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Essays on Revival

Essay 1- Clear Vision Communicated Clearly

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“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” – Helen Keller

            I believe that revival, whether personal or corporate, must be fueled by vision. But what exactly is vision? If we look to a dictionary[i], the broad scope includes aspects of the natural process of sight; the process in which light rays entering the eye are transformed by the retina into electrical signals transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. The definition continues as something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy; especially a supernatural appearance that conveys a revelation, a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination or a manifestation to the senses of something immaterial. The third tier of the definition includes the act or power of imagination, mode of seeing or conceiving, unusual discernment or foresight, and direct mystical awareness of the supernatural, usually in visible form. Only lastly does the definition of vision mean something seen. In keeping with the direction of the definition after it moves from the natural mechanics of sight, I believe vision is not something we first see with the eyes but with the heart.

There are many ways vision comes to us. It may come through voices that we hear inwardly. A nudge, intuition, a knowing deep inside. It can come through angelic visitation. The Bible has many of those. Perhaps words on a page come alive, revealing a nuance we had yet to consider. Vision can come by a spoken prophetic word, or a heart response to the circumstances we currently find ourselves in. By these means, among others, vision impregnates us and grows like a baby in the womb, hidden away in our depths, safe from the prying eyes of others. Vision slowly develops with utmost purpose and, as a natural pregnancy, cannot be hidden forever. Soon, vision will begin to manifest as the process continues toward maturity.

            Many people doubt the validity of personal prophetic words spoken over them. Therefore, they are unsure someone can receive vision through the prophetic. False prophets undoubtedly speak false words. God’s word affirms this (2 Timothy 3, for example). However, rather than throwing out the good with the bad, we should judge prophecy with discernment, weighing what is said by Scriptural standards.

            We read in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (KJV). I want to look at two keywords in this verse more closely in examining how important vision is. The Hebrew word in this verse for vision is châzôn, which means mental sight that comes from a dream, revelation, or oracle (prophetic in nature). This Biblical definition of vision reflects what we saw in Webster. The second word is perish. The Hebrew word is pâra’, which means to loosen, expose, bring to naught. The NASB renders this word “unrestrained.” The conclusion, then, is that vision can harness, cover, and perpetuate that which otherwise might be unrestrained (without purpose), exposed (in the sense of being made vulnerable to harm), or destroyed.

            Revival is dependent on vision. Charles Finney, the great nineteenth-century revivalist, often spoke of what was needed to bring revival. He applied these components to both individuals and the corporate body of Christ. His list includes, among other things, prayer, unity, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is my conviction that each component of Finney’s plan must be birthed in vision. The child in arms is the outward manifestation, but the unseen process is the catalyst behind the birth. A Japanese proverb says, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action with without Vision is a nightmare.” In other words, vision calls for action, but action calls for vision. We must have both.

            Moves of the Holy Spirit birthed in vision do not happen in a vacuum. They occur when a vision birthed in one person is communicated clearly to many people and shared repeatedly. The efficient communication of vision is foundational to revival. But the right cast of players to carry out the script is equally essential. Let me illustrate my point with a personal story.

            Several years ago, I pulled out a jigsaw puzzle from a cabinet I was rooting through. I am not especially fond of jigsaw puzzles, but I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudging to set it out on our kitchen table. The puzzle in question portrayed a beautiful mission-style church somewhere in Arizona. As I separated the pieces and spread them out, I went for the easy border pieces first. I spent several hours looking, moving, and trying to join pieces that looked like they fit correctly to one another. I thought I had it, but the border was lopsided. I searched and found two more border pieces I had missed but could not see where they went. In going over the perimeter again, I saw where I had put two pieces together and, although it was close, it was not a perfect match. So, I pulled the mismatched pieces apart, inserted the correct replacements, and all was well.  Without the border pieces (cast of leading players) set in the proper order, nothing else in the puzzle (the complete vision) would have come together correctly. Paul echoes this same idea in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. For just as the body is one and yet has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one part, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has arranged the parts, each one of them in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But now there are many parts, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again, the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those parts of the body which we consider less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor, and our less presentable parts become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable parts have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same care for one another. And if one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if a part is honored, all the parts rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, and various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And yet, I am going to show you a far better way.

