February 15, 2023
When God calls us into new realms of spiritual experience, it can create great fear. Right now, we are seeing a revival movement in Asbury University and many other places that will take us where we have never been. Those who study the movements of God would tell you that it is about to explode across our nation—perhaps across our world.
What will you do? Many will criticize, which can often be nothing more than a convenient way to avoid addressing your life before God. Some will ignore God’s movement. Some will go to a certain place and then stop because the cost may seem too high, the unknowns too uncertain.
Will you walk away in fear? Fear of the unknown? Fear of your inability? Fear of what might happen if you really let the Spirit of God lead your life and your church? Fear of the cost of revival? Fear that your preconceived ideas of convenient, Americanized Christianity will be disturbed?
Paul was afraid in the city of Corinth. The reason we know this is because Jesus doesn't waste words. He comes to him in Acts 18:9-10 with an encouragement that addresses his fear (and ours). He knew Paul needed an infusion of boldness.
And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city." (Acts 18:9-10)
Paul knew that if he kept speaking and the spiritual movement kept spreading, he could be persecuted. It could become hard, uncomfortable, and challenging. There would be enemies and critics. It had happened before. At Corinth, he had worked among the religious Jews, finally "shaking the dust off his feet" and telling them he was going to the Gentiles because they would not listen. God directed Paul to move next door to the synagogue to a Gentile house (which was repulsive to a self-righteous Jew).
Suddenly, the work of God was becoming multi-ethnic. God was asking Paul to go to a crowd that any self-respecting Jew would never consider. It was a perfect recipe for fear—an uncomfortable, new direction. And Paul was obviously afraid. This step was a new wineskin, a different paradigm from what had existed in the religious establishment.
In the Jesus Movement in the 1970s—the last nationwide movement of God we have seen that was sparked by an almost identical beginning at Asbury college—God began to work among students and the somewhat rebellious group of people called “hippies.” They began to come to Christ in record numbers all across America. When they began to go into the churches (who were comfortable in their normal Christian routines), many churches rejected this out of fear. Those churches who recognized the activity of God accepted these new people, changed their wineskins to accommodate the Wine of God’s presence, and exploded in godliness and growth. It was messy at times, but worth it.
God’s movement among us now will be messy and confusing at times because people with all of our problems are messy. And it will most certainly challenge our status quo. What will drive our responses? An unhindered love of God and others or a fear of our own discomfort?
The remedy for Paul’s concern was the promise of God’s presence. “I am with you!” was all he needed. But the Lord followed that with a challenge and responsibility. “I have many people in this city.” In other words, “Paul, you are not alone! Others will be in this great movement with you!”
And it also meant that there were many yet to be won to Christ if Paul would keep on boldly following the Spirit and sharing the gospel. If he would not cower before man’s opinions. This encouragement and instruction was exactly the word Paul needed. And he "settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them."
ARE YOU AFRAID?
The answer to that is quickly determined by how many people you speak to about Christ daily. If the answer is "not many" or "none," the culprit is almost always fear. We are afraid we will be persecuted, laughed at, thought less of. Or simply that it will become awkward or inconvenient with people. Or fear that we don't know what to say or are ill-equipped.
What is happening at Asbury is spreading rapidly. There are similar reports on many campuses and churches. This is precisely the same accelerated trajectory that has occurred in the last five nationwide movements in American history (First Great Awakening, 1735; Second, 1800; Prayer Revival, 1857; Welsh Revival, 1904; Jesus Movement, 1970). God has visited us every 30-60 years in America to bring the church back to Him and rapidly advance His kingdom.
It is coming to your town, your campus, and your life. In fact, it’s before you right now. God is speaking with a megaphone, calling His church to fall down before Him in complete surrender and rise up in bold witness. But in the current moment sparked by the Asbury Revival, God will undoubtedly call you to enter places you may not have gone. To surrender all. To confess sin and walk deeply with Him. To worship with abandonment. To clear your conscience with those you’ve wronged. To give with reckless generosity. To give up your schedule. To be willing to pray all night if needed for the sake of the kingdom. And to share the gospel and testify boldly to everyone. It can be fearful.
The primary message of the Welsh revival (in which 100,000 people came to faith in nine months) was summarized in four points by Evan Roberts and others:
Read those four points again carefully and prayerfully. Are you willing to go there? Will you aggressively cooperate with God? Or will you turn away in fear? Will you miss God’s movement or step into the powerful river of God’s awakening?
What God in His sovereignty may yet do on the world-scale I do not claim to know, but what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know, and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days. AW Tozer. The Pursuit of God.
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