Some years ago, I was amazed that all three contestants aced final Jeopardy! by correctly identifying “the most famous sermon in American history,” as Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. The “First Great Awakening” was sweeping through the colonies when Jonathan Edwards famously preached it as a “rude awakening” to a complacent congregation in Enfield, CT, on July 8, 1741. It literally scared the hell out of them. God’s wrath against sin was poured out on our Substitute nailed to a cross, so we might want to go easy on fiery revivalists while we let Hebrews 10:31 speak to us, “It is a fearful [terrifying, terrible, scary] thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Whether we like it or not, “revival” smacks of death and “great awakening” of sleep, so for shock value we might picture the “Slumber Room” at an Enfield mortuary. To save my skin, no-nonsense Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…” He went on in verse 3 to lump himself in with us as “children of wrath, even as the rest,” having indulged “the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” In chapter 4:6 the Apostle warned again of the wrath of God and how it will affect the “sons of disobedience” who have been “deceived with empty words.” Verse 14 finally has us turn a pivotal corner, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” As those familiar with the accounts of Christ’s Transfiguration and His agony in Gethsemane, we might want to remember that Peter, John, and James fell soundly asleep in close proximity to the personified Light of the World. I consider this a gentle reminder to stay prayerfully alert, given my weak flesh that sabotages the willing spirit.
One of my favorite theologians in the 1980’s was D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. His thoughts on power and renewal in the Holy Spirit awakened a personal desire for revival in me, prompting me to write something in that vein. An evangelist I knew asked to borrow the manuscript and one Sunday morning left it by accident on a bus bench in midtown. A street person noticed it, borrowed bus fare to Hollywood, asked at church for me, and hand-delivered my “important papers” in the basement Prayer Room. I gave Shane Peoletti all the cash I had and blessed him for his heroic kindness. Funny how I still remember his name, but not what happened to my project. I did publish a devotional book with 13 selections listed under Revival in the topical index, and had fun putting in this teaser for one in particular, “A Jesus ‘uprising’ calls for the upright, not the upset.”
In the summer of 2018 Pastor Jim granted my request to invite a few “certain women” to meet with me for biweekly prayer meetings in my home. Three became regulars and together we caught the REVIVAL bug for “certain,” even after the unwelcome virus broke up our joyful company. Still, Psalm 119, our banner text, continues to infect the eager reader with robust hope and resolute truth. Verses 25, 37, 40, 88, 107, 149, 154, 156, and 159 all refer to being “revived,” or becoming “quickened.” Implied in the Hebrew root are the words nourish, preserve, recover, repair, restore to life. As Paul would later write to Timothy, this is God-speak for taking hold of what is life indeed.