Awakenings in America: Seasons of the Spirit
THE SCRIPTURES show us that God’s people go through periods of spiritual renewal, and periods of spiritual decline. We might think of these times like waves and troughs, or like mountains and valleys.
During a renewal, or awakening, there will be not only a great reviving of Christians, but also a large impact on the problems of society. The period of God’s blessing may last for many years, as did the Second Great Awakening in America, or be rather brief, as was the Third Awakening of the late 1850s.
When the winds of a renewal have passed, the Church may enter a period of lethargy, possibly for many years. Such cycles have already been repeated many times during the 2,000 years of Church history. It is not that the Spirit of God cannot sustain the higher life for Christians; rather, the Spirit allows times of decline to cause His people to pray for growth and for power.
In Old Testament times, renewal came to the Israelites under King Jehoash (2 Kings 11–12), King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18), King Asa (2 Chronicles 15), and especially under King Josiah (2 Kings 22–23). Awakening also came at the time of Zerubbabel (Ezra 5–6), and under Nehemiah (Nehemiah 8–9, 13).
In New Testament times, awakening came upon God’s people at Pentecost (Acts 2). This pouring out of the Spirit set a pattern that we see in later awakenings. Again, in Acts 4:23–37 we read of a renewal that prepared the infant Church for the fierce persecutions to come.
Forgetting Our Blessings
Despite the lasting benefits that awakenings have always brought to the Church and its surrounding culture, many Christians today know too little about this subject. Not only have many believers forgotten their great heritage of awakenings, but some historians have ...