to trust Christ, I’ll help you with a word of prayer, but you’ve got to mean it.” He said, “Okay.” I said, “Lord Jesus.” He yelled, “Lord Jesus!” Passengers are trying to get out on the wing, afraid to get contaminated by religion. The old boy got saved. He had been a Catholic. He was sitting there sobbing. He said, “You know. Now I’m ashamed of myself.” I said, “Why is that?” He said, “My first wife died a couple years ago. I wouldn’t let her go anywhere but the Catholic church. She never heard this.” I said, “Hopefully somebody told her sometime. I can’t promise you they did, but hopefully somewhere somebody told her about Christ and she got saved.”
About that time we landed. I stood up and got out of my seat, and out of my coffee. I stepped back so he could get out. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a hundred dollar bill and stuck it in my pocket. He said, “There you go, young man.” By the way, when I started talking to him, I asked what he was going to Phoenix for? He said, “I’m going to a Nascar race. He was an older guy, retired. He said, “I build seating. I put the seating in nine Nascar Supertracks. I have free passes for life to all of them. I’m just going to watch a race.”
Seriously what happened to me was I had a plan. My plan was to get on the first flight and get to Phoenix on time to preach. God said, “I’ve got a more important plan for you. There is a 78-year-old man that is lost on his way to Hell. He’s a Catholic and nobody will talk to him. I’m going to cancel your flight, and jam you on a plane next to him so you can talk to that guy.” God had to drag me through the mud and dump coffee on my lap so the guy would talk to me, since I wouldn’t talk to him.
The things that have happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. It messed up my plan and ruined my day, but it made that man’s day once I finally got my heart right with God. Now I know you’re a lot more spiritual than me. You don’t get mad about stuff when it doesn’t go your way, right? I was having what I thought was a bad day, but it wasn’t the devil. God had a plan and somebody had to mess up the computer, bump me off of my flight, so I’d end up in that plane. When I got on there, I was so stinkin mad and rebellious I wouldn’t talk to the guy. So God dumped coffee on my lap, and when He dumped coffee on my lap, that guy talked to me and I still wouldn’t talk to him.
“What are you trying to say, Preacher?” I’m trying to tell you it wasn’t what I planned. God altered my plans and it just happened that way, but it didn’t just happen. The things that happened happened for the furtherance of the Gospel. If you cooperate with God, some good will come of all that stuff. Wouldn’t it be sad if you go through all that for the furtherance of the Gospel and you never further the Gospel? Wouldn’t it be sad if you get so upset about the circumstances that take place in your life, but you don’t complete the task that God put you in that circumstance to complete? Wouldn’t it be bad when you missed the whole purpose for the problem, and you still go through the hardship and nothing good happens?
About a month ago, I was trying to get to Memphis, Tennessee, and preach for Dr. Ron Westmoreland. I left here and flew to Philadelphia. When I got to Philadelphia, a storm blew in. I couldn’t get there. “What did you do?” I probably handed out 70 tracts. I witnessed to every gate agent, everybody else cussing. Do you know what they did? They sent me back home. Trip in vain. It wasn’t in vain. That’s the way they marked my ticket — trip in vain — no charge. They flew me back to Harrisburg. Brother Mark Mahan had to come get me at midnight. You say, “What happened? What good?” I don’t know. God flew me there and it wasn’t to get me to Memphis, because if He wanted me in Memphis I would have found a way to get to Memphis. I tried every option. If it had been up to me, I would have stayed at the house. I don’t have many days at the house. I would have rather stayed home than flown to Philadelphia and back at midnight. But the truth is something good will come of that. I may not know what it is till the Judgment Seat of Christ, but I witnessed to a dozen people. I handed out 70 tracts. It was a trip in vain according to their programming, but it wasn’t in vain.
“Well, it just happened.” It did, but things don’t just happen. Whatever God allows in your life is for the furtherance of the Gospel. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
by Dr. Bob Smith
Dr. Bob Smith is the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas
“Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin. Selah. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease. Wilt thou be angry with us for ever? wilt thou draw out thine anger to all generations? Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalms 85:1-6)
I believe the greatest need of our churches today is not more buildings or more buses. It’s not even more people. (Sometimes I think we’ve got too many of the kind we’ve got!) Our greatest need is for revival. For ten years I traveled across America in full-time evangelism. My goal in each meeting was for God to help me to see revival in the preacher. You see, no matter what happens in the church, if revival doesn’t come to the pulpit, it’s not going to last long in the church. Oh, there is such a need once again for old-fashioned, Bible-believing, fundamental, Baptist, soulwinning churches to be revived. We’re still doing the right things, going through the motions, but we’ve lost the joy of it. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”
This Psalm was written shortly after the 70 years of captivity in Babylon had ended. Israel had been far away from God, as far as a backslidden nation could get. This nation of God’s people, who believed in the One true God, had turned to worship idols. Because of Israel’s idolatry, God had raised up the nation of Babylon to bring judgment to sinning Israel. For 70 years they were chastened and humbled before God, and they cried out to Him for mercy and deliverance. For 70 years this backslidden people had endured the judgment of God until their sin of idolatry had been purged from their lives.
