by Vance Havner
About the author: Vance Havner, 1901-1986, was a very popular “revivalist” and Bible conference speaker and wrote more than 30 books of sermons and devotionals. He became a Christian as a boy, licensed to preach at twelve and ordained at fifteen. Havner spent a lifetime calling people to repentance. He especially had a heart for preachers, calling them to a lifestyle of solitude, meditation, and holiness. His charm, wit, and homespun style of relating biblical truth were convicting and unforgettable. He boldly proclaimed the Word of God for seventy-three years and was known as one of the most quoted preachers in America. Today you can still hear preachers quote from his books and sermons.
Billy Graham has said, “Vance Havner used the Word of God like a sword. You pick any one of his books and you could sense the presence and power of the Holy Spirit leaping off those pages.”
<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>
Listen to the voice of the prophet, Isaiah, pleading for divine visitation, “Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence” (Is. 64:1). Isaiah was a faithful preacher during a time when the nation was going to pieces. The people were trying to stave off disaster by alliances here and there, but Isaiah stood his ground and declared that all their schemes would crack up in defeat unless they turned to God. The prophet looked around at the condition of the country and then looked back to remember the days of old. He said, “When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence” (64:3).
God’s manifestations at Sinai with Moses, with Joshua, Gideon, and David, were when Israel walked in power. The prophet says in effect, “Lord, do it again.” He uses three reasons in telling the people why God is not coming down in power. These same reasons hold true today.
Rarely do you hear people say, as David did, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned” (Ps. 51:4). I used to wonder why David said that. I thought he had sinned against just about everybody, including Uriah, Bathsheba, the nation, and himself. But David had a proper concept of sin. He regarded it as something against God first and foremost. We don’t hear much of that today. We need to face, first of all, our own sins as Christians. “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). That should be enough to put us on our knees. There are sins of omission, sins of commission, sins of disposition and doubtful things. These are not just our mistakes, not just our blunders, not just our imperfection, but our sins. We have not only our sinful natures, but also our sinful deeds. God is not breaking through because we have sinned and have not repented.
“All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). Our self-made righteousness is less than nothing. The Bible says our righteousnesses are as rags, because they don’t cover us, and filthy because they only defile us. We have so much self-righteousness that we are too good to have a revival. The Laodiceans were in that same awful state. Do you know what a church full of Pharisees today would be like? Why, everybody would go to church; everybody would read the Bible; everybody would pray in public; everybody would be separated; everybody would give a tithe; everybody would try to win other folks to their belief; and everybody would be lost! That’s how good you can be and not be good enough.
I’m especially concerned about the third reason why God isn’t visiting us today with a great manifestation of His power. Notice Isaiah 64:7: “There is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee.”
Note that it doesn’t say, “There is none that stirreth up himself,” period. There has never been a time when the church was stirring up itself more than it is now. We’ve never had more rattlesnakes than we have now. But so much of all this activity does not get hold of God. We read the Bible, we pray, we go to church, and these things are a means to an end. So often, however, they stop right there. Our Lord’s accusation at Sardis was simply this, “I have not found thy works perfect [fulfilled] before God” (Rev. 3:2). Oh, they were doing a lot of good things, and they were as busy as could be. They were doing more and more, however, of less and less. These people were not getting through to God.
We have a lot of dear folk today who are either in a state of cholera morbus or St. Vitus’s dance. The thing for us to do is to get going for God. Faith has no value in itself unless it connects you with God. The Bible is constantly trying to wake us up. “Stir up the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6). “Break up your fallow ground” (Hos. 10:12). “Gird up the loins of your mind” (1 Pet. 1:13).
We need to take ourselves by the nape of the neck and make ourselves do the thing we know we ought to do, whether we feel like it or not. Sometime ago I woke up in the middle of the night. The weather had changed and I was cold. There was a good blanket at the foot of the bed, but I was so sleepy I never did get myself together enough to apply the remedy. I went around with a “crick” in my neck for several days. A lot of people know what the trouble is, and they know where the remedy is, but they never stir up themselves to take hold of God.
Some people are waiting for a lovely feeling to come. Sam Jones used to say, “If I went out to chop wood and you found me out there sitting with my axe on my knees, and not a chip in sight, you could well ask, ‘What are you waiting for?” What would you think if I said, “Well, I’m waiting until I work up a sweat. When I do that, I want to chop wood.’”
A lot of people are waiting for a lovely feeling. You have a Bible there; read it. Pray whether you feel like it or not. Go to God’s house to pray. March yourself to the place where prayer is accustomed to be made. Get one foot in front of the other and walk down that church aisle and do the thing you ought to do. “There is none that stirreth up himself to take hold of God.” These things in the church today hinder the visitation of God. Our sinfulness, our self-righteousness, and our sluggishness hinder the ministry of the Spirit. Whatever your trouble is, apply the means of grace and do something about it. God will visit you. God will break through again.
This sermon excerpt is taken from When God Breaks Through, Sermons on Revival, by Vance Havner, published by Kregel Publications. It is due in bookstores in May.
Dennis J. Hester has compiled and edited three previous books on Vance Havner. He works as a church consultant, workshop leader, conference speaker, and writer. You can contact him for an autograph copy of this new book at www.Betterchurches.com or (704)482-8285.