Lessons From Renewals: Rivers & Seasons
Being the Forrest Gump of the Vineyard I’ve lived through some amazing times including two major outpourings of the Spirit – The Third Wave and the Toronto Blessing. I consider myself blessed even though both outpourings had their problems and missteps. But nevertheless I benefited from both and grew each time as a result, mostly because I had good leaders around me to pastor me through them and keep me on track. I’ve learned a lot about the Spirit from those experiences and since this year is the twentieth anniversary of the Toronto Blessing I thought I’d write about some of those lessons.
I learned about seasons. As seasons affect life on a river, so they affect life in the Spirit. There are rainy seasons and dry seasons. Each affects conditions on and around the river. For instance, the season will dictate whether you will have to carry your canoe over dry river beds, work hard at paddling on lazy, slow moving currents, or relax and let the river do the work when its at swift moving flood stage.
God’s relationship and dealings with his people can also be described in terms of seasons: Springtime birth; summertime growth and fruitfulness; the fall harvest time and winter death. Israel’s experience reflects this ‘seasonal’ movement from bondage to liberty, through springtime reforms and summertime revivals after long seasons of winter exile. The Apostle Peter spoke of “times (think seasons) of refreshing” (Acts 3:19).
Applying this idea to revival and renewals, John White, in his book When The Spirit Comes With Power writes, “… there seem to be times when he is as it were, more present – or shall we say more intensely present.” He goes on to say, “During times of revival such anointings seem to be both frequent and more powerful. Major outpourings occur and minor anointings become ten-a-penny. Prayer flows more easily. Preaching is more powerful. Guidance more vivid. In contrast at other times (seasons) we learn the tougher lessons of walking by naked faith in the Word.” Apparently we learn lessons in a dry season that we could never learn in a downpour. White concludes, “This may partly explain why times of revival (and outpourings) alternate with times of spiritual drought. God’s dealings in history are dealings in time (i.e. seasons). They begin and they end.”
So one big lesson I’ve learned in all this is that to look for the Spirit to always work in a certain way or to continue to do a particular thing among us, or to expect a season of his activity to last forever is an assumption we shouldn’t make based on Scripture, Church history and experience. Just like a river, the flow of the Spirit varies as we are carried along in his life. We are moved from on phase of his plan to another; from one aspect of his work to another; experiencing many facets of his ministry along the way. This is all determined by the Spirit of course (John 3:8). We don’t direct his work we merely respond to what he’s doing and where he’s going at the time (Galatians 5:25).
Enjoy the season of refreshing while it lasts. Pray that you experience many other such seasons and visit other places on the river like this one. But when the Spirit moves you on, follow. There is nothing sadder than an outpouring without the Spirit. When it comes to the things of the Spirit I’ve learned to pray for discernment and understanding so I have an idea of what the Father is doing and do my best to keep in step with the Spirit whatever season it is.