“O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Hab. 3:2
A sermon given by Pastor H.M.S. Richards Sr., at the World Aﬂame Conference in San Francisco in the 1950s.
“O Lord, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.” Hab. 3:2. What a call that was in the ancient days! And then we turn to Hosea 6:1-3: “Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain; as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”
A great many people look down upon revivals, but the entire history of the Bible is a history of revivals. I have heard preachers say, “Well, they are temporary.” Surely they are. So is a bath, and so is a meal, but very necessary. The whole story of this blessed Book, my friends, is one of apostasy and revival. And if there was ever a deeper apostasy than today, and a greater need of revival, I do not know where it was or where it will ever be. This great hour of need is even now punctuated by the roar of tanks and the call of the A-1 and the draft. And nobody knows what tomorrow will bring forth. The world of crying need tells of the necessity of a revival in our own lives.
I believe that what God expects of us, ﬁrst of all, is a regenerated ministry. I do not believe that the greatest need of the Advent Movement today is a cultured ministry. I believe in culture. But, my friends, culture brought Greece, Rome, and Germany to ruin. Culture has never saved a single soul in this world. Our greatest need today is not an educated ministry. I believe in education, but our greatest need today is a born-again spirit. How many sermons do we hear today-how many have I preached-on the witness of the Spirit? How many of us know that we have been born again? The Spirit witnesses with your spirit that you are the children of God. Do we preach that witness? Do we have that witness? I know some do. Thank God for that, but all ought to have it.
We are all different, as has been said. Someone once came to Mr. Spurgeon and said, “You have never been born again unless you can put your ﬁnger on the date and the time and the place.”
“Well,” Spurgeon said, “I can’t do it.”
“Well, then you’ve never been born again.”
Spurgeon answered, “Now it just happens that no record was made of the actual time of my birth, and I really do not know exactly when I was born into this world. Nobody ever has recorded it. But,” he continued, “I claim that the fact that I am here talking with you, that I live, and that people see me and hear me, proves that I was born. Now, the fact that I love the Lord Jesus Christ, and have an experience in my own heart, proves that I have been born again.”
Some people are like Luther, who had a ﬂaming, dramatic conversion. We are not all the same. But, my friends, we must all be converted, born again, regenerated, or we ought not to be cumbering the ground with our ministry. We ought not to be taking the money of the Lord just to go through a routine. This is a hungry world today. I happen to be where I can read thousands of letters, if I want to. Our mail runs from a thousand to three thousand letters a day. And what a witness they give. The people want to know somebody who knows God, someone who can say, “I know, for He did it for me.” That is what the world is hungry for.
I want to tell you that any man or woman, anywhere in this world, who can say, “I know,” is going to get a hearing. People are going to come and hear him. The secret of our empty churches is an empty heart on the part of the preacher. The reason, my friends, why we are not stirring the world, and why our baptisms are away down compared to what they used to be, is that we are down. I also know that when we are revived in this day of the third angel’s message, the Lord is ready to do His wondrous work.
Look at the Bible. When Israel came out of Egypt there was a tremendous revival. Moses was one of the greatest revivalists the world ever knew. Follow the story on into the Promised Land, and you will ﬁnd that the story of the judges is the story of thirteen revivals. And every time they had a revival they had success and prosperity. You read that, and you ask, “What was the matter with those people that they didn’t have enough sense to know when they were well off?” They seemed bound to apostasy and trouble, and yet that is exactly your story and mine.
After that we ﬁnd a great revival under Elijah, a mighty, ﬂaming revivalist. And Elisha. Then there was a revival under Jehoiada. Look at these different men. Jehoiada was a priest, carrying on the forms of religion in the Temple. Yet that man was responsible for a mighty revival. Then there was the reformation under Hezekiah, a king, with all the burdens of the government. And yet he had a great revival. That just shows that the revival we need does not depend upon our position in the work.
I may be the head of a department with all the detail and all the routine, but still I can have a revival. I may be a pastor of a little church or a big church, or I may be in radio work. No matter what particular line I happen to be in, the Spirit of prophecy says that the time will come when the Holy Spirit will sweep away all these things, and like a mighty ﬂood will overﬂow the barriers and lines, the chains and wheels, and everything in a mighty revival tide. That is coming. O Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me. It seems to me that ought to be our prayer.
Come with me to the ﬁfteenth chapter of Second Chronicles, and read of that mighty revival story. What happened? First of all, the Israelites saw their need. The prophet of God came to them and appealed to them. And the ﬁrst thing they did was to put away their idols. The second thing was to raise up the altar of God and clean out the Temple. And then they had some tremendous meetings. The day of big meetings is not over yet, my brethren. Oh, no, you haven’t seen anything yet. They had a tremendous meeting. They put away their idols. They repaired the Temple of God. They had this great meeting.
