By Billy Graham | Published: July 07, 2017
I once asked a university professor what he thought our greatest need was. He considered it carefully before answering. He said, “I could give you a variety of answers all the way from tax relief to disarmament. I may surprise you, because I’m not a religious man, but I believe that the greatest need that we have at this hour is a spiritual awakening that will restore individual and collective morals and integrity throughout the nation.”
To bear the name “Christian” is not enough. If our conduct doesn’t measure up to Christian standards, condemnation will be ours: “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1).
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To attend church is not enough, either. If we fail to let Christ be Lord and Master of our lives, we must come under the judgment of God, who said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matthew 15:8).
A hostile world is seething with hatred, intrigue, lawlessness and godless aggression. The wicked prosper, and in many areas of the world the righteous suffer. People are confused, unstable and unhappy. Scarcely, if ever, has economic prosperity been accompanied by such widespread unhappiness, lawlessness and rebellion.
The heart of the world is aching for peace, for reality and for God. The Prophet Habakkuk once stood in the midst of a people who had been showered with every conceivable blessing but who had lost their spiritual sanity, and he cried, “O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years!” (Habakkuk 3:2). That is the heart cry of thousands of people everywhere. It is our greatest need.
Spiritual revival has been important in the life of the United States. God has not blessed us simply because a few pilgrims prayed at Plymouth Rock. We have been favored because periodically as a nation we have returned to God in repentance and corrected our manner of life before the hand of judgment fell.
Too little is said in secular history about the part that spiritual revival has played in the United States. Soon after the colonists arrived, people’s minds turned to gold rather than God. The country bogged down with greed, the churches were poorly attended and the tide of atheism rushed in to fill up the vacuum left by the absence of religion.
But a group of people in New England began to pray for revival. In 1734 in Northampton, Mass., Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon on the judgment of God, and in a single service, hundreds repented of their sins and sought God. People everywhere returned to Christian decency and righteous living. In a short time, nearly one-sixth of the nation’s population was won to Christ. The churches were filled with devout worshipers, and revival made its impact on the social life of early America.
In 1783, liquor manufacturing began in the United States. Saloons sprang up everywhere. The nation went on a colossal binge. Home life degenerated, morals plunged, gambling was widespread, infidelity thrived and corruption was prevalent in high places.
But in Richmond, Va., prayer meetings broke out. God’s people became concerned about the evil forces that were thriving to the utter peril of the nation’s spiritual life. Revival fires began to burn across the land. Sobriety was restored, homes were rebuilt, infidelity lost its grip and thousands of lives were transformed by the power of Christ.
American-based foreign missions had their birth in this awakening, and the nation was saved from a fate worse than death. In answer to the cry of His people, God revived His work “in the midst of the years.”
Woodrow Wilson once said, “America was born a Christian nation for the purpose of exemplifying to the nations of the world the principles of righteousness found in the Word of God.” John Adams, the second president of the United States, said, “The destiny of America is to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all men everywhere.” And Franklin Roosevelt once said, “I doubt if there is any problem, social, moral or political, that could not melt away before the fire of spiritual awakening.”
These are prominent leaders who have had the faculty of weighing and evaluating our needs. They put God and spiritual revival at the center, where they belong.
If we ever needed guidance, if we ever needed stability, if we ever needed strength, if we ever needed faith, if we ever needed integrity, if we ever needed righteousness, if we ever needed a Heaven-sent revival, it is at the present hour.
“But how,” you may ask, “do we achieve renewal and revival? What are the steps to spiritual awakening?”
First, there must be earnest prayer. The Bible says, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). There must be a deep-seated heart-yearning for revival—not just a mere muttering of words, pious platitudes and religious mouthings, but earnest, fervent prayer. The Bible says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).
Let your soul be anguished; let the tears flow; let your heart be burdened for the lost. Tears are appropriate, for God’s Word says, “He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).
Second, we must forsake our sins. The Bible says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord” (Isaiah 55:7). Again, the Bible says, “If My people … turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The bickering, the prejudices, the ill will, the envy, the jealousy, the bitterness and the criticism among Christian people today must end before revival can begin. The revival must begin in the hearts of Christians before evangelism can be brought effectively to the world.
When Christ’s disciples settled their differences, gave up their selfishness, confessed their sins and allowed God’s Spirit to fill them, revival came. We must forsake our evil ways. God’s Spirit cannot operate in a climate of dissension and quarrels. We must forsake our pettiness, our peevishness, our littleness and our whims.
The enemy of souls has weakened the effectiveness of the Church because we have majored on controversy and dissension rather than on going forth weeping and bearing precious seed. May God forgive us and help us to forsake our wicked, contemptuous ways!
Third, God must be real to us. The Bible says, “If My people … seek My face … then I will hear from heaven” (2 Chronicles 7:14). In a world filled with crass materialism, we have tried to whittle God down to our size. We have created a god in our minds who is not the revealed God of the Bible.
Many say, “It’s all right to go to church, and a person ought to be decent, but I don’t believe in going overboard on religion.” They think the Christian faith is a phobia, bordering on mental incompetence.
If Christianity is important at all, it is all-important. If it is anything at all, it is everything. It is either the most vital thing in your life, or it isn’t worth bothering with.
You can know God. Millions of Christians are saying with assurance, “I know I have passed from death to life” (Cf. 1 John 3:14). “I know whom I have believed” (2 Timothy 1:12).
We need a revival of Christian faith, of Christian experience, of God-consciousness. God has said, “If My people … seek My face” (2 Chronicles 7:14). If we will rediscover that He is holy, righteous, real, absolute and personal, and that He is a God of love and mercy, then this reality will be transferred to the world and revival can come.
Don’t give lie to the Christian faith by professing Christ without possessing Him. Don’t lock the church door with the key of inconsistency and keep the lost from coming to Christ. Don’t hinder revival by your unbelief and prayerlessness. Don’t cheat yourself out of spiritual victory by allowing sin to imprison you. Seek God’s face and turn from your wicked ways. Then He will hear from Heaven.
The church holds the key to revival. It is within our grasp. Will we rise to the challenge? Will we dare pay the price? The supply of Heaven is adequate for the demands of our spiritually starved world. Will we fail to offer that supply?
Have you accepted Christ as your Savior? If not, you will admit that deep down inside you is an emptiness that needs to be filled. Your heart yearns for peace and joy and forgiveness. There is a void that the world cannot satisfy.
In the center of history, on a low hill in Palestine, a cross was erected—the cross of Christ, the Son of God. By some wonderful miracle known only to God, all who look to the Lamb slain on the cross have life—not just the good, the respectable and the decent, but the vile, the despicable and the outcast. A thief dying with Jesus looked believingly upon Him and was assured of life everlasting.
The Bible says that Jesus “made peace through the blood of His cross,” and that by Christ, God reconciled all things to Himself” (see Colossians 1:20).
Give your life to Christ today. And may the revival that the world needs begin in you.
©1964 BGEA Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.