One of the books that has had the greatest impact on my life (other than the Bible!) is The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. When I was a Junior in High School I received a large envelope in the mail from someone I had never met. It was a man in my church that said he had been talking to the Youth Pastor and my name had come up as someone who was really growing in their faith. He sent me the letter and a gift to encourage me to keep on growing and following Christ. The gift was a copy of A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. It was not a book I would normally have read as a High School student, but a statement in the preface really caught my attention. It said that Tozer would read all sorts of things “on his knees, asking God to help him understand their meaning.” This really challenged me and I decided to do this with The Pursuit of God. This book was a tool used by God at just the right time in my life to help me down the path of following Him. In fact, this book was an important part of my decision to become a pastor. It continues to be a challenge and a reminder to me today of not being complacent in my following of God.
Over the next few weeks I will periodically share with you some of the quotes and ideas that have really stayed with me from this book. It is not Scripture, to be sure, but I have found that the best books, speakers, music, churches, etc, have driven me to Scripture rather than served as a substitute. Hopefully I can do the same for anyone reading this blog.
The first chapter of The Pursuit of God is called, “Following Hard after God” and explains what it means to pursue God. Here are some challenging quotes:
Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him. … We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit (11).
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. … God is always previous. In practice, however, (that is, where God’s previous working meets man’s present response) man must pursue God (12).
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 (15).
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 (15).
In the midst of this great chill there are some, I rejoice to acknowledge, who will not be content with shallow logic. They will admit the force of the argument, and then turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place and pray, “O God, show me thy glory.” They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God. I want to deliberately 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 (17).
We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to the essentials (18).
And lastly, at the end of each chapter Tozer writes a prayer:
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, that so 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. (20)
I highly recommend this book as a catalyst to faith and spending time with God. You can buy it here or download a copy from Project Gutenberg here (various formats).
Bibliography on my copy: Tozer, A.W., The Pursuit of God. Christian Publications, Inc.: Camp Hill, PA, 1982.