(1 Corinthians 12:4-31 NASB)

The outward manifestation of an inward vision occurs only when each piece is in its proper place. When each actor is in their proper role and each member functions in their purpose, things emerge fantastically.

            When we look at the revival and reformation movements of the past five hundred years, we usually know the names of the vision bearers who became vision casters. Their names are etched in both church and secular history. These players represent the border of my puzzle. They are the initial players (vision bearers) that form the framework God subsequently works with. Moreover, what about those pieces that help perpetuate the larger story in supportive roles? As Paul says, it takes all the details to create the complete picture. A television show, movie, play, and yes, even a vision must have the correct cast. Not everyone can play the lead, but the supporting roles are vital in portraying the whole story. When viewing a dramatic presentation, have you ever said to yourself, “They were the perfect actor for that part?”

            Many lesser-known supporting cast members played significant roles in church history. Without his cousin, Olivetan, and the French reformer Lefevre D’Etaples, where would Calvin have been? Without his wife Katharina von Bora and close confidant Philipp Melanchthon, where would Luther have been? Without his brother Charles and contemporary George Whitefield, where would John Wesley have been? Where would Charles Finney have been without his former pastor, George W. Gale, and abolitionist Theodore D. Weld? Although not as famous as those they supported, these lesser players were foundational in supporting the vision. God has a perfect part for every member of the body of Christ. I could talk about the supporting cast surrounding William Seymour, Aimee Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, A.A. Allen, Billy Graham, and countless others in the contemporary work of the Holy Spirit around the world.

            I believe it is the responsibility of pregnant visionaries to birth the vision and communicate the image well, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  When a child is born, it is not enough to say, “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl.” No! People want to know the details. There are many examples in the Bible of leadership with good communication skills. However, for this study of revival, I want to look at King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 29.

            A little background is needed to set the stage before we move on. Hezekiah’s father, Ahaz, was king of Judah 16 years before Hezekiah took the throne. We need only read the first five verses of 2 Chronicles 28 to see what kind of king Ahaz was:

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem for sixteen years. He did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD as his father David had done. But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel; he also made cast metal images for the Baals. Furthermore, he burned incense in the Valley of Ben-hinnom, and burned his sons in fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had driven out from the sons of Israel. He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree. Therefore the LORD his God handed him over to the king of Aram; and they defeated him and carried from him a great number of captives, and brought them to Damascus. And he was also handed over to the king of Israel, who struck him with heavy casualties.

(2 Chronicles 28:1-5 NASB)

            In verse 19, it says, “For the LORD had humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the LORD. ” At one point, Ahaz decides to worship the gods of the Syrians since it seemed they had helped Syria defeat him. So we read in verses 24-27 the folly and end of Ahaz:

Moreover, when Ahaz gathered together the utensils of the house of God, he cut the utensils of the house of God in pieces; and he closed the doors of the house of the LORD, and made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem. In every city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked the LORD, the God of his fathers, to anger. Now the rest of his acts and all his ways, from the first to the last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel. So Ahaz lay down with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, in Jerusalem, for they did not bring him to the tombs of the kings of Israel; and his son Hezekiah reigned in his place.

(2 Chronicles 28:24-27 NASB)

So, we see that Hezekiah was coming into an extraordinary situation when he assumed the throne of Judah. And if we do the math, it will seem that Ahaz must have been only eleven years old when he fathered Hezekiah. His preteen age may be so, but we can also approach it differently. Ancient writers figured years as any point within a year. And, they sometimes omitted the counting of incomplete years in a king’s reign. A good guess is that Ahaz was probably closer to 14 when he fathered Hezekiah.