Now they’ve just been released from 70 years of captivity and they’re returning to their homeland. But God also wanted them to return to Him, as well. By the way, as you study prophecy, you have to look hard to find America in the future. Oh, yes, I believe a student of the Word of God can show you where she is, but I wonder what our future really does hold for us. As we turn away from God and away from the Word of God to live our own lives and pursue our own interests, I wonder what nation God is preparing to bring such judgment to this land. Don’t think that we’re immune. Don’t think that we are better than Israel and God would not chastise us. Don’t think that because you’re a fundamental, independent, premillennial, Bible-believing Baptist that God won’t chastise us because of our backsliding. Our sin is just as rotten in the sight of God as the sin of any people.
Psalm 85 is a song the people are singing. Scripture tells us that during the captivity, these Israelites had hung their harps on the willows. Israel was a singing people, but long before they were in captivity they had lost their song. Sin and idolatry had stolen it away from them. Now after 70 years of living as captive slaves in a strange, pagan land, they’re released and going back to their homeland, and they’re singing and praising God again. What will it take for us to get our song back? Have you lost your song? You can tell a lot about a person by listening to him sing. I believe we live on the level of the music we listen to. How we sing and to whom we sing reveals a lot about our heart and our relationship with God. Look at the Psalm they were singing. Remember they had turned away from God to idols, and now they are returning to their homeland, to their God, and singing once again. Our worship, our praise, our thanksgiving, our singing ought not just be about Him. It ought to be to Him. Whether we be a choir at church or a person singing a solo or a duet from the platform, we ought to be singing to Him, not just entertaining people.
Notice what they were singing, rejoicing over God’s forgiveness of their sin. “Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land: thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people,…” The most singing people in the world ought to be fundamental Baptist people who know they’re saved and can shout on purpose instead of having to shout on credit. Most of the shouting religions don’t even know for sure they’re saved, but these folks were singing and rejoicing over God’s forgiveness of their sins. They understood that when God forgives sin, He covers it, blots it out, never to be remembered again. Notice, “… thou hast covered all their sin.” That verse alone ought to be enough to bring revival! However, we’ve gotten to the place, we don’t act like we’ve got sin anymore. We act like we were born holy and we’ve always been holy. God picked me up out of the gutter. If God gave me the best I deserve, it would be Hell. But thank God because of His amazing grace and His redeeming love, the only thing I’ll ever know about Hell is what I read in the Bible. My sin is not only forgiven, but it’s covered, blotted out, never, ever to be remembered again.
They also understood that when God forgives sin, the wrath of God against that sin is taken away. That’s what it says in verse three. “Thou hast taken away all thy wrath: thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.” Do you understand if you’re saved today, the closest thing to Hell you’ll ever know is right here in this life? After this life, it’s Heaven. It’s glory hallelujah time. When sinners are purified, God is pacified.
Look at their song in verse four. “Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger toward us to cease.” They understood that when sin is forgiven, God is no longer angry with the sinner.
Now God’s people are praying for revival. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Notice the word again. I’m not a great student. I’m a country boy that’s been transported to the city. I was born on a farm in Myrtle Springs, Texas. I like what the old country preacher said about this. He said, “I know this is for Christians, because you can’t get revived, if you’ve never been vived.” The Psalmist is saying, “The fire is gone out. Would You light the fire again?” Would you stir the soul again?” Let me tell you a simple definition of revival. A revival is simply coming back to the place as a Christian where God can fill you with His Holy Spirit once again. Revival is getting right with God.
We read in Ephesians 5:18 where He tells us, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;” But we fail to read the preceding verses where He tells us to get sin out of our life. He even goes so far as to say, “Don’t even let it be mentioned or named among you. Get busy serving God, and redeem the time, and live in the will of God.” Then we can experience the filling of the Holy Spirit. God’s not going to fill us to continue in our backslidden ways. He’s looking for a consecrated vessel, a dedicated vessel, a clean vessel, a useable vessel, an available vessel. There was a time when they were right with God and on fire for God, but idolatry had put out the fire. Worldliness, carnality puts out the fire of God in our lives.
