Reviving Adversity‏

Posted on February 14, 2013


RevivalAuthor: Andrew Kerbs

Our church needs revival. The greater Christian world needs it. You and I need it.

In the Great Controversy Ellen White states that “Before the final visitation of God’s judgments upon the earth there will be among the people of the Lord such a revival of primitive godliness as has not been witnessed since apostolic times.”[i]

This promise echoes the closing words of Malachi where the prophet writes, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5, 6)

The Lord promises revival before His final coming. He also warns us against false revivals. When asked by the apostles what the signs of the end would be, Jesus prefaced his answer with, “Take heed that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 24:4) Jesus knew all too well that deception would be the primary method of Satan’s end-time assault upon the church.

How can we tell the difference between true and false revival then? Ultimately, only the Holy Spirit knows the difference. We can, however, change the lens through which we view revival and this will alleviate some of our confusion. Keeping in mind the mantra that spiritual things are spiritually discerned, we should be wary of using earthly standards as measuring rods for spiritual success.

The danger exists that we as a church are viewing revival through a consumer-oriented, entrepreneurial lens where the numbers dictate level of success. That could be the number of baptisms, monetary pledges, or simply attendance at an evangelistic series. When the church pursues revival, we should be careful we do not confuse man’s standard of success with God’s.

I recently listened to a sermon by elder C. D. Brooks where he said he would rather save one soul in truth and the Holy Ghost than comfort ten thousand in their self-deception.

This self-deception pervades modern Christianity because it is so easy to be swept up in the externals—that is, what’s happening all around us. We shouldn’t let this discourage us though. It happened to Elijah in 1 Kings 18-19.

The showdown on Mt. Carmel lingered in the collective thoughts of all Israel. Fire from heaven rushed down upon Elijah’s altar in an instant answer to prayer. The prophets of Baal stood by silently, exposed as frauds and marked for death. The power of the God of Israel reigned supreme over that of Baal and the people of Israel saw it. After three and a half years of drought, rains fell once again upon the hillsides of Palestine. Now with the prophets of Baal slain, Jezebel, the king’s wife, sought Elijah’s life.

Only days after Mt. Carmel, Elijah found himself hiding in a cave wishing God would let him die. Elijah had stood strong for the cause of Yahweh. He had exposed the prophets of Baal as following an empty religion. Rain had returned to Israel. Now came the part Elijah had not anticipated.

Adversity. Persecution. Death threats.

God comes to him in a still small voice and asks, “What are you doing here Elijah?” Immediately, Elijah jumps at the opportunity to list all the sins of Israel, while being sure to list his own merits. One can hear the exasperation in his voice when he finishes by saying, “I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (1 Kings 19:13, 14)

He had carried out all that God asked of him, yet he found himself hanging by a thread nevertheless. Elijah’s mistake came in the same form that ours do today. He used earthly standards to measure spiritual success.

God does not directly acknowledge Elijah’s complaint as He commands him to go down to Damascus. Yet a few verses later, God tells Elijah He has reserved seven thousand in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal. The seven thousand stood as a testament of the spiritual success that Elijah could not see.

True revival will inevitably be met with persecution. Jesus spoke candidly when he said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.’” (John 15:19, 20)

God’s remnant throughout all ages has been faced with severe adversity. The persecution of the early church saw thousands of Christians martyred, as did the Inquisition and the Dark Ages. Certainly, persecution did not cease with the end of death decrees. Since the 1844 movement, Adventists have taken countless accusations and relentless criticisms. We’ve been called everything from a cult, to heretics, to Jews! Based upon the Bible standard, we are not in bad company.

Regardless, persecution causes discomfort. The natural response is to alleviate the pain by reducing conflict. At times, avoiding conflict is the appropriate response, though never by the compromising of truth. Other times God asks us to stand firm. The issue arises when we begin to tinker with the message God entrusted us to give. And the reason we often begin to tinker is because we began to use earthly standards to measure spiritual success.

Though methods of delivery may vary from China, to Kenya, to New York, the message does not! Our church has been entrusted with a powerful end-time message straight out of God’s Word. This message stands as the final plea from a yearning Savior to a dying world that resists His love. Nothing could be more relevant, and nothing could be more dangerous than altering its content.

When Elijah stood before Ahab and declared, “I have not troubled Israel but you and your father’s house have…” (1 Kings 18:18), his words were not popular. Nathan confronting David over his affair with Bathsheba did not seek the comfortable road. John the Baptist eventually lost his life due to confronting Herod’s immoral relationship with his brother’s wife. These scriptural references make one point clear.

The mission of the church is to give the message it has been entrusted with. It is not the church’s prerogative to decide which message to give. It is also not the church’s concern to mold the message into a more palatable package. The tender love of Christ should always accompany evangelism and ministry, but truth should never be downplayed for the sake of appeal. When we begin changing our message to reach a wider audience, we are in essence telling God that we know a better way to reach people than He does.

But when we learn to implicitly trust upon God’s understanding, we will be amazed how much stress we remove from our lives. It is not the duty of the saint to figure out how to win the war—it’s already been won at Calvary. It is the duty of the saint to trust in this victory and walk humbly with his God through the midnight shadows, knowing that the sun will soon rise. Clinging to Christ will generate opposition by default.

This implicit faith of the saints reminds me of a scene from the World War II miniseries Band of Brothers. Upon noting the movements of enemy forces, a lieutenant in the field remarks to the commanding officer of a paratrooper company. “It looks like you guys are going to be surrounded.” The unfazed officer shoots back. “We’re paratroopers, lieutenant. We’re supposed to be surrounded.”

This officer understood his role. He understood it was not his place to determine how the war ought to be fought. He only needed to follow orders. If his company found themselves in the thick of the enemy lines, then it was because he and his men were doing their jobs.

Indeed, we live in the midst of a terrible war. The Great Controversy rages unseen as this earth nears its end. But the victory has already been decided. When we face adversity and persecution, the promises of Christ comfort us.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

As humans we tend to look at the outward circumstances, whereas Christ looks at the inward condition. We need to reevaluate how we perceive success. In this world, Christ promises, we will have tribulation if we are true to Him. But don’t forget—the battle does not rest in our hands. Jesus won the war many years ago on a cross.

In our daily struggles in this world, we can find assurance in the words of Christ. As Ellen White and Malachi have both proclaimed, revival will be present in earth’s final hours. We need to maintain a biblical perspective so that we are not looking at the wrong thing.

[i] White, Ellen. The Great Controversy. 464

Posted in: End Times