Martin Lloyd-Jones on Revival (1959)
Mark 9:17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
I am calling your attention to these two verses, and to the second in particular in order that we may consider together the great subject of revival, and of the need, the urgent need, of a revival in the Church of God at the present time. For I am persuaded that this is a very urgent matter.
Now I want to take this story and use it as a very perfect representation of the present position. Here in this boy, I see the modern world, and in the disciples I see the Church of God…almost at this present hour. Is it not obvious to all of us, that the Church is patently failing… that she does not count even as much as she did in the memory of many of us today? And here is the Church, certainly trying, like the disciples doing her utmost, perhaps in a sense more active than she has ever been and yet obviously failing to deal with the situation. […]
Mark 7:28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer (and fasting).’”
There are certain things which are quite useless when they are applied to ‘this kind’. In other words what our Lord was saying to the disciples can be put like this. He said, in effect: ‘You have failed in this particular case because the power that you had and which was sufficient and adequate for the other cases, is inadequate and of no value here. It just leaves you utterly helpless and hopeless and it leaves the boy in his diseased and powerless condition.’ Is it not becoming obvious at last that so many of the things in which we have trusted and to which we have pinned our faith, are proving to be of no avail?
[…] Of course these various methods, the apologetics and the others may indeed lead to individual conversions. We are all aware of that. Almost any method you like to employ will do that. Of course there are individual conversions, but my question is this—what of the situation, what of the bulk of men and women, what of the working classes of the country, are they being touched at all, are they being affected is at all? Is anybody being affected, except those who are already in the Church or on the fringe of the Church?
What of the spiritual and religious condition of the country? What of the whole state of society? Is this being touched at all by all our activities? Well, my answer would be that it all seems to put us into the position of the disciples who had tried to cast the devil out of the boy, these men who had been so successful in many another case but who could not touch this case at all. And our Lord gives the in the explanation, ‘this kind’ can come forth by nothing like this. By what, then? ‘This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer, and fasting.’
You failed there, he said in effect to these disciples, because you did not have sufficient power. You were using the power that you have, and you were very confident in it. You did it with great assurance, you were masters of the occasion, you thought you were going to succeed at once, but you did not. It is time you paused for a moment and began to think. It was your ignorance of these gradations in power amongst evil spirits that led to your failure, and to your crestfallen condition at this moment. You have not sufficient power. I did what you could not do because I have power, because I am filled with the power that God gives me by the Holy Spirit, for he gives not the Spirit by measure unto me. You will never be able to deal with ‘this kind’ unless you have applied to God for the power which he alone can give you.
You must become aware of your need, of your impotence, of your helplessness. You must realise that you are confronted by something that is too deep for your methods to get rid of, or to deal with, and you need something that can go down beneath that evil power, and shatter it…and there is only one thing that can do that, and that is the power of God.
And we too, must become aware of that, we have got to feel it until we become desperate. We must ask ourselves how we can succeed if we do not have this authority, this commission, this might and strength and power. We must become utterly and absolutely convinced of our need. We must cease to have so much confidence in ourselves, and in all our methods and organisations, and in all our slickness. We have got to realise that we must be filled with God’s Spirit.
And we must be equally certain that God can fill us with his Spirit. We have got to realise that however great ‘this kind’ is, the power of God is infinitely greater…that what we need is not more knowledge… more understanding… more apologetics… more reconciliation of philosophy and science and religion…and all modern techniques—no, we need a power that can enter into the souls of men and break them and smash them and humble them and then make them anew. And that is the power of the living God.
And we must be confident that God has this power as much today as he had one hundred years ago, and two hundred years ago, and so we must begin to seek the power and to pray for it. We must begin to plead and yearn for it. ‘This kind’ needs prayer.
Now, this is but the introduction to the theme that we are going to consider, but it leads me to ask this question: Are you really concerned about the present position? Are you desperately concerned about it? Are you praying about it? Do you ever pray for the power of God in the Church today? Or are you just content to read the weekly newspapers which tell us about all these various efforts and to say, ‘It is all right, the word is going on.’
‘This kind cometh not forth but by prayer and fasting.’ This word fasting is not in all the ancient manuscripts, but it implies not only literal, physical fasting, but concentration. The value of fasting is that it enables you to give your undivided attention to a subject. So what our Lord said to the disciples is this: you will never deal with this sort of problem until you have been praying, concentrating in prayer, waiting upon God, until he has filled you with the power. When you know you have got it, then you go out with authority. That is the way, and that is the only way. Surely no one should need to be convinced today that nothing short of a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God is adequate to deal with our situation in this mid-twentieth century?
Are you really still trusting to these other things? Here is the vital question. Have you seen the desperate need of prayer, the prayer of the whole Church? I shall see no hope until individual members of the Church are praying for revival, perhaps meeting in one another’s homes, meeting in groups amongst friends, meeting together in churches, meeting anywhere you like, and praying with urgency and concentration for a shedding forth of the power of God, such as he shed forth one hundred and two hundred years ago…and in every other period of revival…and of re-awakening. There is no hope until we do. But the moment we do, hope enters.
Oh, when God manifests his power, it happens as it happened in the case of this poor boy. With apparent ease, in an effortless manner, the devil is exorcised, and the boy healed and restored to his father. When God arises, his enemies are scattered, that is the story of all the great revivals of history. But we shall not be interested in revival until we realise the need of ‘this kind’, the futility of all our own efforts and endeavours and the utter absolute need of prayer, and seeking the power of God alone.