You can throw dirt on a fire, and it will put it out every time. The dirt of sin will put out the fire of revival in your life and in your heart. Sin separates us from God and His blessings. They once served God, but now they were cold and empty, like so many Christians today who used to serve God. Now after captivity, after God dealing with their backslidden heart for all these years, after most dying in captivity, they’ve gotten over their idolatry and gotten right and come back to God. They’re crying out, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” When we backslide we lose our relationship with God. We don’t lose our sonship; we lose our fellowship. We lose our power. We lose His blessings. We lose our usefulness to God.
When we get away from God, we also lose our happiness, our song, our laughter, and our joy. Do you know the reason there is no excitement in the average church today? It’s because there is no joy. We need revival that will put the joy back in our heart. I’m not talking about one of these foolish revivals of laughter that’s going around, that un-Biblical, un-Christian nonsense where they bark like dogs and laugh. No, I’m talking about a joy unspeakable and full of glory that floods our soul, that comes only when God and His Holy Spirit takes the driver’s seat of our life.
I have the privilege of pastoring an exciting church. In 18 years we’ve seen people saved and baptized every week but one Sunday. But yet, I know my people, and I know there are areas in my church where we need revival. I’ve watched some cool off, then it’s not long until I’m counseling marriage problems or children problems. Some are now doing things they once gave up at an altar for God. Others are content now to do nothing, when they used to be faithful servants. Still others are beginning to miss some services. This grieves the pastor and breaks your heart. You see them beginning to slip and you preach your heart out and do everything you know how to stop it, but there is nothing you can do until they fall on their face and cry out, “Oh, God, Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” I suspect even in this Wednesday night crowd, there are some preachers and laymen, some men and women, some Bible college students and some teenagers that need revival down deep in their soul. You’re not what you ought to be. You’re not what you used to be. You’re not what you could be. You go through some motions, but the joy is gone. Oh, may God bring us back to that place where more than bread to eat or air to breathe, we want His presence, His power, His touch, His breath upon our life. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”
Consider some things with me, some false ideas about a God sent revival.
#1. A revival is not something you can schedule on a calender, nor is it something an evangelist can bring with him in his suitcase. It’s not just a series of meetings and sermons. Now sometimes revival comes when that takes place, but not always. Most of the great revivals in history started before the preacher got there because people began to get right with God and began to pray and cry out for God to change their heart and change their life. A revival is a return to the place where the Holy Spirit of God can fill us with His power and take control of our lives again.
By the way, who is in charge of your life, preacherboy? Who is in charge of your life, pastor, evangelist, missionary? Who is running the show in your life, church member? Before God can fill us with His Spirit, we’ve got to give Him charge of our lives once again.
#2. Revivals do not always produce good feelings at first. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Joy does not always come immediately. In the process of revival taking place, God must deal with us about our sin. Because we’re stiff-necked and hard-hearted and rebellious, God has to deal harder and harder.
When I was a boy growing up, Daddy would first say, “Son.” That ought to have been enough. When it ended up, he grabbed me by the arm and took me to the barn and took the lines off the harness and tore my hide up. It hurt. Sometimes God has to tear our hides up before He can get our attention. Revival doesn’t always bring shouting right away. Most of the time it brings weeping and sorrow and grieving over sin. But you see, we don’t grieve over sin anymore because we’re fundamental Baptists. We seem to think it’s not all that bad if I do it. Learn this truth, friend. Sin is not bad because of its name or the number of sins that you commit. Sin is bad because of its nature. It is rebellion against God. It’s rotten and hellish in His sight. Revival doesn’t always come when we want it to come, or the way we want it to come.
Revival is never on man’s terms. It’s always on God’s terms. God has given us instruction in His Word, “This is the way to have revival.” But we seem to have the opposite in mind. “God, You either do it my way or else”. God is not going to compromise one principle of His Word to send revival to our backslidden souls. If we want revival, then we’ve got to come back to God and His Word and seek revival His way. The most popular verse about revival in the Bible is II Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” We preach against the NIV’s and the American Standard’s and all of those other perversions of Scripture, and we should. But when we read our King James we change it. We want it to say, “If My people which are called by My name… then I will hear from Heaven and forgive your sins.”
