We always talk about Revival as if it’s a fire: A burning, all-consuming fire. That’s the image isn't it?
There’s a legend that travels throughout fellowship. I've heard about it. I know some people who claim to have been there, but to me, it’s one of those legends that you hear sometimes. Here’s the story, Evangelist Harry Hills was preaching a revival somewhere. I’m not sure what the city was where he was preaching, but the revival was marked with a number of powerful miracles, words of knowledge and other things. The church was rocking. It was a very powerful time. All of a sudden the fire department shows up, because people had called them that the church was burning. They saw flames rising out of the roof of the church, and so they called the fire department. When they arrived there was no fire, it was Holy Ghost revival.
Like I said, to me, this is the stuff of legends. I don’t know whether or not this is true, but I've heard it a number of times. The point is that revival is always associated with fire. Look at our songs, Revival Fire; Burn in Me; It’s that Holy Ghost and fire; The Word of God is Like a Fire, popular worship songs. That’s as good a description as any, because it does feel like a fire. It’s a burning desire to see the will of God play out through people coming to Jesus.
In this post, I want to look at that image of revival as a fire burning out of control. A fire, a forest fire burns in three stages. The first is ignition; a spark ignites the dry grass. The second stage is a blaze; the fire begins to grow in intensity. The third stage of a forest fire is conflagration; the fire is burning out of control. I want to apply this to the pioneer church or the church that is on the edge of revival.
Acts 9:32-35 (NKJV)
9:32 Now it came to pass, as Peter went through all parts of the country, that he also came down to the saints who dwelt in Lydda. 33 There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed. 34 And Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed." Then he arose immediately. 35 So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.
The Ignition Point
When a fire has burned, the investigators come out and try to understand what caused the fire. How did it start? Was it arson? The first thing they look for is the ignition point: The place where the fire started. The fire will ignite and begin to burn in one direction, widening out as it burns. So there is literally a “V” that grows out from the ignition point. The firemen follow the “V” back to the ignition point, in order to look for evidence about the way the fire ignited.
In our text it may seem like a little thing that Peter has done. We see him dealing only with one lame man: A man who has been bedridden for eight years, but this is the ignition point. This is the place where the fire began to burn. This is the beginning of the fire in that place. Look at the last line in our text, “So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord.”
This is where revival started in Lydda. Lydda was approximately twenty-five miles north of Jerusalem. It’s located on the crossroads of the highway that leads from Egypt to Syria, and the highway that leads from Jerusalem to Joppa. This is a key place. There were many people who traveled those highways engaged in trade and other things. It’s key because revival could easily travel to other places from this location.
Here it is… It starts with one man healed. It starts like a huge forest fire at one small ignition point. If you had been there, it would have seemed to be one small thing; a guy gets healed. That's it, one man is healed of an affliction, but it is the beginning of a city turning to the Lord.
In the beginning of revival, it’s unseen. It’s working in the hearts of people. I've read about the second Great Awakening, this is a revival that took place in the United States between 1820 and 1840. According to Wikipedia, this revival “enrolled millions of people in existing evangelical denominations and led to the formation of new denominations.” In other words, millions of people were saved.
Look at this from Christianity.com
“The second Great Awakening had a greater affect on society than any other revival in America.”
It started quietly as a movement in 1790, thirty years before it exploded into revival. It was unseen; it was a quiet movement that existed mostly in the prayers of the people.
A preacher named John Erskine published a fervent plea for prayer, and a man named Isaac Backus answered that plea. John Erskine and Isaac Backus were the ignition point for the greatest revival in American history. In 1792, they began to pray. They started this revival, but it was unseen. It wasn't a huge burning fire, it wasn't even a small blaze; it was a spark in these two men’s hearts. That’s how revival starts.
If you were to look at Taiwan right now, it doesn't look like a revival. There’s no huge burning fire, carrying revival across this nation. No, there’s only one small congregation in Taoyuan City and another in a small city called Pingzhen: Two pastors praying for growth and impact in their cities. In 1792, that was the ignition of powerful change in one nation, and in 2014 it can be the same thing in your city. Our congregation can be the ignition point. In Lydda, it was one man praying for another man that started a fire burning there.
There’s one other aspect that’s need for fire to ignite, and that’s fuel – dry grass, ready to be ignited. In Southern California, there’s very little rain. Most of the rain that does fall, falls in the months of January and February. By August grass that grew up in the rains of January and February is dead and dry. It will easily ignite from a spark, a match, or a cigarette butt casually thrown on the ground.
Fire usually ignites in the dry areas. It doesn't ignite near the water. It takes place in the areas that are dried out: The areas where the ground thirsts. It’s the same for revival fire. Revival fire ignites in hearts that are dry and thirsty. Look at something David says:
Psalms 63:1-2 (NKJV)
63:1 A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water. 2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.
Look at what he’s saying. He’s painting a picture of a dry place. His soul is thirsting for God. A dry and thirsty land where there’s no water. It’s the same as the image of a land before a fire takes place. His heart is dry; it’s missing the water of life. It’s a perfect picture of the place where a fire would ignite.
What does he do? He goes looking for God. He goes into the sanctuary to find God, to find His power and glory. Is your heart full of God or are you thirsty for God? Is your heart a dry place, or is it a river of God’s living water? Are you seeking God’s power and glory…the igniters of fire in dry places? Those things are the things that will bring revival.
