HEART CRY FOR REVIVAL
I have been greatly encouraged in my heart cry for revival by reading Jim Cymbala's book Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. This book tells how Brooklyn Tabernacle's spark was almost out. Pastor Cymbala was overwhelmed. How could his little flock of about twenty have a ministry in a neighborhood dominated by drug addicts, drunkards, prostitutes, pimps, the homeless and the hopeless?
When the spark was almost out at Brooklyn Tabernacle the Holy Spirit intervened and "lit a fire that couldn't be quenched." How did this fresh fire descend on this church?
The congregation began to experience fresh fire from almighty God when they devoted themselves to prayer. They prayed with the desperation that came from the conviction that the heavenly life and power of the church and the salvation of the lost depended on reaching God in prayer. He alone could make the impossible happen, not once or occasionally, but continually. Today Brooklyn Tabernacle ministers to thousands. Twelve to fifteen hundred meet there for prayer meeting every week. There are other prayer gatherings in this church that is, indeed, a house of prayer for all nations.
I saw a video with a striking example of God rescuing the perishing through prayer. It happened one evening when a woman came to the prayer meeting broken hearted and desperate. Her husband had been addicted to cocaine for six years. As the church lifted their cry to God to save this man and set him free, he walked in and marched straight down the aisle and fell on his knees in the front of the church. He was saved and liberated from cocaine. In the video I saw this man singing a solo declaring that the blood of Christ had set him free!
I also saw a video with Pastor Cymbala delivering a message to a crowd of 20,000 assembled at a Bill Gaither praise gathering. His spoke on Jesus' words, "My house shall be called a house of prayer". He closed his message by telling how his daughter had gotten away from the Lord. He prayed and labored with all his heart to win her back, but failed. Finally, a lady sent him a note at the Tuesday night prayer meeting. She was calling the church to claim the restoration of this dear young lady. And they did.
Saturday morning she came home in a spirit of humility and repentance. "Who was praying for me Tuesday night?" she asked.
I believe it is significant that God used the prayer of the congregation to draw this girl back to Himself. While it is true that individuals can pray and receive answers, I believe the power of the Holy Spirit was given especially to the church. In Acts 1:8 Jesus was speaking to the church when He said, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." This is the first time that God promised to send the Holy Spirit with power upon an assembly. The assembly prepared for the Spirit to come upon them with power by spending ten days in prayer (Acts1:14-15). We need to study the meaning of "the Holy Spirit coming with power" upon individuals in the Old Testament and upon the congregation in Acts.
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon individuals with power to deliver Israel from bondage to their enemies and to rule Israel for God (Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14; 1 Sam. 10:10; 11:6; 16:13). The Spirit empowered these leaders to do mighty things to fulfill their God given mission. They had to obey God or face the loss of the Spirit's presence with power. The Spirit departed from king Saul because of his disobedience (1 Sam. 16:14).
The key to the Spirit's power upon Samson was his dedication as a Nazarite to a life of obedience to the Lord (Judges 13:7). His long hair was a sign of this commitment. The Spirit came "mightily upon him" again and again (Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14). Samson was used to save his people from bondage to their heathen enemies until he abandoned his commitment to obedience while courting a heathen girl, Delilah. She begged him to tell her the secret of his power. He finally told her his hair was long because of his Nazarite vow. He said, "If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man" (Judges 16:17). She lulled him to sleep, cut his hair and "his strength left him" (16:19). When he awoke to face his waiting captors he said, "'I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!' BUT HE DID NOT KNOW THAT THE LORD HAD DEPARTED FROM HIM." (16:20 emphasis added). Thus this great champion of the faith fell into captivity to his enemies who unmercifully tormented him.
He was revived briefly when his hair grew long again and his commitment to serve God, even if it cost his life, was renewed. "Let me die," he cried to God. Then he pulled the supporting pillars of the Philistine temple down on himself and on a multitude assembled to mock him (16:28-30).
The church today can learn an important lesson from Samson's disobedience and loss of power.
In Acts we see how the Spirit came upon the church with power as Christ promised (Acts 1:8). Three thousand were converted in Acts 2:41. About five thousand men had become believers by chapter 4:4. Add women and children and the total would have been, at least, fifteen thousand. The preaching of the gospel turned the pagan world upside down (Acts 17:6) and nearly ran the idol makers out of business for lack of customers (19:23-29).
The church in North America (with some notable exceptions) has lost the power promised in Acts 1:8 and demonstrated in the remainder of the book. Could this loss of power be due to the fact that the church has ceased to be obedient to the Lord?
Consider our disobedience to His great commission. He commanded, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20 emphasis added).
In North America today you can belong to nearly any church all your life and never be told that you ought to become a disciple and learn to obey all that Christ commanded. The books on discipleship are for the few who want to make some progress in the Christian life. This has created a mixed multitude with little or no concern for obedience to the one we call LORD! A disobedient church cannot receive the promised power of God.
We have also forgotten that the church began as a prayer meeting (Acts 1:14-15). They spent ten days in prayer before they preached, taught, or did anything else. As someone put it, they knew they had to reach God before they could reach the world.
Prayer in Acts is the pattern for the church Christ is building. Note the emphasis on prayer. The church, like the apostles, devoted themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 4:23-33; 6:4; Phil. 4:6-7). There are 38 references to prayer in Acts and every important development in the spread of the gospel began with prayer. For example, note chapter10, chapter 13:1-4 and chapter 16, to name a few instances. The church was a house of prayer. Prayer was their lifeline to their living Head in heaven and the secret of the release of His life and power through the church.
Jim Cymbala wrote, "The work of God can only be carried on by the power of God. The church is a spiritual organism fighting spiritual battles. Only spiritual power can make it function as God ordained." He asks, "Are you and I seeing the results that Peter saw? If not, we need to get back to his power source."
(Page 97, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala, Zondervan Publishing House).
You may order a copy of Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire from Bible Prayer Fellowship for $12.00 including shipping and handling or you can buy it in a Christian book store.
By Oliver W. Price, General Director and Minister at Large, Bible Prayer Fellowship