“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’” (John 11:25 NKJV)
As another year arrives, will it bring more of the same—ho-hum, been there, done that—or a dynamic sense of renewal—a rebirth of hope? God will do the latter, if we reject the former—and this is what we call, “revival.” The story of the raising of Lazarus from the grave is an illustration of genuine revival. It is described in John, chapter eleven.
SICKNESS AND DEATH ARE A REALITY. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha—but that did not prevent him from becoming ill and dying. Churches have life cycles too—they are living organisms and are subject to spiritual disease and death. Some churches remain open for business, and go through the motions of life—zombie-like—but, are dead concerning vibrant life in Christ. It can happen to any church, no matter how strong it is today.
HEALTH AND LIFE ARE ABOUT RELATIONSHIP. Martha spoke to Jesus about her beloved brother’s demise, and regretted it, while tearfully, wistfully longing for his resurrection. Her mistake was in thinking of resurrection merely in terms of an event—something at a point in time. Jesus revealed to her that resurrection was in a Person—in Himself, the Lord of Life! We can try to schedule a “revival” as an event—indeed the fact is God might use a week or meetings and an anointed preacher to ignite a revival—however you can’t put God on your calendar. He doesn’t schedule an appointment according to what you believe expedient. We observe that in John 11, as Jesus hears about Lazarus’ illness, but makes no move to go to him, arriving only after he has been dead for four days! Revival is about a fresh encounter with Christ—a deeper revelation of His person and is about His glory.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:39-40)
STRENGTH AND BLESSING ARE ABOUT RENEWAL. By the authority of His Word, Christ summons Lazarus from the dead. You can have preaching without revival, but it is unlikely you will have revival without preaching. There is a power unleashed through God’s truth that brings renewal.
· Renewed Vitality. His eyes opened. Lazarus could hear again. He had strength to move. All that was once part of his life was reenergized. When the church experiences true revival, life returns to what was once a corpse.
· Renewed Liberty. Lazarus was still bound by grave-clothes. Jesus demanded that he be set free. Revival brings freedom from bondage—whether alcohol, pornography, greed, bitterness—and such enslaving evils.
· Renewed Testimony. Lazarus had a story to tell! The enemy was so threatened by it, that as they conspired to silence Jesus, they discussed putting Lazarus to death also. Revival is not the same as an evangelistic effort, but the two are often associated as one because to be renewed means our passion for the Great Commission is restored and our testimony has conviction behind it because we see what God has done.
May God do such a work among us for His glory in 2014!