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JONAH – THE BOOK ON REVIVAL!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.,
Pastor Emeritus

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Afternoon, June 21, 2020

Chorus Sung During the Sermon: “I Will Make You Fishers of Men” (by Harry D. Clarke, 1888-1957).

Why is the Book of Jonah in the Bible? I have come to believe that the main purpose of the Book of Jonah is to tell us in detail about revival. I will start out by saying that it is wrong to say that certain physical problems man experiences “spark” revival. Nonsense! It is God that “sparks” revival. It has little to do with what we do. We do not “spark” revival! Revival begins in the heart of God. It does not start with anything we do – not even in our prayers. I am giving you here not a manual on how to have revival. I am going to give you what God does in revival.

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I. First, true revival begins in fear.

Turn to Jonah 1:1-3 (p. 943 Scofield). Stand as I read it.

“Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:1-3).

Let’s face it. Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord because he was afraid. He was afraid to preach for revival in Nineveh.

I have seen God-sent revival four times in my ministry. Each time I was filled with fear. The first revival I saw was at the First Chinese Baptist Church of Los Angeles. Dr. Lin had me preach evangelistic sermons in this revival. It scared me to stand up in front of the church and preach. I was scared that Dr. Lin would rebuke me for preaching wrong. But a verse I had memorized helped me overcome that fear,

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (II Timothy 1:7; p. 1279).

I repeated that verse to myself each time Dr. Lin called on me to preach. That is how I overcame my fear! I forgot my fear of being rebuked and preached the Gospel as strongly as possible. And God used those evangelistic sermons to inspire dozens of young Chinese people to receive Christ!

Then I went up to the Baptist seminary near San Francisco. Soon I was in the midst of the Jesus Movement – of revival. But most of my sermons there were rejected by the leadership. They said I was too harsh. So I finally left and came back to Los Angeles, feeling I had failed.

Here I started a church. Since there was no one here to rebuke me, I preached the Gospel with great zeal. But no revival came from it.

Then I was invited to preach at a convention of Fundamentalist Baptist leaders. By this time I was so fearful of failing that I sweat so hard my clothes were wet. I didn’t know what to preach before a congregation of great preachers. So I took the little sermon I had and preached it with all the power I had! Literally hundreds of people were converted in that revival!

Then I was invited to preach a series of sermons in a great church in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This time I failed miserably. I left Belfast completely miserable.

I came back to our church in Los Angeles and tried again. But no real revival came out of it. Then I was stricken by cancer and arthritis. I could no longer stand up to preach. So I asked a seminary student to speak in my place in the Sunday morning services. But at last he left and we had a truly horrible church split.

Now I sit in a chair and teach the Bible to those who did not leave in the split. This Bible study is one of the lessons I am giving to our people.

Then God sent a great storm and the pagan sailors found out that Jonah was the one who brought about the storm. Turn to Jonah 1:12, as I read the verse.

“And he said unto them, Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you” (Jonah 1:12; p. 943).

Now look at Jonah 1:15.

“So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging” (Jonah 1:15; p. 943).

II. Second, true revival is a miracle.

The first miracle was the storm. The second miracle was the great fish. Look at Jonah 1:17.

“Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17; p. 944).

The word “whale” in Matthew 12:40 is “kētos.” It means “a huge fish.” I now believe, with Dr. J. Vernon McGee, that Jonah was dead inside this fish. That is where I am now, dead inside the great fish!

I am in my 80th year. My left knee is so hurt by arthritis that I can no longer stand up to preach. I feel like a living dead man.

In that condition, I fell over backwards in the bathtub while working on a sermon a week ago. I fell backward into the tub with my feet sticking up straight in the air. My 245 pounds came down on the top of my head. It shook the whole house. I was trapped upside down, in the bathtub. I thought I had broken my neck and would be paralyzed for life. But then I wiggled my toes, so I knew I had not broken my spinal column. As I lay there upside down, I actually went to sleep for perhaps five minutes. Then in a half-sleep I realized something I had never thought of before – that those God uses in revival always go through a tough time before revival comes. Wesley did. So did Marie Monsen. So did Jonathan Goforth of China. Finally my wife came in and called Wesley to pull me out of the tub. As soon as I got out of the tub a verse came from Jonah 2:9, “Salvation is of the Lord” (p. 944).

