Sometimes when I watch television with my wife, she will select something that to me is, to put it delicately, boring. We have different tastes in general, but I’m willing to watch whatever it is she is watching. Sometimes I doze off, and she’ll say, “Greg, you fell asleep.”
There is nothing wrong with taking a little nap, especially if something is boring. But I will wake up denying it, of course. We usually don’t want to admit it when we’ve fallen asleep. That is the way we are. We don’t think we were asleep.
Revival can be described as waking up from a state of sleep. A revival is when God’s people come back to life again, while an awakening is when a nation comes alive spiritually and sees its need for God and turns to God. The church needs a revival. And America needs an awakening.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
The Bible tells the story of another place that needed an awakening. It was none other than the ancient city of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, which was the superpower of that day. The Ninevites were really cruel people and were known for their savagery. When the Ninevites would conquer a nation, they often would torture their prisoners before they executed them. Rather than hide their depravity, they celebrated it and proclaimed it. They even built monuments to their own cruelty.
It reminds me of the Nazis in World War II and of ISIS today.
The Assyrians were the enemies of Israel, so when God told Jonah, an Israelite, to go preach to them, Jonah thought it through. He knew God’s nature and how willing God is to pardon. And his fear was that if he went and preached to them, God would forgive them. Jonah deduced that if he didn’t go to Nineveh, God would judge them, and it would be one less enemy Israel would have to deal with.
The population of Nineveh was around 1 million, about the size of San Francisco. It was a very big city for ancient times. The Ninevites lived large, driving the best chariots and enjoying the finest food and the most exotic entertainment. They had a business and commercial system like none in the world. Assyria had been the reigning superpower for about 200 years, but unbeknownst to them, their days were numbered.
It would not be all that long until Babylon would come and overtake them. But God was giving Nineveh one last chance.
I wonder if God is trying to speak to America right now. I wonder if he is saying to our nation, “You need to wake up, and you need to turn back to Me.” If God could use someone like Jonah to bring about a spiritual awakening, then he certainly could use someone like you or me.
One person put it this way: “If God could bring a mighty revival in Nineveh, with no better representative than Jonah and no more gospel than he preached in their streets, he can surely do the same for America.”
Jonah was stubborn. He didn’t want to preach to the Ninevites. So he spent three days and three nights inside the belly of a great fish, and finally he came to his senses. He had a personal revival.
When Jonah finally went to Nineveh, it resulted in the largest spiritual awakening recorded in the Bible. People fixate on the story of Jonah and the “whale,” but they miss the bigger story of the biggest revival in ancient history.
First God sent revival to Jonah. Then Jonah brought revival to Nineveh.
C.S. Lewis said, “A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. … You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping.” In other words, if you think you are a great person with no problems, then you really are more asleep than you realize.
Nothing can happen through us until it first happens to us. It has to start with us. Sure, we can go out and tell people about Jesus Christ. But let’s make sure we are models of what it is to follow Christ.
Christians today need the faith of the Christians of the first century, the faith that turned the world upside down. Consider this: Everywhere the apostle Paul went, there either was a riot or a revival. There was always action. It never got boring. It doesn’t mean being obnoxious or creating a scene, but it does mean getting some reaction to your faith.
I feel the time has come for the church to start making a disturbance again. Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that he shows up himself. That is what we need to pray for now.
I think those of us who are Christians all have, in effect, a Nineveh we are called to, some place where we leave our comfort zone, some place where we admit our need, some place where we reach out to someone we would not normally reach out to.
Revival is getting back to the Christian life as it was meant to be lived. Revival is being in the bloom of first love for a lifetime, walking closely with God.
Revival is nothing more or less than a new obedience to God. Then, as Nietzsche put it, it is “long obedience in the same direction.”
Only God can send an awakening to America. But revival can happen right where you are, right now.