A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir

A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir

by Collin Hansen, John Woodbridge

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Is it possible we don’t see God working in mighty ways because we don’t ask him to work in mighty ways? Throughout history, God has used revival to build and renew his church. God-Sized Vision challenges us to pray expectantly to see his work in our own day. God can bring revival again to our community, our country, and our world. Our faith grows

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Is it possible we don’t see God working in mighty ways because we don’t ask him to work in mighty ways? Throughout history, God has used revival to build and renew his church. God-Sized Vision challenges us to pray expectantly to see his work in our own day. God can bring revival again to our community, our country, and our world. Our faith grows stronger when we learn how God worked in the past. The historical stories of worldwide revivals in this book enlarge our hearts and expand our minds as we see God at work in human history with a power that is still available to the faithful today. Here scholars Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge recount the fascinating details of world-changing revivals, beginning with biblical events and continuing through the Reformation, the Great Awakenings, the Welsh and Korean revivals, the East Africa Revival of the 1930s, and more recent revivals in North America and China. What did these revivals have in common? How can we prepare for—and expect—revival in our own culture? With accessible language and gripping examples, Hansen and Woodbridge explore these questions and more, strengthening our understanding of God’s work while deepening our faith in the possibility of revival—right where we are.

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A God-Sized Vision

Revival stories that stretch and stir
By Collin Hansen John Woodbridge


Copyright © 2010 Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-32703-5

Chapter One


Scottish doctor William Mackay felt drawn to a biblical text that had stirred Christians before him to pray for revival. Like many other favored revival passages, it came from the Old Testament. Reflecting on God's mighty works in redemptive history, the prophet Habakkuk grew emboldened to pray for revival, though judgment and exile loomed for disobedient Judah.

Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2

Mackay wrote the hymn "Revive Us Again" in 1863 and revised it in 1867 shortly before he pursued a call to pastoral ministry. Ira Sankey, the famed musician who accompanied D. L. Moody's evangelistic meetings, included Mackay's tune in his compilation Gospel Hymns and Sacred Songs, published in 1875. "Revive Us Again" echoed the heart cry of Christians such as Moody who fondly remembered the great transatlantic awakenings between 1857 and 1859.

We praise Thee, O God, for the Son of Thy love, For Jesus who died and is now gone above.

We praise Thee, O God, for Thy Spirit of light, Who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.

All glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain, Who has borne all our sins and has cleansed every stain. Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love; May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.

Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Hallelujah, amen! Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Revive us again.

Like many prayers that prevail, Mackay's hymn quotes Scripture back to its divine author. The word for "revive," translated by the New International Version as "renew" in Habakkuk 3:2, comes from the Hebrew word chaya, meaning "to bring back to life." The concept of revival, however, extends far beyond occurrences of this word in the Old Testament. Indeed, biblical history includes several occasions when God revived his people by giving them new spiritual life. Before we turn to stories of revival that stretch and stir, we should look to Scripture for which to understand better precedents, patterns, and principles of revival. Jonathan Edwards reminds us that God's Word provides us with the distinguishing marks of an authentic work of the Holy Spirit.

Up from the Depths of Depravity

The Israelites had already suffered several tragic periods of spiritual decline, but the book of Judges ends with an especially devastating thud. "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Judg. 21:25). The problem would not be solved by hereditary monarchy, a point so tragically illustrated by Israel's first king, Saul. The Israelites needed to recognize and acknowledge Yahweh, their one true king. Instead, they persisted in sin. Israel lost the ark of the covenant in battle with the Philistines (1 Sam. 4). Yet no matter what Israel had done, God would not allow this travesty to continue. He demonstrated his exclusive divinity by embarrassing the false Philistine god, Dagon (1 Sam. 5). The Philistines couldn't wait to return the ark to Israel. Still, the ark languished for twenty years before King David finally brought it to Zion (2 Sam. 6).

When the ark returned, Israel experienced the fruit of revival. The entire nation joined their king singing songs of praise to their God. David "danced before the Lord with all his might" (2 Sam. 6:14). During revival, God's people may break out in emotional demonstrations of thanksgiving. They do not intend to attract attention. But they might prompt skepticism from those who do not share their delight in God. When David led the parade into Jerusalem, his wife, Michal, one of Saul's daughters, watched him from a window above. "And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart" (2 Sam. 6:16). Revival doesn't sweep up everyone, and those standing on the sidelines can become the most outspoken critics. Responding to Michal, David challenged her by displaying his passion for the Lord (2 Sam. 6:21). Revivals may unfortunately spawn extrabiblical experiences that divert attention from God. But spontaneous excitement for the things of God ought not discredit revival.