Strange as it may seem, I knew that we would have revival after all!

“And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10; p. 944).

III. Third, the God of the second chance.

Please turn to page 944, to Jonah 3:1-3. Stand as I read it.

“And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey” (Jonah 3:1-3).

You may be seated.

God is the God of the second chance. The great John Wesley went as a missionary to Georgia. He failed miserably. He went back to England a defeated man. But God gave Mr. Wesley a second chance. He was used by God in starting the First Great Awakening that would reach the whole world, and give birth to the modern mission movement – taking the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth!

Now I may never be able to stand and preach with the power I once had. But I believe God is not through with us yet! He is giving me the chance to teach pastors throughout the world the great principles of revival and evangelism.

On the day that Jesus ascended back to Heaven He spoke to His Disciples. Turn to Acts 1:8 and stand as I read it.

“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight” (Acts 1:8, 9; p. 1148).

You may be seated. Jesus left the salvation of the world in our hands. Jesus said,

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19; p. 1044).

As Joseph in Genesis became a saviour to the world in his day – so we are commanded by Jesus to save people in our day!

Soul-winning is not an option. It is a command of Christ to us. Please stand and sing, “I Will Make You Fishers of Men.”

I will make you fishers of men, Fishers of men, fishers of men.
I will make you fishers of men, If you follow Me.
If you follow Me, If you follow Me,
I will make you fishers of men, If you follow Me.
(“I Will Make You Fishers of Men” by Harry D. Clarke, 1888-1957).

Come with us and help us make our church a lighthouse to help struggling pastors throughout the world in these last days! Amen.

IV. Fourth, revival does not cure despondency.

Stand and turn to Jonah 3:1-10 (page 944) while I read it.

“And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:1-10).

You may be seated.

Now look at Jonah’s despondency. It’s Jonah 4:1-5, as I read it.

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live. Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry? So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city” (Jonah 4:1-5; p. 944).

Here I am going to tell you what happens when God does send revival. The preacher is not blessed by it. You see, revival does not cure people’s inner problems. I will give you reasons for Jonah’s displeasure.

1. Jonah hated the people of Nineveh. They were the blood enemies of Israel and Jonah’s people. Why would God grant revival to such wicked people?

2. Jonah knew that the revival would not continue forever. The prophet Nahum had only one subject – the destruction of Nineveh! 150 years after the revival the people of Nineveh went back to their evil ways! Listen to what the prophet Nahum said about backslidden Nineveh,

“Woe to the bloody city! it is all full of lies and robbery; the prey departeth not; The noise of a whip, and the noise of the rattling of the wheels, and of the pransing horses, and of the jumping chariots. The horseman lifteth up both the bright sword and the glittering spear: and there is a multitude of slain, and a great number of carcases; and there is none end of their corpses; they stumble upon their corpses: Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts. Behold, I am against thee, saith the Lord of hosts; and I will discover thy skirts upon thy face, and I will shew the nations thy nakedness, and the kingdoms thy shame. And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a gazingstock” (Nahum 3:1-6; p. 953).

Jonah knew that revivals don’t last!

Jonah knew that revivals don’t last forever. He knew that the people who experienced revival would, a few generations later, return to their evil ways. That is the law of revivals – and Jonah knew it!

Isn’t that what happened in America? Jonathan Edwards and others had great revivals that filled the churches with converts. But, as time went on, fanatics like Finney riled people up and filled the churches with unconverted members. The last great revival in America was in 1859. After that fanatics became the new evangelists, and their methods filled the churches with unbelievers. New-evangelicalism is simply watered-down evangelicalism. Today very few evangelicals are converted! That is why we live in an atmosphere of unbelief today!

The recent church split showed that those who left were never really with us (I John 2:19; Jude 19). So they went with a little man who lets them go fully into the new-evangelical “soup.” They forgot that new-evangelicalism has never experienced true revival – and it never will!

Let us go on to a new beginning!