In 1949, a young preacher named Billy Graham said: "I'm praying for an old-fashioned, Holy Spirit, Heaven-sent revival in America from coast to coast."
At 98 years old, Graham is still praying that prayer today, according to Dr. Tom Phillips, vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and executive director of the Billy Graham Library.
Like Graham, Dr. Phillips believes God has great things in store for the United States, and in his new book, Jesus Now: God Is Up to Something Big, explores how events from the past and present indicate America is about to experience a great revival. Following a contentious election season, he is also encouraging Christians to remember that hope for the country is found in God alone - not in government officials or political leaders.
"Washington DC is not the answer - we certainly appreciate all of the statesman and women who are there - but the answer is God Almighty," he told The Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview. "He loves this nation, He founded this nation, and He instituted it on his principles through godly men and women. And, I believe He's bringing it back today."
In fact, he believes that God is allowing the division and unrest seen across the United States to draw people closer to Him.
"Light shows up best in darkness," he explained. "Periodically, the Lord, because we turn our back on him, allows darkness to pervade so badly that even the tiniest amount of light, when shown, gives people purpose and guidance and direction. Eventually, as it expands in their lives, it gives conviction, confession and repentance, salvation. We're seeing this happen; pockets of light, literally all over the world."
Dr. Phillips is encouraging followers of Christ to prayerfully consider what their place will be in God's great awakening: "We need a War Room - it may be a physical war room, or simply a time in our hearts," he said.
"Talk to the Lord, let him touch your heart, and say, 'Show me the areas of life that are blocking me from the sunlight of your spirit.' That's the first step to personal revival - getting honest in front of God. Then the Lord convicts, and when we repent and turn toward Him, God will turn one person at a time and He supernaturally begins to flow through these clean vessels and touches others and begins to heal the land."
Below is the exclusive interview with Dr. Tom Phillips. To learn more about Jesus Now: God Is Up to Something Big, click here.
GH: Tell us a bit about yourself and your connection to the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.
TP: I started out studying to be a surgeon; I wanted to use platform to share my faith and help people, but God spoke to me in prayer one day and said, 'What's more important: helping a man or woman have quality of life for 70 years, or helping a man or woman have life eternal.
Never did I dream I'd work with Billy Graham, but I knew my Father had called me into ministry. I went to seminary, and the Billy Graham chair of evangelism was at my seminary. That's how the internship developed in 1974, and I was the first one to do that, serving with the team for six months.
All that time, I had heart for revival - a movement of God's spirit among His people to renew the church, restore the church. And, out of that restoration, to awaken a secular group looking at the church and saying, 'I want to have in my heart what you have in yours.' Billy Graham himself in 1949 said, 'I'm praying for an old-fashioned, Holy Spirit, Heaven-sent revival in America from coast to coast,' and he's still praying that prayer today. We're beginning to see this new revival of love, forgiveness, and acceptance within the Biblical framework operative today.
GH: What was your inspiration for writing Jesus Now?
TP: My inspiration was primarily Charles Finney, the great revivalist of the 1800's. He was an atheist attorney who came to Christ and immediately began to see God move in evangelism and in revival. At the end of his life, after seeing most of New England revived, he wrote down the seven indicators to know when God is moving and beginning to move. Those seven indicators are in the book on the page 84, and we've built the book around those to show and encourage pastors especially, and the church, that God is at work, He is Creator God. Washington DC is not the answer - we certainly appreciate all of the statesman and women who are there - but the answer is God Almighty. He loves this nation, He founded this nation, and He instituted it on His principles through godly men and women. And, I believe He's bringing it back today.
GH: That's an interesting insight, particularly amid the division and unrest currently seen across the nation. What are your thoughts on how Christians can respond during a contentious post-election season?
TP: I read a prayer request yesterday morning from one of our donors and supporters of BGEA, and they said, 'I am so stressed. All I see is chaos destroying our nation.' Light - and I share this in the book - light shows up best in darkness. Periodically, the Lord, because we turn our back on him, allows darkness to pervade so bad even the tiniest amount of light, when shown, gives people purpose and guidance and direction. Eventually, as it expands in their lives, it gives conviction, confession and repentance, salvation. We're seeing this happen; pockets of light, literally all over the world.
