The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer -The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing – Chapter 2

Dear Friends,                                                              

We will continue to study A. W. Tozer’s classic book, The Pursuit of God as we look at chapter 2 this month. Even the title, The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing, sounds like an oxymoron and yet it is completely Scriptural as we will see. The books and the movies, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, shows us the possessing power of “the ring” and a comment by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware in their book, Finding God in the Lord of the Rings, helps us understand what Tozer is saying here. “Malice eats the creature (Gollum) like a cancer and the evil is growing. Evil is not possessed (i.e., the ring of power or the drug of choice) but possessing! (See Genesis 3:6-8; James 1:13-15) There is a progressive quality about evil – the drink, the woman, money, power, position, pornography. Have you or someone you know gone down that slippery slope to bondage of a desire gone mad?” 

Tozer uses the first beatitude of our Lord Jesus to make his point. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) and unpacks it by saying: “Before the Lord God made man upon the earth He first prepared for him by creating a world of useful and pleasant things for his  sustenance and delight. In the Genesis account of the creation these are called simply “things.” They were made for man’s uses, but they were meant always to be external to the man and subservient to him. In the deep heart of the man was a shrine where none but God was worthy to come. Within him was God; without, a thousand gifts which God had showered upon him. But sin has introduced complications and has made those very gifts of God a potential source of ruin to the soul. Our woes began when God was forced out of His central shrine and “things” were allowed to enter. Within the human heart “things” have taken over. Men have now by nature no peace within their hearts, for God is crowned there no longer, but there in the moral dusk stubborn and aggressive usurpers fight among themselves for first place on the throne. This is not a mere metaphor, but an accurate analysis of our real spiritual trouble. There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but their constant and universal use is significant. They express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal symptoms of our deep disease. The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never    originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution. The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul-poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the Kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing. They are “poor in spirit.” They have reached an inward state paralleling the outward circumstances of the common beggar in the streets of Jerusalem; that is what the word “poor” as Christ used it actually means. These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and this they have done not by fighting but by surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things. “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.””                                            

Tozer then teaches from one of the most astounding acts of faith in all of Scripture to explain how surrendering everything to God gives us the blessed life that our Lord wants us to have. “Take now thy son,” said God to Abraham, “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” “The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form and convulsive wrestling alone under the stars. Possibly not again until a Greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul.” Later in this chapter Tozer shows us that it was Abraham’s faith in the goodness and power of God that inspired his obedience. “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” (Hebrews 11:17-19) “It is beautiful to see that, while Abraham erred as to God’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of His great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, “Whosoever will lose…for My sake shall find…” (See Luke 9:23-24)                                                                                            

We see in the same chapter of Hebrews that only faith pleases God; faith (trust in God that leads to obedience to Him) in His goodness and power to bless our obedience.  But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) This does not primarily mean the temporal blessings of health and wealth or “things” but the greater blessing of the fruit of the Spirit which the wealthy or worldly-minded people often do not possess. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh (the self-life, the selfish life) with its passions and desires (for things more than for God Himself).” (Galatians 5:22-24) Most of the disciples were tortured and martyred for their faith yet had great joy in the midst of it (Acts 5:40-42) and will receive eternal rewards commensurate with their sacrificial obedience. And our Lord Jesus who suffered more than all for His costly obedience did it with joy. (Hebrews 12:2; 1:9)

How can we increase our faith in God that leads to total trust and surrender to His will?  We can only love and trust a Person we know and we can only grow in our knowledge of Him by spending time with Him in His Word (a revelation of His character), in prayer (a dialogue with God where we listen more than we talk (by reading, reflecting and responding to His Word) and sharing our personal needs and desires and the needs of our family, friends, and even our enemies, with Him. And we obey Him in the daily, mundane things of life as Abraham did. Small surrenders can lead to increasingly greater surrenders. As we do this day by day we come to know, love, and trust Him more and more. (See Colossians 1:9-12)                                                                                       

But Tozer also calls us to the hard and painful work of renouncing the idols in our lives – things and people we cherish more than God. “The Christian who is alive enough to know himself even slightly will recognize the symptoms of this possession malady, and will grieve to find them in his own heart. If the longing after God is strong enough within him he will want to do something about the matter. (Sometimes God helps us by sending us painful trials to get our attention. My comment.) Now, what should he do? First of all he should put away all defense and make no attempt to excuse himself either in his own eyes or before the Lord. Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other; but let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself. Let the inquiring Christian trample under foot every slippery trick of his deceitful heart and insist upon frank and open relations with the Lord. Then he should remember that this is holy business. No careless or casual dealings will suffice. Let him come to God in full determination to be heard. Let him insist that God accept his all, that He take things out of his heart and Himself reign there in power. It may be he will need to become specific, to name things and people by their names one by one. If he will become drastic enough he can shorten the time of his travail from years to minutes and enter the good land long before his slower brethren who coddle their feelings and insist upon caution in their dealings with God. If we would indeed know God in growing intimacy we must go this way of renunciation. And if we are set upon the pursuit of God, He will sooner or later bring us to this test.” Then Tozer concludes the chapter with this prayer: “Father, I want to know Thee, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of the parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”                                                                               

Consider getting Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. Or copy this link in your browser for 20 piercing questions we can ask ourselves to diagnose heart idols:


Until He comes again,


Len and Kristen


(See Tozer’s book in its entirety on-line at

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