And then what happened? The people came from all around. They even came from other countries, when they saw that the Lord was with them. Do not worry; the people are going to come when they see that the Lord is with us. And, my friends, I do not think that either God or man will want to come and join us until we have something worth joining, until there is ﬁre on the altar, until the idols are put away and Jesus reigns supreme in our lives.
If all of us preachers get on ﬁre, then the multitudes will come to see us burn. A great French explorer was going to the Congo about twelve years ago. He noticed that everywhere they camped, all around were many piles of wood, neatly stacked, all ready for a campﬁre. He spoke to the guide about it one morning, and said, “Who does this? What are these piles of wood for?”
“Why,” the guide replied, “that’s done by the chimpanzees. They are all around us in the trees. They are watching us right now, They saw us build the ﬁre last night. They saw us build the ﬁre this morning. And as soon as we are gone they will come down from the trees and gather the sticks. They will put the little ones below, then the bigger ones, and then the large ones-just perfect, all ready. All through these jungles you will ﬁnd these piles of wood. They have everything right, except the ﬁre. They have no ﬁre.”
There are too many of us today, I am sure, piling up the wood and kindling. We pile it all up, just right, exactly correct. But, oh, that God might set us on ﬁre! We need the ﬁre. Someone says, Well, you have to be careful about emotionalism. Not in our church! Not now! You know, and I know, that some churches are so cold that you could skate down the center aisle. You know that. But why is it? It is our fault-it is my fault; it is your fault. I believe that when we are on ﬁre little churches that are getting smaller every year-ﬁfteen members this year, fourteen next, nine next-dying off-are going to begin to grow. They are going to catch ﬁre. And those people who have been watching are going to come with us when they see the Lord is with us, putting away the idols, kindling the ﬁre on the altar, and great congregations meeting to seek God.
Then what did they do in ancient times? Why, my friends, they made a covenant together with the Lord, and then they brought an offering. Do you know what the answer to more offerings is? It isn’t more enthusiasm. It isn’t more intensive drives. It isn’t more continual hammering on the subject. No! It’s a tremendous revival.
And then what did they do? Why they had some wonderful singing and trumpets. Do you know what always brings a great revival in Christian hymnology and singing? Revival in the heart. We are singing the songs now of Wesley, Toplady, and all those men of great revival days. We are singing them now. They are classic gospel hymns today. Why don’t we have more songs now that captivate the people and move their hearts? Because we do not have a revival. We cannot sit off in a room somewhere and compose a song that stirs men’s hearts. We have to feel it in our own hearts. Revival is the story of the church in all its victories. And revival will be the story of God’s people at the windup of this work.
I have a statement here that simply thrills me as I read it. It is the last message that Mrs. White ever sent to a General Conference assembly, in 1913, the ﬁrst General Conference I ever attended. There is a passage in which she says that she saw something-the people of God coming into line. She writes:
“I have been deeply impressed by scenes that have recently passed before me in the night season. There seemed to be a great movement-a work of revival.”-Testimonies to Ministers, p. 515.
That is what she saw-a great movement, a great work of revival going forward in many places-your place and mine. “Our people were moving into line.” Oh, thank God, she saw it! We are not going to dry up as has every other religious movement on earth to this day-every one of them. But we are moving right in their footsteps; and if we do not change, we shall be just where they are, mummiﬁed in the history of the past, merely another label on another glass case in history.
But here is what the Spirit of the Lord says: It shall not be. Oh, I thank God for this. Friends, we are no different in that respect. We are human beings. We eat bread and potatoes. We are exactly the same sort of people. And you know what happened to them. But here is what Mrs. White says: “There seemed to be a great movement-a work of revival-going forward in many places. Our people were moving into line, responding to God’s call.” Here is the response to the call Brother Branson has given us, and Brother Vandeman, and to the message that came before, from Brother Beach.
Friends, the other day over in Hong Kong I was with Fordyce Detamore and those millions of refugees from Communist China in Hong Kong. The town is full of people. Elder Detamore had his tabernacle there, and he held two or three meetings every Sunday night. Then the army took it over, and all he had was from Friday night to Sunday night. So he said, “The people couldn’t get in here if they wanted to. I’m going out where the people are.” Some people thought he was making a mistake, and told him it could not be done. You know they always do that when you try something new. But he said, “I’m going out where they are.” And he got permission to hold outdoor meetings in eleven places including Hong Kong and Kowloon.
