"You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:2)
Spiritual awakenings are happening in a number of places around the world right now. We hear of many coming to faith in Christ in unexpected places like Iran, India and China. Places where people often pay a high price to follow Jesus.
Let me ask you this: Could persecution actually BE one of the chief reasons the gospel is spreading so rapidly in those nations?
You see, for people to come to Christ, they need to see more than just "nice" people who go to church on Sunday and generally behave themselves during the rest of the week. They need to see Jesus! When people are threatened with imprisonment or worse for following Christ, they are confronted with a choice: either courageously stand for their Lord or capitulate to the pressure.
When Christians boldly and lovingly endure hardship, they powerfully communicate the reality of Christ to a watching world.
This reminds me of the time the founder of the Voices of the Martyrs ministry, Richard Wurmbrand, came to my college campus many years ago. Richard was a Romanian pastor at a time when Christians were often persecuted for their faith in that land. He himself had to endure 14 years of imprisonment accompanied by torture for his faith. During his speech at my school, Richard took off his shirt, and showed us some of the 18 scars he had resulting from his numerous beatings and other painful assaults.
Besides seeing his injuries, I will never forget Richard's words comparing Romanian believers with those in our country: "In Romania," he said, "you have only one kind of Christian, a Christlike Christian. However, in America, you have many kinds of 'Christians.'"
Has it been too easy to be a Christian in America? Are we like those worldly believers whom the Apostle Paul describes in Philippians 3? There, after challenging the Philippian Christians to follow his example of forgetting the past and "pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus," Paul then sadly tells where some errant believers have gone: "For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3:18-21)
Do we need more pain in our lives before we pray more, before we share our faith more, before we set our hearts and minds on heaven more? Do we really need full scale persecution before we really let Christ live courageously through us? Or can we choose--even now in our relative ease--to be "all in" for Jesus and His Kingdom? I pray so!
A growing group of Christ-followers in West Michigan are praying for the church in our area to be revived, to come fully alive, leading to the biggest spiritual awakening in the history of America. Will you pray daily for that to happen in your community too?
Someone has well said, "Revival and spiritual awakening are going on somewhere in the world today. Why not here? Why not now?"
Consider Leonard Ravenhill's quote at the top of this letter. Do we want revival enough that it leads us to fervently pray and enthusiastically obey until He graces us with His awesome power and manifest presence?
This video about the Second Great Awakening will remind you of the amazing things that accompany spiritual awakenings.