87. Times of Refreshing Ahead?

John Quinlan, Clifford Denton and Dave Hilsley

Much has been said in recent years about “Revival”. This is what we call the wonderful times of blessing that come when the Holy Spirit of God comes to individuals, possibly in great numbers over a short time such as in the Wesleyan Revival or the Welsh Revivals. At such times, people are convicted of sin, brought to repentance and refreshed through the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit through the power of the shed blood of Jesus. Of course, Christians long for such times of refreshing, but what can we expect as the days go by and as nations of the world move towards the end times picture?

Key scriptures come from Acts 3 18-21:

18 But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

This is a progress of three things, one past, one present and one in the future. Verse 18 speaks of what Jesus fulfilled when He came 2000 years ago. Verses 20 and 21 speak of what He will fulfil when He returns. Verse 19 speaks of what we can ask the Lord for during the present time. Indeed, we will need such times of refreshing in the future. However, it seems appropriate to speak of the context of this. In the past it is true that times of refreshing have influenced whole nations (such as Wales in 1904), but we are moving into the times of the falling away of the gentile nations. This means that it is realistic to expect times of refreshment to come to the believing community through these times of trial ahead, rather than to whole nations. Undoubtedly the door is open for repentance and conversion to all who call upon the name of Jesus for salvation and times of refreshment in the Church can result in numerical growth. In general, however, the times ahead will be tense in the world and it is in this context that our prayers should be for times of refreshment among believers rather than to expect national revival (though at the end Israel will be the sole exception to this).

Many of us have had growing expectation of “revival” over recent years but most of us have not discerned the true context. Two such expectations are given below, illustrating the point. The first expectation came several years ago when the author of this paper would have had a vague idea about the meaning of revival in our day, hoping for national revival. The second was more recent and reported by a friend of the author. It is very important that we become discerning in our understanding and expectations, as there is false expectation as well as true in the Church today. Whether we like to accept it or not, false spirits are abroad seeking to seduce even believers into a false sense of refreshment that will steal away from what is true and valid for the days ahead. While there is a valid hope for the Lord’s strengthening and blessing in times of need, there is also a false hope.

1. An experience in Loughor South Wales

Loughor is the place where the 1904 Welsh revival began. One cannot be in the area as a believer and not long for a repeat of what God did in Wales in those years. I had lived in that area for a few years before the day in question. It was a particularly sunny day when a pastor friend and I were sitting in his van on the edge of the Loughor estuary discussing the church. We were there in intense conversation for quite a long time. The spot was just a short distance from the little chapel that Evan Roberts the Welsh revivalist had built and near where he lived. It was not far from the Chapel where the 1904 revival broke out. Perhaps one has this in mind when one is by the estuary where one can walk as the believers of old might have done and pray for revival. Perhaps this is why the Lord spoke through an interesting incident.

When we began our discussion the estuary was absolutely drained down to its muddy bottom and during our conversation I happened to look up and saw something for the first and only time in my life. I saw the first wave of the tide coming in – a ripple that slowly moved up the estuary with the incoming water behind it. The ripple passed by where we were and our conversation proceeded and time went on. It seemed only a short time later that I looked out and could not believe that so much time had passed because the estuary was now full – the tide was in.

I enjoyed the experience but thought no more of it, but when I returned home I “happened” to pick a book of my bookshelf, discovering it to be “Times of Refreshing” by Selwyn Hughes. I flicked through the book and then came to a short “parable” at the end. It described exactly what I had just seen in the estuary, likening the picture to times when believers need revival. They feel empty like an estuary where the tide has gone out. Then the first hint of the Spirit comes to revive as the first wave comes up the estuary. Before long the estuary is full, just as the Spirit of God can come and refresh us.

I took this as a God given coincidence, but years have gone by without the expected revival. Now I realise that my expectation would have been vague and misapplied. God promises times of refreshment when we pray and we may see these times ahead of us, but we should seek Him for the context, which I now believe to be in terms of refreshment of believers through difficult times ahead, rather than national revival.

