(Excerpted from the book, The End of the American Gospel Enterprise)
By Dr. Michael L. Brown
How can we turn things around? How can we get out of the deep rut? What is the answer for those who have not grown spiritually for many months and years? What must we do to change?
We must desire God more than anything else. We must seek Him, and cry out to Him, and long for Him. We must make an absolute determination that nothing will separate us from Him. We must be utterly ruthless with ourselves and cut away everything that offends. It is time to put away our idols!
When God told Jacob to return to Bethel and build Him an altar there, Jacob said to his household, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes” (Gen. 35:2). But why were foreign gods there at all?
Jacob had met with God once at Bethel and entered into a covenant with Him there (Gen. 28). But that was a long time ago! The Lord had kept up His part of the agreement; Jacob had let things slip. For years, He had let his family and servants worship foreign gods. He had allowed them to have divided hearts. Now God was ready to visit him again. The idols had to go!
Isn’t that just like us? We have our “Bethel” experiences and powerfully meet with God (like Jacob in Gen. 28). We make a covenant to live for Him and Him alone. And then life goes on. The old habits begin to come back. The flesh starts to rule again. We witness less, pray less, and fast less (we are supposed to be growing!). Our hearts no longer break for the sick and destitute. And then God says, “Go back to Bethel and worship Me there!”
All of a sudden we wake up. We take inventory of our lives and are shocked. We have been living according to the desires of the flesh. We have hardly denied ourselves at all. Jesus is our limited Lord. Sometimes we’re even ashamed of Him.
We look at ourselves and grow sad. We remember how real God was to us. But now our eyes are on others. We work for the praise of man and are paralyzed by the fear of man. We seek to please people more than we seek to please God. Human words influence us more than divine words, and we are satisfied in this world. Our lives have been filled with idols. And God is saying, “It’s time to go back to Bethel. I’m ready to meet with you there.”
How should we respond?
We must fall on our faces and pray. We must make a radical change in our schedules. Shut off the TV and the VCR (television is the number one polluting force among American believers today). Put down the newspaper and the magazines. Cut out the endless hours of phone call chatter. Seek the face of God.
Nothing is more important. Nothing will do you more good. Desire God in prayer. Tell Him your frustration. Confess to Him your sin. Turn to God with your heart. He will turn to you.
The devil says, “It’s too late. Just quit. God will never hear. Maybe He will bless the others, but it’s way too late for you.”
Don’t listen to the devil’s lies! He knows you’re on the right track. He’s making a last ditch attempt to stop you. Spendmore time with God! The devil is a thief.
“The world has not yet seen what God can do through a person completely dedicated to Him” (D. L. Moody). There are no secret methods or magical tricks. Fervent prayer is the key. It opens us up to God. It invites Him to work in our lives. It exposes us to His presence. Something has to give.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (Jam. 4:8). That is a promise of the Word. Wherever you are, whatever your condition, prayer can carry you back. Just move in God’s direction. Every day, take a step. Skip some meals and devour the Word. Fast and shut yourself in with Jesus. Call out to Him every hour — morning, noon, and night. Pour out your soul to God! Before you know it, He will change your heart. It is absolutely sure.
“Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hos. 6:3).
The Spirit is on your side. Jesus intercedes on your behalf. The Father longs to bless you. What can hold you back? Cast discouragement aside; put hopelessness under your feet. Make a determination. Seek the Lord with all of your strength. He will not let you down.
“No matter what your soul may be coveting, if it becomes the supreme cry of your life, not the secondary matter, or the third or fourth, the fifth, or tenth, but the supreme desire of your soul, the paramount issue — all the powers and energies of your spirit, soul and body are reaching out and crying to God for the answer — it is going to come!” (John Lake)
Mothers at home with young children — you can meet with Him there! Keep the Word open all day. Look at it when you pass by. Let your heart cry go up to the throne. He will take notice and hear.
God’s presence is not limited to church buildings! You can experience Him right on your job. He is looking at the longings of your soul. Spiritual hunger is a state of the heart. Let your thoughts be consumed with the Lord.
No one is too busy to seek His face! We have time to worry. We have time to relax. We have time for friends. We have time for God. None of us are too busy to eat, and drink, and sleep. None of us are too busy to pray. And God is not too busy to answer!
“If from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29). He has bound Himself by His Word.
Do God’s will today. Tomorrow never comes. Follow His leading this hour. Forget about falling short. He will guide you one step at a time.
Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up (Jam. 4:10). Depend upon the grace of God. He will deliver, and He will keep. If you seek Him with all your heart, you will never have a regret.
And what happens when you get so hungry that you are determined to see revival come, whatever it takes, whatever the cost, whatever the consequences may be?
Ninety years ago “Daddy” Seymour became desperate for more of God. He had heard from Charles Parham about the baptism in the Spirit, and he was bent on receiving from heaven. He was working as a waiter and pastoring a church. Yet for two and a half years he prayed five hours a day.
“I got to Los Angeles,” he relates, “and there the hunger was not less but more. I prayed, ‘God, what can I do?’ The Spirit said, ‘Pray more. There are better things to be had in spiritual life, but they must be sought out with faith and prayer.’ ‘But Lord, I am praying five hours a day now.’ I increased my hours of prayer to seven, and prayed on for a year and a half more. I prayed to God to give me what Parham preached, the real Holy Ghost and fire and tongues and love and power of God like the apostles had.”
John Lake tells us the end of the story: “God had put such a hunger into that man’s heart that when the fire of God came it glorified him. I do not believe any other man in modern times had a more wonderful deluge of God in his life than God gave that dear fellow, and the glory and power of a real Pentecost swept the world.” It was the Azusa Street outpouring!
Seymour preached to Lake’s congregation of ten thousand people “when the glory and power of God was upon his spirit, and men shook and trembled and cried to God.”
That is what God did through a sold-out vessel. Will you sell out for Him today?