God says, “There are five things My people have to do if I’m going to visit them with a Holy Ghost revival.” Boy, the first one is hard for us fundamental Baptists. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves,…” Most of us have so little humility. If somebody gave us a badge for being humble, we’d gladly wear it. If My people humble themselves.
“…and pray,…” Uh, oh, there’s the killer in the average Baptist church. “…and pray,…” I can get a crowd with a dinner. I can get a good crowd with a conference. But you call a prayer meeting and you have to work hard to get enough to qualify for Jesus’ presence, ‘where two or three are gathered together.’ Someone said, “The crowd on Sunday morning reveals the popularity of the church in its community. The crowd on Sunday night reveals the popularity of the preacher in the church, but the crowd at prayer meeting reveals the popularity of Jesus Christ in our lives.” We want revival, but we want it on a garage sale basis — cheap. We’re just not willing to pay the price. I was in Mexico one time and heard a salesman saying, “Cheap crosses, cheap crosses.” The cross didn’t come cheap, and revival doesn’t come cheap, either.
“…humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face,…” We seek His blessings, but He says, “…seek my face,…” Paul didn’t say, ‘Oh, that I might know your blessings.’ Paul said, “That I may know him…” Seek His face. The world in lust looks at a woman’s body. A man in love looks at the face of his wife. A Christian in love with Jesus wants that face-to-face relationship. Seek My face — a love relationship with Jesus.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways;…” Leave them behind. It’s not just saying what you did wrong, but it’s breaking ties with it. Israel did not get their song back as long as they held on to their idols. It took them 70 years to turn from their wicked idolatry, but now they’re coming back home, singing again to the one true God. “…turn from their wicked ways…”
“…then…” Circle it. Then, not until, “…then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” We’re fighting homosexuality and abortion and un-Biblical unions. We’re preaching and skinning, and we ought to. We want them to turn from their wicked ways, but what sin are you holding on to today that you’re not willing to turn away from? And we want revival? Why should God answer our prayers, when we don’t think our sins are all that bad? We are no different than these backslidden church members who don’t think their sins are all that bad. They have no understanding of the Word of God and evidently we don’t either, or we’d realize how rotten sin is to the sight of God, even our sins, preachers and leaders. “…turn from their wicked ways…”
Realize that a revival requires a return to God. Let me just give three or four things quickly in reference to this.
#1. Revival is a return to Christ as our first love. Now I have to be careful or I’ll get in the flesh over this. I’ve heard right here in this service several cell phones going off. At Dr. Hyles funeral I sat in the auditorium. Three cell phones went off during the funeral, and people pulled them out and answered them, and carried on a conversation in the auditorium during the funeral. We come to church and leave our cell phone clipped on. Let me ask you. If you were going deer hunting, would you climb up in your deer stand with your cell phone on? No, it would scare off the deer. There wouldn’t be a deer within 50 miles of my deer stand. Deer hunting is important enough to turn off your cell phone, right? But you come to church with your cell phone on, and it rings, and you get up and leave church to answer it. You’re not coming to church to meet with God. He’s not first in your life. Somebody is more important than God because we clipped it on our belt and left it on, where we can hear from them. We may never hear from God. I hate those phones. One went off not long ago during the invitation on Sunday morning. I said, “Sir, it’s God telling you that you ought not come to church with that cell phone on.” We talk about wanting a relationship with Him, but we can’t even get through a church service without the phone pulling us away. What’s worse is we leave God to answer some dumb salesman, or some crazy neighbor or friend that’s not even in church. You say, “Preacher, I’m a doctor.” Then put the thing on vibrate. Sit at the back, and when it vibrates, slip out the door before you answer it. I promise you, there is nothing happening in my life or in my church more important than God visiting with me in the midst of a preaching service. We are never going to have revival until we turn that dumb thing off and tune in to God. I’m talking about a return to Christ. I’m also talking about having enough respect for the house of God and the Word of God to turn off your phone for an hour and tune in to what’s going on right here. We’ve left our first love.
I promise you when I got married and got to spend some time with my bride, the phone wasn’t going to interrupt me. If your love relationship with Him is what it ought to be, you’ll make sure the phone doesn’t keep you from Him. If there is going to be a revival, there has got to be a return to our first love. It’s got to be Jesus. It can’t be gadgets. It’s got to be Jesus. It can’t be a fad. Fundamentalists are fools for fads. We forsake the Word of God and the methods of God for the latest fad coming out of California, or somewhere else. Stick with the Book and the methods of God and the programs of God. Revival is a return to Christ as first love.
