Beacons of light across the nation
From a talk by Terry Virgo at a prayer day July 2017
At a recent prayer day in Westminster Chapel, Terry Virgo was asked to talk about revival. These are some edited notes of his short talk.
In this place, Westminster Chapel, Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones decided in 1959, 100 years after the 1859 revival, to preach on revival right through the year. He was stirred and provoked. He said, in one of those sermons, "If we don't see revival in our nation, the downward drift has reached such a point that we're in terrible peril as a nation. We desperately need revival."
That was even before the so-called, "Swinging Sixties," before so much that has changed. We've seen the dramatic transformation taking place in our nation. But we find that Bible history and Church history isn't a steady graph. There are seasons of terrible decline and there are these amazing times where God moves. Often in the Old Testament, for example the stories about the different judges, terrible decline, every one was doing what was right in his own eyes. Then they cried to God, and God anoints a Gideon or anoints a Samson and breaks through.
We know from the time of the end of the kingdom of Solomon until the time when Elijah comes on the scene, that was just 58 years. That's shorter than our Queen's reign. Fifty-eight years. And by the time Elijah came on the scene it was illegal to worship the Lord. They're worshipping Baal and Jezebel behind Ahab is running the nation. In 58 short years, how culture can change.
Well that's been the case in our nation. Revival has been the time that God, in His infinite mercy, turns things around. We're aware probably of the Wesleyan Revival. Whitfield and Wesley preaching in the open air. Huge crowds coming. And then a nation being so turned that many would say, "This country was saved from the equivalent of a French Revolution because such a powerful thing was happening across the nation."
You can't legislate for righteousness. You can't pass laws at Westminster that change a nation. But it's the culture and the hope that gives the change. Then you'll find that legislation will catch up with it. And you'll find after Wesley, so many things changed. The hospitals, prisons, education, the way children were treated, work in the mines, so many things, all recorded, detailed recordings of England how it was mightily transformed after Wesley.
We may not know about the 1859 Revival. 50 years on from the Wesleyan revival, there was need again for another revival. Jeremiah Shropshire in New York began to pray; he began to set up a lunchtime prayer meeting in New York. And he set aside an office and said to people, "Would you like to gather up and pray?" For the first half hour no one turned up. And then after half an hour a few dribbled in and by the end of the hour, six people had gathered. Next week, he's gathered another 20 people. And then the following week, 40 people. And then that by the next month more and more people were gathering to pray and seek God. Then there was a run on the banks in New York and people began to get alarmed and concerned and began to pray. And so in the end, there were tens of thousands of people meeting to pray every lunchtime. Churches began to open for lunchtime prayer meetings. Some of them weekly, some of them daily - a growing amount of prayer. That lasted for a year or two and then suddenly, God broke out and many, many were saved and added. They reckon something like a million people were added to the American church.
And then it came across to Ulster and then Scotland and then right back down into the rest of the U.K. And time after time, revival broke out in town after town - very similar to what happened in New York. Initially after just a handful of people began to pray. So town, after town, after town, people gathering to pray. Often it starts with people just catching the news from other places. There's a cry out to God. So, the momentum of prayer grew. Evangelists were raised up from the millions who'd been praying about it. They say a million people were added to the British church in the next two years.
I was filled with the Spirit in 1962. I joined a little group and we were praying for revival because that was what was on our minds - revival. A little group on Monday nights, we started to pray, "Oh, God, come and revive. Come and revive." And I began to feel God calling me to give more time to pray for revival. I thought well how can I do that? In the end, it became so intense that it was time to leave my job. But to do what? To pray for revival.
So every day, Monday through Saturday, we met together every morning to pray for two or three hours a day for revival. And the intensity of God's presence sometimes was remarkable. I remember one morning I was scared to open my eyes, wondering what I might see in terms of a sense of God's power. I thought we were on the edge of revival. It was the start of a long, long journey over these years. We began with people getting filled with the Spirit. People getting baptised in the Spirit, speaking in tongues. It was, at that time, an extraordinary new phenomenon. Then I began to see a glorious Church, making room for the gifts, filled with the Spirit. Not a Church changed into a slightly new wineskin but a glorious Church. Then I saw the grace of God. Then apostolic ministry and a body, a functioning body. But revival? No but let's get on with these things You're showing us. Let's get on with these things.
