Rustling in the Trees: Obstacles to Revival
with Peter Horrobin, Founder & International Director of Ellel Ministries
“So David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, "Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” 2 Samuel 5:23-24.
“Wake up, oh sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:13.
Without Christ shining on you, there will be no revival. This instruction given through Paul was not spoken in the graveyard, it was spoken in church. So much of the body of Christ is asleep and Paul found it necessary to say to believers, even in the first century church, “Wake up!” Often people say, “Oh, Lord, send revival” and the Lord says, “Wake up! How can I send revival if you’re still sleeping?” We have to get ourselves moving and put ourselves in the place to be available to God because that is how revival comes. We seem to think of resurrection as something God does, but God thinks of revival as something we do in order to put ourselves in the place where we can receive His life. He gives us the opportunity to respond, but He doesn’t get us out of bed, we have to get ourselves out of bed.
God tells us to rise from the dead. He tells us to put our will in place and then say, “I am going to experience resurrection because I am choosing to be alive". Revival doesn’t come to people who are not choosing to be alive and God doesn’t force revival down our throats against our will. He only brings His reviving to those who are ready and willing. This is why Paul commends us to wake up and when that happens it says Christ will shine upon you. He will do His part when we put ourselves in the place to be available to Him. The light of Christ shining on us gives us a holy glow.
You may have a match sitting nearby, but it doesn’t look alight until you strike it. The church is full of dead matches and matches that have never been struck. Until the match has been struck it doesn’t give out any light. God is saying to us, to the Body of Christ, “Wake up!” Have you ever looked at somebody early in the morning who is lying in bed? Their head is just below the pillow and the blankets are over their head, and they are deeply away. How much light is shining on them? Zero. Zero light is shining upon them because they’ve covered themselves over to stop the light getting at them. Many people in the Body of Christ have covered themselves over to stop the light getting at them because they do not want to be disturbed. Is this you? Paul is speaking to people who are supposed to be alive and he is saying that some of them are dead.
An old song says, “I hear the sound of rustling in the leaves of the trees” and I believe this is referring to the scripture in 2 Samuel 5. Rustling is like the sound of wind blowing in the trees, and that is the sound that 2 Samuel 5:24 talks about. When you hear a wind building up, then you need to get up and start moving. I want to look at the word R-U-S-T-L-I-N-G and how it relates to God wanting to bring revival.
Revival. Let’s ask ourselves a very important question. Why is it that when God moves it doesn’t last? When God moves, why isn’t it sustained over a long period of time? Why do we have histories of revivals in certain years instead of living in the experience of continuous revival? In between these revival years was God asleep, or were the people of God asleep? What stands in the way of a move of God becoming a sustained move of God? He put dominion in our hands and looks to us to respond to Him. Why does revival not continue indefinitely? I’m going to attempt to answer it in the following letters.
Unforgiveness. There’s one simple answer: the heart of man. Unforgiveness is probably one of the greatest issues that blocks the flow of the spirit of God. The scripture is very clear about unforgiveness. Jesus highlighted in such a way, “If you do not forgive, my father in heaven will not forgive you.” (Matthew 6:15) That is quite a shock to people to realize that the Bible says God will not forgive you if you’re unforgiving in your heart. If you have a people who are not experienced in the forgiveness of God for their sin I suspect they are going to be pretty quickly falling asleep. Unforgiveness is the best sleeping pill for the church. I can guarantee that if you’re daily swallowing the pill of unforgiveness you’ll go to sleep and remain asleep as long as the pill is operating in your life. If we’re not experienced in the forgiveness of God, we’re not experienced in the presence of God. If you’re not experienced in the presence of God how can you possibly think you’re going to be in revival. Unforgiveness in the heart of man is an absolute blockage to the move of the Spirit of God. In the Body of Christ we have relationships, but do you have perfect relationships? Relationships are critical to God because He works through them, and He primarily works through our relationship with Him. How can you be moving forward as an army if you aren’t in relationship with your fellow soldiers? You cannot be shooting the enemy and shooting your friend as well. If you start shooting your friends you’re going to run out of soldiers more quickly than if you go against the enemy. There may be lots of other issues, but unless you tackle the unforgiveness issue you won’t move forward in seeing the power of God move in your life.
Self-centeredness. “I am on the throne of my life and I’m going to stay there, thank you very much”. “There’s only one important person in the world and it’s the one standing in my shoes”. We wouldn’t actually say such terrible things, would we? Maybe not, but what we wouldn’t say we often live by the attitude of our hearts. We wouldn’t say such words, but the attitude of our hearts would demonstrate that they are true. Ephesians 4:21, “Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires”. I’ve bought a new coat to wear while walking the dog and it’s hanging up beside the old one. But when I get ready to go for a walk which jacket do you think I put on? I put on the one I’m most familiar with even though I have a new one. There are things, like a rubber bung from a collectible car, in the pocket of this jacket that I like to put my hand on and hold while I’m walking. Now, this isn’t sin, but it’s a picture of what could be sin. How many of us have sinful things of the past we like to hold onto when we should be embracing and putting on the new self? We need to get rid of the clothing of the carnal nature and selfishness. We need to be made new in the attitude of our minds. Selfishness, self-elevation, and self-centeredness become an obstacle to the move of the Spirit of God. If you want to live in the old and say goodbye to the new God will let you. He will let you wallow in your previous muck and stay there, because He’s given you a free will.
