The Work Of The Holy Spirit In Revival
Transcribed and edited from a taped message delivered to a group of young people in 1975. Peter Joshua is the son of Seth Joshua, who was a Welsh minister and evangelist prominent before, during and after the Welsh Revival of 1904-05. Seth Joshua had direct influence on Evan Roberts, one of the young people mightily used of God in the Welsh Revival.
A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened in 1904 in a little country called Wales. I am impressed with the fact that Godís revivals are not confined to great metropolises. At Pentecost it was in a small room that Godís power came down upon human weakness and the church was born, and millions and millions redeemed by the blood of Christ rejoice in that little beginning. That teaches that it is God who does the work; men are just the instruments of the Holy Spirit.
I learned that lesson back in 1933 when I was invited to speak at an outdoor service in Chicago, one of the first of the mammoth services that you see today in stadiums. A group of about 500 Christian businessmen assured me that there would be a vast crowd in the field that morning and that frightened me. As hours passed by I became more and more frightened because I had been in that field and it seated 110,000 people. I asked, "I have to stand and speak to that multitude?" and the answer was, "Yes, and it will be amplified for ten miles and over the radio all over the country." I really sweated.
I wrote a telegram to the chairman: "Dear Harry, Help me out! I canít go through with this. Please find someone else." I will never forget his return telegram: "Peter, have an all-night prayer service for a baptism of the Holy Spirit. You are only the instrument." This taught me something deep that I never forgot. That morning there were 70,000 people there. Instead of that vast throng becoming a blur, as it would have had I not had that lesson, God spoke and broke through. And oh, the hundreds that morning who came to know Christ as their Savior!
We must forget ourselves and let God work in us and through us by His Spirit. Zechariah 4:6 is a great verse, but it is seldom held onto: "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the Lord of hosts." It is not by mechanics but by the dynamic of heaven. The Gospel is the dynamite of God unto salvation. The Holy Spirit is the Christianís advocate, the Christianís comforter, the Christianís cleanser; He is the Christianís illuminator, the Christianís power. It was Bishop Moule who said that the Holy Spirit is the breath of God in the body of Christís church Ė the life and power.
The work of the Holy Spirit in us and through us is described in John 16:12-14: Jesus said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you." Here is the work of the Holy Spirit: He shall glorify Jesus Christ. Here is guidance for the pulpit and for the Sunday school teacher, for our camp retreats and for our programs and for our curriculum Ė the glorifying of Jesus Christ as the Redeeming Savior.
The church today has many spiritual needs. She has increasing goods and feels in need of nothing, knowing not that she is miserable, blind and poor because she knows so little of the Holy Spirit in and through the believers. It is interesting to realize in the history of revival that revival that is sealed by the Holy Spirit always follows periods of apathy and moral corruption such as we are passing through now. In a time of corruption, in the darkest hour, God moves.
By revival I do not mean mammoth, organized gatherings of huge assemblies. Revival moves the church and then it moves the unchurched also. Revival moves the church that is asleep. The church as a whole is now suffering sleeping sickness. I mean by revival that the Spirit of Christ reveals His life poured into human hearts.
Revival Begins with Godís People
Revival is a family work belonging only to the children of God. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God" (John 1:11-12). The Holy Spirit does not work through the worldís methods. God will never save this rebellious world by the mechanics of man, but when the church draws down revival by divine dynamics: "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (Jas. 5:16).
Someone may ask, what is necessary for an awakening? What is it that transforms Godís people? The spark that kindled the flame and set the church on fire in Wales in 1904 was that the people really saw Christ on the Cross and His redemptive love. "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). When the people saw that, they realized that before they had seen nothing in the Cross; it was just a symbol of the church. When revival comes upon the church, the Holy Spirit gives great vision. Think of it! The Holy Spirit came upon a handful of men, and the church is born!
Revival begins in the hearts of Godís people. It begins, as Psalm 77:13 shows, in the sanctuary, in the body of Christ. I feel so burdened today about the conditions in the church and the programs and plans that donít mean a thing spiritually.
There is only one revivalist and His name is the Holy Ghost. In the Old Testament the power of the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of Samuel, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, etc. Then came a period of silence and gloom between Malachi in the Old Testament and the Book of Matthew. In that gap not a voice was heard, not a vision seen, not a prophecy spoken until John came on the scene in the desert, eating honey and locusts. The people went out to him to hear his sermons Ė "Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan" (Matt. 3:5). That was a revival! The Jews came out of the Temple to hear his message, and what was his message? It was the message we preach in revival: Repent for the remission of sins!
The Welsh Revival was in 1904. Germany was in destructive biblical criticism; France was enveloped in pleasure; Italy was bogged down in ecclesiastical trappings; England and Scotland and Ireland were religiously stagnant, and Wales was on its back Ė dark. Everywhere were football entertainments, national cock fighting and prize fighting; gambling reigned supreme; the moral level had touched zero. It was filth in action. And the churches? Many of them were as empty as last yearís birdsí nests.
BUT GOD! Those are two wonderful words. There was a faithful remnant. Godís ears were open to their supplication. If you ask what God saw in little Wales to burn throughout Christendom, shaking even America and other nations abroad, the answer is simple but instructive. Godís fire falls where it is likely to catch and to spread. Wales provided the necessary kindling. Thousands of Christians in Wales were alarmed about conditions in their country and they came to grips with God that He would pour out His Spirit on the nation and win back the people to His heart. All over the country, unknown to each other, these dear ones met for prayer. I am speaking about specific prayer, not merely, "God bless Wales"..."God bless us"..."God bless our church." It was daily sweat and tears for a national awakening Ė specific prayer.
