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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, October 19, 2014

“God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27).

One of the most striking things about revival is given in this text. God chooses the foolish and weak people of the world to confound and shame those who are wise, and those who are strong. This should be evident to anyone who reads the Bible. When Christ was about to be born, God chose a teenage girl from a poor family to be His mother. When He was born, God sent a few poor shepherds to worship Him. God did not send King Herod, or the ruling elders of Israel to greet the Christ child. Instead God sent three astronomers from a far-off pagan country. When Jesus was about to begin His ministry, God did not send the high priest to announce it. Instead, God sent a poor prophet, John the Baptist. When Jesus was ready to call the twelve Apostles, He did not choose twelve men from the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court. Instead, He called twelve insignificant little fishermen. And when Jesus chose a replacement for Judas, He chose a murderer named Saul of Tarsus, who called himself the “chief” of sinners, the worst possible sinner! In the life of Christ it is clear that

“God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27).

Even in the Old Testament this theme appears over and over. God chose Abel over Cain, although Cain was the eldest son, and therefore the most important. God chose Jacob over Esau, although Esau was the eldest son and heir. God chose Joseph over his eleven brothers, although he was the youngest and weakest son. God chose Moses over Pharaoh. He chose a sheepherder over the mightiest man on earth at that time. God chose Gideon to save Israel from the Midianites – even though Gideon said, “My family is poor...and I am the least in my father's house” (Judges 6:15). God chose little Samuel, a virtual orphan, instead of the two sons of the high priest. God chose David the shepherd boy over the mighty King Saul.

Again and again, throughout the history of Christianity, this statement has also been true,

“God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27).

The early Christians were the poor and desolate. Most of them were slaves. They were persecuted to the death by ten Roman emperors. No one even remembers those emperors (other than perhaps Nero), although they were the most powerful men on earth at that time. People around the world remember the martyrs of the catacombs when the Pope celebrates Mass in the Colosseum every year on Good Friday! Those martyred slaves overcame the might and power of ancient Rome!

Think of Luther. I want you to hear what Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said about him:

What hope had that one man, Martin Luther, just an unknown monk? Who was he to stand up against all the Church, and... twelve to thirteen centuries, of tradition in the opposite direction? It seems a sheer impertinence for this one man to get up and say, “I alone am right, and you are all wrong.” That is what would be said of him today. And yet, you see, he was a man with whom the Spirit of God had been dealing. And though he was only one man, he stood, and stood alone, and the Holy Ghost honoured him. The Protestant Reformation came in, and has continued, and it has always been the same... What I am saying is that when God begins to move in His Church, and when He is preparing the way for revival, this is how He seems to do it. He puts this burden upon certain people, who are called apart, as it were, and who meet together, quietly, unknown, and unobtrusively, because they are conscious of this burden (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1987, pp. 203, 167).

And in exactly the same way you find this in the history of all these revivals. That man James McQuilken began to talk to two others, and they saw the whole situation, and these three men alone met together in a little schoolroom on just a narrow lane. I had the privilege of visiting it when I was in Northern Ireland. I went out of my way to do so, because I like to look at a place like that...They felt this call to prayer (Lloyd-Jones, ibid., p. 165).

And, of course, the 1859 revival came to Northern Ireland when these three men prayed to God for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Then Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “Believe me, my friends, when the next revival comes, it will come as a surprise to everybody, and especially to those who have been trying to organize it. It will have happened in this [modest, unassuming] unobtrusive manner. Men and women just slipping away quietly, as it were, to pray because they are burdened, because they cannot help themselves, because they cannot go on living without it. And they want to join with others who are feeling the same thing, and are crying out to God” (Lloyd-Jones, ibid., pp. 165-166).

Dr. Lloyd-Jones went on to say, “Then you are all probably familiar with the story of Methodism in its various branches. How did that begin...? It began exactly the same way, with the two Wesley brothers, and Whitefield, and others, who were members of the Church of England...For some time nobody knew that it was happening, but they just met together because they were drawn by the same thing” (ibid., p. 166).

We all know George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley. But no one knew them back then. They were just ordinary young men who saw the deadness of the Anglican Church, and wanted to see God glorified by a living experience with Christ.

Someone, I think it was Bishop Ryle, said that John Wesley should have been made the Archbishop of Canterbury, the leader of the Church of England. But, of course, he was never even considered for such a high position. Instead, he was ridiculed and mocked. He was told he could never again preach at Oxford University, where he graduated, because he told the students and faculty that they needed to be born again. His own mother, Susannah Wesley, was upset with him for preaching like an “enthusiast” – a fanatic – before she herself was converted. For fifty-three years, John Wesley preached three times a day to huge crowds that gathered to hear him outdoors in the fields throughout England. But his own denomination continued to mock and sneer at this great man. He was never honored at all until he was a very old man in his late eighties. In the meantime, during John Wesley’s ministry, six other men occupied the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. Here are their names in sequence,

John Potter (1737-1747)

Thomas Herring (1747-1757)

Matthew Hutton (1757-1758)

Thomas Secker (1758-1768)

Frederick Cornwallis (1768-1783)

John Moore (1783-1805).