#2. Revival is a return to the first Book. There are people in our churches who read through the entire newspaper every morning. I promise, if you’ll read through a newspaper, the size of the newspaper in Louisville, it would be nearly equivalent to reading through the New Testament every morning. Let me tell you our sin, we who are fundamental Baptists, the preacher’s sin. We read all the books about the Bible. Now we’ve got all the programs we can put on our little computer, to read all the commentaries and sermons others have preached. Our sin is going to what others say about the Bible and not to God and what He says about the Bible. When we return to our first love, we’ll return to the first Book — the final rule of authority in all matters of faith and practice, the Supreme Court of the Christian life, and there is only one Judge sitting at that bench.
#3. Revival results in a return to the first work. The first work is that of reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we don’t return to Jesus as our first love and return to the Bible as our first Book and return to the first work, that of reaching people with the Gospel, what purpose do we have to exist as a church? Jesus didn’t establish the church so we could have weddings and funerals and baby showers and wedding showers. He established the church and empowered the church and commissioned the church to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. The Great Commission of Jesus Christ tells us that the first work is evangelizing and then baptizing those we win, and teaching those we baptize. We have no right to exist if we haven’t returned to Him as our first love, or if we don’t return to Him as our first love and don’t go to the Book as our first Book and go back to the first work.
Jesus said, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:4-5) You say, “Preacher, I don’t know what that means.” We major on the first part of it. The first love and the first work, but we forget the “or else” part of it. Revelation 1:20 tells us the the candlestick is the church. I think what He’s saying here if we, as a church, don’t return to Him, if we don’t have revival and return to Jesus as our first love and the Bible as the first Book that we love, and to the first work, He’ll yank our charter. I think there are a lot of churches running around with Baptist church on the name, but they’re not His church. He’s removed His candlestick. Yes, they’re having church so called. They’re meeting. They’re having services, but He’s not the first love. The Bible is not the first Book, and they’re not given to the first work. The need today is for God’s people, not the world, not the infidel and in-for-Hell, but for God’s people to cry out, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Revival is a return to the first love, the first Book, the first work.
#4. Revival is a return to right living which is holy living. Holy living is not extraordinary, but normal for the Christian life. Prayer is a part of revival. If you’re going to have revival, it’s got to start with prayer, not praying for others, but praying for yourself first. Isn’t it easy to pray about someone else’s sins? It’s so easy to kneel at an altar and name every sin old Brother So And-So has. It’s not going to help me.
I was preaching a campmeeting down in Georgia one time. A little old woman came from out of the mountains. Her Bible had a string tied around it because it was just worn out and in pieces. Her husband came with her, and he got right with God that night. He said, “Preacher, I just drew a circle, got in it, and said, “God, the problem with our church is inside this circle. Would You straighten out that sinner inside this circle? Would You forgive me?” If we’re going to have a revival it’s going to be connected with prayer that first turns its attention on our own careless, carnal lives. We need to pray as David prayed in Psalm 51, “Forgive me,” as he prayed in Psalm 139, “Search me,” as David prayed in Psalm 51:2, “Cleanse me.” When true revival comes, God’s people will not only want forgiveness, they’ll want cleansing from their sins. Most of us just want God to forgive us as we go on in our wickedness. Cleansing washes it from us. How can dirty Christians have fellowship with a holy God? To walk with God there has got to be agreement, and the first thing we’ve got to agree on is sin. The first thing a sinner and God have got to agree on in the matter of salvation is sin. We’ve got to know that we’ve been cleansed by the blood of Christ first and foremost. This brings forgiveness of our sin and covers our sin in God’s sight.
Secondly, there needs to be the kind of cleansing that we do when we clean up our old rotten life, the dirty corners, instead of kicking it under the rug. Get it out of the house. Clean up. Turn from their wicked ways. We can’t ignore our sin and have revival.
Revival will result in a desire for God to use me. “…Here am I; send me.”
There are some visions we need on the road to revival. I’m not talking about this spooky, charismatic vision type stuff. I’m talking about the Bible type where it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish:…” (Proverbs 29:18) The Biblical interpretation of that verse is this: Where there is no divine revelation from God, the people perish. We need some understanding from the Book. We need to see things once again through God’s eyes, through the Bible picture that He paints for us. As Bible believers there is one fundamental rule. We don’t go to Hollywood for our Bible knowledge. We go to the Book. Now I’m grateful when God will use anything to get somebody saved or get them interested in salvation.
