Last year I was at a conference where Larry Randolph was one of the speakers, and he said something that I’ve been ruminating over ever since. He said that he was praying against revival in the United States. This seemed like a very odd statement from someone who is a part of a charismatic revival movement associated with the likes of Randy Clark and Bill Johnson. His point, however, was that we simply aren’t ready for revival. We’re arrogant. As he put it, “We want to power of God without the character of God.“
Randolph may very well be right. We want people to come back to the churches. We want to see our ministries grow, whether in local churches, seminaries, or parachurch organizations. We want cultural influence. But are we willing to humble ourselves to do this?
We certainly want the power of God, but are we willing to take on the attributes of God’s character? Yes, God is indeed all-powerful, but the expression of God’s power comes through attributes of God’s character. As a Christian, I take the character of God to be most fully revealed in the cross, in the act of kenosis–emptying–about which we read in Philippians 2:5-11. The cross is an expression of self-giving love, humility, and unmerited kindness. It demonstrates a willingness to set aside selfish ambition and pride. As God says to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”
Are we willing to put aside ambition, selfish desire, the love of wealth, the desire for notoriety?
Are we willing to be looked down upon for Christ and for other people?
Are we willing to live with less so that others can have enough?
Are we willing to become “weak” so that we can truly experience God’s power? God’s power and God’s character cannot be separated. So if we want the power of God, we had better be ready to assume the character of God.
You may already be familiar with John Wesley’s “covenant prayer.” This prayer, if you really consider its words, is a bit intimidating. It is a total release of control of our lives to God. It is total surrender to the divine will. That is a hard prayer to pray. And yet, Christ never said that life as his follower would be easy. He said quite the opposite. I would encourage you, then, to make this prayer a regular part of your prayer life. It is way of asking God to form our hearts and character in ways that match God’s heart and character:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
I yearn for renewal and revival in North America, but I think Randolph has hit the nail on the head: we can’t truly pray for the power of God without a willingness to accept the character of God.