Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Serve the Lord with gladness.
I am currently in Nampula, Mozambique, where I am serving as the Bible teacher for the week for a meeting of missionaries who serve with the African Inland Mission. But it is also World Cup time and we have a big screen television set up to take in the games. So far we have had people from the USA, England, Germany, and Australia who have watched their teams qualify for the next round. Currently, however, I am sitting and watching the game between Brazil and Portugal. Mozambique is a former Portuguese colony and we have several missionaries serving here from Brazil.
The first half of the game is not even completed and already the amount of noise made by the Brazilian fans surpasses the noise made by the Americans, the English, the Germans, and the Australians combined. There was no guess work involved in knowing whether or not anyone was watching a game. The Brazilians are passionate about football but also passionate and expressive about life, especially when compared with the relatively stoic Westerners.
Which leads us to praise and revival: God’s movement in the lives of His people always has some similarities, but may be expressed outwardly very differently. In the Second Great Awakening in the American west, namely Kentucky then, the people were given to grand expressions of devotion, of fainting and of emotional outbursts, even some shrieking and howling. Not all reacted this way, not even most, but some did and it was merely the outward expression of the heart to the movement of God, by frontiersmen, isolated from one another but in whom God moved when they came together.
Move forward a few years to the incredible Layman’s Prayer Revival in New York City of 1857-58, where God moved every bit as powerfully as in the American frontier, and yet the reactions were much more reserved. No shrieking, only reverential sighing when under conviction; no howling, only a few tears moistening the eyes of those moved by the Spirit.
The Layman’s Prayer Revival began this way. A Christian layman, Jeremiah Lanphier, was concerned about the lack of spiritual vitality among the churches. He was a businessman in New York City and thought that a weekly prayer meeting at noon might be a good idea. The first meeting was called for September 23, 1857, from noon to 1 o’clock. The day came and at first Lanphier prayed alone, the by the time the hour was finished six had joined him. The meetings were free and spontaneous as opposed to dry and formal.
The following Wednesday there were 20, on the third 30-40. They decided to meet daily rather than weekly. Oct 14 over 100 came, by the end of the second month three large rooms were filled and many lost people became saved during the meetings. Almost immediately other prayer meetings were begun in other places across the city, many churches opened their doors to the meetings. Within six months 50,000 were meeting daily in New York, and thousands more prayed in other cities.
Churches grew, thousands were converted, many more were revived from a stale form of the Christian faith into a deeper and more vibrant experience. Out of meetings like this in Chicago, God called D.L. Moody into the ministry of evangelism and the thousands who came to Christ through his ministry are indirectly also the fruit of these meetings.
Which leads me back to my original point – some people in some cultures will respond outwardly with drama and considerable emotion to the work of the Spirit in their lives – just like Brazilians respond to football. In others, however, the river of the work of God will flow just as deep in their soul, yet the outward expression may be more sedate. The validity of the work of God is tested in the devotion to Christ and the love for His word and His work that is the result of the Spirit’s movement. As one person said, “It matters little how high you jump when the Spirit gets hold of you. It matters greatly how straight you walk when your feet hit the ground.”
Lord, let us respond inwardly to Your work of grace with the utmost sincerity of heart and openness to Your Spirit’s work, and let us not compare one another’s love for You based on how expressive they are or they are not in worship. Amen.