I Was a Boy in the Welsh Awakening
When I was a little boy I used to miche (play truant from school). I had many a tanning over that. My father had a tremendous palm, and he issued loving discipline that lingered with me. As a boy I would miche and go down and play in the river. It was only knee high. At times I looked at the entry gate into this area and I would see my father. He was about six feet tall. I would run to the part of the park along the river where there were two hawthorn trees and would climb up into them and hide myself. I did not want him to see me while I was playing hooky. When he would pass underneath the trees, I would hear his voice and a sob. He was oblivious to me up in the tree. He would disappear and then come back and again I heard the voice and the sob. When I saw it was safe, I would go home before he saw me.
I was curious about him. I remember saying to my mother, "Is there anything wrong with Daddy?" She asked, "What do you mean?" I said, "Sometimes I hear him groaning and crying out and speaking to someoneÖ." I remember she touched my head. She knew what it was. "My dear, you are too young but someday you may understand."
I was too young to realize and understand that this was a burden for revival. But here is what he wrote in his diary in later years: "I know a man who for five years was carried out in the Spirit and would weep and pray along the banks of the river, fringed with trees and hawthorn bushes. This same man wrestled there in prayer. He saw the hawthorn blossoms come and go for five years while the cry went up for revival upon my sinful land. At last the travail ceased and a calm expectation fell on my soul, and I knew my prayer was answered."
So revival does not come merely by putting up some signs and declaring revival meetings for a week. There is a greater cost than that. Listen now to my father in prayer a few years before the awakening came (remember that South Wales is famed for its coal mines and industry):
"O God, this land which Thou hast so blessed, stay the destructive tide of religious rebellion against Thee. As Thou didst cause Thy mantle to fall upon Elisha when he was plowing in the field, lay Thy hand upon some young man who will confound the wise and the mighty Ė not from Oxford, lest he appeal only to the intellectualists, not from Cambridge, lest he appeal only to the socially enlightened, but from the grass roots. Put the hand of the Holy Spirit upon a young man in the field, one of our kind, to confound the wise."
God went one better, for He reached down under the field to a young man (Evan Roberts) in the coal pit to lead that mighty awakening in Wales. For two years that young man had prayed, "O God, if You want me, I surrender myself now to the Holy Spirit whatever the cost." In the first three months of revival in that country, that young man saw tens of thousands of souls turn from darkness to light. The revival was on!
I have been speaking of the power of the Holy Spirit. There is a verse in the Bible that says that if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). I know that is true of myself. I was a preacherís child, supposed to be an angel who never did anything wrong. But God took hold of that "angel" and He did something. That is what is needed today. The new creation is the evidence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. This happens in revival.
You have read of the coal mines which were a mile deep, the coal miners who were so blasphemous and drunk. They lived most of their lives down in the pits. When revival comes, wonderful things happen. Even the blind ponies in the pit knew that something had happened on the surface. The miners had kicked and prodded and flogged and cursed them. Now the miners petted them, and the miners sang the hymns of the great revival there in the pits. This is what can happen to a nation!
The churches had a new, glorious sight of their wonderful Lord. The revolution that occurred in the church and in the nation described in one sentence is: The whole nation within a year turned from its idols to the living God.
The revival swept the whole population. We did not care who came to the meetings. "God so loved the worldÖ" (John 3:16). The revival had a vision for one people Ė the lost, those who were in need of a Savior. The revival reached even into the Buddhist and Confucian areas and those people began to ask for New Testaments. The revival went all over the world. Revivals occurred in the Cassia Hills of India, in the Hebrides off Scotland, in Korea, etc. It sparked revival in Los Angeles at Azusa Street. I meet people today (1975) from 1904 who return as missionaries, who in most unlikely places around the world were touched by that power loosed in Wales.
What happened to Wales is what we would like to see happen in our land. The saloons and gambling games were closed. Places of entertainment were shut up. Filthy literature disappeared. Blasphemy, cursing and pornography went out. Drunkenness, violence and crime disappeared. That is revival!
In Wales they had a custom in the court. The judge came down to southern Wales twice a year from London and if there was no crime to be judged, no crime on the calendar, it was the custom to present the judge with a pair of white gloves. They ran out of white gloves because there was no crime to be tried. It was indescribable.
Being a little boy, deep impressions were being made on my mind, and they still stay. I remember going home one day very excited and I said to my father, "Itís so wonderful, so exciting to see what I see!" I had taken the bus and the bus was full and they were all singing Gospel hymns. I was on a train and it was packed, and it was a marvelous thing to see that the conductors were on their knees with their open New Testaments leading passengers to Christ. You would walk the street and through the opened windows you would hear these great hymns of the redemption of Jesus Christ for the sins of man. Donít you think a revival like that is worth praying for and worth the effort and worth the price?
Lay Hold of God for Revival
I have given these truths before ministers and preachers acoss this country. I remember having been at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center in California. I had not gone ten minutes in my message before I felt a deep leading of the Spirit, and I said to the young man in charge, "Sorry, but I donít feel led to speak. I feel I should turn this over to you and all us ministers should get on our knees and pray for America." Down we went for the next two hours.
That is what we need! We need to get out of the spell of what is formal and what is usual. I think the devil loves what is usual and what is formal. We are so harmless when we are there. The American tragedy, the tragedy of the world in this hour with whatever nations call themselves Christian, is that we have put aside the power of the Holy Spirit. His power is great, and the power is available in this day, but we have not because we ask not. God help His church to lay hold of Him and to give Him no rest. We need a body of laymen who know how to pray and who make themselves available to pray.