So Much Potential
What caught my eye initially was the simple unpretentious nature of the message on the small country church’s sign. Two words, with no further elaboration or explanation, announcing to the world one consequence of our new reality: REVIVAL CANCELED. That was all, but it was surely enough. Church members, community members, and passersby could all connect the necessary dots to understand what was behind the terse announcement. We are in a crisis. Social distancing is the phrase du jour. Large gatherings are discouraged or outright forbidden. This, the revival planned for months, prepared for with painstaking care and much prayer, announced with much hope for a renewal of first love passion in the little congregation, has been canceled.
Some Revivals Can Not Be Canceled
And yet, and yet . . . Do we really have the power to cancel a revival? Come to that, where did we get the idea we have the power to even start a revival? Now, I know the believers in this little church were not presuming to claim the powers that belong only to God. I understand they were shorthanded the program of revival by simply using the common term “revival”. I’m sure they recognize that a revival program and an actual, honest-to-God, revival are two completely different things. The one may lead to the other, but not always (or even often), but it is not required for true revival. Who planned the huge revival at Pentecost? What did the church leaders do in the days and weeks leading up to the Spirit’s outpouring? Mostly they prayed. And waited. There wasn’t, so far as I can tell from the account in Acts, any planning involved. No flyers went up around the city. No guest speaker, no evangelist, was conscripted from out of town to deliver the word to the expectant flock. There was no expectant flock. No one knew when or really even what was going to happen. They’d been told to wait for the Spirit, and so they waited. The revival, when it came, was entirely from on high. It was God moving, in God’s way, in God’s time. It was not a cancellable event. Remember, “even the rocks . . .”(Luke 19:40).
This is not an indictment or criticism of this church. As I said, I understand what the sign’s intent was. This is, however, a reminder for me (and maybe for you?) that we are often guilty of thinking we can cancel God’s plans, or that circumstances can undo God’s designs. In this, we are not much different than the great deceiver who surely gloated that Redemption had been canceled when he saw Christ dying on that cross and then buried in that grave. But it wasn’t so, was it? Three days later what Satan meant for evil, God turned to good. For so it has always been in the great controversy between Good and Evil.
Resist the Temptation
It is so tempting for us to think that setbacks for us are setbacks for God. Failures for us are somehow failures for God. We suffer illness or injury, job loss or family problems, discouragement or despair, and we say to ourselves, “Well, I guess my chance at peace and happiness has been canceled.” Worse, we stumble spiritually, or we fall into a new or familiar sin, and in our hopelessness, we assume our own personal redemption has been canceled. But what Satan meant for evil, God has or will turn to good. Resist the temptation to think that your failings cancel Heaven’s plans.
Hope for Glory
It doesn’t work that way. It’s not about you, it’s about, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Your redemption, when it came (or comes) was (or will be) entirely from on high. God moving, in God’s way, in God’s time. Earth cannot cancel Heaven’s design. Every true revival came about because the Spirit moved first. That’s true of churches and of individuals. That’s true for me, and I can testify my own redemption was none of me and all of God. Everyone who has experienced redemption, their own personal revival, will have the same testimony.
The good news for today is this: God is in control. Still. He still holds you in the palm of his hand, and there is still no power in heaven or earth that can remove you from his care (Romans 8:38, 39). Do you believe it? Do you? Let this truth embrace you today is my prayer.