Study 4 WHY IS REVIVAL WITHHELD?
by Francis Dixon
Key Verse: ”Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen” (Jeremiah 3:3)
However much spiritual declension and backsliding there is in the Church of God, we who are the Lord’s servants have much to encourage us. For instance, we know that God is still on the throne (Hebrews 1:1-3); that He is working His purpose out (Romans 8:28); that the Lord Jesus Christ is engaged in building His Church (Matthew 16:18); that daily people are being saved and added to the Lord (Acts 2:47); that the Holy Spirit is calling out a people to the Name of Christ (Acts 15:14); that our labour is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58); and that the Lord of the Harvest is coming back again soon (Matthew 24:42). But we have much more to encourage us. We have seen souls saved; we have had our prayers answered; we notice a hunger for the Word of God; many Christians are witnessing for their Lord; some are hearing the call to missionary service. Yet the fact remains that these are days of spiritual drought; and Jeremiah, in our key verse, reminds us that whenever there is spiritual drought there is a reason… - ”Therefore the showers have been withheld…” We plead for the showers, but they do not come; we see the need of revival, and we have been praying to God for revival for many years. Why do we not see a great blessing, with our churches made alive and with many people being converted? Why is revival withheld? In Jeremiah 3:1-5, we are told the reason and the remedy for the present state of spiritual drought.
1. THE REASON FOR SPIRITUAL DROUGHT
These verses in Jeremiah 3 show us that there are four main hindrances to revival:-
- Spiritual adultery and idolatry. Look at verse 1, and then at verse 2. What a dreadful subject this is! There are three kinds of adultery mentioned in the Bible and known in human experience: (1) physical adultery; (2) mental adultery (Matthew 5:27-28); and (3) spiritual adultery, which is committed every time a Christian is unfaithful to his vows to the Lord and does not love Him only and wholly. Are we guilty of this? How little we love Him! We love self, money, success and getting our own way more than we love Him - look up Matthew 6:31, and compare John 21:15. Adultery means idolatry - putting someone or something else in the place of God, and because we have done this, revival is withheld.
- Conformity to the world around. Look at verse 2. This means that God’s people have lived and acted just like worldly, pagan unbelievers. Many Christians are worldly, whereas we should be other-worldly - that is, different – look up Colossians 3:1. ‘Worldliness’ is adopting the world’s standards and methods. We have done this in matters of pleasure, amusement, dress, and in the way we have conducted our relationships with others. In our churches we have adopted worldly methods for raising money, increasing membership and attracting outsiders. We have substituted organisation and advertising for prayer, and consequently we lack Holy Spirit power. We have been influenced more by the media (particularly television) than by God’s Word. We are like the Arab in the wilderness who was a robber, and we have robbed God by our worldliness - see Malachi 3:8. That is why revival is withheld.
- Inward pollution. Look again at verses 1 and 2. With Judah these unclean things were outward. They worshipped strange gods and they had false lovers. With us, the trouble is an inward pollution. We are not adulterers in the physical sense of the word (or are we?). We do not steal or become drunk. But what about those sins of the spirit that in God’s sight are just as vile as the sins of the flesh - perhaps more vile? - look up 2 Corinthians 7:1. Jealousy, envy, pride, criticism, gossip and resentment are all sins of the spirit. Have you ever felt alarmed at the petty things that go on among Christians? How we need revival!
- Hardness and lack of concern. Look at verse 3. How dreadful the description is at the end of this verse! It suggests that although revival does not come we are really not worried very much, for we refuse to blush with shame. Do you ever feel ashamed when you consider the state of our churches and of your own low level of spiritual life? In every church there are those who are burdened for revival. They are ashamed of the declension that is apparent on every hand, and are filled with deep concern. But why only a nucleus? Are you numbered with the few?
2. THE REMEDY FOR SPIRITUAL DROUGHT
The Prophet Jeremiah not only tells us the reasons why revival is withheld, but he points us to the remedy. He mentions three things that we must do if we would see a deluge of blessing:-
- We must believe that God is willing to forgive our sin and send the showers of blessing. See the argument in verse 1 - and compare Jeremiah 3:14,22. If a man’s wife is unfaithful to him, he may not be willing to take her back as his wife, and yet God will have His people back if they repent and return to Him. How wonderful is the grace of God! He is willing, waiting and wanting to receive us back, to forgive us, cleanse us and restore us.
- We must get right with God. This is indicated in verse 1, and in the other verses that we are studying. God is willing to receive us, but we must return to Him. Look at the last part of verse 22 - we must take the step. This will mean repentance (Isaiah 55:7); humbling ourselves (Lamentations 3:40); renunciation (Matthew 5:29); confession (1 John 1:9); and an entire dedication of ourselves to the Lord (Romans 12:1). It will mean dealing drastically with sin in our life. Are we prepared for this?
- We must pray, pray, pray and pray. Verse 4 tells us this. Prayer is always the secret of revival. Nothing happens without prayer. The more we pray, the more God blesses. How often this is illustrated in the Bible and demonstrated in our own experience! If only we will pray, God will send the fresh life we need in our churches and in our own souls.