An Indian pastor’s reflections on revival

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Dr. S. Sam Selva Raj —

Dr. S. Sam Selva Raj

Revival! Over several years we have heard this word widely used regarding refreshing outbreaks of Christianity as Christians find God anew, many new salvations, even healings and miracles.

Recently highlighted was the ‘revival outbreak’ of prayer and worship at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky… experiences of finding of God and His presence afresh – ‘a deeper sense of connection to God and to each other.’ Healings and miracles, thousands of interested visitors even from interstate lining up in the cold weather.

Unfortunately, this meaningful ‘revival’ was short-lived… as were similar Holy Spirit outpourings over the years!

Scriptural?

I searched for the word ‘revival’ in scripture, but could not find it. The closest similarity was the ‘reformation’ brought about by young Josiah – 16th king of Judah. Crowned when only eight years-old, described as a righteous ruler, even as a young boy he ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father’ (2 Chronicles 34:2).

Josiah means ‘God supports and heals’ and verses 3-5 tells that when he was but 16, ‘he began to seek the God of his father David.’ Only 20 years old ‘he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols… the altars of the Baals were torn down; he cut to pieces the incense altars…’ Josiah instituted major religious reforms by removing official worship of any god other than Yahweh.

When he was 26, Josiah cleansed the temple in Jerusalem and ordered it to be repaired (v8). During this renovation, the ‘book of the law’ was found. On hearing it read he ‘renewed the covenant… to follow the Lord and keep His commands, statutes and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant…’ Then Josiah had everyone in Jerusalem pledge themselves also (v31-32a).

Verse 34 says that ‘… he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their ancestors.’

This was a revival, a renewal, a reformation of all in Israel and Judah – who had forgotten about their God, to worship Him only and heed His word… it was a deeply spiritual experience!

Genuine revivals

A study of the word revival is a great learning experience. When people talk about spiritual meetings here in India, these are generally thought of as Gospel Meetings, Revival Meetings or Crusades. In some countries such are simply called ‘Revival.’

Church meetings that see genuine revival is where the Lord pours out His Spirit and prophesies, healings and miracles happen. People are revived in their heart God-wise and His very presence can be felt. Such have been called ‘Latter Rain’ or spiritual revival gatherings. Unsaved people find Jesus as Savior.

‘Revival’ is taken from the Latin language. In English it basically means ‘reawakening.’ ‘Vivo’ means, ‘given life’ or ‘re-attaining life’ or ‘comes to life.’ This means someone re-attains life from the jaws of death. Not raising a dead body; but reviving a person who was immobilized. A person’s heart may stop functioning when he (or she) is struck by a heart attack. But if the heart is revived by emergency treatment, this method of bringing it back to life is called revival (returning to life, recovering life).

For Christians, re-attaining the Christian life is a spiritual ‘reviving’ – the product of the Holy Spirit. Wherever He is permitted to thus work, we find renewed Christians so hungry for ‘more of God,’ for His word and wanting to worship Jesus. And to witness Him! Such ‘revival’ is not a human act, but the Lord’s.

Genuine revival –

  • Helps backsliders come to their senses and get back on the rails.
  • Makes faint saints take wings and come closer to God again.
  • Results in fervent prayer and worship!
  • Sparks a hunger to hear and understand God’s word!
  • Brings about a supernatural awakening.
  • Refires Christians to portray the presence of God in society.
  • Assists remove a nations’ ignorance about the kingdom of God.

For such a ‘blasting’ revival, usual ordinary prayer is not sufficient… we need fervent and extraordinary prayers! And real revival cannot come about by mere modern musical instruments, or by making a lot of noise or innovative dances! It arises by bending our knees and fervent prayer.

Personal experience

Let me share personally here… Chennai, my home city, has been blessed with a large number of churches. But for years some city areas remained unreached. Where our own church was established was one such place. Many a servant of God had concluded that the area could not be reached with the gospel of the Lord.

But God gave me a burden to reach this rejected place by His gospel. To accomplish this, we needed much prayer and tarrying. Finally, the Lord wrought a revival! Large numbers of people who were heading to destruction were met by Jesus through His gospel. Our church came into being! Many people were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and added to our church.

Due to this revival, various nearby cinemas and others places – which were the source of many evils – were demolished and in their place, new buildings sprung up. Many people who indulged in bad habits, violent acts, narcotic addictions, and other abominable acts, changed heart, embraced the living God, joined our church and lived as mighty witnesses to the Lord.

But I ask you to note that this revival was not due to me or my evangelizing alone! It was the result of humble ‘Jesus and His gospel loving Christians,

  • Earnestly seeking God’s blessings,
  • Fervently praying for hours,
  • Seeking truths from God’s word,
  • Joyfully worshipping Him through meaningful hymns and choruses,
  • Sharing the gospel with friends and strangers,
  • Knowing that our God heals and still works miracles… and
  • Believing that the Holy Spirit would act powerfully for us!

As has happened in other nations experiencing evangelistic revival, we firmly established our church, calling ours Echo of His Call ministries. Since those early beginnings, we have spread the gospel of Jesus across various India locations, founded sister churches, established our matriculation school, Bible college, various training programs, especially for young evangelistic Christians, and founded outreaches beyond our nation (such as mentioned at the end of this article).

Please note that we give all praise, honour and glory to God alone! And we yearn for fresh revivals, just not for ourselves but also for others!

