C. How to Seek Revival
f. Rejoice in suffering
One thing we can expect if we major on persistent prayer and preparation for Revival is that we will face opposition and suffering. The reason for this is that a central preparation for Revival is to grow in holiness and Paul writes “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12). This will include negative opposition from other people (including Christians sometime) but also other suffering – the devil persecuting us, so to speak. Sometimes the Lord will remove the suffering in answer to prayer. At other times he will give us the victory within the suffering.
Suffering furthers our growth in holiness
However, there is a very positive side to this suffering – it will further our growth in holiness and so our preparation for Revival. Allowing us to suffer is an essential part of God’s training in holiness. Allowing suffering is a divine discipline. In this God is like a good parent. The writer to the Hebrews says “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:7-11).
Paul says “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom 5:3-4). James writes ““Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
Suffering will also strengthen our faith if we respond properly to it. Faith is crucial to prayer and preparation for Revival. We need to believe for a major answer to prayer – Revival. During the time I have been focussing on Revival, to begin with, I regarded opposition and other stressful problems as hindrances to prayer for Revival. Then I began to realise that I had misunderstood. Actually God wanted to strengthen my faith (and so my faith in prayer for Revival) through enabling me to respond properly to such difficulties. They were not hindrances (although I needed to ensure I didn’t spend too much time on them), they were potential steps forward towards Revival.
Paul explains: “In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 1:7-10). He had learnt the lesson that rightly responding to suffering strengthened his faith and made him more effective in serving God.
Undeserved suffering is participating in Christ’s suffering
One great encouragement when we face suffering is that we are being identified with the One who suffered infinitely more than we do – Jesus himself. As Paul puts it “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Php 3:10). Jesus warned us “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also” (John 15:20). Peter writes “If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:20-21).
We are suffering for Christ “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Php 1:29). In fact Paul writes that our relatively tiny sufferings are making up for what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings. “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col 1:24). He is certainly not saying Christ’s atoning death for us is incomplete. What he is saying is that he has suffered so greatly for our salvation but his mission cannot be completed without our suffering too.
It follows that if we are going to dedicate ourselves to persistent prayer and preparation for Revival we need to be spiritually on the alert. As Peter puts it, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
God will bring us through suffering to victory
Another great encouragement in facing suffering is to know that God will give us the victory. He promises that no temptation will be beyond our being able to resist. This obviously includes temptation to sins such as resentment or selfishness. But it also includes temptations to give way to fear and pressure. The Greek for ‘temptation’and ‘tempted’Paul uses in the following verse can also mean ‘testing’and ‘tested’: ““No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). Elsewhere Paul affirms: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Php 4:13).
Peter asks “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened’” (1 Peter 3:13-14). It’s all very well for him to say “Don’t be frightened”, but how do we avoid or stop being frightened? Here are some steps:
- Reflect on how great and loving God is. He loves you infinitely and is infinitely able to help and protect you.
- Reflect on the fact that he has promised to answer prayer, including helping us to endure and overcome opposition and suffering (see above and “Grow in faith”).
- In prayer, deliberately place the threatening circumstances or person in God’s hands. Ask him to deal with the circumstances or person. Resist the temptation to think what you can do to punish or to force your opponent to stop attacking you. That only leads to striving and more stress. If you put them and leave them in God’s hands you will experience peace. (However, if in prayer, having taken these three steps, you sense God is prompting you to take constructive action, do so).
- Resist the devil as he seeks to drag you into fear. If you are consciously submitted to God you can say – forcefully – and maybe repeat “I resist you in Jesus’ name” or “Be gone in Jesus’ name.” (see “Persist in spiritual warfare”)
- Ensure you maintain a right attitude to your opponents otherwise this will undermine your prayers and hinder your victory over the stress and suffering. Jesus says “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Paul adds “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom 12:14) and “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly” (1 Cor 4:12-13).
- Remember that God has said he will reward us for enduring stress, suffering and opposition. Meditate on the following passages:
Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:10-12, 44).
Paul writes “In all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). “God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7). “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Rom 8:17-18).
James adds “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).
Peter says “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:4-7). “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Paul describes how he learnt to rely on God, not human reactions and plans: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (2 Cor 1:8-10).