This classic was originally published in March 1998
A tornado is a violent whirling windstorm that accompanies a funnel-shaped cloud. Severe thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain are present as well. Just as a tornado advances across the sky, touching down on land here and there, a genuine revival moves through the spiritual world, stirring up life among believers in its path.
Divine truth strikes like lightning. God’s voice thunders, bringing heavy conviction and repentance. And torrents of saving and delivering power from God rain down upon men, women and children.
Let’s explore the remaining ways in which a true revival mimics a tornado:
1. A Revival, Like a Tornado, is Destructive and Therefore Unwanted by Many People
Just as a tornado uproots trees and tears the roofs off of buildings, revival shakes the foundations of religious traditions and uproots strong leaders who cry out against God’s dealings.
Revival is messy; it disturbs routines and challenges the old ways of doing things. Church services no longer follow a tight agenda and time schedule when the Holy Spirit is given time and opportunity to do His work.
Because revival stirs up the status quo, expect to hear people of all doctrines and denominations protest loudly. They ignore the benefits of such a strong, cleansing storm, claiming that it does more harm than good. Stopping short of renouncing it completely, they look for messy spots to criticize. They remind me of the Pharisees who chastised Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. Both worship the law more than the law-giver. “Don’t go to that place,” I hear them saying. “It’s full of wildfire and too much excitement.” So many stay away, and so stay in their sins.
I understand why. The positive results of revival spoil the pet theories of certain ordained ministers. The revival’s simple focus on the Cross of Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of worldly formalists. The leading of the Holy Spirit frustrates the Jezebels and Ahabs who are determined to rule and control in their churches. And the presence of a righteous Lord cuts through the persistent hypocrisy of modern-day Ananiases and Sapphiras.
A young man once said the evangelist Billy Sunday, “My father don’t like these revivals.” Sunday replied, “That’s where your father and the devil are in agreement, son.” Woe unto the one that stands in open opposition to the salvation and deliverance of those God seeks to set free.
Writes Jeremiah, Behold the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind; it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked (Jeremiah 30:23 KJV).
A “continuing whirlwind” is a tornado. If you resist the truth, harden your heart, and curse such a storm, you are, in effect, cursing the God who sent it.
2. A Revival, Like a Tornado, Pays No Heed to Men’s Ideas of Dignity
The mission of a revival is to seek out and destroy “sin germs” from which men are dying. It brings a holy search warrant to expose the secrets of the darkened heart. It comes to extinguish the fires of rebellion burning deep inside. And a revival tornado does all this without even consulting men’s notions of dignity as to how its work should be done. Many believers pray for revival and talk about revival in times of drought, but when it comes in unexpected, often humbling ways, they prefer the dignity of a dry spiritual life.
Throughout Scripture we find examples of men and women who dared to be out-of-the-ordinary when it came to seeking God.
Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, not at the Tent of Meeting, and Joshua wanted Moses to rebuke them for doing things a little differently. But instead Moses said, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets…” (Numbers 11:29).
Elijah and Elisha did not belong to the regular school of the prophets, yet they exercised a mighty influence for God.
John the Baptist wasn’t ordinary, but his message of repentance made way for Jesus.
Jesus Himself was not recognized for doing things in a dignified manner. Imagine the raised eyebrows when Jesus spat on the ground, made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to a blind man’s eyes (John 9:6). And yet, when the man washed his eyes in the pool of Siloam, he came back seeing!
3. Just as More Rain Falls in One Tornado Than in Numerous Showers, More Souls are Saved in One Revival Than in Years of Evangelistic Effort
I admire the skill of a fly fisherman who artfully snags a single fish. But, I can also appreciate the prowess of a huge fishing boat. With its powerful motor and huge net, this single vessel pulls in thousands of fish at one time!
In periods of revival, our Lord employs such a net. Thank God for big boats and true revivals!
4. Like a Tornado, a Revival Moves On, Despite All Opposition
Your distaste for revival will not keep it out of your community. The question is: What will you do if revival comes to your church? Will you stand back and watch with a critical eye? Or will you welcome God with an open heart?
I urge you to pray, as I pray…
O precious Jesus, save us from our own fears and prejudices. Keep us from clothing the gospel with our paltry notions of human dignity. Deliver us from crowning our feeble efforts with approval while ignoring the jeweled crown of Your cross and the power of the Holy Spirit to sweep multitudes into Your loving, merciful arms. Bring us to our knees for our sins and powerlessness. And cloud our eyes with tears of repentance. Allow us to see the blackness of our own hearts and the blinding power of our comfortable, religious traditions. And, God, fill us with a deep and intense desire to please You. Enlarge our capacity to love You more.