GH: How is the Holy Spirit working in the church today? What do you think God is up to?
TP: Of the seven indicators of Charles Finney, number one is, "When the sovereignty of God indicates that revival is near." That simply means that when we see that we're desperate without Him, that means He's at work. We're in the greatest prayer movement in the history of the Christian Church, that's number three of Finney's indicators: "When there is a spirit of prayer for revival."
This year alone, thousands of people have come to Christ - we've heard stories of the Holy Spirit moving, marriages restored, homes being renewed. We've seen the Decision American tour, where God laid on Franklin Graham to go to every state and call the nation to prayer - those meetings were attended by hundreds of thousands.
Also, all of the Christian movies that are out there, especially Alex and Steven Hendricks' movie "War Room" calling the nation to prayer, "The Bible" series on television calling to the cross, the Christian music that's out there - I can go on and on. It's amazing what God is doing.
GH: What kinds of patterns have you observed in the previous revivals that appear to be happening again today?
TP: I think the number one thing is, there's a brokenness. For example, in Iran, there are reportedly 3 million minimum, young people especially, in the house church of in Iran in that Muslim environment. Some say as many as 6 million.
Here's an example: A young man named Dennis had a dream, I quote: "I can still remember the marks on his face and he was wearing a king's crown on his head. Very strong brightness came out of each part of his body and many people were bowing down before him. That dream became a turning point in my life."
Another convert, Abby, said: "Suddenly, one of the nights when I was in bed, I just dreamed, and a light was speaking as I am speaking to you now...It was speaking to me, calling my name verbally and saying, 'Come to me, I'll save you, I'll rescue you'." Both of those people - difficult decisions, could be executed for their faith, socially ostracized from their communities. But, they did it. And, what we're seeing is typical of how the Lord works.
The Bible says to Christians, "Seek him while he may be found," and, "This is the generation of those who see him." But, when people aren't seeking Him, secular America, for example - look at the Apostle Paul - he wasn't seeking Jesus, but Jesus sought him on the road to Damascus. Saeed Abedini, Iranian jihadist student studying to be a terrorist - he wasn't seeking Jesus, Jesus sought him. Is it possible today that Jesus is looking down at us and seeking the heart of man or woman? The Bible says, "For all seek their own, and not the things that are of Christ." And yet, Luke 1:10 says, "The son of man came to seek and save the lost." What we're seeing is prayer, brokenness, desperation, crying out to God, but God reaching down to us and coming into the seeker's hearts. When chaos reigns, evil floods the land - it's much like the beach in Southern California. At the end of the day it's full of debris, and yet, when the tide blows at night, the water of God can cleanse the beach and leave it perfectly pure.
GH: How can Christians discover what their part is in His great awakening? What can they do to prepare themselves for the days ahead?
TP: I think it's very clear in 2nd Chronicles - God says pray, humble yourself first - and that's a choice, humility isn't something that just happens, we choose to die to self by faith, and we humble ourselves and pray. I think today, we often pray out of desperation because we see Washington, DC isn't the answer, that politics isn't the answer - even though we love our system. It's important to cry out to God and say, "Lord, this is above us, you founded this place, please renew this place. And Jesus, I just want to know you, and have an intimacy with you. I want devotion to flow from this quiet place in my heart, I want to die to self." And, God says, "I will hear you".
We need a War Room - it may be a physical war room, or simply a time in our hearts. Talk to the Lord, let Him touch your heart, and say, "Show me the areas of life that are blocking me from the sunlight of your spirit." That's the first step to personal revival - getting honest in front of God. Then the Lord convicts, and when we repent and turn toward Him, God will turn one person at a time and He supernaturally begins to flow through these clean vessels and touches others and begins to heal the land.
GH: What do you hope readers take away from Jesus Now?
TP: I hope they take away two things: One, Jesus is reaching down to us, and we need to reach out to him. Second, all of these seven indicators are at work - every one of them; they're operative today. Out of the wisdom and experience of one of the greatest revivalists in the history of the church we can learn that when God is moving like this, He's in charge. It's His plan. I'm gonna cry out to you, Lord, and say, just like Billy Graham, "Father, use me, wherever you want me to go, whatever you want me to say, whatever you want me to do, I'm your slave by faith."