            As we move into chapter 29, verse 1, we are given the name of Hezekiah’s mother, Abijah.  Since it is evident Ahaz would not have been a godly influence in Hezekiah’s life; we can bet that Abijah was. We read Abijah is Zechariah’s daughter, perhaps the faithful prophet to King Uzziah, three reigns before his. If so, this accounts for a godly heritage passed to her son, with help from others. During Hezekiah’s entire lifetime, Isaiah fulfilled his ministry in Jerusalem, and tradition has it that Isaiah was Hezekiah’s tutor and most likely a respected counselor. As we read of Hezekiah in verse 2: “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.” The reference to King David as Hezekiah’s father reflects that he was in David’s lineage. Matthew 1 includes his name in the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

            Now, returning to vision, Theodore Hesburgh (1917-2015), the noted American Catholic priest who was president of Notre Dame for thirty-five years, said, “The very essence of leadership is that you have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”[ii]

We see the initial sounding of Hezekiah’s vision in 2 Chronicles 29:3: “He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them.” Why was this repair needed? As we read earlier, Ahaz had stripped all the gold from the Temple doors and plundered the palace to bribe the King of Assyria to help him. Hezekiah’s first duty as the king was to open and repair the doors of the Temple. There are several things to consider in Hezekiah’s actions; he acted immediately and with the right priorities. Hezekiah immediately gave his nation a prophetic object lesson to show his heart before saying a word to them. He understood that communicating vision can come through several means.

            Moving through this pattern for revival we will see that Hezekiah understood what Steve Coats, principal team member at International Leadership Associates, echoes in an article titled “Communicate As A Leader: Getting Everyone Enlisted In The Vision”:

How do the really effective leaders communicate with their followers? The answer is “very well!” If only it were that simple.

Truly communicating as a leader is a much different matter than merely giving a speech or sending a management edict. It is one thing to tell people what to do and how to do it. It is quite another to inspire them to want to do the things that are necessary for the life of the enterprise. If there is one characteristic that most differentiates effective leaders from the rest of the pack, it is the vision of the future that they provide to the members of the organization. Although creating an uplifting and inspiring vision is difficult enough, it is not where most would be leaders fail. They fail in communicating the vision in a way that continues to enlist the dedicated, emotional commitment of the people throughout the ranks.[iii]

            Hezekiah, because he became the “gatekeeper” to God’s house, is a type and shadow of the prophet. Prophets spiritually stand at the doors of God’s house, watching the comings and goings. Their interest is not confined to just the front door; they tend what might be sneaking in the back, as well. They both open and close doors when called by God to do so. Remember that at Elijah’s words, the heavens were shut of rain over Israel, and at Elijah’s words, the heavens were opened again.

            Even though Hezekiah’s initial communication of vision was mostly non-verbal, words are essential, too. In an article titled “Six leadership Traits of Sir Winston Churchill,” Eduardo Lim reminds us how important verbal communication is in conveying a clear vision:

Winston Churchill exemplified key leadership skills during his reign as the Prime Minister of Britain during the 1940s and 1950s. Through the study of leadership theories, it can be ascertained Winston Churchill portrayed a number of characteristics, traits, and behaviors of a charismatic and transformational leader. His charismatic leadership traits enabled him to adopt a vision and concentrate on the bigger picture, which enabled him to claim victory for his nation. Churchill was able to perform his duties democratically and not as a totalitarian dictator.

     To be an exceptional leader one must have strong communication skills. When much of Britain was in despair he excelled and through his inspirational speeches encouraged people to have faith in him. By using simple but precise language he was able to deliver effective speeches to his nation that all could understand, thus the people of Britain could identify with him and trust his vision. This enabled him to achieve the goals of the country and lead a democratic nation to victory over Nazi Germany.

     Much can be learned from his strong communication skills, innovation, and trustworthiness that made him one of the great leaders in history. He was and still is a true inspiration to others and his principles are still as relevant today in our uncertain climate as they were more than 60 years ago. As Churchill said, “History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”[iv]

            In my opinion, history has been kind to Hezekiah for the same reason. The king had the vision to reform and revive his country’s religious and civil life that his father, Ahaz, had destroyed. Hezekiah made the vision clear and communicated it well.

[i] Merriam-Webster





Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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