I was a young pastor at the time Elder Robert Pierson became the president of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I still remember the impact in my own life and in the life of the church the emphasis on Revival and Reformation that marked his administrative period.
It seems that at certain times we repeat the mistakes done by others of being deceived by the power of numbers and statistics. In some way we forget the beautiful teaching of the palmist:
"Blessed is the man. . . that his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither, whatever he does prosper" Psalm 1:1-3. According to the writer of Psalm number one, fruits are the direct result of being planted by the streams of water.
Progress in the church is the result of spiritual sensitivity and response to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and not of a specific method or any human effort. "Instead of living in expectation of some special season of excitement, we are wisely to improve present opportunities, doing what must be done in order that souls may be saved. Instead of exhausting the powers of our mind in speculations in regard to the times and seasons which the Lord has placed in His own power, and withheld from men, we are to yield ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit, to do present duties, to give bread of life, unadulterated with human opinions, to souls who are perishing for the truth. Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 22, 1892.
Revival and Reformation are the methods by which progress occurs in all other realms of human expression. In light of this, we can approach their recurrence in religion free from bias, and even scum, which has been popularly considered the right attitude. It is in this area that the word revival gains a new intensity, for religion deals with the awesome and immeasurable. It goes deep into men's and women's spiritual consciousness. As interesting as other revivals may be, they are shadows when compared with the importance of revivals in the individual and the Church. Though they occur in this mysterious realm, they are not necessarily erratic or arbitrary. The supreme discovery is that nothing is erratic in God's universe. Characteristics common to all revivals may be found.
When we examine revivals in the spiritual life, we are confronted with a mass of interesting material. Revivals are used by God to stimulate individual and corporate spiritual life and to advance spiritual education and progress. They are characterized with the same frequency and fluctuations as revivals in other areas.
First, we discover fluctuations in the common experience of men and women before decisions about Christianity are made. Let's remember the past before your conversion. There were times when you were conscious of definite, spiritual influences moving you powerfully to Him. Then there were long periods in which you seemed to have no consciousness of any spiritual pressure. After months or even years of spiritual lethargy, the influence would return.
This ebb and flow of spiritual experience is still characteristic in life after conversion. No life is maintained at the same level. The Psalms reveal the varying nature of the divine life in the believer's heart. Caught by the inflowing wave, the writer's heart rejoices in God. Then in the trough of the wave, the Psalmist cries out for help, with his heart in despair. From this, God rescues him. He is then carried forward on a new tide of joy.
This same experience characterizes all Christian church life. The spiritual life within any congregation is never constant. Each church has times of being in a spiritual desert followed by times of awakening and revival. Even in the first century Church the believers longed for greater manifestations of God's word and power (Acts 4:23-31).
Progress never occurs in an unbroken sequence. The pressure of the Holy Spirit upon the life of an individual and the Church is never uniform. The reason is not difficult to discover. A constant pressure becomes a mere condition of our life. We adjust to it, without its attracting our attention, but a pressure that is occasional and variable captivates our attention. The Holy Spirit demonstrates His sovereignty in nurturing change in us and captivates our interest by varying His influence at different times, for it is by this method that the conscience is reached and the heart is won.
In the influx of the tide, there are not only tiny ripples, but also tumultuous waves and mighty breakers. In the inflowing tide of human spiritual progress there is the same variety of waves. There are revivals which affect the individual. There are larger movements which affect separate congregations, and even larger ones that affect whole geographical areas and spread beyond.
Intentionally we can help the Holy Spirit in His effort to bring spiritual power to us individually and collectively to the congregation. We can plan something to avoid deserving the rebuke that once the Lord sent to our people. "At our meetings there are far too few revival efforts made. There is too little seeking of the Lord. Revival services should be carried from the beginning to the close of our meetings." Ellen C. White, Testimonies, vol. 6, p.64.
The history of revivals reveals large movements, infrequent in their appearance, but monumental in their character. They change life's conditions and deeply alter the history of the world. In looking at some of these movements, we discover certain laws which govern their prosperity and progress. How they work becomes more apparent, the effect more convincing and overpowering that speaking about our methods and numbers. For what was common to all great spiritual movements can be present in our own individual life and in the life of our congregation.
Thus we need to acknowledge the part that spiritual revivals play in God's plan for us as individuals and for the church as the body of Jesus Christ. Spiritual progress occurs only through spiritual revival. May this prayer be yours as you lead God's people.
Baptize us a new
With power from on high,
With love, o refreshes us!
Dear Savior, draw nigh.
We humbly beseech Thee,
Lord Jesus, we pray,
With love and the Spirit
Baptize us today.