The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer – The Gaze of the Soul – Chapter 7

Dear Friends,  

As we continue our study of A. W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, we see here in chapter 7 his teaching on faith. As you will see, he is primarily focusing on ongoing faith, not just faith in Christ for salvation (John 14:6), but faith for continual intimacy with the Lord that leads to worship, trust and loving obedience to Him as Scripture exhorts us to do in Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” I will share a personal example and application of what Tozer wants to convey before I share his teaching. I remember one night when I was lying in my bed worrying and fretting about my trials when I sensed the Lord speaking to me and saying, “Why don’t you talk to Me about this instead of just thinking about it alone and trying to solve your problems without My help?” I was convicted of my tendency toward autonomy and independence from God even after many years of walking with Him. Then I realized that when I turn even my silent thoughts to prayer (talking and listening to God) I go from prideful independence to humble dependence on the Lord as I turn to Him for help and for His grace to trust and obey Him. This is what Tozer is referring to as “the gaze of the soul;” i.e., developing a continual habit of looking to God in dependence and submission even as Jesus did as a Man. “So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:29) The following quotes are excerpts from Tozer:                                              

“High up on the list of things which the Bible teaches will be the doctrine of faith. The place of weighty importance which the Bible gives to faith will be too plain for man to miss. He will very likely conclude: Faith is all-important in the life of the soul. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (See Hebrews 11:1, 6) Faith will get me anything, take me anywhere in the Kingdom of God, but without faith there can be no approach to God, noforgiveness, no deliverance, no salvation, no communion, no spiritual life at all. Now if faith is so vitally important, if it is an indispensable must in our pursuit of God, it is perfectly natural that we should be deeply concerned over whether or not we possess this most precious gift. And our minds being what they are, it is inevitable that sooner or later we should get around to inquiring after the nature of faith. “What is faith?” would lie close to the question “do I have faith?” and would demand an answer if it were anywhere to be found. From here on, when the words “faith is” or their equivalent occur in this chapter I ask that they be understood to refer to what faith is in operation as exercised by a believing man. Right here we drop the notion of definition and think about faith as it may be experienced in action. In a dramatic story in the Book of Numbers faith is seen in action. Israel became discouraged and spoke against God, and the Lord sent fiery serpents among them. “And they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” Then Moses sought the Lord for them and He heard and gave them a remedy against the bite of the serpents. He commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and put it upon a pole in sight of all the people, “and it shall come to pass, that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” Moses obeyed, “and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:4-9). In the New Testament this important bit of history is interpreted for us by no less an authority than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. He is explaining to His hearers how they may be saved. He tells them that it is by believing. Then to make it clear He refers to this incident in the Book of Numbers. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15). Our plain man in reading this would make an important discovery. He would notice that “look” and “believe” were synonymous terms. “Looking” on the Old Testament serpent is identical with “believing” on the New Testament Christ. That is, the looking and the believing are the same thing. And he would understand that while Israel looked with their external eyes, believing is done with the heart. I think he would conclude that faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God. (My comment: “a saving God” here means both salvation for eternal life but more so for God’s power for spiritual deliverance so that we will continue to love and serve Him to the end even as Jesus did on the cross when He shouted “It is finished”!) Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its own existence. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object upon which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves — blessed riddance. Faith is not in itself a meritorious act; the merit is in the One toward Whom it is directed. Faith is a redirecting of our sight, a getting out of the focus of our own vision and getting God into focus. Sin has twisted our vision inward and made it self-regarding. All this may seem too simple. But we have no apology to make. To those who would seek to climb into heaven after help or descend into hell God says, “The word is nigh thee, even in the word of faith.” (See Romans 10:8) The Word induces us to lift up our eyes unto the Lord and the blessed work of faith begins. When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. (See 2 Chronicles 16:9a) The sweet language of experience is “Thou God seest me.” (See Genesis 16:13) When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on this earth. [“When all my endeavour is turned toward Thee because all Thy endeavour is turned toward me; when I look unto Thee alone with all my attention, nor ever turn aside the eyes of my mind, because Thou dost enfold me with Thy constant regard; when I direct my love toward Thee alone because Thou, who are Love’s self hast turned Thee toward me alone. And what, Lord, is my life, save that embrace wherein Thy delightsome sweetness doth so lovingly enfold me?” So wrote Nicholas of Cusa four hundred years ago. Nicholas of Cusa, The Vision of God, E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc., New York, 1928.] Many have found the secret of which I speak and, without giving much thought to what is going on within them, constantly practice this habit of inwardly gazing upon God. They know that something inside their hearts sees God. Even when they are compelled to withdraw their conscious attention in order to engage in earthly affairs, there is within them a secret communion always going on. Let their attention but be released for a moment from necessary business and it flies at once to God again. This has been the testimony of many Christians, so many that even as I state it thus I have a feeling that I am quoting, though from whom or from how many I cannot possibly know. I do not want to leave the impression that the ordinary means of grace have no value. They most assuredly have. Private prayer should be practiced by every Christian. Long periods of Bible meditation will purify our gaze and direct it; church attendance will enlarge our outlook and increase our love for others. Service and work and activity; all are good and should be engaged in by every Christian. But at the bottom of all these things, giving meaning to them, will be the inward habit of beholding God. A new set of eyes (so to speak) will develop within us enabling us to be looking at God while our outward eyes are seeing the scenes of this passing world. When the habit of inwardly gazing Godward becomes fixed within us we shall be ushered onto a new level of spiritual life more in keeping with the promises of God and the mood of the New Testament. The Triune God will be our dwelling place even while our feet walk the low road of simple duty here among men. We will have found life’s summum bonum indeed.”

Tozer concludes with this prayer: “O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see Thee but dimly. Be pleased to cleanse me in Thine own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon Thee all the days of my earthly pilgrimage. Then shall I be prepared to behold Thee in full splendor in the day when Thou shalt appear to be glorified in Thy saints and admired in all them that believe. Amen.”

“One thing I have asked of the Lord, and that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)


Until He comes again,

Len and Kristen

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