Temerity. Temerity means fear. Fear is something that controls us from the inside, and if we allow fear to be an obstacle to moving on in God then we’re going to hide behind our fear and never move out of our self-centeredness. The Bible says we need to be full of fear, then to get rid of the fear we’re full of. We are commanded to fear the Lord, but not to fear the enemy. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you”. Then Isaiah 11:3, “And he will delight in the fear of the Lord”. We fear God in the sense that we don’t want to grieve Him, but we are not to let the enemy hold us back. If God has moved us forward we have no reason to fear the enemy, though the enemy loves to make us afraid. The problem is, however, that often people move forward when God has not spoken. Then they go into presumption, then pride, and because of this they are unable to repent. This is where the enemy gets them. If you move forward on presumption then you are on dangerous ground, but if God has told you to move forward then“fear not”. Fear will stand in the way of our being fulfilled in God.
Lust. Ephesians 5:3 states, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Lust and greed all stand in the way of a move by the Holy God. If we are lusting after the unholy things do you think the Holy Spirit will come to the door to bless you? You have a choice to make because lust will stand in the way of God coming down in revival.
Insubordination. Insubordination means you don’t have any respect for those who are in authority over you. Ultimately, if God has put people in authority over you and you don’t respect those people then you are not respecting God. We are told to pray for those who are over us. Unless they are telling us to do things which are totally wrong we are not to rebel against them. If someone has been put in authority over you in the place of the service of the Body of Christ, and you are not following them, then you are in a place of insubordination. God can’t bless that. In an army, everyone needs to recognize the authority of their commanding officers. It does no good as a soldier to say, “I’m not going to do that. I don’t want to, thank you very much.” In war you’d be shot dead in a court martial for rebellion. When God sets in place His authority then we need to be in a place where we come underneath and bless those who were put over us. Then we can pray for them so that when they give us orders they’re going to give good ones. Insubordination is an absolute curse on the body of Christ. If they are asking us to do something immoral, that is different. But if they ask you to do something you don’t agree with you can go to them in love. When you do disagree you will probably find - in most cases - that you are just looking at the issue from your own perspective. There are probably things you haven’t comprehended that have been taken into account in the decision, and you’re simply objecting to your perception rather than objecting to the reality. If you’re in subordination you are not blessing them, and if you’re not blessing them you’re cursing them. If you are speaking against them in your heart – not even with your words – then you are cursing them. There is no gray area here. So when you are in a place of insubordination you are giving Satan a right to attack those in authority over you, and then they’ll be even more difficult to work with because Satan has a handle on them because of you.
No. Stubbornness. Have any of you had a “Mr. No” or a “Mrs. No” inside you? Some people are like mules and do you know what characterizes a mule? It doesn’t move until you kick it. I don’t think God likes kicking people; rather He likes to encourage them. But if we behave like a mule we may occasionally get a kick from God. Have you ever had a kick from God? Stubbornness is an absolute blockage and if God has told you to do something and you refused then that is gross insubordination. In this way you are missing out on the blessing and God is missing out on an opportunity. There are many opportunities that are never taken up because there isn’t anybody else at that place and at that time to do what God says. Stubbornness says no especially when God asks you to do something inconvenient. What if He asks you to do something important and there’s a big football match on television, will you do it? He often challenges us. There are times when we need to actually say yes and then just work out the consequences. When you say yes to God and work out the consequences you’ll find there are greater blessings than there were privileges you’ve given up.
Grieve. Ephesians 4:30 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” How do you the Holy Spirit feels when you are doing your own thing, indulging in lust, insubordination, and stubbornness? Maybe He steps back just a bit. David - after having indulged in lust and committed adultery - expressed his heart in Psalm 51. There were a number of different things which he talked about, but the great thing that comes out in that psalm is this (vs. 11), “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” He had grieved the Holy Spirit. The physical sin he committed had seriously interrupted His relationship with the living God and that was the crisis in David’s life. The sin can be forgiven, but the crisis was whether the Holy Spirit was still with him. David came to very deep repentance after this, and the greatest tragedy of his life was grieving the Holy Spirit.
We can ask God why he doesn’t send revival, but we need to look at our own hearts first. When you look at big revivals of history you’ll find there were men and women pure in heart seeking God. The Spirit of God is attracted by pure hearts. The Spirit of God is attracted by those who deal with the issues in their lives because they want to bless God. We need to ask ourselves if we hear the rustling, and if not, why not.
Peter Horrobin, Founder and International Director of Ellel Ministries.