Three questions

When revival comes to any nation, we must ponder…

  • Is this latest ‘revival’ a temporary one or a permanent one?
  • How can it be sustained?

History recalls that revivals have taken place in several countries over the decades. For instance, Scotland and Korea.

  1. a) Scotland

John Knox, regarded as the foremost leader of the Scottish Reformation had prayed fervently for the revival of Scotland. And the Lord sent a great revival. As a result, many people accepted Jesus as their personal Savior.

Scotland progressed and there was economic prosperity. Many churches were built and in every place there were prayer meetings and spiritual activities. Large numbers of young men and women repented and came into the fold of the Lord, rejecting luxurious lifestyles, and went out as missionaries to various nations and propagated the gospel. Because of this, in my nation India and other countries a large number of churches, schools and hospitals were built. But… what is the condition of Scotland spiritually today? Certainly not what Knox had prayer for!

When I visited this country recently, I was shocked to learn the number of people practicing Christianity is very small. Many people live without Jesus! Many churches have been sold and are used as idol worship places, or business centers with abominable merchandise, alcoholic showrooms, obscene film screening… or used for other things that I will not mention. A great pity is that some of these buildings still bear the cross symbol!

Invited to share God’s word to the people in a big auditorium, I was shocked when told, ‘Pastor, these people do not know about Jesus or Christianity. Those who did have backslidden. Let your message be the one introducing our living God!’

Though this was very puzzling to hear, when I preached the fundamental gospel of Jesus, a large number of people repented and came forward with tears to accept Him as personal Savior. It was a wonderful sight!

What was the reason for their backsliding? They had lost their first love (Revelation 2:4)! Worldly education, economic prosperity, playful lifestyle, narcotics and such blunted their mind, and they considered prayer-life alien. They also detached holiness from their lives!

  1. b) South Korea

By comparison, this nation continues to witness real revival!

When it was down economy, education and culture-wise, God raised a man, Dr Paul Yonggi Cho. God answered his prayers and sent a mighty revival. Owing to reformations in several other Korean churches, the nation has grown enormously in economy and education in the world arena. Bible-based preachers and God’s people – continued to give importance to prayer without ceasing and practicing holy living and a megachurch was birthed.

Many other megachurches of different denominations have since arisen, all of them with more than 40,000 worshippers every Sunday, some well in excess of 100,000. Prayer still raised to God continuously day and night. By these ceaseless prayers, columns of aroma are sent to heaven non-ceasing (Psalm 141:2).

Such servants of God have not lose their first-love, thirst for prayer, consecration and impact of revival results. They’ve protected such and South Korea has become a nation of excellence. It is not an exaggeration that a great number of God’s followers have sprung up from here and evangelized beyond their nation to turn the world upside down!

The lesson here is…

  • For the pouring out of the mighty revival to occur, fervent prayers are necessary!
  • When it hits, sincere repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior is necessary!
  • Dedicated Christians must pray fervently as it is necessary to safeguard this revival.
  • If we falter, the fire of revival will be quenched.

Our desire should be that the fire in the altar of our heart continues to burn!

In effect that are two sides to a genuine revival! Renewed minds among God’s people, and restoration of God’s presence.

  1. Christians’ minds renewed!

Fervent prayer will bring about a supernatural revival. Paul exhorts us, ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice…  Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Romans 12:1-2).

Nowadays in churches, apostolic spiritual experiences are given a go-by, instead modernism prevails. Many once Jesus-centered churches have been turned from miracle meetings and revival prayer meetings into moneymaking places!

Christians attending prayer meetings must have a burden to pray for real revival! We must pray that violence, corruption and curses will be completely eradicated, and peace and prosperity prevail in our nation. Indeed, every nation today needs a genuine spiritual revival!

First the children of God should submit our lives afresh to the will of God and be transformed by the renewing of our minds, as urged by Paul in Romans 12:2 above.

Unless changes take place in many Christians, many ministries, their prayers, music and dances, ‘prosperity-preaching’, attractive platforms and innovative ministry plans are a mere waste.

We all need to see what the Lord sees wrong in us… and all wrong attitudes in any Christian must go.

  1. God’s presence restored!

Some people only come to church for self-centered prayer, not seeking God! Some souls just listlessly roam from church-to-church! Disappointed, God has taken away His presence.

Strong Bible-based preaching will bring changes in people’s lives – and send Satan  trembling away. So, it is for us to introspect where we have lost the presence of God and how we have allowed apostolic anointing to be taken away from us.

Now is the time to seek God’s intimate presence! The spirit of fervent prayer needs to fill our churches and families afresh! We should cry out for genuine revival when God’s presence, healings and miracles will be experienced in our meetings. The burden on the perishing souls should be heavy on our hearts!

That we should be witness such ‘revivals’ regularly is the reason the Lord has kept us alive during this time in our troubled world. Cast out all ‘dead works and selfish ministries’ and with a burdensome heart pray for a great harvest of genuine revival.

You can strike a spiritual match!

 

Dr S Sam Selva Raj is founder of India’s National Spiritual Newspaper “Echo of His Call”, printed monthly in 16 languages. For over 50 years Dr Sam has overseen many community outreaches blessing thousands, the Chennai church, Nehemiah Bible College, St Paul’s Matriculation School, postal and online Bible correspondence/theological courses. God’s 2023 challenge for Dr Sam’s is daily broadcasting 5-minute messages in Hindi, Tamil and English on YouTube, trusting Him to provide for the costs. Links: [email protected]