2. Revival or Survival? (A more recent experience from one of the friends of the author)

On a Friday morning last June I felt inspired to get on my local River Waveney in East – Anglia, England, for a time with the Lord from Friday evening through to Saturday lunchtime, canoeing from Beccles to Great Yarmouth (about 25 miles). Our fellowship had decided to spend part of the weekend praying for revival, individuals taking on different half – hour slots. My time being for 9.30am on Saturday I knew that I’d be well on with my trip, probably nearing Breydon Water, a large (for East Anglia) tidal estuary lake that I’d never crossed before.

Friday evening went well enjoying time with Jesus, the exercise and the sunset. I camped a little way upstream from Somerleyton in a deserted spot and slept until 4am when being awakened by cuckoos I prayed some more before dropping off again. Up at 6am and on the river by 7am I had the tide with me for the crossing of Breydon Water somewhere near low tide, the safest time for a little slalom kayak like mine.

Gentle south westerly breezes had been forecast but the wind was decidedly fresh as I got going. Otherwise the day promised to be warm and sunny. After the first stretch of river head into wind I was soaked but with the sun shining I felt exhilarated and continued to call upon the Lord. Jesus had been teaching me to shout out loud to Him through the summer. Reaching Burgh Castle a mile or so above Breydon Water a little before 9.30am I took a short break. I had thought to spend my allotted time in this tranquil place before adventuring further but the tide seemed to be further out than the tables had indicated. So, knowing that I would not be able to paddle against a strong incoming tide if I arrived at Breydon Water too late, I decided to spend my allotted time of prayer in the middle of the lake, getting right alone with Jesus.

The wind was still quite brisk but coming from behind and I enjoyed entering the lake praising Jesus. I was getting well into the centre when the wind picked up from behind me as did the waves. Within a matter of minutes the waves had increased, each crested with white horses and very little gap between. Spray was flying from the boughs of a few cruisers as they ploughed into the waves coming the other way. The bough of my kayak started to dig into the trough between each wave and it was taking much of my strength to stop from swinging around and capsizing. It was not possible for me to get to either bank because of large areas of mud flats just below the surface away from the central channel and I didn’t relish the thought of turning around, which would be risky, and heading back to Burgh Castle which would be exhausting and smacked of defeat.

I could only go on. At this point my prayers to God for revival turned very definitely into prayers for survival. I found that I had to looking to Jesus with my heart while with my eyes I had to keep concentrating on Yarmouth Bridge which from about three and a-half miles away looked rather small. The channel is marked by large posts between which the waves were roughest and I found that by keeping just outside of the main channel the waves eased though at times I ran the risk of being washed over onto a mud bank. I prayed and headed for each post in turn. It would have been a relief to have headed straight for Yarmouth bridge but the channel meanders. A short cut over open but shallow water would have been a treacherous. For about an hour I took this course, at times expecting to capsize at any moment but continuing to call on Jesus. And the bridge gradually came closer. An occasional wreckage of some unfortunate boat did nothing to boost my confidence. I just had to concentrate on Jesus, the posts and the bridge.

I reached the end of the lake (thank you Lord!!) And even continued across a section of very choppy channel to the planned disembarkation point though earlier my only thought had been to get off the water as soon as possible.

Looking back I guess I could think of many life lessons from my adventure. However, what stands out to me is that my intended prayer time for revival turned into a very intense and desperate crying out to God for my survival. I had to get stuck in and paddle for all I was worth and Jesus heard my cries and saw me through. I believe that through my adventure God has given me a picture that a future revival (refreshing or however else you’d call it) is going to be in time of great difficulty. As local churches we will need revival to survive! The alternative is to go under.

John Quinlan

We leave you to test these things. There will be refreshing for believers ahead to help us through difficult times and to help us fulfil Malachi 4 in the building up of the family of God as we wait for the return of Jesus (Yeshua). Times of refreshing are for our families and our believing communities, to which many may be added who are saved from the world, but this is different from national revival. Indeed, we foresee a falling away, rather than national revival in the coming days.

(This article was first published on the Tishrei Web site “familyrestorationmagazine”)