Book Review of the Week: Why Revival Tarries

Posted: April 26, 2010 by Josiah Batten in Book Reviews, Revival
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It would be possible for me to list several books that have dramatically shaped me, especially as it relates to my spiritual development and growth. Some people say, “Well we only need the Bible, why read anything else?” To that I would reply the Bible tells us God has given teachers to the Church so that we can grow into perfection in Christ, and the written word is a means of instruction used in the earliest days of the Church and before. Yes, the Bible is the only inspired and inerrant Word of God; and it is completely sufficient for all spiritual needs. But some people know more about the Bible and life in Christ than we do, and from those people we can learn. This certainly doesn’t replace studying the Bible for ourselves; rather, it supplements and enhances our personal Bible study.

At any rate, it’s often hard to say what books have most impacted me. I certainly was shaped by works such as Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler in my earlier years. Being home schooled I read biographies of David, Daniel, John Wycliffe, and other famous spiritual leaders. These books too helped shape me. But undoubtedly the time period of the greatest and most rapid spiritual growth in my life has been the 5 year period beginning in 2005.

Since 2005 I’ve been introduced to many phenomenal pastors, theologians, philosophers, and authors. And among those a few have stood out more than others. As it relates to the deeper life I have been especially influenced by A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, Andrew Murray, A.B. Simpson, and Charles Finney.

In the future I will likely review books by all of those authors. But for now I want to direct your attention to just one: Leonard Ravenhill. Of Ravenhill’s book Why Revival Tarries, Ravi Zacharias said it was “The book that shaped me probably more dramatically than any other book that I have read.”

In writing the Forward to the book A.W. Tozer said: “Toward Leonard Ravenhill it is impossible to be neutral. His acquaintances are divided pretty neatly into two classes, those who love and admire him out of all proportion and those who hate him with perfect hatred. And what is true of the man is sure to be true of his books, of this book. The reader will either close its pages to seek a place of prayer or he will toss it away in anger, his heart closed to its warnings and appeals. Not all books, not even all good books come as a voice from above, but I feel that this one does. It does because its author does, and the spirit of the author breathes through his book.”

In trying to summarize this book I would say it is a rebuke to the Church, a charge against spiritual complacency, and an exhortation to give all in the pursuit of obedience to Christ. Ravenhill issues a call to live beyond the status quo of Christianity in the modern day. In many ways we might say Ravenhill is urging us to “Get on my level!”, yet we realize that rising to that level will make us incredibly uncomfortable and require great sacrifice on our part.

Ravenhill says “There are two indispensable factors to successful Christian living. They are vision and passion. Men battle mountainous seas of human, carnal criticism and storm the flinty heights of devilish opposition to plant the cross of Christ amidst the habitations of cruelty. Why? Because they have caught a vision and contracted a passion.”

However, Ravenhill is concerned that we have very little vision or passion today. The remedy he suggests has been effectively used for several thousand years. That remedy is God-inspired, sincere repentance and Spirit-led intercession (I will freely use Christianese in this note, because the target audience is those who already believe).

The fact is we need prophets today, Elijahs and Ezekiels who will challenge our institutions, question our presuppositions, rebuke our complacency, and exhort us to walk righteously before God as His holy people. Such a prophet will risk offending a great deal of modern-day Christendom, but will persist because of the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the heart.

In a day when we have more methodologies and strategies and programs that at any other time in the history of the Church, yet we’re still declining in the Western world, we genuinely need to ask where the problem lays. In a day when so much is at stake, when the risk of failure is too high to be considered by spiritually reasonable people, I think it’s necessary to get back to the basics: Prayer, anointing, vision, conviction, holiness. With painstaking clarity Ravenhill calls us back to such basics.

God has promised a great deal to this generation. I think we’ve tried doing things our way for quite long enough to show that it’s utterly and entirely insufficient. Back to the basics, brothers and sisters. The shapers of history in the realm of the spiritual have always been those who desperately sought God, heard His voice and experienced His presence, and allowed their lives to be defined by obedience to the King above all kings. Will we be such a people?

With my prayers,

[All quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries, Bethany House Publishers, 2004.]

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