Very early on, a woman called Jean Darnell, preached at the Capel Bible week. She said, "I've seen a vision of England, and over her I can see spots of light. Light. City after city. I believe God is going to raise up an army of light all over the nation." One of the first times I spoke at the Downs Bible week, I spoke on Gideon. How Gideon's army was reduced and reduced and reduced, until it was actually just 300 of them. And I felt God really stir this in my heart lately. It says in Isaiah 9, "the people have seen a great light", which is what happened at the battle of Midian with Gideon. Suddenly the people in darkness saw 300 bright lights all around them. The Son has come, this mighty God. It's going to be a great victory.
We started the journey planting more and more churches - let's see restoration first. So revival kind of stuck on one side because in 1960 the church was so cold, so formal. No one was speaking into your life. There was no community, family, grace, engagement, many hadn't got it. And we've worked hard. Rebuild and restructure. Doing something that will glorify together, that holds together through love and loyalty and common faith. So I believe God wants us now to pray for revival. To believe God for the coming of the Spirit, to believe that He will yet move. That He will come with power.
I had letter recently from Ginny in Sheffield. She was saved in the 1970s and she was given a vision. And in the vision she saw a map of the whole of England. And she saw pinpricks of light. Pinpricks of light, which grew bigger and bigger, growing bigger and brighter as she looked at them. And she saw as she looked closer they were fires that were bursting into flame like beacons across the nation. She realised that the nation itself was getting darker and darker and darker. But the beacons were getting brighter and brighter and brighter until they flared into one huge burst of flame.
She thought that God promised her that revival would come and that God would give her two confirmations - that this was His voice to her. And she thought they would come in the next few days but she had to wait some years. Some years later, she said, she turned on the television and saw a helicopter flying up and down many beacons that had been lit across the nation for the Queen's silver jubilee. And as she saw this on television, that's what I saw in the vision. All these lights burning and then she had to wait a few more years. A few more years she saw another of these television programmes and it was 50 years on from V.E. day and they were lighting beacons all across the nation. And she felt these were the two confirmations that God had promised her.
And then some time later, she asked God to give her some encouragement to remind her again of the things that God would do. The following morning, at the morning service in the middle of the worship time, she was told there was a man at the door asking for her. She went to speak to him rather defensively. The man said to her that he'd been working in Leeds and was on his way home to the south of England when God has spoken to him and told him to come and find her to tell her something. He had no idea where she would be or what church. But God would direct him, street to street, to find the church. And he arrived at the church in Sheffield and asked after her.
He said that he had tell her what his job is. He didn't know why. He just had to tell her what his job is. He said, "Do you remember the beacons being lit for the Queen's silver jubilee and for V.E. day celebrations? My job is working on the Millennium beacon committee responsible for organising the lighting of the beacons up and down the land. I work directly with the man who gives the Queen starter equipment to light the first beacon."
I truly believe God wants us to anticipate His coming in power. I feel God spoke it to me, recently. It's been quite a demanding year this last year, very taxing, very demanding. It's like nearly everything fell through. Why are we going through such tough times? So then one day I set myself to seek God in prayer. And then I knew it was okay. Things would go through. And then I thought, "Lord, why?" And He said to me, "I want you to have this same certainty that what I promised you about revival will come." I want to have that same certainty. And I'm know I'm praying into that. I can't say I've arrived, but I am praying diligently for that so I can say with utter, utter, confidence I know it's going to come.
I had a prophecy from one of our people in India given to me before all the recent incidents in the UK. "You will see revival in your nation following a wave of national fear." I think the nation is becoming ripe for a move of God. And we, the Church, need to lay up with God. J. O. Frazier says, "Don't be lazy. Don't just keep repeating things. Fight them until you know you've got them."
I was thinking about Elijah the other day. About his servant looking seven times for the rain cloud. Every time he looked, is it now, is it now? No, it's not. About to give up and don't just get into vain repetition. Pray, expecting it's going to happen. I believe it. I believe multiplying prayer is happening all over, all over. People are gathering, little twos and threes. People are beginning to pray. Thousands are praying half a night, let's believe God. The Church of England recently prayed for Thy Kingdom Come. Cathedrals filled with praying people. There is a growing prayer life in the nation. Let's go with it. Let's believe God, that He will move, that He will break through. Let's believe God for it. Amen?
Your church is a beacon of light in the nation. Let's pray for revival expecting it is going to happen.
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