Thursday, May 15, 2008

Encouragement to pursue God

My reading has been severely curtailed since beginning a new job last summer. One thing I’m looking forward to, with the coming of Summer Break next month, is getting back on track with my reading. Right now, I’m still plugging away at Arnold Dallimore’s biography of George Whitefield. Generally, I read that when I go to the barbershop or when I’m waiting for my sons while they have their weekly piano lessons. I’m halfway through the second volume of the Whitefield biography, and hope to finish by August.

However, for the past couple of weeks, as I’ve had opportunity, I’ve also been reading Lyle Dorsett’s A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer. When I first heard that a new biography of A.W. Tozer was coming out, I knew I wanted to get it and read it. I’m almost finished with it. Dorsett’s biography of Tozer has sort of reawakened my interest in him. I’m reminded that, years before I ever read anything by John Piper or heard of The Banner of Truth Trust, my heart was captivated and stirred by the writings of Aiden Wilson Tozer (1897-1963), Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, “twentieth century prophet” and evangelical “mystic”.

The writings of men like Tozer greatly influenced me when I first entered the ordained ministry. What captivated me most about Tozer the man was the apparent depth and intimacy of his relationship with God. Reading about Tozer these past couple of weeks, I am again struck by the depth and intensity of this man’s life of prayer and devotion. I think present-day evangelicals are far more enamored with anything that comes out of Willow Creek or Saddleback than they are the writings of A.W. Tozer—and that’s to our shame. I think Tozer knew something that we would do well to learn and grasp: the depth of our relationship with God and effectiveness for God is in direct proportion to the depth of our praying.

The Scriptures reveal a vital connection between the word of God, the Spirit of God and prayer:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 14:15-17, 21, 23-24; 15:4-5, 7-10).

A.W. Tozer wasn’t perfect—far from it. One thing I appreciate about Dorsett’s biography is that he does show us some of the glaring faults in Tozer’s life, particularly in relation to his wife and children. I’m sure those imperfections will turn off some people, but they encourage me, because I know my own faults so well. Imperfect though he was, it seems apparent that A.W. Tozer knew what it meant to abide in Christ. And the fruitfulness of his life is proven by the fact that, 45 years after his death (he died on May 12, 1963), believers are still reading what he wrote and listening to recordings of his sermons, and drawing great spiritual benefit from it.

The life example of men like A.W. Tozer challenge me to “go deep” with God. Tozer’s writings challenge serious souls to seek after God. If you get the chance, read some of what Tozer wrote or listen to some of his sermons. I recommend these books as a good place to start: The Pursuit of God (1948), God’s Pursuit of Man (1950)—a sequel to The Pursuit of God (I still prefer the original title: The Divine Conquest), and The Knowledge of the Holy (1961).

Most of all, pray. If nothing else, reading about A.W. Tozer’s life reminds me that I don’t pray enough. I don’t get away from people, shut out the noise and distractions and simply pray often enough, as I ought. When it comes to prayer, I believe we need both quality and quantity. May the words of Jesus encourage us to aggressively and passionately pursue God:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13).

No comments: