I remember as a kid watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which a dog catches a train. For some reason that image has stuck with me, and occasionally it comes to mind when I think about chasing after big goals and dreams. I can still see that dog, hanging on to the front of a train, exclaiming, “I caught a train.” Maybe the dog didn’t so much catch the train as the train caught or whacked the dog. A great spiritual revival can be a little bit like that.
We chase after a move of God and when it happens, it’s a lot like being hit by a train! It’s not something that we catch as much as the move of God catches us. And when it hits us, it can really give us a big wallop. We can’t carry or control a genuine revival. We can’t make it happen just like we want it to happen. And not every aspect of revival is going to be pleasant. It’s a lot of work and a lot of disruption to our lives. Some people who have led in previous revival movements know what I’m talking about. Some may even question whether they want to go through all that again, wondering if it’s really worth it. Well, it is worth it.
Jonathan Edwards, the key American figure in the First Great Awakening in the 1700s said this:
A great deal of noise and tumult, confusion and uproar, and darkness mixed with light, and evil with good, is always to be expected in the beginning of something very extraordinary, and very glorious in the state of things in human society, or the church of God.
Even though Edwards sees the mixture of good and bad, especially in the beginning stages of revival, for him the benefits of revival are still worth the trouble:
If God intends this great revival of religion to be the dawning, or forerunner of an happy state of his church on earth, it may be an instance of the divine wisdom, in the beginning of it, to suffer so many irregularities and errors in conduct, to which he knew men, in their present weak state, were most exposed, under great religious affections and when animated with great zeal. For it will be very likely to be of excellent benefit to his church, in the continuance and progress of the work afterwards.
Yes, a revival will be of excellent benefit to us today, and will contribute to our fulfilling the mission God has given us in our own generation. But the weak state of human nature hasn’t changed that much in the last 300 years, and there will certainly be some noise, tumult, confusion, and all the other things Edwards enumerates, along with the light and good we expect from revival.
Are you ready to catch a train?