When God opens the Heavens
By James A. Stewart
(In this article, James A. Stewart (missionary) shares from his experience of open heavens during his ministry in Europe, which began in 1934 and continued for over a period of about 20 years.)There are definite symptoms of revival when it comes. You know, if a child has influenza the parents can diagnose it because there are symptoms. And if you have revival in your heart, in your assembly, in your Sunday School, you must have the symptoms. Now what are some of the symptoms?)
The Spirit of Humiliation, Contrition, Confession
In Zechariah 12:10 we are told when the Spirit of grace (the Holy Spirit) and of supplication is poured out on the people of God there is weeping and wailing, mourning and bitterness. I know that is a prophetic text, but it is true in the church of Jesus Christ today. I never knew a revival to commence without first a spirit of humiliation and confession and repentance.
God’s people are humiliated when the Holy Spirit is outpoured. The people of God are broken down before the cross of Calvary. They cry out, "Oh God, forgive me for my cold heart. Forgive me for my unforgiving spirit. Forgive me for my critical spirit. Forgive me for my lack of a burden for a world lost and going to hell." I tell you, friends, there is nothing so humiliating as revival.
Sometimes during the seasons of revival in Europe, there was no human preacher. God has come into our meetings and we have not been able to open our mouths to pray, or to testify, or to preach. The holiness of God was everywhere. The majestic Christ was with us.
You often pray, "Lord Jesus, draw near, O God, come into our meeting. Holy Spirit, move up and down among the people." Yes, and suppose He did. My dear friends, a lot of things would happen. There would be confession and contrition and repentance.
Broken Down before the Lord
In Hungary revival came…. How did it start? It started like any other mighty river – with a little trickle of spiritual blessing. It began in a German Methodist church. Only a little handful of believers were present, but these believers were broken down before the Holy Spirit. They could not eat; they could not sleep. They had to get right with God and that meant getting right with each other.
Conscience Void of Offense before God and Man
We had a prayer meeting, and we prayed, "Blessed Holy Spirit, show us who is to be the interpreter for this evangelistic campaign." The Lord’s lot fell upon a very humble insignificant stripling. This little man interpreted for me only one night, and then I lost him.
After ten days he came back and I said, "Where have you been? Do you not know you have to interpret the message?" He said, "Brother Stewart, as I stood up there the Holy Ghost slew me; I could feel the sword of the Spirit. The Spirit of God said, ‘You hypocrite, you hypocrite.’
"So I have spent these days and much money in railway fares going around my country of Hungary making restitution to my brethren and sisters in Jesus Christ." He stood before the people and said, "So far as I know now, I have a conscience void of offense toward God and toward man."
Sins of Evil Speaking
Suppose your pastor was humiliated by the Lord before his congregation. Suppose the deacons and the elders were humiliated by the Holy Ghost. Suppose this stirred up the members of your church to make reconciliation. Suppose one pastor should go to another pastor, and say, "Brother, I have been saying nasty things about your denomination and your church. We have been conceited and full of self-esteem."
Oh, I tell you, that is a symptom of revival! Have you got that, friend? Do you sense that in your church – that spirit of humiliation? Have you got a red face, and a broken heart?
Are you willing to crawl on your hands and knees and become a worm? You say, "I am not going to become a worm, Brother Stewart." Until you become a worm you will never have revival in your heart. Our blessed Redeemer said, "I am a worm and no man" (Psa. 22:6). If Christ can become a worm for you, surely you can become a worm for Him.
One of our co-laborers in Europe, the eldest daughter of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, said to me, "Brother James, do you know what I believe?
"I believe that these sins of the heart, these roots of bitterness, envy, jealousy, grudge, criticism, these unforgiving spirits, are more hellish in the sight of God than some of these sins we talk about – adultery, murder and so on."
Friend, that is a solemn message from an old saint of God. A root of bitterness and an unforgiving spirit grieves and quenches the Holy Ghost.
Travailing in Spiritual Childbirth
In Isaiah 66:8 we read, "As soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." This is the spirit of travail, the spirit of intercession, the spirit of prayer. This is the sin in America today: this spirit of intercession and travail is lacking.
My dear friend, when I go into your churches, I wonder what the people of God come for. They are chatting as though they were waiting for a baseball game to begin. It is nice to have a friendly church, but how can the Holy Ghost work to bring souls to Christ if you have not the spirit of travail?
The Wesleys cried to the people and said, "If you do not weep for yourselves, we will weep for you," and they broke down in uncontrollable weeping. Many times in Europe when I came into the place where our meetings were being held, all I could hear were sobs from the people of God burdened for the salvation of loved ones.
It is not enough that an evangelist or a pastor preaches the orthodox Gospel. It is not enough that he preach it with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. The pastor and every member of his church must travail in real spiritual childbirth. If you want to see your loved ones, your neighbors, the children in your Sunday School class won to Christ, you must travail. Not only implant the seed of the Word of God, but travail in spiritual childbirth.
