October 1996. I was flying from London on a flight that appeared to be stopping at every African village on route to Johannesburg. Sleeping through the night I was wakened by a startling vision of the glory of God. I lay terrified for several minutes, then slipped back into sleep. On arrival in South Africa the visions continued for several nights.
Whilst ministering in South Africa God began to move at a level I had seldom seen before. People healed, saved, drug addicts overwhelmed by the power of God. Sightings of angels, visions of the future and whole congregations taken up into wondrous meetings with God. Backsliders came back to Christ, the oppressed were delivered, the unsaved fell, overcome by Gods presence and got up saved! It was amazing. The fulfilment of prophecy over my life and an answer to many prayers.
And yet, throughout the wondrous six weeks I began to realise I felt desperately weak. God was moving in amazing power and seemed with me every second, but I was still in need. The same insecure, sinful, lonely, normal Jarrod. The same attitude difficulties, pride and problems. Same old me, doing my best, living for God, making mistakes. I realised I could perform a miracle one minute and be an idiot the next. In fact, as the high’s grew higher, the lows also stooped lower. I’d either be God’s man of power for the hour, or a guilt ridden wreck, desperately needing friendship and advice.
I had been praying for revival for many years, but this experience led me to question my expectations of revival. I believed, and still do, amazing visitations of God are going to hit our nation in the next few decades. But could revival do as much harm, as good, to those leading it?
At the same time as ministering in South Africa, I was studying the life of Welsh revivalist, Evan Roberts. A man who saw amazing things happen in his ministry; thousands saved and healed, a nation impacted, and a fire spread throughout the globe. A man who we all should surely admire in some way.
Yet as I studied I realised here was a man with many emotional difficulties. A man with who, at times, it was difficult to know whether he was being led by the Spirit of God, or deep insecurities. A man who, by many accounts, had several nervous breakdowns that had him carried from the very revival ministry he his hailed for.
Revival Is Not Enough
Could it be that revival is not enough? Could it be that we are praying for some thing that could actually destroy us? What would happen if God visited our churches and ministries today? How much sin, pride and insecurity would surface, currently masked by spiritual elitism and charismatic culture?
God On Flesh
I come from a spiritual heritage that infers that God would never harm us. If he tells us to do something, we’ll always be okay. The experience of the Spirit will always be a good one.
This simplistic view of the spiritual realm was shattered in me when I met an African prophetess. All love and humility, but with unnerving accuracy, she told me all about myself and my family 6000 miles away! Then, as I got to know her a little, she shared how the prophetic ministry almost cost her her marriage. That did not compute to me! Overwhelmed by visions and taken up with the spiritual realm, she said it was very easy to get unbalanced and unhealthy. She had to “control” how much she gave herself to spiritual experiences (1 Corinthians 14:32) and use some godly common sense regarding living as a spiritual person in a human world.
Scripturally of course, people have had experiences of God that are painful and overwhelming. John fell terrified as though dead at the sight of Jesus; Daniel lay ill for 10 days because of an overwhelming vision. Stephen was so taken up with God he cried the very words that had him stoned to death (Acts 7:55)!
The concept that anything from God will only make you feel good and carries no risk is nonsense! When Almighty God touches human flesh, sometimes that touch is so gentle, but God can, and will, come in might, power, glory and overwhelming revelation. This is the Glory that will visit the earth in the next few decades. Some of us, due to our own lack of strength and character will become “ill” as Daniel did. Some, not because of God, but our own lack of “fitness”, may die, unprepared for the glories that will engulf us. Some will find it too emotionally disturbing. Some will lose marriages, ministries and even minds, because we do not understand the overwhelming nature of God. Pray, grace of God, prepare us for the day of your power.
Preparing for Extraordinary Days
The need of every leader today is to prepare for extraordinary days. Extraordinary days can only be led by extraordinary leaders. As I minister to pastors and leaders who are of my fathers generation, I challenge them: “Thank you for prophesying revival to my generation. Thank you for the dreams, visions and promises. Thank you for a generation of prayer warriors who have been drawing the visitation of God to our nation in the last few decades. But my generation now need more than promises and prophecies. Give us the character, integrity and relationships to live through what you are promising us!”.
Prophecies are fine, but they are conditional. Revival will not last if we are unprepared. When revival occurs pride can run rife. I don’t know about you, but when I get it “right”, my head starts to swell (okay, so you’re more spiritual than I am!). When that prophecy is spot on, when that sick person is healed, outside it’s “all glory to Jesus”: Inside a dead old Jarrod cries out from the grave “You’re the man! That looked good!”. We have to keep that man of flesh in the grave. Sometimes only friends can help us keep him there!
Satans Mission: Divide & Conquer
When God moves, independence hit’s ministries. This has happened historically over and over again. God moves, giving seeming justification to a ministry and it’s methods. It is the chosen vessel for the moment. Perhaps it is; but it’s pride then pushes all unwarranted advice away. They are the Chosen Ones! Honest relationships are cut off. They fail to take themselves lightly, overlooking the temporary nature of the grace on their ministry.
Of course, with independence may come doctrinal error, secret lifestyles and ministry destroying sin. And with that, the devils mission to end a move, throw out God’s visitation and quench a revival is complete. Mission accomplished.
The Church then jumps on the injured ministry, finishes it off in a “told you so” Fest’, and gets back to living a grey lifestyle, hoping that their own ministry, church or denomination will be used of God to bring a move to the Church. There the cycle begins again.
Walk With The Wise
When ministering to young leaders, something I do often with the work of the Young Leaders Association, I tell them there is one thing more important than any other in the Christian life. More important than Bible reading; more important than worship, prayer or ministry; something even more important than loving God (now you’re worried about me!). The most important thing is who you hang out with. You can pray, have great theology and love God with as much of your heart as you can muster, but if you hang out with the wrong people, you’ll end up in the wrong place. Very few people are totally unaffected by their friends. Proverbs observes “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a friend of fools suffers harm”. You become like those you hang out with.
We all know people who have loved God, but love him no longer because they’ve been friends with the wrong people. One of the most important factors in our preparation for revival, is healthy relationships. People that challenge, inspire and check up on us. True friendship among godly leaders will probably be the greatest sentry over a lasting revival. Prayer, doctrine and even obedience to the Spirit, held outside of true brotherhood in God, will almost inevitably end in some deception or failure.
This is why networking and the development of spiritual relationships is the prophetic word of this season. All over the nation God is networking people, connecting individuals in friendships that will stand for years to come. Classic denominations are looking outside their imposing historic walls; the New Church is climbing down from it’s pioneering pedestal; insular ministries are reaching out to form new relationships.