“The Universal Presence” – thoughts on chapter 5 of A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”.


“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:7).

The truth  that God is present with us is called immanence.  As Tozer states, “It means simply that God is here” (62).  The fact of God’s existence and involved presence has sustained the people of God throughout Scripture and history.  Any sense of our being distant from God is not a matter of space but of awareness.  Tozer puts it this way: “If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His faith” (64).  Jesus said it even more succinctly: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”

We are like the servant of Elisha.  We see and fear the things of this world, but we do not see the Presence and the Power of God that is at work all around us.  As Elisha prayed then, we too need to pray that God would open our eyes so that we may see (see 2 Kings 6:15-17).

It is not that God wants to remain hidden.  I believe it is exactly the opposite. The barrier between us and God is our creation – it is because of our sin.  All of Scripture is the record of God’s pounding on this barrier declaring His presence and His gift of salvation.  Scripture is full of people who saw God, walked with God, and heard God.  They were people to whom God declared, “I will be with you” and then He worked to show them His presence.  Fire by day, smoke by night, the Tabernacle, and the blessings of the Promised Land were all constant reminders of God’s presence with His people.  And when they chose to ignore this, He sent Himself – God the Son, Jesus – as Immanuel which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

So often we wait for the shining light to break into the darkness to prove to us that God is here, but Tozer says that this was not usually the way of those who lived with an awareness of God’s presence.  Instead, he says that “they had spiritual awareness and that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives.  They differed from the average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it.  They acquired the lifelong habit of spiritual response” (67).

Listen to what he wrote in 1948 that I believe is still just as true today:

A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals.  We have been trying to apply machine-age methods to our relations with God.  We read our chapter, have our short devotions and rush away, hoping to make up for our deep inward bankruptcy by attending another gospel meeting or listening to another thrilling story told by a religious adventurer lately returned from afar.

The tragic results of this spirit are all about us:  Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in the gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit.  These and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.  (69)

He goes on to say that we have all done this.  We have all grown satisfied with this “average diet” or have “accepted one another’s notions, copied one another’s lives and made one another’s experiences the model for our own.  …we have made the Word of Truth conform to our experience and accepted this low plane as the very pasture of the blessed” (70).

But God IS present.  He IS here.  He is not far off and though we may wander aimlessly, He is present and longing for us to be aware of His presence.  Tozer states:

Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.  Let us say it again:  The universal Presence is a fact.  God is here.  The whole universe is alive with His life.  And He is no strange or foreign God, but the familiar Father of our Lord Jesus Christ whose love has for these thousands of years enfolded the sinful race of men.  And always He is trying to get our attention, to reveal Himself to us, to communicate with us.  We have within us the ability to know Him if we will but respond to His overtures. (And this we call pursuing God!)  We will know Him in increasing degree as our receptivity becomes more perfect by faith and love and practice. (71)

As always, Tozer ends this chapter with a powerful prayer:

O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with visible things.  The world has been too much with me.  Thou hast been here and I knew it not.  I have been blind to Thy presence.  Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me.  For Christ’s name sake, Amen. (71)

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