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Survival After Revival
If so many tricks of the enemy accompany revival, maybe we ought not to be praying for it.


One of the early leaders of the Azusa Street revival (1906-1909) said, "Pentecost means a continual revival." Indeed, the whole Pentecostal movement is a revival movement. It's hard to imagine anything better in ministry than a true revival that sees a blessed outpouring of the Spirit and reaps an abundant evangelistic harvest. By contrast, it's hard to imagine anything worst than a revival gone wrong.

True revival is the passion of many hungry hearts.

During the aftermath of revival the Church faces counter attacks from the dark forces. The enemy will attempt to steal all the blessings given, to kill all the joy experienced, and to destroy all new life received. His tactics are not always obvious. He is the master of deceit and we are not to be ignorant of his devices. There has been much unfortunate skepticism about revival because of his subtle strategy. The fire that warms the home and cooks the food, in the hands of the unwise, can destroy the house and family. The very rain that waters the fields and nourishes the crops can produce flash floods and mud slides. Much depends upon the location of the fire and the nature of the soil. It is readily apparent the Satan takes advantage of poor fireplaces and poor soils.

The tricks of the enemy

Satan uses many strategies to hinder God's will. He commonly attempts to infiltrate or counterfeit the revival. Church splits are his special delight. He often focuses on moral weakness to discredit the leadership. After 25 years in ministry and more than a decade devoted to the study of revival movements I have witnessed many of the enemy's tricks. I call them tricks because he wishes to deceive us by them. If we can uncover them we will be the wiser.

Elevation of weak leadership

The glorious and refreshing outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival can be quenched if biblically weak people advance to leadership roles. A tendency exists in revival to uplift human leadership. After God does His work human pride will seek some of the glory. It could be the singers or it could be the special speakers. Often through no fault of their own, they are promoted as the cause of the revival. People have a desire to rally around those whom they consider as spiritual heroes. It is not uncommon for some Christians to draw attention to their personal fastings, prayers or visions they had prior to the revival.

Fleshly imitation of the Spirit

When revival fires have dissipated, some may attempt to carry on in the flesh what the Spirit started. Human enthusiasm can seek to produce revival by imitation. This is evident in the attempt to duplicate the worship style, the choruses, the special singing, the order of service, etc. What "worked" (dare we say that) in one place will not produce a revival in another. Reducing revival to the right "techniques" is misguided. One runs the risk of manipulation.

This problem is evident when the more emotional elements that often accompanying revival are sought for as ends in themselves. This always backfires and brings the whole revival into disrepute. People begin to reject revival as mere emotional excess without theological substance. This is unfortunate because revival will bring with it a great release of the emotions. There is no revival without emotion but you can have emotionalism without revival.

The neglect of the Word

Another trick of the enemy is to encourage the neglect of the Word of God. This is often done by substituting the good for the best. One sincere couple testified, "We are having great revival in our church. The pastor hasn't preached in six weeks! We don't get out of church until midnight." They were stunned that I did not share their enthusiasm. There is something wrong with the revival when the preaching of the Word of God is neglected to allow for extended singing or sensationalism. Yes, I have been in long services when the presence of the Lord was evident from start to finish. Too many of our meetings start sharp at 6:00 p.m. and end dull at 7:15 p.m. However, I have also endured long services that were dragged out by repeating choruses over and over, followed by a weak "sermon" containing little more than unprepared tirades against tradition. I keep thinking the people most vocal about the faults of one denomination are surely working in the interest of another.

Recently I received an email outlining concerns from a post-Pentecostal. He, along with 35 others, left one of our churches and joined another denomination. Why? According to the letter, his pastor had introduced "revival" to the church by following one of the popular models. As a result, there came a decreasing emphasis on Bible teaching. Sunday school was stopped. Bible studies were cancelled for trivial reasons. Sermons were downloaded from the Internet and read. The lack of substance in the preaching was defended with an emphasis on "touch not the Lord's anointed." In just a few months the morning congregation has dwindled to one half its size. The church may not survive the revival.

