How Reaching the End of Yourself Leads to Revival (Part 1)

Recently one of the things I think God has been deliberately showing me is where my capacity stops. I mean where it properly stops. Like brick wall kind of ‘stops’.

I’ve not had a grand melt down or anything dramatic. Yet I am aware of a repeated cycle going on in the last season. I have dreams and visions of what the future looks like. Particularly when it comes to our church, our family or our city in terms of revival. I have hopes that I am able to work towards that hoped for future. Bit by bit I hope we are getting nearer to that preferred reality. Yet recently I have just found that well…. I can’t. I just can’t.

Our ‘professional’ skills fail us…

I haven’t the talent, the time or the capacity to do what really needs to be done. Helping more than one or two people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ has evaded me and most Christians in this nation for many years. We know from the bible there have been times when whole family groups, whole villages and even whole regions came to faith in rapid succession. News of Jesus dying on the cross to take away sin and an invitation to live in loving, powerful relationship with God was GOOD NEWS. And it spread!

We are in deep need of unfamiliar encounters with a God we’ve become far too familiar with.

Yet now the same gospel seems to stall. Despite employing all the tactics we’ve been taught as church planters we find our impact barely scratches the surface of the need of our city. Christians are seen as nice people but their message seems outdated to many. We’ve made it through a pandemic but the faith of many has been severely tested. Our church family has faired pretty well, yet there is a fragility to us that is palpable. Our NHS staff are burnt out, people struggle with health issues, long-covid, fatigue, and mental health challenges are rife. Whilst many of us would say we have a desire for our friends and family to have the chance to be changed by gospel, which was once good news to us; reality is that we need to re-encounter that Good News for ourselves. We are in deep need of unfamiliar encounters with a God we’ve become far too familiar with.

Simon Peter was in a similar position when we first meet him in the gospel of Luke. A fisherman by trade, he and his wife were dependant on his ability to catch fish. He’d likely have been trained by his own father or family member and if he failed to bring home a catch they didn’t eat. This is precisely the situation we find Simon in after a frustrating night on the water. His professional skills have deserted him and he is powerless to change his situation.

Jesus enters our Emptiness…

Jesus approaches the morose fishermen as they mend their nets one morning. He asks to borrow Simons empty boat so he can teach people who have gathered to hear him speak. Perhaps with chargrin Simon agrees. They push out from the shore and this allows Jesus to speak to the large crowd with more ease. It is worth noting here that the scene of Simon’s shame, at not catching any fish the night before, becomes the very place he is now witnessing the Son of God, expounding the Kingdom of God. It becomes a place of encounter; a thin place between heaven and earth.

Could it be that our own places of emptiness are exactly the places Jesus turns into places of encounter? When we reach our lowest ebb there is not much we can do other than surrender to the will of God. These are often the moments of quiet breakthrough. The scene is finally set for Jesus to climb into our empty boat, knowing we are ready to hear fresh instructions.

Join me for Part 2 where I reflect further on the story of Simon Peter and what His empty boat teaches us about our own hearts and how Jesus longs to revive us.

Abi held a funeral for her design career after birthing two churches and three children. She now helps lead a local church alongside her husband John and a team of great people, as well as working for her larger network of churches as their Communications Manager. Life is full but fun.

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