Appetizers from Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”
By Jesse Jost
In the late 1940s, A.W. Tozer was riding a train and, as was his habit, in prayer and meditation. He started recording his thoughts and by the time the train arrived the first draft of “The Pursuit of God” was written.
Tozer was a man who knew the ecstasy of genuine communion with God. Aides at his church would often hear Tozer alone in his office moaning in wonder and adoration of God. When Tozer wrote of God He wrote with a reverent familiarity few have acquired this side of heaven.
I read “The Pursuit of God” a couple times in my late teens/early twenties and I remember being so impacted by it. I finally revisited it this week. Wow, what a power packed, spiritually challenging and inspiring book.
Whether you have read this book before or have never heard of it, I urge you to read it. Free kindle copies are available on amazon and it’s only 128 pages.
Below are some of the main ideas I condensed from each chapter, along with key excerpts from several chapters to give you a taste how potent Tozer’s pen really was. I hope you are encouraged to pursue God with more vigor and that you find your appetite for Him aroused by Tozer’s thoughts
If you want more information on Tozer’s life I have written some notes HERE that I gleaned from a biography called “A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer” Written by Lyle W Dorsett
Chapter 1: Following hard after God
Don’t rest content with academic “knowledge of God” pursue the intimate, soul delighting experiential knowledge of God. Knowing God in this way is eternal life, it is what Paul valued more than anything else.
“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 and out of season, and when they had found Him the finding was all the sweeter for the long seeking.”
“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 the deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.’
Chapter 2: The blessedness of possessing nothing
“Owning” things puts self above God and turns things into idols. When we surrender everything to God, we are freed to fully enjoy God and the things He gives us. “The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things.”
“These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things. They have broken the yoke of the oppressor; and they have not done this by fighting but surrendering. Though free from all sense of possessing, they yet possess all things.”
“ There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is.
“We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety, this is especially true with those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.”
Chapter 3: Removing the Veil
We were made to enjoy the brilliant fire of God’s presence, but there is a veil that hides God’s glory from us: The veil of Self. Self sins include: self-righteousness, self pity, self-confidence, self love, self sufficiency. There is no other way to experience the fullness of God unless we are crucified with Christ.
Chapter 4: Apprehending God
To many people God is just an inference, or an ideal. An academic idea. But God wants to be experienced. He is more real then our own flesh and blood, He is the source of all else. But we need a spiritual surgery in our hearts before we can see clearly.
Chapter 5: The Universal Presence:
God is fully present everywhere in this universe. The Presence is not the same as the manifestation of the Presence. What makes the difference? Spiritual receptivity. Others are blinded or distracted or binging on other poisons that take away their hunger for God. But God is there and wants to be known and felt.
Chapter 6: The Speaking Voice
God is speaking now. God’s voice is alive and active and is what is sustaining the universe. The power in God’s active voice is what makes the Bible alive and active. To hear this Voice we must be quiet and still. We must come before God’s Word with reverence, submission, and expectation that it will speak directly to us.
Chapter 7: The Gaze of the Soul
Faith is synonymous with looking. It is in gazing upon our glorious God and meditating on His works and Perfections that we are changed. ”Faith is the least self-regarding of the virtues. It is by its very nature scarcely conscious of its existence. Like the eye which sees everything in front of it and never sees itself, faith is occupied with the Object on which it rests and pays no attention to itself at all. While we are looking at God we do not see ourselves –blessed riddance. The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ the very things he has been trying to do will be getting done within Him. It will be God working in him to do and to will.”
“When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to met friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth. The sweet language of experience is “Thou God seest me.” When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth.
Chapter 8: Restoring the Creator/creature relationship
“Essentially salvation is the restoration of a right relation between man and his Creator.”
“Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. The flesh whimpers against the rigors of God’s inexorable sentence and begs like Agag for a little mercy, a little indulgence of its carnal ways. It is no use, we can get a right start only by accepting God as He is and learning to love Him for what He is. As we go on to know Him better we shall find it a source of unspeakable joy that God is just what He is. Some of the most rapturous moments we know will be those we spend in reverent admiration of the Godhead.”
“Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being who and what He is and we being who and what we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full lordship on His part and complete submission on ours. We owe Him every honor that is in our power to give Him. Our everlasting grief lies in giving Him anything less.”
“’Be thou exalted’ is the language of victorious spiritual experience. It is the little key to unlock the door to great treasures of grace. It is central in the life of God in the soul. Let the seeking man reach a place where life and lips join to say continually “Be thou exalted,” and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once.”
Chapter 9: Meekness and Rest
“In the world of men we find nothing approaching the virtues of which Jesus spoke in the opening words of the famous Sermon on the Mount. Instead of poverty of Spirit, we find the rankest kind of pride. Instead of mourners we find pleasure seekers, instead of meekness, arrogance, Instead of hunger after righteousness we hear men saying “I am rich and have need of nothing.” Instead of mercy we find cruelty, instead of purity of heart, corrupt imaginations; instead of peacemakers we find men quarrelsome and resentful, instead of rejoice in mistreatment we find them fighting back with every weapon imaginable.”
In the midst of the heartache Jesus offers us rest from our burden. What is this burden? The burden of pride: “The labor of self love is a heavy one indeed. Think for yourself whether much of your sorrow has not arisen from someone speaking slightingly of you. As long as you set up your self as a little god to which you must be loyal there will be those who delight to offer affront to your idol. How then can you hope to have inward peace? The heart’s fierce effort to protect itself from every slight, to shield its honor from the bad opinion of friend and enemy, will never let the mind rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will be come interminable. Yet the sons of earth are carrying this burden continually, challenging every word spoken against them, cringing under every criticism, smarting under each fancied slight, tossing sleepless if another is preferred before them.”
“Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear. Jesus calls us to rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he as long ago decided that the esteem of this world is not the effort. He develops toward himself a kindly sense of humor and learns to say “Oh, so you have been over looked? They have placed someone else before you? They have whispered that you are pretty small stuff after all? And now you feel hurt because the world is saying about you the very things you have been saying about yourself? Only yesterday you were telling God that you were nothing, and mere worm of the dust. Where is your consistency? Come on humble yourself and cease to care what men think.”
“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with own inferiority. Rather he may in his moral life be as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s own estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows that at the same time that he is in the sight of God more important that angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto. He knows that the world will never see him as God sees him and he has stopped caring. He rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values. He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its own price tag and real worth will come into its own. In the meantime he will have attained a place of soul rest. As he walks on in meekness he will be happy to let God defend him. The old struggle to defend himself is over. He has found the peace which meekness brings.”
Chapter 10: The sacrament of living
God is the One who made matter and the body, even menial tasks can be done to God’s glory. The motivation of what we do is what determines the glory brought to God.
“Lord, I would trust thee completely; I would be altogether Thine; I would exalt Thee above all. I desire that I may feel no sense of possessing anything outside of Thee. I want constantly to be aware of Thy overshadowing Presence and to hear They speaking Voice. I long to live in restful sincerity of heart. I want to live so fully in restful sincerity of heart. I want to live so fully in the Spirit that all my thought may be as sweet incense ascending to thee and every act of my life may be an act of worship. Therefore I pray in the words of thy great servant of old, “I beseech Thee so for to cleanse the intent of my heart with the unspeakable gift of Thy grace, that I may perfectly love thee and worthily praise thee.” And all of this I confidently believe thou will grant me through the merits of Jesus Christ Thy Son. Amen.”
Related: BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF A.W. TOZER