When the Spirit of God brings bona fide spiritual revival to the Church it is often not only an astounding but also an overwhelming experience for those who are part of it. During times of spiritual awakening God’s Spirit works so powerfully in people’s lives that previously-careless non-Christians become intensely convicted of their sins and cry out to God for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Christians, too, earnestly repent of their sins and are tremendously quickened in every area of their spiritual lives—worship, prayer, study of Scripture, holy living, evangelism, service and more.
Such periods of revival have sometimes been so overwhelming that they have not always been neat and orderly. But because genuine revival is the work of God’s Spirit it always produces truly spiritual results (like those just named) that are in keeping with God’s will as revealed in His Word.
Andrew Murray was still a young pastor when revival came to South Africa in 1860-1861. He actually needed to learn to loosen his grip on the reins over his congregation and to realize that he could not control how the Spirit of God carried out His powerful, reviving work in the lives of people. Murray did indeed learn those lessons and was therefore used of the Lord to help promote the awakening. Here’s the first of a three-part miniseries on Andrew Murray’s experiences and lessons learned concerning revival. We can learn much from his example.
In 1857-1858 what became known as the Prayer Meeting Revival swept across the United States (see my July 6, 2015, Perspective on that revival). That mighty working of God’s Spirit next ignited powerful revivals in Ireland and Wales in 1859, then brought widespread spiritual awakening to South Africa beginning in 1860. After the revival’s dramatic beginning in Montagu, South Africa (see my July 25, 2015, Perspective), it spread to Worcester, where Andrew Murray, at thirty-two years of age, had recently been called as pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church.
The awakening there actually began on the farm of David Naude in the rural Breede River ward of the Worcester parish. Three individuals— Naude’s son Jan, Jan’s cousin Miss Van Blerk and an old native farmhand named Saul Pieterse—had been faithfully meeting weekly for several months to pray for revival. Miss Van Blerk taught the servants on the farm and was particularly distressed over their spiritually-needy condition. She became so burdened for them that she prayed almost continuously for a week. Then one evening shortly thereafter, God’s Spirit moved suddenly and mightily on a meeting she was holding for the servants. The spiritual distress of the people became so great that she ran from the meeting place to seek help with the situation.
The emotional strain of the sudden, ongoing awakening soon overtaxed Miss Van Blerk, and she retreated to Worcester for a week. Upon her return to the farm, the workers came out, singing, to greet her. Reportedly nearly everyone on the farm was converted.
As news of these developments quickly spread, people from neighboring farms—“young and old, parents and children, white and colored”—promptly began streaming to the previously-neglected prayer meeting. According to one person’s description, the people who gathered there were “driven by a common impulse to cast themselves before God and utter their souls in cries of penitence.”
Murray came to lead one of the meetings not long after the revival first broke out. But after giving his careful instructions and inviting individuals to pray one at a time, the whole group immediately burst into simultaneous prayer, pleading for mercy and forgiveness. At that point old Saul jumped up, faced Murray and Naude, and challenged them, “Try now to throw a dam wall around if you can!” By that he basically meant, “Just try to contain the work of God’s Spirit if you think you can.”
Members from other parts of the parish and even from other congregations began to arrive at the Naude farm in carts and wagons. For three months the Naudes needed to suspend their farming activities to assist the many people coming to seek salvation.
Not long after Murray officiated at the prayer meeting at David Naude’s farm, the awakening flamed to life in the town of Worcester. (To be continued …)
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A full account of the revival in South Africa is recorded in chapters 11 and 12 of my comprehensive biography on Murray entitled Andrew Murray, Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. Much spiritual encouragement and instruction can be gained through the consideration of his outstanding life of service for Christ Jesus.
Copyright 2019 by Vance E. Christie