Neglect of the devotional life

With the emphasis on the inner renewal of the spiritual life during times of revival, one would expect that area to be impervious to Satan. However, it is a reality that some will neglect their personal devotional life because the revival meetings become the only spiritual activity in which they are involved. This trick is subtle because those deceived are often very faithful in their attendance and support of the meetings. But, right in the midst of revival fires, their souls becomes lean because of the physical energy exerted. They are so busy in the Lord's work that they forget the Lord.

Elevation of the immature

True revivals will produce Christians who will witness to the lost and new converts will be born into the kingdom. This is part of the fruit of revival. However, with the conversion of sinners comes the enemy's trick to exalt them above measure. The Bible warns about allowing novices to teach, but time and time again, new converts are rushed to centre stage. This is common if the convert has a sordid past or a nightclub background. If new concerts are musically talented, they are granted instant fame in many churches. They move from the stage to the pulpit and the only difference is the audience to whom they play.

One such person was Reno (not his real name) who had a sinful past in the nightclub scene. During the revival meetings he testified to a great change in his life. The next week he was asked to give his testimony in the youth gathering. The next Sunday he testified from the pulpit. For a couple of months he was the church's claim to fame and was featured in men's fellowship meetings in other surrounding churches. However, he had not dealt with the problem of indwelling sexual sin that became obvious and both he and the church were disgraced. Reno was not helped by placing him, too soon, on centre stage.

Elevation of distorted doctrine

Revivals, which neglect the preaching of the Word, open themselves to the trick of twisted truth. Spiritual enthusiasm, which is not biblically grounded, will elevate the role of dreams, visions and special experiences. Occasionally, some individuals will attract supporters and claim to be prophets with new revelations. The "Jesus Only" controversy in early Pentecostalism is one such example. The "Latter Rain" of the fifties and recurring now again is another example of spiritual excitement not firmly based in Scripture. Satan's trick is to get us to build elaborate teachings on bits and pieces of selected Scripture. One person I know has claimed God will fix dental problems because the Bible says in Amos 4:6, "I have given you cleanness of teeth." The idea that the phrase referred to God's judgment of sending famine so no food would soil one's teeth was not even considered. An accompanying trick of Satan is to discredit the teaching ministry as not being open to revival or new revelation.

Exaggeration in reporting miracles

The enthusiasm for the miraculous is legendary. We know, from the New Testament, that many people were attracted to Christ and believed in Christ because of the miracles. We believe in a miracle working God. We are in awe of supernatural power. We believe in answers to prayer. However, here is where Satan seems most successful. He gets us all excited about the miraculous and gets us following the signs and wonders. He creates in us the gullibility to believe every report of a miracle no matter how bizarre. Indeed, he attempts to narrow our focus so that we see God only in the bizarre. The more bizarre, the more unbelievable, the more God is in it! But, after a period of excitement in which we are drawn in and after which we have exaggerated the truth, disillusionment sets in. Satan tricks us so that the whole miraculous becomes discredited. We need to be truthful in reporting miracles. God does not get honour or glory when we exaggerate. Remember that Jesus, himself, told some who had received miracles to remain quiet about it and to show themselves to the priest!

We need revival

Well, you say, if these tricks of the enemy accompany revival maybe we ought not to pray for it. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has given the gift of His Word and the gift of anointed leadership so that we are able to uncover Satan's tricks. The glorious rain of the Spirit is desperately needed upon our dry and thirsty land. True revival is the passion of many hungry hearts. But, if there is to be survival after revival, we have to be wise and not ignorant of the subtle ways of Satan.

Dr. Garry E. Milley teaches on the faculty of Master's College and Seminary in Toronto. He can be reached at gmilley@mcs.edu.

Originally published in Resource, May/June 1999.

 

 
 
 
 

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