On Feb. 8, a typical chapel service at Asbury University turned into a 16-day worship service that sparked revivals across the nation. Some of these revivals are still going on. Still more groups have been moved to devote themselves in prayer and worship, seeking a revival for their community.
Finally, revival! Multitudes worshiping. This is what we’ve been waiting for. This is the type of thing we’re supposed to get excited about.
But I have struggled with the Asbury revival.
I’m a church planter in New Orleans East. We’ve been at it for about eight months now. My community is plagued by drugs, poverty, cultural division, crime – the ground is hard. Many in my community, understandably, are more concerned with immediate safety than eternal destiny.
We’ve made two disciples in the community. Two.
What about my community, Lord?
Where’s our revival?
Haven’t I been working hard enough?
I knew I was supposed to be thankful for what was happening at Asbury. I knew I was supposed to be in awe of the work God was doing. I knew I was supposed to think well of those seeking revival in their communities as a response.
But I wasn’t. I was envious.
Envy began to bear its fruit within me.
I dismissed the first few posts I saw about Asbury on social media. When the posts became too numerous to ignore, I began to feel a general angst about what I was seeing. I began to experience frustration and cynicism. And then the posts from fellow students at seminary began to show up on my feed – pictures of fellow students worshiping together, seeking the same revival people at Asbury had experienced. My jadedness reached peak exposure. I was annoyed and skeptical. I was tired and felt like my work wasn’t good enough. My envy pointed to a deeper issue: shame.
Shame: A Source of Envy
I have an ongoing battle with shame. It’s one of those devilish darts I am particularly susceptible to. The enemy is keenly aware of that, and the Asbury revival was a perfect opportunity for him to attack:
It’s my fault we aren’t seeing revival.
Maybe if I had worked harder, prayed bigger, been better, then revival could have started with me.
I’m not holy enough to see revival.
Even though our feet have been placed firmly on a rock, shame, like a spiritual hallucinogen, makes us see things as they are not. Our hope is secure in Christ, but we feel as though we are sinking in quicksand because we aren’t good enough. Our calling is firm, but when we don’t see success as we define it, we begin to wonder whether we got our calling wrong. Joy and peace are available to us, but we refrain from finding joy and peace in God, turning instead to cisterns that hold no water. Yet somehow, even in our shame, even when we are disproportionately obsessed with our own evil, we become self-reliant.
Even in our shame, we maintain our pride.
Pride: A Source of Shame
What a remarkable weapon pride is. A diabolic stem cell, pride can transform into self-obsession or self-loathing, self-ignorance or self-consciousness, arrogance or shame.
My pride causes me to assume I am capable of doing something good enough to earn God’s favor in my community – to believe revival is something I can bring about by sharing the gospel enough times, praying for enough hours, living a life sanctified enough. My pride causes me to believe revival comes from me.
From this prideful belief comes shame, when I don’t see ministry success the way I define it.
From this shame comes envy, when I see others experiencing what I wish I was experiencing.
A Prayer of Confession
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. O Lord, I am envious. I have given into shame. I am prideful. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love.
According to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Lord, I have doubted your work. I’ve gone so far as to be skeptical and frustrated with brothers and sisters seeking revival. According to your abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin! Lord, I need you. Cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Then I will share with sinners in my community of how you saved this wretched sinner, O God of my salvation.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. Revive me again, O Lord.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Faith, Hope and Love
Lord, give me strength to abide in these three:
To believe You really are working in this world
To believe the same You working at Asbury is working in my community
To believe You, not man, are the revival bringer
To hope that one day you will wipe every tear
To hope that knees from my community will bow
To hope that their tongues will confess that Jesus is Lord
To hope that revival can come to my community too
To rejoice with my brothers and sisters who experience revival, not be envious of them
To pray with my brothers and sisters seeking revival, not assume the worst of them
To find a deeper affection for my community, not grow weary in doing good
Lord, help this hard heart to praise you, even when revival doesn’t come the way my small mind wants.
The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Published March 8, 2023