Unlikely sparks awaken beautiful revivals

“The evil spirit answered them, ‘I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul – but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded. When this became known to everyone who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks, they became afraid, and the name of the Lord Jesus was glorified. And many who had become believers came confessing and disclosing their practices, while many of those who had practiced magic collected their books and burned them in front of everyone. so they calculated their value and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. In this way the word of the Lord flourished and prevailed.

This is the account of a revival that took place in Ephesus in the 1st Century. Revival, of course, of a great movement of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to save and sanctify people. Isn’t it interesting what Luke, the author of the above passage cites as the reason for the revival? A demon possessed man assaulting some half-rate exorcists.

Christ and the Samaritan Woman Rembrandt

There are about a thousand accounts of this in the Scriptures and on the pages of Church History. In 1733, a prostitute living in Puritan New England made greater waves than many fiery sermons. A preacher in the town writes:

When she came to me, I had never heard that she was become any wise serious [about following Jesus]…what she gave me an account of, was a glorious work of God’s infinite power and sovereign grace; and that God had given her a new heart, truly broken and sanctified.

The speaker, a pastor, worried the conversion of a woman of her sort might make the people in the town more bold in their sin. Instead, he writes,

But the event was the reverse, to a wonderful degree. God made it, I suppose, the greatest occasion of awakening to others, of anything that ever came to pass in the town…The news of it seems to be almost like a flash of lightning, upon the hearts of the young people, all over the town, and upon others.

Much like the lonely Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel, whose testimony results in the conversion of her whole town, God is pleased to take the tax collectors and prostitutes and make them the glittering jewels in his holy crown. They are the unlikely spark struck at just the right time for the gospel’s power to explode into darkened lives.

The town seemed to be full of the presence of God; it was never so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then. Our public assemblies were then beautiful: the congregation was alive in God’s service, everyone intent on public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth.

Do you wish for an awakening? Let us ask for the unlikely sparks, for perhaps we are too respectable to be unbridled flame.