Day 20: The Principle of Ebb and Flow

Day 19: The Master
February 17, 2017
Day 21: The Principles of Spiritual Growth & Providence/Sovereignty
February 19, 2017

Most Christians today are unfamiliar with the big picture principles of revival. In the classic work Revivals, Their Laws and Leaders James Burns identifies 11 laws or principles of revival. These principles don’t tell us what to look for. Though they’re intriguing, though they draw us again and again to Scripture, they aren’t clues for coming revival as much as they’re foundational truths about how spiritual awakening has taken place throughout history.

First, is the Principle of Ebb and Flow: Communication of any big truth, such as spiritual awakening, rests somewhat on an effective analogy or word picture. In illustrating revival, Burns uses the image of a wave. “Any progress [that moves us closer in our relationship toward God],” he wrote, “is like the incoming tide. Each wave is a revival, going forward, receding, and being followed by another. To the onlooker, it seems as if nothing is gained, but the force behind the ebb and flow is the power of the tide.”

Think of how the “wave action” of revival makes sense. Like a wave, our age will have its own peculiar characteristics. The activity of prayer, the turning to God we see building gradually today, is unique from any other spiritual tide in history. Like a wave, revival will crest at some point. The culmination will be relatively short before the wave follows its natural course and recedes. It’s impossible to live “at the peak” or “on the crest” forever. A revival will move us to new heights and revitalize us. Like reaching the top of a mountain, we know our time on the summit is limited. The time comes to move on. The exhilaration of the view is what inspires us when we go back down to live in the valley. This is the ebb and flow of revival.

Spiritual awakening also only lasts for a brief time, but its impact can linger much longer. Where have you felt God at work in your own life? Is the “ebb” of being drawn back to the truth of your own broken nature or the “flow” of His unseen but very real power moving you forward to Him? Both movements are from the same loving God. “The Law (or Principle) which moves the mighty tides of the ocean,” wrote Burns, “is the same which ruffles the surface of the little pool made by the rain on a summer afternoon.”

Psalm 42:7 New King James Version (NKJV)
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.

Isaiah 51:15 New King James Version (NKJV)
15 But I am the Lord your God,
Who divided the sea whose waves roared—
The Lord of hosts is His name.

Psalm 80:18 New King James Version (NKJV)
18 Then we will not turn back from You;
Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.


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Phillips, Tom (2016-11-01). Jesus Now: God Is Up to Something Big (Chapter 7 p. 156-158). BroadStreet Publishing Group LLC.

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