What was bad under the judges turned worse under the rule of Judah's King Ahaz. He closed the temple (2 Chron. 28:24) and went so far as to burn his own sons as an offering (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chron. 28:3). The northern tribes of Israel had even teamed up with Syria to besiege Judah's capital, Jerusalem (2 Kings 16:5). To fight them off, Ahaz plundered the temple to buy Assyria's military assistance. As if it weren't bad enough that Israel and Judah warred against one other, Ahaz's strategy was fatally shortsighted. Assyria would seek to divide and conquer them both. But Ahaz would not listen to the warnings delivered by the Lord through Isaiah and other prophets.

The same year Isaiah was called by God to serve as his mouthpiece, Ahaz's wife, Abijah, gave birth to a son, Hezekiah. He survived his murderous father and ascended to the throne of Judah when he was twenty-five years old. Scripture tells us the turnaround was immediate. Hezekiah's devotion to Yahweh inspired a national revival with drastic spiritual and political consequences. The first thing Hezekiah did was throw open the temple doors his father had closed (2 Chron. 29:3). He lit a charge in the priests and Levites, commanding them to consecrate themselves and clean up the temple. They offered sacrifices to Yahweh and orchestrated a grand temple reopening that would have made David proud. Accompanied by instruments from David's time, they sang psalms he wrote (2 Chron. 29:26, 30). Like his forefather David, Hezekiah pursued God with passion. "Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses" (2 Kings 18:5-6). Still, Hezekiah and the rest of Judah rightly recognized who deserved all the credit. No one but God could have changed their situation so drastically, so quickly (2 Chron. 29:36).

Assyria, though, wasn't impressed with the new spiritual vitality. As they had plundered Israel, they planned to plunder Judah. In Hezekiah's fourteenth year as king, the Assyrians took all of Judah's fortified cities except Jerusalem. Like his father, Hezekiah first tried to buy off the Assyrian king, even plundering the temple once more for silver and gold. But this confrontation wasn't about Hezekiah. The Assyrians taunted Yahweh himself. Standing where Judah's army could hear him, and speaking in their native tongue, an Assyrian official warned, "Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, 'The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria'" (2 Kings 18:30).

Hezekiah was scared. Isolated and outnumbered, Judah could not defend Jerusalem against Assyria. The king sought help from the prophet Isaiah. The great prophet assured him that Yahweh would vindicate himself by confusing Assyria's king and striking him down. Hezekiah pleaded with God to do this thing and save his people. "Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God" (2 Kings 19:19). Indeed, an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians, and the king's own sons killed their father while he worshiped his god back home in Nineveh (2 Kings 19:35-37). Surely this act of divine deliverance illustrated even more clearly the promise of redemption that Judah had celebrated so joyously in the Passover when Hezekiah took the throne (2 Chron. 30).

Spiritual decline and threatening enemies have often spurred believers to pray for God to send revival. He responds favorably not to exalt earthly leaders but to defend and display the glory of his name. In a moment he brings hope to the most hopeless circumstances. But as quickly as revival comes, it can depart. A generation may rise that does not remember what the Lord has done. Hezekiah's son Manasseh reversed his father's reforms and outdid the surrounding nations in evil (2 Chron. 33:9). Even the revived may ultimately forsake the way of blessing. Secure in his wealth, Hezekiah had opened the national treasury to impress envoys from Babylon. They were impressed, all right. Isaiah prophesied to Hezekiah that the Babylonians would someday return and take all this wealth, and even some of his sons. Yet Hezekiah cared only that there would be peace in his time (2 Kings 20:12-21). Revival fires leave behind smoldering embers.

But at least those embers smolder with life. Josiah, when he was just sixteen years old, followed the example of his great-grandfather Hezekiah and repaired the temple. Perhaps Josiah recalled the promise Yahweh delivered to Solomon when he finished building the temple and palace. Throughout the centuries, believers seeking revival have seized on God's promise that "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). During Josiah's faithful act of repairing the temple, a priest named Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law (2 Chron. 34:15). Reading God's Word, Josiah came under conviction as he realized how his predecessors had disobeyed (2 Chron. 34:21). He then led the people of Judah in renewing their vows to keep God's covenant (2 Chron. 34:31-32). Their Passover celebration (2 Chron. 35:18) exceeded even the festival enjoyed by Judah under Hezekiah. Following the characteristic pattern of revivals, recovering Scripture brought conviction, followed by repentance, resulting in rejoicing, because the redeemer God doesn't abandon those who seek his face.