In our text people saw a man healed: A man that they knew. They could see all that had transpired. They found God’s power.
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, his sisters sent for Him, but Jesus tarried. He told His disciples:
John 11:4 (NKJV)
11:4 When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
They witnessed the glory of God and the fire of revival ignited in that place.
John 11:45 (NKJV)
11:45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.
The same thing happened in Lydda. A man was healed by the power of God. The people witnessed the glory of God. “All who dwelt in Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord.” One healing was an ignition point.
There’s a point in any forest fire where the fire can still be easily contained. I once watched a fire that had started in some dry grass; it quickly got past one person’s ability to contain it. The wind was blowing a little and the fire grew quickly. It began to blaze along the side of the road and the fire department showed up. Within 45 minutes the fire was surrounded and put out. If the fire department hadn't shown up when they did, the fire would have gotten out of control and started to really burn, but there was a time that the fire department could come and extinguish the fire while it was still a small blaze.
In a revival this is a critical moment. The fire is a manageable size, and guess what, there are people who don’t want to see a great fire of revival begin to burn. They want to put it out while it’s still manageable. Have you seen this? These are people who want to control what God is doing. They’re looking to keep things small. We see them all the time. They don’t want to get too much of God. They resist His calling on their lives.
“I don’t want to be in church, too much.”
“I don’t wan to give a full tithe.”
I don’t want to be prayed for…to be healed.”
I don’t want to let anyone too close.”
We try to contain it when it’s small. When it’s just starting to grow in our heart. We worry we can’t control it. We’re afraid things might get out of our control. Can I tell you something? Some people need to get a little out of control. Some people are worried about what would happen if they got turned on for God.
When I first got saved I thought it was an intellectual exercise. I was the great analytical personality. I looked at everything like this, “Hmmm, how does that work?” If there was something I didn't understand I had to figure it out, according to what I already knew. Things were happening to me that I couldn't explain, though. Things were happening that didn't fit into my experience.
I couldn't analyze it all. I saw people get healed, I mean really healed. I saw people give up careers to serve God. I saw people gladly leave their homes and their jobs and their friends to move to other nations. None of it fit my frame of reference. I couldn't come up with an answer for why. That’s always the big question of the truly analytical…why? The search for that answer is like dropping a big, wet blanket over revival. The blaze gets smothered and the fire goes out.
Why do some people get healed, but others don’t? I don’t know. Why does God want us to speak in tongues? I don’t know. Wouldn't it be easier if we knew what we were saying? Maybe it would, I don’t know. Why does God think like He does? I don’t know. Why did God rig it so that Jesus had to die in order for us to be forgiven? I. Don’t. Know. What I do know, though, is that that word "why" kills faith, because you’re looking for answers within you that you don’t have. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? I don’t know, but I believe that God loves us. I believe that God has our best interest in mind. I believe the best answer for all of mankind’s problems is Jesus.
You need to let the fire grow in you. Revival changed the course of history in the first century: That fire started in some hearts in Jerusalem, then spread to Lydda and Sharon, then Joppa, all the way to Rome and finally, around the world. That revival could have easily been snuffed out as a small blaze that had begun in Jerusalem.
Acts 8:2-3 (NKJV)
8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
In fact that’s the devil’s strategy. That’s what he tries to do, but it can backfire on him. Saul was tormenting the church; people were forced to scatter for their own safety. That could have extinguished the blaze right there. It could have killed the revival, but people went to other places and began to preach the Gospel showing God’s power and glory and others came to Jesus in those places. Samaria was one place:
Acts 8:4-6 (NKJV)
8:4 Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
Antioch was another:
Acts 11:20-21 (NKJV)
11:20 But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. 21 And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
The power and glory of God built into a blaze. It could have easily been controlled at this point, but it went out of control, because people didn't keep wondering why; they just believed and let God move them.
The third stage of a fire is conflagration. In this stage the fire is burning out of control. It consumes everything in its path. What’s really interesting about forest fires is that they can create their own weather systems. Winds begin to blow out from the center of the fire from the rising heat and expanding air. The winds blow out from the center and push the fire out farther out. It actually causes the fire to spread faster than it was.
Revival is the same way. If we allow it to ignite and burn, and it gets away from us, it will grow out of control and revival will push itself. The first century revival spread around the world. It became something that powered itself. It grew on its own, that’s how it could continue to grow long after the leaders of the early revival had all died off. Nobody can strategize that type of growth. Revival just takes off.
That first revival started with one hundred-twenty people praying in an upstairs room, hiding for fear of the Jews, and it spread into a worldwide revival. The Gospel has been heard in every country of the world, today. It exploded like a raging forest fire.
Taiwan is a crossroad. We can reach the whole world from here. Your city can be a crossroad, too. I believe that this revival can start, right now. I believe that any church service or outreach could be the ignition point for revival. We can be ignited today, or maybe revival can begin to blaze in more hearts this very week. Take time today, to fervently pray for revival in your heart; in your church; in your city. Purpose it in your heart to come to every service and seek God. Don’t throw a wet blanket on the flames; let it build in your heart. Invite someone to church and let it build in his or her heart, too. Get out of control and let revival burn out of control. Let’s steal the cry of 1968’s revolution, “Burn, baby; Burn!”
Disclaimer: Recently, a woman saw our flyer, looked shocked and said, "You're trying to burn the world up." Obviously, I'm not advocating that we start a huge fire and let it destroy things. The call isn't for destruction, its for Revival!