A few Wednesday nights ago, in my opening remarks, while sharing something that the Lord seemed to be saying to me about revival and the church from 2 Chronicles 20, I got carried away. Before long I abandoned my lesson plan entirely. It is now about 5 weeks further on and I have not picked it up! Somehow, that impromptu and spontaneous expression of desire for revival, prematurely set before the people, has become a series of lessons on revival and a statement of short term vision.

For a long time I have been fascinated by pre-Pentecost Pentecostal outbursts in the Old Testament… like the prophetic outbursts of the 70 elders Moses selected, and upon the whom God placed his Spirit… or the prophetic outbursts of Saul, or the supernatural moments in the life of Samson. There are few of these that fascinate me more than the day Jehaziel lept to his feet in the prayer meeting called by Jehoshaphat to seek the face of God because of Judah’s enemies(2 Chron. 20). In that outburst he prophesied that God would take control of the battle, and he even predicted where they might find the enemy. Jehoshaphat was so moved that he send the praise team out ahead of the army in the battle, so convinced was he that God would bring victory! It doesn’t get a whole lot more charismatic than that, really!

Three features of the passage and story captured my attention. First, Jehoshaphat had called for fasting, and assembled everyone for corporate, prolonged and serious prayer. It was in the midst of that praying that the Spirit fell on Jehaziel, himself a worship leader. As the conviction began to percolate through my own spirit that God was saying something to me about my own life and that it had an application to the our church, I began thinking more deeply about the three elements most obvious in the story to me, as I tried to grapple with the text.

FASTING: Now I had to admit at that point to my congregation that I am not big fan of fasting. This is a personal thing, and not a biblical thing. My struggle goes back to the days in England when we had those long communion services on Sunday mornings, and my loudly growling stomach, the embarrassment of that, and the fact that I could hardly concentrate for thinking about lunch. You have to understand that in a typical American Pentecostal prayer meeting you can’t hear someone’s stomach, because typically there’ll be some music playing, and besides people are all praying loudly at the same time. But in England our communion services were typically quite, reverent, with occasional audible but subdued praise, punctuated by different people leading in prayer as they felt moved by the Spirit. I decided as a teen it was harder to pray with an empty stomach than a full one. So when I read this passage I had to ask myself what is fasting, and why is it important. The answer I think I discovered has three elements:

  • 1. Fasting is for the sake of focus. We fast because we want to turn our focus away from the mundane and ordinary to God.
  • 2. Fasting is a temporary exercise, and no one expects you to literally starve to death (you have no idea how incredibly encouraging that was to me).
  • 3. Fasting can be anything that we choose to give up for God, but we should be intentional, making a commitment and choosing an appropriate length of time. Once done, we should follow through! I found in the idea of fasting an affinity for the rules of the nazarite vow of the Old testament law.

PRAYER: Prayer is what you do when you fast. That is simply put, the long and the short of it. At its most basic level prayer is communion or fellowship with God, something every believer ought to engage in regularly. Prayer combined with fasting is more focused and intense, than that usually. In other words, when you fast and pray, it is not casual. Some of us never move beyond casual prayer. In that sense I rediscovered the prayer of Ezra, who fell on his face before God over the sins of his people and their spiritual condition in the eyes of God. His burden was so great that he publicly fell on his face in prayer, and was soon joined by a great crowd of mourning and praying people (Ezra 9). Ezra’s prayer was intense, but unlike us he didn’t rail against the sins of others, he owned them himself, appropriating the failure as his own and sins of his forefathers. He identified himself with the problem, and why revival had not come to Israel, and also why they languished under the judgment of God in captivity and oppression. At that point I realized two things. One I have to own culpability for the state America is in as a culture and nation, and for the lack of spiritual vitality in my church and ministry. If we need revival, and I know we do, then I need to acknowledge that I have been a big part of the problem. To admit that to God is no small thing, nor is it easy. The words stick in my throat! But I am to blame, there is no way around it, and i cannot glibly pass it off to a degenerating western culture in general. Prayer can become intense, soul searching, a struggle, a grappling with sin and the need to surrender to God; but I am pretty sure there is no other way to revival. The only open question is am I prepared and willing to engage such praying?

STAND FIRM (FAST): Did Paul have this passage in mind when he wrote, “be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58)? I don’t know, but they are certainly connected by a common thread! In any case, the promise is that nothing we do in service for God is vain or empty. It has significance, even the seemingly small and insignificant! Jehaziel’s exhortation to stand firm in order to see the deliverance of God is fascinating. He is telling Judah to maintain their resolve, and not to back away from their enemy, because ultimately God must win the battle, if it is to be won. Indeed, it is his battle in any case. When I meditated on what it might mean to stand firm four things seemed to crystallize in my thinking.

  • 1. ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE: This applies both individually and corporately. The people of Judah could not stand firm against the enemy, if individuals were not prepared to hold their ranks. If one or two give way there is a breach. So the resolve is both a corporate and personal one – to not back away from the fight and the battle. This requires great confidence in the promise of God. The success of the church in battle requires the determination of every one of us individually, and we must personally keep our resolve and commitment till the end and the victory is declared. This of course throws us back on the principles of prayer and fasting.
  • 2. THREE STEPS FORWARD TWO STEPS BACK: This is where it got really personal for me and my church. After twenty years as pastor of the Wilmington First Pentecostal Holiness Church, I have witnessed many advances and more than a few retreats. In fact, I could almost characterize the progress as a three-steps-up-two-steps-back process at times. We have done very little leap-frogging! The problem is that when we feel the pressure of resistance to the will of God, and the progress of his kingdom, in the context of our own ministry, lives and church, the tendency is to back away from that pressure – that is to secure some relief. The problem with that is it inevitably means backing up, or returning to the the level of effort, or lack thereof, that was being engaged before. Forward movement and momentum is lost. Inevitably we will loose some of the ground that we have made up. But, some will say we are still ahead of where we were! True! But the next time we engage an effort to go ahead, we’ll have to win back the ground we gave up, all over again. It is wasteful reduplication of effort, energy and resources. Jehaziel’s advice is stand firm, and don’t give it up. Revivals require that spirit of unwillingness to not give up the ground we have won through the power of the Spirit and prayer.
  • 3. CELEBRATION OF VICTORY: Only those who win the battle, who refuse to back up get to celebrate victory. Victory is not a near miss, it is the categorical defeat of the enemy, resulting in gaining ground and advancement for the kingdom of God. There is no rejoicing for a near miss, or a partial win. Victories should be sound and unambiguous things. To celebrate victory, we have to actually win something, and that means standing firm in the face of the struggle and battle.

    Where will this all lead? I don’t know. But my conviction is that God can and would do more in our church, and in our lives, if he had more to work with. What we ordinarily present to him is pitiful, a few pathetic hours or apathetic efforts, unprepared lessons, a weak performance, reluctant worship, unconvincing prayer and an unwillingness to break with our routines. We will go to the ends of the earth, and make every effort possible to make the ballgame, but we will only reluctantly give God what is left over from a cram-packed week of activity that is important to us. And the resentment of it… the lack of enthusiasm for being in church, or being asked to pray more vigorously for revival… the audacity of the preacher to go over on his sermon, or to ask for more sacrifice….

About the Author

Paul and Loala pastor the Wilmington First Pentecostal Holiness Church, where they have served for almost 20 year. They have two children who work and serve in the church worship department, along with their son-in-law. Paul is a graduate of Holmes Bible College (Greenville, SC), with a BA in English Bible and New Testament Greek, and of Global University (Springfield, MO) with an MA in Biblical Studies (New Testament Concentration).

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