One of the most meaningful lessons we learned during the church history class is that revival takes time!
Often when we think of revival, it’s seen as an instant work of God that comes out of nowhere. Yet that almost always isn’t the case! Instead, individuals were working behind the scenes for years preparing the soil of hearts for the future harvest.
We studied the Great Awakening during the last week of class and learned that the Moravians (led by Count Zinzendorf) committed themselves to an around-the-clock prayer meeting for revival. This prayer meeting was kept continually for almost 100 years as people around the world continued to pray that God would work!
Though it didn’t take 100 years for revival to come, the constant prayers of the Moravians, along with their constant witness prepared the way for the Great Awakening.
One of the heroes of the Great Awakening was Jonathan Edwards. Whose sermon “sinners in the hands of an angry God” is probably the most famous message of all time, and brought countless souls to Christ. But seven years before that sermon in 1734 he became pastor of the church in 1727. For five years he faithfully preached Doctrinally strong messages with almost no results.
But in those five years of little results, Edwards was planting the Gospel seeds for a future harvest.
The revival that came after Edwards and men like George Whitfield wouldn’t have taken place if he had not faithfully proclaimed God’s truth in the planting years.
The father of modern missions William Carey went through a period much like Edwards. He went through seven years of ministry with only one convert. But in later years God greatly used him to make six translations of the Bible, and translate the New Testament into 30 languages! The foundation he laid brought many souls to Christ.
This was an encouragement both to me and the students because often we only hear the good parts of their stories like Edwards’s sermon, and Carey’s translations. We don’t hear about the dry periods of ministry or the depression of William Carey over the loss of his children.
But those “bad parts” of their stories are a greater blessing because it shows God is in those dry seasons. He used the five years with little response, and seven years with only one convert to sow the seed of the Gospel. And He used it to strengthen Jonathan Edwards as well as William Carey.
This truth is an encouragement for us to be faithful in hardship. Many of us would have given up in five years with little fruit, or went home after seven years with only one convert. Yet it is because those men were faithful that God gave His greatest blessing.