I believe what I am going to write about is absolutely true, the evangelists who have given us the New Testament convinced me of it. There is no limit as to what the power of God can do. God can transform by a spiritual breakthrough and revolutionize any situation by the sheer power of His Spirit alone, and do it suddenly.
Often God seems to act out of nowhere, no one could have predicted it. His power and presence comes suddenly. He “shall suddenly come to his temple” (Malachi 3:1), “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven …” (Acts 2:2) It is said most spiritual awakenings and revivals come suddenly as if falling out of heaven. It was a spontaneous work of God. “… the Lord rides on a swift cloud …” (Isaiah 19:1)
Allow an example of what I mean, a report of the Welch Revival. The correspondent working for the Liverpool Post wrote, “If I had been asked a month ago whether a revival was probable in Wales, I should have answered no.” Yet, suddenly it was reported that the floodgates of heaven were opened. “The whole district is in the grip of an extraordinary spiritual force which shows no sign of relaxing its hold.” This spiritual awakening came suddenly. Jesus talked about the wind of God which sweeps in suddenly. He said we cannot tell where it came from or where it is going next!
Revival is a sudden divine interruption. Stephen Olford called it “an invasion from heaven.” God said through the prophet, “… new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9) Charles Finney said it is often like a person and “They would wake up suddenly … wondering where all this excitement came from.” On the Day of Pentecost “they were all amazed and perplexed” (Acts 2:12) at the suddenness of it all.
And here is an astounding fact, and I quote: “The outpouring of the Spirit came dramatically with precision, in the second week in November, 1904, on the same day both in north and the south.” Suddenly, in both parts of Wales it happened on the very same day!
In II Chronicles 29 there is a detailed account of revival that took place under Hezekiah. It says, “Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people: for the thing was done suddenly.” (verse 36) Yes, very often it’s true, “… suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.” (Isaiah 48:3) It is an invasion from heaven!
And yet, no such visitation of God is of sudden origin. It may come suddenly, as in the days of Hezekiah, but even then its origins begin with the Holy Spirit moving secretly and effectively in the hidden background. Or think of Jesus suddenly and dramatically appearing at the Jordan with John the Baptist, and John surprisingly announces, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and all eyes are upon Him as He suddenly steps forward, ready for the moment.
But in an awakening, that never happens with people whose faith is mixed with doubt until it is, at best, half faith. Remember the request, “help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Ravenhill, the revivalist, said something like this: Someday somebody is going to come along and read the Bible, believe what it says, act upon it in faith, and embarrass the rest of us! Add to that the comments of Oswald Chambers, who insists that we live in a day when, for many people, the Bible is to be first a book studied and explained when in reality, God really intended it to be a book that is obeyed!
In our discussion now, yes, let the Bible be quoted exactly and understood explicitly. It does not say, “If you can exegete, or expound or explore the Scriptures,” but, “If you can believe, all things are possible” (Mark 9:23). Included is this; take this at simple face value. And that most certainly includes, embracing promises and acting upon them in faith. That may be very unspectacular obedience! If we read deeper into the history of revivals and spiritual awakenings, we will always find everyday people indicating they were simply taking God at His Word. These are the ones He blesses. And this is where those to whom God spoke, in giving us Scripture, correct us continually.
Before God came in power in the Hebrides Islands in Scotland, two sisters, both housebound, were interceding for God to come. Yet, announcing to any who would listen, “It’s coming, it’s coming!” And suddenly, God took over and invaded the island! It is said over twenty-five percent of the people of the island were converted within days.
And there are examples of Jesus telling people to do certain things before the miracle actually happened. Maybe like the person coming to a prayer meeting to pray for rain, after a three-month drought, with an umbrella in hand! And Jesus said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14), to the lepers, before the miracle of healing had actually happened! Cold logic and tame, typical “faith,” as we term it, would have led to a rebuttal, “Do what? We will pause and wait until the full effects of the miracle can be seen!” They could have replied with a kind of astonishment, “We are not going to make fools of ourselves! We will wait and see.” Yet, they obeyed, and notice, “… as they went, they were cleansed.” So that, we know, as they were going to the nearest synagogue with a priest present, this miracle happened. If I repeat it a thousand times, it would not be too much: the miracle occurred “… as they went …” In this sense it was faith in action which produced obedience in practice that permitted the miraculous healing.
Even if they were the most sincere, I can think of other things they could have done as a substitute, that some would praise. If they had fallen before Him and prayed fervently or they’d have had a ten-voice concert of praise or if they had stopped and had a Bible lecture on “God’s power to heal,” all of those things would have been activities most all of us could respect. But that was not explicitly what Jesus, with His voice of authority and His compelling glance, told them to do.
Here we must stop and catch our breath. This is often our error. Here we fail by rationalizing with some semblance of intelligence mixed with obedience, so that, even in what we call “belief” there is an element of unbelief and in our obedience there is respectable disobedience! Explicit obedience is what Evan Roberts emphasized in the Welch Revival of 1904-05 over and over again. To his own brother he insisted, “Obey God and His Spirit even in the smallest things; then the blessing will come.” C. H. Spurgeon said, “Believing and obedience always run side by side. He who obeys God, trusts God, and he that trusts God obeys.”
Explicit, instant obedience is not conditional—never! Even acts of love, acts of religious faithfulness can be a subtle satanic substitute for doing exactly what God said to do. Bonhoeffer, who paid for his obedience with his life, testified as he prepared to die for his faith, “One act of obedience is better than a hundred sermons on the subject.”
We can therefore say, that we cannot rely on God’s promises unless obeying His commands. The key that opens the door to God’s blessings is not understanding the things of God but obedience to the will of God! The greatest indication and evidence of love for God is obedience—a full understanding of what God has in mind can wait, obedience cannot! Vance Havner said it was not in the “fine type. It is in the bold print on the face of the contract.” And while love may be at the root, it is always obedience that is the fruit.
We need to get on our feet and insist on “plain, unspectacular obedience to God.” He asks for it at this very moment!