Corporate revival, in the biblical and historical sense, is a precious term that ought to be reserved for those “divine moments” when there is a supernatural outpouring of God’s Spirit on His people that cannot be explained in any human terms.

The fact that a lot of people are talking about “revival” doesn’t mean that we are, therefore, in the midst of revival. We must continually evaluate what is taking place through the grid of God’s Word.

Large crowds, intense enthusiasm, stirred emotions, energetic activity, and “signs and wonders” are not necessarily evidence of revival. Nor can they uniformly be attributed to God at work among His people. All these things can be imitated by the world, or even counterfeited by false religions, even as Pharaoh’s magicians were able to counterfeit the miracles that God did through Moses.

Genuine revival will not be popular with everyone. It may have a polarizing effect. It will divide between those who are walking after the flesh and those who are walking in the Spirit, between those who want to build their own kingdom and those who want to build the kingdom of God, between those who are attached to their own ideas and those who are committed to the Word of God.

Genuine revival must not be “just another” popular program or emphasis in the church. In its quest for results and success, the church tends to gravitate to trends and to jump from one new thrust to the next.

But the church of Jesus Christ does not need one more novel idea or approach. “The answer” is not a program or an effort. What we need is the presence and power of God. And that cannot be acquired by launching another emphasis; we must seek His face.

Revival is not an end in itself. Our mission is not to seek revival, but to seek the Lord. However, when we seek His face, revival is a likely by-product.

There is nothing we can do to coerce or manipulate God to send revival. All our prayers, our fasting, our gatherings, our efforts to promote revival are no guarantee that God will indeed be pleased to send revival. And while it is unlikely that God will revive a people who have not earnestly sought Him, revival remains a sovereign, independent work of God.

There are no shortcuts to revival. We may be so eager to experience the fruit of revival that we bypass God’s conditions for revival: humility, repentance, contrition, prayer, and obedience. There is no such thing as a “painless Pentecost.” Weeping comes before joy. The cross comes before the resurrection. Death comes before life. Brokenness comes before wholeness.

Revival is not primarily a way to get rid of our problems, to make our lives easier, to increase giving, to get people to respond, or to increase the fruit of our ministries. The ultimate purpose of revival is for the glory of God—that His name might be known and reverenced in our world, that His kingdom would rule and reign in the hearts of men, and that His will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Let us rejoice in every evidence that God is manifesting Himself to the hearts of His people, that Christ is being exalted, that the Holy Spirit is stirring God’s people to seek His face, and that believers are responding to Him in humility, repentance, faith, and obedience.

At the same time, let us be discerning and carefully evaluate every purported evidence of revival in the light of God’s Word. Let us not cheapen the term revival by prematurely or carelessly applying it to every contemporary religious movement, but reserve its use for that which is truly heaven-sent and God-initiated.

Most of all, let us press on to seek the Lord with all our hearts and call others to join us in doing so. And let us eagerly anticipate that day when His glorious presence may be “like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth!” (Psalm 72:6 esv).

Excerpt from “Is This Revival? An Appeal for Discernment”
© 2004 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.