God’s Generals – The Revivalists – Roberts Liardon
The battle for the hearts of humanity has continued to rage throughout the centuries since Christ first came to remove humanity’s stains of sin and guilt two thousand years ago. From the first revival that took place among the original disciples at Pentecost to the ongoing “Pentecostal Revivals” of the twenty-first century, God has breathed new life into the hearts of his followers —time and again calling them to deeper levels of intimacy, holiness, and personal understanding of His love.
Paving the way for the Holy Spirit to bring light and truth were faithful men and women of earnest study and fervent prayer. From the groundbreaking revelations taught by Paul, to the revolutionary reformation launched by Martin Luther, to the evangelical campaigns coordinated by John and Charles Wesley and the revivalists to follow, the Holy Spirit has fought to reveal the power of God’s saving grace through faith—not of any work or intervention of man, not of any external force of will or institutional decree, but of the simple, personal acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. To this day, we continue learning how to more fully accept and apply all that this great sacrifice has provided for the individuals whose hearts embrace it.
The hallmark of every revival is hunger of heart: the heart’s pursuit of a personal relationship with Christ, the heart’s longing to experience God’s presence, and the heart’s cry to worship God in spirit and in truth. Revival is the product of an awakening of the heart to the power and presence of the living Christ who loves us unconditionally. Revivalists are those men and women who were able to venture from the safety and conformity of head knowledge into the passionate truths only understood spiritually through faith.
These truths cannot be fully comprehended with the intellect, but are instead made apparent as we lean on and trust in God. This is what is spoken of in Proverbs 3:5–7: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. The great revivalists, as we have come to know them, did just that. Theyfought hard not to lean on their own understanding but in every way to acknowledge God. They resisted the temptation to be wise in their own eyes and in the eyes of their fellow human beings; they trusted only in the leading of the Holy Spirit. It was a battle for many to learn to hear that still, small voice, but through desperate perseverance, they found the Lord.
Each revivalist overcame his own dark night of the soul—a personal wilderness experience during which he seemed to wander without direction, meaning, and sometimes even hope. Each questioned his faith, and sometimes his salvation. But through prayer, motivated by a deep hunger for truth, each found the assurance so desperately desired. Once these heroes of the faith revived their own hearts in this way, they made sparks that ignited a blaze to set nations on fire for generations to come.
As we will see from their stories, personal revival led to national revival. It began with a complete trust in the Lord, a profound reverence for God, and a determination to overcome the social ills each saw oppressing his generation. The revivalists transformed lives in a way that led to the transformation of communities and nations. The battle lines between righteousness and evil were drawn—and held—for eternity by these great Generals of God. We can follow in their footsteps and learn from the battles they won and the barriers they overcame. Journey with me over the span of two and a half centuries as we visit the battlefields of God’s Generals: The Revivalists.