“And I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.” Ezekiel 34:26
Jonathan Edwards proposed that God’s work of redemption has always been carried on most effectively “by remarkable communications of the Spirit of God.” That is, seasons of unusual power and progress. Christians have often used the word “revival” to describe such an experience.
Edwards did not disparage the more ordinary seasons of gospel ministry. He affirmed that there is “a more constant influence of God’s Spirit always in some degree attending his ordinances.” In other words, when a church honors Jesus as the Savior of sinners according to the gospel, the Holy Spirit will be there in power, to some degree. We can always expect God to be with us, if we are in close alignment with his gospel, for his glory alone. We are never forsaken, never left to ourselves. But Edwards also affirmed that “the way in which the greatest things have been done towards carrying on this work always has been by remarkable effusions [outpourings] at special seasons of mercy.”
If Edwards is right, and I believe he is, then we can think of our ministries at two levels, both wonderful. At one level, God blesses the normal ministry of the gospel. At another level, God empowers the normal ministry of the gospel with extraordinary blessing. There is nothing unworthy in our usual patterns of gospel ministry. The Holy Spirit is there. If he is there, so should we be, and gratefully. But God is able to take us to another level of impact, such that his cause accelerates remarkably:
Slow and steady ministry now gushes with power (Psalm 126:4).
Explainable human efforts now become mystifying divine acts (Acts 2:12).
An anointed pastor now sees before him an anointed congregation (Acts 2:17-18).
Embarrassing weakness now becomes a joyful boast (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
A growing church now becomes an exploding church (Acts 9:31).
It’s the difference between God blessing what we can do and God doing for us what only he can do, even as we continue faithfully doing our small part.