As we pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” I ask you to allow God to light a flame in your heart. Abraham, our model of faith, went to rescue a people who were being held captive by a merciless enemy (see Genesis 14:11-16). The text speaks to us of “ruthless conquerors who took everything for themselves.” But one survivor, a victim, fell at Abraham’s feet and forced him to make a decision.
No matter where you are, those who suffer are knocking at the door of the church. There is a modern Church that has chosen to be blind to the suffering that surrounds it. This indifference is an affront to the very nature of God. This Church is obsessed with its own blessings, needs, worship, services, theology and experiences with God, and has a strong tendency to remain “among our own, among Christians.”
In one of his books, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian, told this story that shook me profoundly because it is a true picture of the modern Church. Bonhoeffer was a pastor during the Second World War, at a time when the Nazi holocaust took the lives of six million Jews. History shows that most of the German pastors and priests tolerated or tried to ignore the Nazi insanity and murderous racism that eventually led to the genocide. The Church finally woke up when it was too late. Pastor Bonhoeffer spoke out against the regime of the Third Reich, was thrown into prison, and ultimately was put to death for his courage and convictions.
Bonhoeffer wrote of a conversation he had with a fellow pastor shortly before he was arrested. The pastor confided in him, “It was horrible. Our church is right beside the railway tracks. We can hear the trains going by carrying Jews toward the camps. At first it was rare, but now they go by several times a day. One Sunday several weeks ago, something terribly embarrassing happened. We were right in the middle of our service and the noise from the trains was deafening. Then, just as we were singing worship songs, we heard people crying out, ‘Help us! Help us!’”
Bonhoeffer, horrified, asked him, “Well, what did you do?” The pastor answered, “For a moment I wasn’t sure what to do, but then I told the church congregation, ‘Brothers and sisters, let’s sing louder!’”
Are we, too, “singing louder” so we won’t hear the cries for help so near to us?
Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
In nations everywhere, Christ is revealing Himself to multitudes in dreams and visions. People in Arab nations, China and India are reporting their experiences with Jesus in dreams. It is even happening here in New York City.
One of our security men here at Times Square Church was once New York’s third-ranking high priest in Santeria devil worship. His territory was the Bronx, and his apartment was filled with human bones. He had sold himself body and soul to Satan. But this man’s heart was stirred by the Holy Spirit and he became restless. One night he challenged Jesus, “If You are stronger than the devil I serve, show me in a dream tonight.”
That night in a dream, the man saw himself on a train bound for hell. It passed through a tunnel and on the other side stood Satan. The devil told the man, “You have been faithful to me. Now I’m taking you to your eternal resting place.” Then suddenly, a cross appeared. At that moment, the man woke up.
He came out of that experience on fire for Jesus! Ridding his apartment of every trace of evil, he dedicated his life to the Lord. Today, he is a sweet, devout man of God and is active in our church. I stopped him recently and told him, “I see Jesus in you.” He answered, “Brother Dave, you don’t realize what those words mean to me after twenty-five years of serving the devil.” His miraculous new life had all come out of that God-given dream.
Dear saint, the day is coming when the whole world will see Jesus. The apostle John envisioned “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9–10).
This is not a little remnant, but an innumerable multitude and they are all worshiping the Lord. Praise God for that promised day!
How is the last revival going to happen? It requires something powerful, something world-shaking to precipitate it. Isaiah tells us this shaking will happen in one day. In chapter 47, he says the spirit of Babylon must be dealt with. Throughout Scripture, Babylon has always represented a spirit of prosperity, ease and pleasure and the Babylonian spirit is the same in every age.
In short, Isaiah says there can be no widespread, last revival until the spirit of greed and false security is brought down. We can pray for revival, we can cry out to God to pour out His Spirit, but it is impossible unless the Lord first shakes all things: “Hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. . . . Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know” (Isaiah 47:8, 11, my italics).
God is not going to overlook sin, but He will strike down the devil’s strongholds. He’s going to sound a wake-up call to His Church with a “sudden desolation.” Indeed, this will be an act of great love on the Lord’s part. He so loves His Church that He refuses to allow ease, pleasure and apostasy to blind and ruin the object of His love.
“Let favor be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord” (Isaiah 26:10). Here is proof that revival is impossible in a time of ease and prosperity. Isaiah says in plain terms, “In a time of blessing, the people will not turn.” Nothing is going to happen until the pocketbook is affected. Only “when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).
Many are familiar with the passage where Paul equates marriage to God’s relationship with the Church: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:31–32).
Now note what Isaiah says: “Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called” (Isaiah 54:5). Who is the Maker here? It is Christ, creator of heaven and earth. And Isaiah tells us God is our husband. However, the wife has separated herself from her husband: “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
Where do we see this separation today between the Church and God? I see it most obviously in compromised mainline churches. Yet I also see it in the soft-pedaled gospel of post-modern churches. It is evident that there has been a separation from God’s manifest presence. Indeed, it has happened just as Jesus and Paul prophesied. Many have become lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God—having a form of religion with no power; despising the gospel of their fathers; tearing down the old moral landmarks; changing God’s infallible Word to suit the times.
I challenge you to go to any city, from church to church of every evangelical persuasion. Try to find one where you recognize the awesome, manifest presence of Jesus, where you encounter His heart-melting conviction. When the Lord is truly present, you recognize it, whether in the singing, the preaching, or the fellowship. Something stirs your soul, and it produces an awe and a reverence. In my experience, this is rarely found.
I am not condemning modern-day churches; God forbid. But may the Lord help us if we don’t have His manifest presence in these last days. And because of the compromise of such churches, He has had to hide His presence from them for a time.
Everywhere we turn in the last days, we will see God’s glory breaking forth in a last revival. Christ’s Church will stretch beyond all former limitations to spread the good news.
“Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited” (Isaiah 54:2–3). Simply put, the Church will gain strength and raise up multitudes in Christ.
As we look more closely at Isaiah’s prophecy, we see it is meant not only for the Church Body but also for individuals. I know godly servants, friends of mine, who have laid hold of this prophecy as a personal word from the Holy Spirit. And they have built up their faith by its promises: “Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more” (Isaiah 54:4). Isaiah makes it clear in this verse: God’s Church will not go out under reproach.
Yet just a few verses down, we read this warning to the last-days Church: “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires” (Isaiah 54:11). We are told that we will be afflicted and storm-tossed. Yet we are also promised a foundation made of sapphires. What does this mean, exactly?
When God declares, “I will lay thy foundations with sapphires,” His message is, “When everything in the world is being shaken, you will not be moved. The foundation I’m laying underneath you is as solid as these stones. What I’m doing in you cannot be shaken.”
These sapphires represent spiritual knowledge and wisdom, insights into the very heart of God. We know that those who endure suffering come out armed with greater insights into God’s mercy. You may be tempted, tossed, afflicted and alone, but through it all He is forming underneath you a rock-solid foundation. It is all so that you may comfort others in their trials.