Excerpted from A God-Sized Vision by Collin Hansen John Woodbridge Copyright © 2010 by Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
This is the best book on Revival in decades. A magnificent, thoroughly biblically based look in the tradition of Edwards, Whitefield and Lloyd-Jones, with stories to transform your prayer life from Wales to China. Your vision of God will be far greater for reading this book. -- Christopher Catherwood, , Author

In A God-Sized Vision, Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge do a remarkable job of summarizing the Spirit-wrought revivals of times past, and then challenging us to pray expectantly for the Holy Spirit to do a similar work in our day. There is no doubt that we desperately need such a ministry of the Spirit. I wish every pastor and Christian leader in America would read this book and begin to pray earnestly for authentic revival in our time. -- Jerry Bridges, , Author

Hansen and Woodbridge have given us a rare book on revival. They affirm the supernatural, without being sensationalistic. They celebrate the surprising work of God, without downplaying the ordinary. They demonstrate the ecumenical scope of revival, without ignoring the important role theology plays in the ongoing health of the church. This book will guard us against complacency, cynicism, and, just as importantly, the naiveté that thinks revival solves everything. An encouraging, judicious, well-told tale of God’s amazing work around the globe throughout the ages. -- Kevin DeYoung, , Author

Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge write very much in the spirit of Jonathan Edwards in narrating revivals as a means of edifying and inspiring. A God-Sized Vision provides accessible and thoughtful accounts of classic American revivals from Edwards to Billy Graham and includes important stories of how in the twentieth-century revivals become some of the most remarkable developments worldwide. -- George Marsden, , Author

Hansen and Woodbridge rightly believe that our “modern crisis demands a God-sized response.” History demonstrates that true revival---the supernatural outpouring of God’s Spirit on and through His people---produces results that cannot be attributed to the best of human efforts or programs. The authors have done a great service to the Body of Christ by providing this treatment of the biblical moorings and patterns for revival and by chronicling some of those divine moments of the past when God pulled back the curtain and manifested his presence in an extraordinary way. This book will leave you longing for such a visitation of his Spirit in our day and praying, “Lord, do it again!” -- Nancy Leigh DeMoss, , Author

The importance of spiritual revival and the necessity of conversion is being questioned in many evangelical and Reformed circles. I’m so glad that this book is appearing now, as a witness both to how God has worked in the church in the past and what he can do in the future. -- Tim Keller, , Pastor

This book shows how God has moved in extraordinary ways throughout the history of the church. Genuine revival is not the result of marketing, technique, or entrepreneurship. As the stories here show, true revival comes as a “surprising work of God.” When this happens, lives are changed, the church reformed, and the world renewed. How we need such a stirring today! -- Timothy George, , Dean of the School of Divinity

The church is ripe for a revival that will bring back true Christian values and empower it to become a powerful force for the transformation of society and for the reaping of a ripe evangelistic harvest. I have been praying for this for my nation Sri Lanka for over thirty-five years. During this long wait, I have had periods when I lose the urgency of desire for revival. At such times, few things help reignite the yearning for revival as much as reading books describing God’s work of reviving the church in history. This is what happened to me when reading this book. While reading, I had to stop often to reflect and pray for God to deal with areas in my life which needed his sanctifying, forgiving and healing grace. God reminded me that those who pray for revival must first pray for revival in their own lives.
An added value of this book is that it shows how during some revivals the church neglected emphasising some key biblical themes and the unfortunate consequences of such neglect. For example, some revivals were used to challenge prevailing prejudice and injustice in society, whereas others neglected these with dire consequences. May this book challenge Christians to yearn for and pray for the church to experience all that God wishes for it. -- Ajith Fernando, , National Director

Standing recently at the very spot where the Fulton Street revival broke out in the 19th century, I was struck anew by how God has shaped the church through periods of revival and reformation. Now, along come Collin Hansen and John Woodbridge to give us a panoramic and authoritative history of revival in America---and one that is accessible to every Christian. This is a book that will educate even as it will encourage all believers to pray for a revival of biblical Christianity in our times. -- R. Albert Mohler Jr, , President

Compacted in this volume are accounts of the awe-inspiring work of God when he moves upon his people in revival power. The story is told by careful scholars who have a gift for making history come alive. Reading the book will lift one to noble thoughts and dreams of greater things. Take it as a rejuvenating vitamin for your soul. -- Robert E. Coleman, , Professor



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Meet the Author

Collin Hansen (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is editorial director for the Gospel Coalition. Formerly an associate editor for Christianity Today, he is the author of Young, Restless, Reformed and co-author with John Woodbridge of A God-Sized Vision. He has written for Books & Culture, Tabletalk, Leadership, and Christian History & Biography. He has appeared as a commentator on Fox News, and his work has been featured in Time magazine.

John Woodbridge (PhD, University of Toulouse, France) is research professor of Church History and History of Christian Thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he has taught since 1970. He was previously a senior editor of Christianity Today and is the author of Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal and coauthor of Letters Along the Way. He is the editor of Great Leaders of the Christian Church and coeditor of works including The Mark of Jesus. Woodbridge is the recipient of four Gold Medallion Awards.

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