When God Shows Up

autumn-leaves-in-windIt’s the moment that every pastor long for: an unexplained change takes place during the time of corporate worship – people are visibly moved, hearts are open, and voices and hands are raised in praise as God makes His presence known amongst his people.

It is exactly what took place in our church this past Sunday morning.  The interesting thing is – it wasn’t planned, it wasn’t orchestrated, nor was it expected.  It just happened.  I wondered at first, if it was just me.  I was preaching that morning, and whenever I’m scheduled to preach I spend significant time with God pleading for Him to work mightily in the hearts and lives of his people (as well as those who are not).  So I come to worship eager and expectant for the Lord to work.

But when I got up to speak I knew it wasn’t just me.  I experienced an unusual liberty and freedom in preaching.  It didn’t seem like hard work at all.  New thoughts about the text and its application come to mind which I was able to weave naturally into the message.  And there were moments when I actually felt like I was in the scene (I was preaching from John 4 on the woman at the well).  I could identify with the woman’s pain and loneliness and sense of hopelessness like I never have done before.  People in the congregation went very still.  I then pressed this issue of seeking satisfaction in things outside of God – especially in relationships (this wasn’t in my notes).  I knew some were being convicted of this – heavily.  The Spirit of God was at work.

Afterwards, a number of people came and told me how they sensed the presence of God in the service in a powerful way.  One woman took hold of my arm and said she would never, ever think of that passage in the same way again.  Another spoke similar words.  Men also came up to me and said how the Lord spoke to them.

You might think how I must have gone home fighting pride and the temptation to boast.  But there was no such temptation.  It was obviously not me.  And perhaps it helped that in the weeks leading up to this, I had been listening to a serious of messages from D. Martin Lloyd-Jones on revival (you can download these for free here). There were so many great things he said but perhaps the most helpful to me is that revival – true revival, is something that God does not man.  And it always starts within the church and then affects those outside.  In his message on Expecting Revival Lloyd-Jones explains:

“What is revival? We can define it as a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian Church. Primarily, of course, and by definition, a revival is something that happens first in the Church and amongst Christian people, amongst believers . . . it is only secondly something that affects those that are outside [the Church] . . .

The essence of a revival is that the Holy Spirit comes down upon a number of people together, upon a whole church, upon a number of churches, districts, or perhaps a whole country. That is what is meant by revival. It is, if you like, a visitation of the Holy Spirit, or another term that has often been used is this — an outpouring of the Holy Spirit . . .

 The immediate effect is that the people present begin to have an awareness of spiritual things and clear views of them such as they have never had before . . . They begin not only to see these things clearly but to feel their power”[1]

Now I am not for an instant suggesting that what took place this past Sunday was a revival.  But it did have some of the elements.  Just a few.  And if all we get is a few drops of the Spirit’s outpouring upon his people – just one or two, I shall be most thankful.

[1] Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1987). Revival (pp. 94ff). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.

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