I had a phone call last week from a person that got saved 20 years ago in our ministry but had never really done anything with their life. They said, “Preacher, we’re in this church that took us all to see that movie, ‘The Passion of Christ.’ I was amazed because when I got saved, you painted the picture of Calvary in more vivid details than they showed it.” Where do you get the understanding of what Calvary was like? Not from Hollywood, not from a Catholic, but from the Book that paints the complete picture and tells the complete story. There are some visions we need on the road to revival. The first one is the vision of the crucified and exalted Christ. Yes, He came. Yes, He died. Yes, He was buried and yes, thank God, He arose again, but it didn’t stop there. Before He came down here in the form of a man, He was God. He was God eternal and God holy and God everlasting from that way in eternity to that way in eternity, everlasting.
Now then, He’s in Heaven. He ascended back to the Father and the vision we ought to have of Him is painted by John in Revelation 5:6. “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” Seated at the right hand of God, the King of glory, God eternal, holy, holy, holy, God because of us is now in the form of a man that’s been crucified. He appears as a bloody Lamb that’s been to the slaughter. Did it ever occur to you that the only man made thing that I know that’s going to be in Heaven are the scars in His hands and feet and brow and side? We need a vision of Christ exalted. Angels fall down before Him. Seraphims and Cherubims stand amazed in His presence with their face covered, and we treat Him so carelessly and flippantly. He never died for them, never gave one penny for them, but He took on our form and came down to this old wicked world and died in our place and endured the wrath of God against our sin in His own holy person, so you and I wouldn’t have to go to Hell. We need a vision of Christ exalted, high and lifted up, as that Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
We need a vision of sinners perishing in the lake of fire. Yes, we believe in Hell, but we don’t live like it. We don’t act like it. We don’t preach like it.
I was in a lawyer’s office one day and he leaned across the desk and said, “Preacher, what ever happened to Hell?”
I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Nobody ever preaches about it.”
I said, “Let me tell you what’s happened to it. The Bible says, ‘Therefore hell hath enlarged herself,…’ (Isaiah 5:14) There are more people going there every day, but we don’t preach about it. It’s not politically correct anymore.” John, once he got a glimpse in Revelation of that lake of fire, was never the same again. We need an understanding, a Bible vision of sinners perishing in Hell forever and ever and ever. Most everything we know about Hell came from the lips of Jesus Himself. Jesus said in Mark 9 that if your hand offends you, if your hand keeps you from getting saved and causes you to go to Hell, you’d be better off to cut off your hand and go through life with one hand maimed than go to Hell where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. If your foot offends you, if your foot hinders you from getting saved and living for God, you’d be better off to take an ax and cut off your foot and go through life lame and hobbled, rather than going to Hell with two feet, where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies. Then He said that if your eye offends you, if your eye keeps you from getting saved, you’d be better off stick your fingers in the socket and tear your eye out and throw it to the ground and go through life with one eye and get saved, rather than go to Hell with two eyes, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Yet, we’re coming to the place where we’re following the lead of the liberal Baptists that are taking the fire out of Hell, and now it’s just separation from God. Friend, we need a vision of the lake of fire and lost sinners perishing in Hell.
Lastly, we need a vision of a church that’s empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, a revived church. You say, “Where do I get that vision?” Acts 2 lets us know that it was a powerful church, where souls were won daily. Acts 4, it was a church in unity and unselfish in their giving. Acts 13, it was a church were men were being called out to the ministry. Does that describe your church? A church on fire with the power of God, a church where souls are getting saved daily, a church in unity that is unselfish and sacrificial in its giving, a church where men are being called out to preach the Gospel and go as missionaries, or is it a church that just meets? It had a lot of cell phones go off, but God never shows up. No longer are there wet spots at the altar from the tears of God’s people. You seldom have to worry about the baptistry heater burning out because you don’t ever use it. You don’t have to worry about repainting because there are not enough coming to church to make hand marks on the wall, or wear out the pews. Folks, it doesn’t have to be that way, if we’d come back to Him. Churches don’t have to be dead and dried up and sour-pussed.
“Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Boy, it’s wonderful when God shows up. It’s wonderful when people weep their way back into His fellowship. It’s wonderful when husbands and wives are getting right with each other and committing to raise their families for God. It’s wonderful when adults as well as children are making their way to the baptistry to get ready for baptism because they got saved. It’s wonderful when 10 and 15 and 20 and 30 young men and young ladies are surrendering their lives to God for His special use every year. It’s wonderful. It can happen, but not until God shows up. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” Rejoice in Thee, not in things. Rejoice in Him. It’s about Him, not us. “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”
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