But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.[Ephesians 5:13-16]
As the days of this present evil age grow darker, the light of Christ burns that much brighter in the hearts and lives of His people. We must never forget that God is always working infinitely and immeasurably more than we could possibly imagine. God’s power is made perfect in the midst of our weaknesses. God is always confounding the wisdom of the world through the offense of the cross.
The awakening of revival most often is birthed out of painful persecution. The deepest and strongest revivals usually come in times of distress and suffering. The blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the church.
God showed mercy to America with at least two significant revivals at critical times in our nation’s history. But instead of using persecution and calamity to bring revival, He used the power of His gospel to melt the hearts of the people and lead them to godly sorrow and genuine repentance. These revivals were preparing the people for what is to come. The First Great Awakening in the mid-18th Century prepared the nation for the American Revolutionary War for Independence. Preachers like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards called the people to repentance and faith in Christ.
The Second Great Awakening came in the early 19th Century just before the nation would be torn apart in Civil War. God graciously initiated these revivals to bless and preserve America, which then became a blessing to the nations. We sometimes forget that American missionary movements continue to carry the torch of the gospel to untold millions in the nations.
But as I look at the church in America … the one thing that that has been missing is persecution. Adversity. Tribulation. What will it take to teach us the true cost of discipleship?
What will it take for America to experience a third Great Awakening?
What will it take to turn this nation back to God and awaken God’s people for His glory?
The Voices of Martyrs
And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.“[Genesis 4:10]
Before I address America’s future, I need to affirm the obvious present reality for millions of Christians around the world. It is estimated that nearly a dozen Christians are being killed everyday for the sake of Christ.
And yet, in a way that only God can do, the LORD is using the evil choices of ungodly men to accomplish His purposes and fulfill His promises according to His perfect will and good pleasure. Nothing is going to stop God from accomplishing His plan to redeem for Himself a people for His own possession from every nation — showing His mercy and compassion to the very ends of the earth until the very end of the age.
The Spirit of God is falling mightily upon refugees in war torn countries and amidst the most oppressed people groups. There is a global awakening in the darkest corners of our world. Our brothers and sisters all over the world are suffering for the namesake of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The church in Northern Africa and in places like Nigeria is fighting to survive ruthless genocide at the hands of Islamic terrorists. The church in Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan and Armenia nearly has been stamped out, but the seed of God remains in His Word and His people, springing to new life out of the ashes. God is faithful to always preserve a remnant.
The church in Iran and China and North Korea and Turkey and Arabia is catching like wildfire under the terrors of tyranny. Underground and grassroots revivals are breaking out within the notorious 10/40 window, with the potential to reach billions of people with the good news. The Great Commission cannot be stopped and the advancement of God’s kingdom will never be extinguished. For Christ has overcome the world and we overcome in Him.
Join me with a prayer for the persecuted church …
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.[1 Peter 5:6-11]
Awake O Sleeper
If our nation is ever to experience another mighty movement of God and a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, true repentance must take place. Before the nation will ever repent and turn to God, however, God’s people must first repent of our sins and be restored to God. All of the immorality and corruption and perversion and idolatry of America is an offense to the Holy One of Israel, and God’s people are not to be partakers of such evil deeds of darkness. We are called to “come out of her” — separating ourselves from the wicked, demonic system of Harlot Babylon that holds sway over the whole world [Rev 17-18].
But as long as the church participates with darkness, it loses its effectiveness as a light in the world, and instead becomes indistinguishable from the world. This is why judgment must begin with God’s people — His church — before He holds the world accountable for its sin. And the means by which God most often purifies His people is the means of suffering.
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
18And“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
19Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.[1 Peter 4:16-19]
It is just as humbling as it is sobering to consider how much it truly costs to follow Jesus on this perilous journey through a hostile world. To save your life you must be willing to lose it. To follow Christ, you must take up your cross daily and be willing to die.
If the church in America becomes increasingly marginalized and intentionally demonized, then it will reveal those who pass the test of faith and expose those who are pretenders. Both Scripture and history tell us that as God’s martyrs persevere under trial, God’s light shines brighter for all to see — sparking revival in the hearts of men and bearing witness to the power of God and His gospel.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.”[Mark 1:14-15]
Christ Will Shine
My prayer is that when the time of our trouble and persecution comes in America — and it seems to be coming much sooner than later — that we will be prepared to endure and remain faithful, even unto death. We are a people twice born who laid our lives down with Jesus on the cross, having been crucified with Him so that the life we now live in the body we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us [Galatians 2:20].
Having already died with Christ, we also have already been made alive in Christ through the Holy Spirit who gives us life. And as we await that Day when Christ comes and raises up our mortal bodies in resurrection power, we gladly offer our bodies as living sacrifices to Him.
If there is to be a spiritual awakening in America, it will be through the witness of God’s people who are unashamed to stand with Jesus when the rest of the world is at war with Him. For we have been redeemed from the world to be His witnesses in the world.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.[1 Peter 2:9-10]
I do believe that not unlike the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost — which was the firstfruits of God’s reclamation of the nations — we will once again see a mighty outpouring of the Spirit sparking widespread revival and awakening sinners to their desperate need for the Savior Jesus Christ [see Acts 2:16-21]. May we be willing to pay the ultimate price to reflect His glorious light to the world, until He comes on that Day to judge the world.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you.[2 Corinthians 4:6-12]
My prayer has always been that God would let me live to see a true revival — a God-sized work — and perhaps to play just some small part in His eternal plan of redemption. Lord, let us see the great awakening of the last generation and may we forever give You all the glory!
Even so … come quickly Lord Jesus.