During the time of revival in Latvia, which lasted six years before we were chased out…again and again the choir of 200 voices could not sing the invitation hymn. They were broken down before God, so burdened for souls of men.
If in your church you see the spirit of prayer, that spirit of intercession, the spirit of agony, it is a symptom of revival. But if you see the people of God unconcerned, talking about what they had for dinner Saturday night, just having a nice chat, it is a sign that the glory of the Lord has departed. Or maybe the glory has never come.
The Spirit’s Burden
I was with my younger brother once in Budapest and I met him in the main street at four o’clock in the morning. I said, "Where are you going?" He said, "I am going to the Methodist church." I said, "I am going to the Presbyterian church. Listen – if you find Mrs. So-and-so in the Methodist church, will you please plead with her to go home?"
But when I returned to the Methodist church later in the day, there was the sister still on her knees. I touched her shoulder and I said, "Sister, will you please go home? You know, you have been here in the church for over twenty-four hours praying. Look, there are hundreds of others in this church praying. You can go home now, Sister."
I shall never forget how this lady looked up at me through her tears and said, "Brother Stewart, I dare not go home. You are not the Holy Ghost. I will not go home until revival comes to the Lutheran church in Hungary. I will not go home until hundreds of Lutheran pastors are born again of the Holy Ghost and come to know Christ as their Saviour." There she was a broken woman like Hannah, pouring out her heart to God.
Holy Persistency and Insistency
At every prayer meeting we had, no matter how great the number of people there, when we asked for prayer petitions, she was always first to speak up, saying "Brother Stewart, please pray that the Lutheran pastors will get saved. Please pray for revival in the body of Christ."
The Bishop of the Lutheran church said to me, before my arrest by the Russians, "Brother Stewart, I wish to thank you for bringing revival to my church, the Lutheran Church of Hungary, as well as other Protestant churches."
I replied, "Brother, you are wrong. Revival came to your church and tens of thousands of your people have been saved, because of the agonizing spirit of one woman."
Spirit of Longing
The Psalmist said, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God" (Psa. 42:1).
A symptom of revival is the spirit of longing, the spirit of expectancy. If some of the deacons and teachers and members come to the pastor and say, "Pastor, we do not think it is enough to have one prayer meeting a week – we ought to have two" – that is a symptom of revival. If they say, "We do not think it is enough to have one Bible study a week – we ought to have more" – that is a good sign. Thank God for a holy discontentment, a spirit of hunger, a spirit of longing for more of the Lord. It is a sign that revival is coming.
Spirit of Harmony
"How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psa. 133:1).
One of the first steps of revival is the removal of denominational barriers. They have created hatred and jealousy and envy among the people of God. When I was under sentence of death by the Russians and they were torturing me for my faith in Christ, and I thought I had to meet God in a few minutes, I tell you an overwhelming love came into my heart. I saw for three weeks God’s side of eternity. I was not on this side looking into eternity. I was in eternity looking back on all my life.
I saw the futility and hopelessness of raising denominational barriers to divide the people of God. I say, when you see unity and harmony among God’s people, you see a wonderful symptom of revival….
Spirit of Faith
You remember the story in 1 Kings 18. The prophet was on Mount Carmel and he was praying. He said to his servant, "Go up now, look toward the sea." And he went up, and looked, and said, "There is nothing." And the prophet Elijah said, "‘Go again’ seven times." And the seventh time there was a little cloud, like a man’s hand: and the man of God in faith and in the spirit of anticipation prophesied much rain. I think believing prayer is the greatest symptom of revival.
In 1940 I was evangelizing, having a mighty time of revival in Bucharest. This remarkable thing happened. We had ten days of prayer for unsaved loved ones to be saved during the meeting. Then almost the last night these Romanian people stood and said, "Brother Stewart, please do not pray for my husband any longer." "Please do not pray for my wife any longer." "Please do not pray for my sister any longer."
Do you know why? Because every one of them had the spirit of faith. They had travailed in spiritual childbirth.
Pray Through Then Praise Through
When you have prayed through, do not pray yourself out of faith. Thank God for the answer and wait expectantly. During the evangelistic meetings which followed, every one of these relatives was saved.
One was a murderer, a general in King Carol’s army. He had been disgraced and put out of the army. He spoke seven languages. They had not heard from him for two years. But the sister had said, "Brother Stewart, do not pray for my brother any longer. He is saved. I have the witness of the Spirit that my prayer is answered."
This is what happened. At four o’clock in the morning a brother was coming from an ammunition factory where he had been working, and he saw a poor bum in the gutter drunk. He took him home. He scrubbed him and put him in bed. When the man was sober in the morning, the brother spoke to him about Christ. The man said, "That is how my sister talks. That is her language."
Yes, it was the ex-general. He came to the meeting that night. He came seventeen successive nights, and finally he entered the inquiry room and found Christ.
Continue quietly in believing secret prayer until revival comes!
That is the spirit of faith, the spirit of anticipation. Are you praying for revival? If you are praying for revival in your heart, in your home, in your church, then get the promise from God.