In a recent conversation with a student, I was asked this question. “What does revival look like?” The question grew out of the student’s frustration on the fact that she had heard messages on revival, messages that spoke of our need for revival, and the results of revival, but had never really given her something solid so that she could recognize the beginnings of revival.
As I began to think about that question, it dawned on me that many of us might miss the beginning of revival because we are looking for the wrong thing. Too often we dress revival up in the clothes of supernatural phenomenon or other forms of Divine visitation, when really revival will first come to us dressed in sackcloth and ashes. When God gave Solomon the process to find personal and national revival, it began with a call to humility. “If my people which are called by my name will humble themselves…”
What Does Humility Look Like?
Andrew Murray in his classic work on humility, states, “Humility is the place of entire dependence on God and is by its very nature the first duty and the highest virtue of man. It is simply man’s acknowledging the truth of his position as man in yielding to God His place as God.” Another church father said it like this, “Humility is the frame of mind a man possesses who is fully aware of his nothingness apart from God and of his sinfulness that would eternally separate him from God were not God willing to rescue him.” Humility does not imply a slavishness or servility. Nor is it inconsistent with a right estimation of one’s self, gifts and calling of God. Nor with a proper self assertion when called for. True humility is, indeed, the frame of mind that a man possesses whereby he understands his total dependence upon God for all that he is and does.
Are We People of Humility?
Being clothed with humility, as Saint Peter admonishes, is a concept that most of us haven’t considered. We do not think of humility as a dominant characteristic of today’s successful person. Most church members and even many church leaders are not known for their humility, but for their self reliance, self sufficiency, and self confidence. Those seem to be traits that fit well within the sociological and political scheme of things. So we value them rather than valuing what the Bible calls humility. It might even be said that many in the church have an aversion to humility. Some erroneously see it as a weakness. One of those traits if possessed too much might even hinder a man getting along in life.
Is Humility Important to Revival?
The answer is quite easy. There can be no revival without first a spirit of humility gripping the church. It is out of a spirit of humility that all the other attributes of revival flow.
Will God Humble Us?
When we set our hearts to seeking God for revival, we are actually asking God to humble us. The evidence that He is answering our prayer for revival can be seen in the way that He chooses to humble His church.
In his book, Changed into His Image, Jim Berg lists four ways that God may choose to humble us.
First, He will send a problem we can’t handle to expose our helplessness. Do you remember the story of Naaman in II Kings? A high-ranking Syrian official who needed healing from his leprosy could not accept the humility of meeting only with the second man and then being told to wash in the muddy Jordan River. But Naaman was confronted with a problem that would not go away until he humbled himself and did what God commanded.
The second way God humbles us is to give us a command we won’t obey so as to expose our self-centeredness. Do you remember the Prophet named Jonah? God commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh, and Jonah simply wouldn’t go. The end result being, Jonah got a real glimpse of his self-centered and selfish heart.
The third way is for God to arrange an outcome we can’t control to expose our sinfulness. Do you remember when King David took Bathsheba into his bedchamber for an evening of pleasure, only to send her back home thinking no one would ever know? When word came back from Bathsheba that she was pregnant, David knew he had a problem on his hands that he couldn’t control. He tried to desperately corral it and deal with it, but it was beyond his control, and God intended it to be that way. David needed to see his own sinfulness.
The fourth way is that He will show us a God we can’t comprehend to expose our finiteness. Job was no doubt a good man. God Himself testified to such. But Job needed a lesson in humility so that he could understand that God Himself is beyond our human understanding.
When you and I begin to pray for revival and when we begin to look about for signs of that revival, we should not be shocked if the first face we see is not pleasant but one that humbles all of us.