Other than the Bible, a book that has greatly influenced my life for Christ is The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer. I first read it in 1990 and have read it 11 times since then. I have read it particularly for personal revival when I was feeling spiritual sloth and needed inspiration to revive my passion for Christ and my ministry for Him. Over the next months I will share with you some of the highlights from each chapter and hope and pray Tozer’s love and passion for God will bless and inspire you as it has and continues to do for me.
“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, `Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Tozer concludes each chapter with a prayer like this one here in chapter one and, as you will see, the prayers themselves stir us to passionately pursue the Lord. The closing prayer from each chapter reflects the main message of the chapter and here is the message from chapter one in Tozer’s own words: “The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: `Thy right hand upholdeth me.’ In this divine upholding and human following there is no contradiction. All is of God, for as von Hugel teaches, God is always previous. In practice, however, (that is, where God’s previous working meets man’s present response) man must pursue God. On our part there must be positive reciprocation if this secret drawing of God is to eventuate in identifiable experience of the Divine. In the warm language of personal feeling this is stated in the Forty-second Psalm: `As the deer panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God.’ This is deep calling unto deep, and the longing heart will understand it.”
Tozer also challenges the rote prayers for salvation that over-eager evangelists push for by saying: “Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be `received’ without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is `saved,’ but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content with little.” In other words, “saved” people can think, “now that I have my ticket to heaven I don’t need anything else from God.” They think salvation is the end when it is just the beginning of the privilege of “knowing God” more and more intimately which Jesus says is the very purpose of life. (John 17:3) Using marriage as an analogy, it would be like a spouse thinking, “now I have the ring and marriage certificate I don’t need to spend any time getting to know and deepening my love for my wife/husband.” Tozer says it this way: “God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion. To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily- satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart. Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. They mourned for Him, they prayed and wrestled and sought for Him day and night, in season and out, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking. David’s life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ. `That I may know Him,’ was the goal of his heart, and to this he sacrificed everything. `Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ’ (Phil 3:8). I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”
Later in the chapter Tozer identifies one of the main problems (sins) that limit our deep, joyful and soul-satisfying experience of intimacy with God. “When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the and lies our great woe. If we omit the and we shall soon find God, and in Him we shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.” In teaching on Tozer’s book my friend Ken Boa put it this way: “Like greedy little children on Christmas morning, we run past the presence of God to get at the presents from God. We begin to view God as a sanctified Santa Claus who is only good for stuffing our lives full of goodies. Or we treat him as a religious genie who, if we rub him the right way with our prayers and promises, will grant us our fondest wishes. Eventually, we lose sight of God’s presence altogether and only pursue the and stuff.” Instead of coming to God with open hands to get more stuff from Him, we need to come to Him with open arms to embrace Him with love and gratitude for Who He is and all He has already given us.
Tozer says, “When the Lord divided Canaan among the tribes of Israel, Levi received no share of the land. God said to him simply, `I am thy part and thine inheritance,’ and by those words made him richer than all his brethren, richer than all the kings and rajas who have ever lived in the world. And there is a spiritual principle here, a principle still valid for every priest of the Most High God. The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.”
Many a love song has been written on the theme of unrequited love (“not reciprocated or returned in kind”). Knowing the intense love God has for us as seen in the cross we must ask ourselves, how can we respond to such fiery love with so little passion and commitment? And although God doesn’t “need” our love it is clear from Scripture He wants our love, both our affection and our acts of obedience motivated by our love for Him. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20) Here once again we see God being the Initiator, pursuing us, inviting us to communion and intimacy and not forcing us to respond yet desiring our response.
God waits to be wanted. Let us say to Him with the passion of the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but You? I desire You more than anything on earth.” (Psalm 73:25) May this be the desire of our heart and our fervent prayer for the New Year and the rest of our lives.
Wishing you a blessed and fruitful 2016,
Len and Kristen