By Dr. Michael Brown
When I served as a leader in the Brownsville Revival (which ran from 1995-2000), I started to write a book on hindrances to revival, laying out 20 ways to put out the Spirit’s fire.
Put another way, if you do these things, the revival will come to a premature end.
When I finished compiling my list, I was amazed to see how similar it was to Charles Finney’s classic sermons titled “Hindrances to Revival.” Some things never change!
For a number of reasons, I did not finish writing my book, but several years after the revival, I got the strong impression that I would need to finish the book in the future.
In other words, I would live to see another wave of revival.
That wave, in its early stages, is already here in America, because of which I feel a real urgency to finish writing that book and get it out to the public.
For the moment, though, let me share one of the principles I address in the book, namely, we must guard the holy flame of revival when it comes.
This principle is derived from a passage in Leviticus 6, which states:
“Give Aaron and his sons this command: ‘These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar. The priest shall then put on his linen clothes, with linen undergarments next to his body, and shall remove the ashes of the burnt offering that the fire has consumed on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he is to take off these clothes and put on others, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a place that is ceremonially clean. The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out. (Lev. 6:9-13)
Now, when God says anything once, we know it’s important. When He says it twice, it really gets our attention.
But when He speaks it three times – especially in the same chapter of the Bible – we had better take heed. We dare not ignore the message!
“ . . . the fire must be kept burning on the altar . . . . The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. . . . The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.
Why was this so important? The answer is found at the end of Leviticus 9, after Aaron, just ordained as the High Priest, offered sacrifices on the Tabernacle altar for the first time. The Scripture states,
“Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.” (Leviticus 9:24)
Based on this text, it appears that the very first fire that burned on the altar was ignited by God. It was divine fire!
That’s one reason the priests were instructed to never let the fire go out. As the Got Questions website rightly observes,
“The fire on the altar, therefore, served as a constant reminder of God’s power. It was a gift from heaven. No other source of fire was acceptable to God (see Numbers 3:4).”
It is the same with revival fire.
It is not produced or worked up by human beings. It is not something we can turn off or turn on. You can no more schedule a revival than you can schedule a hurricane.
Revival is not something people work up. It is something God sends down.
And when the fire falls – often suddenly, dramatically, seemingly out of the blue, without human orchestration – it must be guarded carefully and prayerfully. Failure to do so is a serious form of spiritual negligence.
During the Brownsville Revival, evangelist Steve Hill popularized a saying that he had heard from Leonard Ravenhill shortly before he died in 1994. (For those unfamiliar with Ravenhill, I recommend you read his best known book, Why Revival Tarries. But be prepared to have your world rocked.)
Ravenhill said, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity.”
That is never truer than in times of revival, which in essence are seasons on unusual divine visitations, seasons which might come once in a generation or a century, seasons which are all the more sacred because they can be so scarce.
So, pastors and leaders, when God begins to move powerfully in your midst, guard the flame carefully, fueling the fire with prayer, with faith, with repentance, with compassionate ministry, with outreach. It is a holy opportunity not to be squandered.
And by all means, let us not quench the fire through pride or stiff traditionalism or spiritual foolishness.
It is my prayer that, in the days ahead, as revival fires burn all across the nation, we may walk worthy of this high and sacred calling.
Let us guard the flame!
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Revival Or We Die: A Great Awakening Is Our Only Hope. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.