The Pursuit of God is a book that I’ve heard of plenty of times before, but it did not jump out to me as “must read” for quite some time. When a friend of mine was moving away, he happened to have a copy (he previously ran his own Christian book store and had a lot of great material he couldn’t bring with him … I benefitted greatly) and I was happy to add it to my collection.
But it still wasn’t one I immediately thought I needed to get to right away. That is, until I started thinking about the core content of this newsletter and my goals for 2017. As I started to flesh out the content plan for 2017 and beyond, I realized I wanted to do more learning on the topics myself and started looking for materials. And Pursuit of God seemed to fit well, so I added it to the list.
And I’m so very glad to have made that decision.
Tozer reminds me a lot of C.S. Lewis (this book reminds me a lot of Lewis’s Mere Christianity). They both have a way with words; they can communicate massive concepts in simple fashion. Their writing is unlike how you are used to people speaking, yet it’s not hard to read or comprehend. At all. I started on Pursuit of God just after finishing the Confessions of St Augustine and there is a marked difference between the language used. Where as something like Confessions is hard to follow from one sentence to the next, Tozer’s writing flows and I found myself swept away in the ideas he was expressing.
What were those ideas? Chiefly, how each person in Christ can (and should) exercise the gift they’ve been given and deepen their relationship with God. Tozer helps the reader to better understand that God is not far off, he is all around, and is seeking communion with his children. And he does a lovely job of communicating that truth through this short book (126 pages of middling length).
To be sure, the author is also lamenting the spiritual state of the nation at the time. Set in the late 1940’s, he remarks often about the lack of fervour, the lack of the Spirit in the American church. I don’t think he’d be too pleased with things today either, so it was easy to imagine that he was writing to us here and now.
How does this all fit in with The Weekly Review? Going back to the thoughts I shared on the paradox of Christianity, how do our works contribute to our faith and our walk with God, I was glad to see Tozer contribute some fantastic thinking to this subject. Specifically, he makes a great point in the chapter titled The Universal Presence.
In this chapter, he remarks how there have been people throughout history, both in the Biblical account and in the centuries since, who have seemed to experience God in a deeper way than most. He asks the following questions:
Why do some persons “find” God in a way that others do not? Why does God manifest His presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience?
He goes on to answer the question by stating that the difference does not lie with God, but with us. He goes further, stating that these people, the likes of the apostle Paul, the prophets Elijah and Moses, but also Luther and St. Francis and Thomas a Kempis, all had something in a greater degree: spiritual receptivity.
Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward … 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.
This begins to sound like shaky ground, putting more emphasis on our works than I am comfortable with. But Tozer immediately refutes that idea:
As with everything good in human life, back of this receptivity is God. The sovereignty of God is here, and is felt even by those who have not placed particular stress upon it theologically.
So if this spiritual receptivity originates with God, what are we to do ourselves? This comes back to the heart of my point in the piece I linked to above. And Tozer’s response is what caused my heart to soar, so glad to have found someone who has articulated the multi-faceted truth so well (emphasis mine):
Receptivity is not a single thing; it is a compound rather, a blending of several elements with the soul. It is an affinity for, a bent toward, a sympathetic response to, a desire to have. From this it may be gathered that it can be present in degrees, that we may have little or more or less, depending on the individual. It may be increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect … It is a gift of God, indeed, but one which must be recognized and cultivated as any gift if it is to realize the purpose for which it was given.
And this gets at the heart of my focus for 2017. Yes, our faith is a gift from God. And our receptivity to him also starts with him. But that gift, like a piece of art you receive from a friend, can be either displayed prominently in your home, or tucked away in the least used room in the basement.
We require godly exercise. This is only possible because of the work of Christ, but it also leads to the sharpening of our spirit, an increase of the receptivity Tozer speaks of.
And so I would heartily recommend The Pursuit of God. It’s the best book I’ve read in some time!