He asked me whether I would go out with him one night. We started out about seven-thirty. I have never seen an audience in all my life as still and reverent as that heathen audience. And I went down and mingled among those men. It was a man’s audience, for that is a man’s world over there. The meeting lasted from seven-thirty to eleven-thirty, and then we had to walk off and leave the crowd.
We talked to thousands and thousands and thousands of men, conservatively estimated to be ten thousand that night. I walked among them, in the crowd, and talked with them. One man said, “I’m a university graduate; I’m a non-Christian. Who is that man?”
I said, “Pastor Detamore.”
“Oh, I know that,” he replied, “but who is he? What does he represent?”
I said, “He is a Seventh-day Adventist Christian preacher.”
“Oh,” he said, “I have heard of those people. I have heard that they are the only people that have a message for China.”
I said, “You are right; they are.”
He asked, “When is he going to preach in English? I don’t enjoy these Cantonese dialects. When can I hear him in English?” And I told him.
Oh, this world is ripe for revival, ripe for tremendous events, ripe for great and wonderful conquests. I say, Be of good courage, brother, friend; let us get revived. Let us seek it ourselves. Let us seek the witness of the Spirit in our own hearts. Let us look for it. No revival is going to come as a miracle that suddenly drops down from heaven. It comes, and only comes-as Finney proved in his own life-when we meet the laws of revival.
You go into the laboratory. You put certain things together, and follow the law of that experiment, and you always get the same result. My friends, when the ministers follow the laws laid down in this Book, of putting away sin and of getting more interested in the Word of God than they are in the latest automobile, things are going to happen. Oh, it thrills me when I can come into a meeting like this, and hear the- preachers talking about Christ, God, and the Bible. I like automobiles-I have a ten-year-old one myself. But, dear friends, we hear so much talk today about everything else except the Bible, God, and the message. Can we not open our hearts today to Christ? He is here; He is here. It works, my friends, today. It works, if you will give it a chance to work.
Just three times this Book tells us about Jesus weeping. Three times! And every time He wept it was on the Mount of Olives. First, He wept for one man in Bethany; then He wept for a city right on the top of the mountain overlooking Jerusalem; and, third, He wept for a world in Gethsemane, with strong crying and tears. And He was heard. Oh friends, we need more strong crying and tears. We need to weep over people. We need to weep over our own hard hearts. We need to shed a few tears. A tearless, Christless minister-oh, what a contradiction! How God is waiting today to respond and to crown us with success, joy, and blessing.
The happiest life on earth is the life of a consecrated worker for men. The most glorious reward of this world is the reward of the soul winner. Forget the future reward, which is beyond our imagination. There is reward here. Do not go around with a double life, an unconsecrated heart, cold, critical. Oh, what I want today, friends, is a revival in my heart. When a man comes down the road and builds a better house than I can build, that is wonderful, because I am no builder. And another opens a store somewhere, and makes a good grocer. That is ﬁne, because I do not know a thing about selling groceries. When another puts an automobile together better than I can, that is wonderful, because I am no mechanic.
But when he can come up here and preach a better sermon, and draw more people than I can, then it takes the grace of God to make me praise him out of a real heart of honest appreciation. Friends, we need today to get rid of all professional pride and jealousy, and open up our hearts, and get our arms around each other, and our hearts open to each other and to God. Right here in this council we are going to have the most glorious meeting that has ever been held among Seventh-day Adventists since the work began.
Let us pray:
Dear heavenly Father, as we are here together this afternoon we bring our hearts to
Thee. O Lord, we are ashamed of them. We bring them here, dear Lord, and we just lay them at the foot of the cross. Father, see how hard they are, how impure. And when we look at Jesus we arc ashamed to look up and to look at each other. But, Lord, we bring them here today.
Give us a new heart, a heart of ﬂesh that reaches out for the salvation of the whole world. O Lord, how can we see nations going down in blood and terror, and millions concerned and wondering and perplexed? How can we, how can we, O Lord, let this go on without more heart yearnings and tears? O Lord, we read that Jesus looked down at that beautiful city of Jerusalem, and that tears ran down His face. Dear Lord, how can we look at San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and all these great cities, and not weep over them. O Lord, give us tender hearts; take away our sins; cleanse us, O God, and give us the witness of the saints.
Give us, we pray, an old-time revival-a real old time, a time of the prophets, a time of the apostles. Help us to tell the truth. Help us to love one another. Help us, O God, to be converted. We ask it in Jesus’ name.
H.M.S. Richards Sr.