I was down at the beach at Lee Abbey looking at the stones on the shoreline. How is it that rough, ugly slabs of rock turn into smooth, beautiful pebbles? The answer of course is through the action of the sea and the contact with the other stones. It struck me this is very much the action God wants to do in our lives. I have been thinking and reading much about renewal and revival recently, and this is something I realise that has to start with me.
How? Well, firstly I have to allow the Holy Spirit to flow over me, repeatedly and thoroughly and allow Him to do His work in me. A rough stone won’t become a pebble if it only gets wet occasionally or only part of it is exposed to the water. In the same way, if Jesus is Lord, then I must allow Him full access again and again to every part of my life, even to the darkest corners, those parts where I would rather keep Him out.
But secondly, and just as importantly, I have to be in real, repeated contact with other people. Revival isn’t an abstract experience for individuals to enjoy alone with God. It’s about the people of God coming alive together, by being real with each other, by sometimes knocking the corners off each other, even by being broken so that the inner beauty can come through. That is how as living stones we rise to be the spiritual building God wants us to be (1 Pet 2:5)
And for genuine revival to occur these two processes have to be part of the same action. I’ve been struck once again how the command to be filled with the Spirit in Eph 5:18 leads on to the command to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ in Eph 5:21, indeed in the Greek there is the idea that our mutual submission flows out of our experience of the Spirit. This leads to the question then: how often do we pray for the gift of the Spirit so that we can learn submission to one another? Yet if I am myself not willing to be changed by God and challenged by others at the very deepest level, then there is no point praying for, or singing the latest worship song about, revival.
Maybe I need to take time to reflect on these words from Amos long ago: Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Because when the Holy Spirit does His work in me, then the evidence will be seen in renewed relationships, marked by justice, marked by righteousness, marked by an ever closer conformity to Christ. That’s revival in its truest sense – and as I look at the state of our society today – isn’t this what our country so desperately needs at this current time?