I doubt that anyone but an Anglican historian could name even one of those six so-called “great” men. Yet almost every Christian knows the name of John Wesley. And most people know the name of his brother, Charles, whose hymns are sung in churches of every denomination on earth. But Whitefield and the two Wesleys were small, unknown young men when they gathered with a few others to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on New Year’s Eve, 1738, just before the First Great Awakening descended on the English speaking world.

“God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27).

This verse also explains why young people are always the leaders in revival. It is the young people in a church that first sense the movement of God’s Spirit among them. And it is usually the young people who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and long for revival and the reality of God.

The first revival I saw at the Chinese Baptist Church began among the young people during a summer camp in the mountains. As they gathered for prayer one morning at the camp, the Spirit of God fell upon them with such power that the revival continued on Sunday at the church, after they returned from camp. The revival continued all day Sunday and into the night. I can still remember the prayers those young people prayed. I can still remember the sense of awe and wonder, the tears of repentance, the confessions and prayers, and the nearness of God in those meetings.

At the revival I saw at a Baptist church in Virginia, three girls got up to sing as a trio. They broke down in tears of conviction, and the whole church took on the feeling so often expressed in revival – “God came down among us.”

“At Herrnhut in Saxony a revival broke out among the young people on August 13.” On August 29 “from the hours of ten o’clock at night until one the following morning, a truly affecting scene was witnessed, for the girls from Herrnhut spent these [three] hours in praying, singing and weeping. The boys were at the same time engaged in earnest prayer in another place. The spirit of prayer and supplication at that time poured out upon the children was so powerful and efficacious that it is impossible to give an adequate description of it in words” (John Greenfield, Power From On High, World Wide Revival Prayer Movement, 1950, p. 31).

In October 1973 a revival broke out among the students of the Junior Secondary School at Bario in Borneo. Two boys began to pray together and gradually the whole school was drawn in until the headmaster himself, opposed to the work of the Spirit at first, was brought to repentance (Shirley Lees, Drunk Before Dawn, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1979, pp. 185-189).

Brian H. Edwards said, “What is significant is that in times of revival it is… young people who are especially challenged and changed, and in many instances they are the ones who are most sincerely longing and praying for revival, and amongst whom it begins…This is an aspect of revival which, in spite of being well reported, receives too little attention from those who analyze the common factors of revivals” (Brian H. Edwards, Revival! A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 1991 edition, p. 165).

“God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:27).

Amy Carmichael described an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in India like this,

It was at the close of the morning service that the break came. The one who was speaking, was obliged to stop, overwhelmed by the sudden realization of the inner force of things. It was impossible even to pray. One of the older lads in the boys’ school began to try to pray, but he broke down [in tears], then another, then all together, the older lads chiefly at first. Soon many among the younger ones began to cry bitterly and pray for forgiveness. It spread to the women. It was so startling and so aweful – I can use no other word – the details escape me. Soon many were on the floor, crying to God, each boy and girl, man and woman, oblivious [forgetful] of all others. The sound was like the sound of waves and strong wind in the trees…At first the movement was almost entirely among convert boys, schoolboys, our own children…and some younger members of the congregation. Seven months later she reported, “Nearly all our [young people] were out and out converted” (J. Edwin Orr, Ph.D., The Flaming Tongue, Moody Press, 1973, pp. 18, 19).

Notice the words, “At first the movement was almost entirely among convert boys, schoolboys…and some younger members of the congregation.” That is often the way revival comes to a church – as young people long for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival. I have seen that with my own eyes in three revivals, when God poured out of His Spirit in mighty power on young people in Los Angeles, in the San Francisco area, and in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Now, I speak to our young people here tonight. We will give you a printed copy of this sermon to take home with you. I hope you will read it and re-read it every day next week. And I hope you will pray for the things in this sermon to happen in your life, and to happen in our church.

You may think, “Dr. Hymers would never allow things like this to happen in our church.” But you are wrong. I believe I know enough about revival that I would not quench the Spirit, or stop His manifestations, if God should have mercy and come down to us in sovereign revival power! You could even include the very words of the prophet Isaiah in your prayers,

“Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence” (Isaiah 64:1).

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: I Corinthians 1:26-31.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Teach Me to Pray” (by Albert S. Reitz, 1879-1966).