Articles

For the New Year: Following Hard After God, by A.W. Tozer
 

 Following Hard after God
By A.W.Tozer

"My soul followeth hard after thee:
thy right hand upholdeth me."-Psa. 63:8

Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which
briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must
first have sought the man.

Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have
been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but
a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and
seeking and praying which may follow.

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge
within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said
our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him," and it is
by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige
of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates
with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard
after Him; and 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. All is of God, for as von Hugel teaches, God is always
previous. In practice, however, (that is, where God's previous working
meets man's present response) man must pursue God. Or, our part there
must be positive reciprocation if this secret drawing of God is to
eventuate in identifiable experience of the Divine. In the warm
language of personal feeling this is stated in the Forty-second Psalm:
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after
thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall
I come. and appear before God?" This is deep calling untc deep, and
the longing heart will understand it.

The doctrine of justification by faith-a Biblical truth, and a blessed
relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort, has in our
time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such man
ner as actually to bar men from the knowledge of God. The whole
transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and
spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life
and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be "received"
without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver.
The man is "saved," but he not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact
he is specifically taught to be satisfied and encouraged to be content
with little.

The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of His world; we
Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His
Word. We have almost forgotten that God is a Person and, as such, can
be cultivated as any person can. It is inherent in personality to be
able to know other personalities, but full knowledge of one
personality by another cannot be achieved in one encounter. It is only
after long and loving mental intercourse that the full possibilities
of both can be explored.

All social intercourse between human beings is a response of
personality to personality, grading upward from the most casual brush
between man and man to the fullest, most intimate communion of which
the human soul is capable. Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in
essence the response of created personalities to the Creating
Personality, God. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the
only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."

God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks,
wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person
may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of
personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds,
our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed
interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the
redeemer man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.

This intercourse between God and the soul is known to us in conscious
personal awareness. It is personal: that is, it does not come through
the body of believers, as such, but is known to the individual, and,
to the body through the individuals which compose it. And it is
conscious: that is, it does not stay below the threshold of
consciousness and work there unknown to the soul (as, for instance,
infant baptism is though by some to do), but comes within the field of
awareness where the man can "know" it as he knows any other fact of
experience.

You and I are in little (our sins excepted) what, God is in large.
Being made in His image we have: I within us the capacity to know Him.
In our sins we lack only the power. The moment the Spirit has
quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its
kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition That is the heavenly
birth without which we cannon: see the Kingdom of God. It is, however,
not an end but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit the
heart's happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead. That
is where we begin, I say, but where: we stop no man has yet
discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious deaths of the
Triune God neither limit nor end.

Shoreless Ocean, who can sound Thee?
Thine own eternity is round Thee,
Majesty divine!

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.
St. Bernard stated this holy paradox in a musical quatrain that will
be instantly understood by every worshipping soul:

We taste Thee? O Thou Living Bread,
And long teast upon TThee still:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

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. Moses used the fact that he knew God as an argument for
knowing Him better. "Now, therefore, I pray thee, if I have found
grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I
may find grace in thy sight"; and from there he rose to make the
daring request, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." God was frankly
pleased by this display of ardor, and the next day called Moses into
the mount, and there in solemn procession made all His glory pass
before him.

David's life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring
with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul
confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after
Christ. "That I may know Him," was the goal of his heart, and to this
he sacrificed everything. "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but
loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for
whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but
refuse, that I may win Christ."

Hymnody is sweet with the longing after God, the God whom, while the
singer seeks, he knows he has already found. "His track I see and I'll
pursue," sang our fathers only a short generation ago, but that song
is heard no more in the great congregation. How tragic that we in this
dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything
is made to center upon the initial act of "accepting" Christ (a term,
incidentally, which is not found in the Bible and we are not expected
thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We
have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that
if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. This is set before us
as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no
Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole
testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing Church on that subject
is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-theology of of a grand
army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation
of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an
Augustine, a Rutherford or a Brainerd.

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 deliberately to 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.

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of
religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely
found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and
a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can
never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner
experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation
of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we,
in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely
at all.

If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first
determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now
as always God discovers Himself to "babes" and hides Himself in thick
darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach
to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be
blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with
the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God
will quickly respond.

When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need
other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively
prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the "and" lies our
great woe. If we omit the "and" we shall soon find God, and in Him we
shall find that for which we have all our lives been secretly longing.

We need not fear that in seeking God only we may narrow our lives or
restrict the motions of our expanding hearts. The opposite is true. We
can well afford to make God our All, to concentrate, to sacrifice the
many for the One.

The author of the quaint old English classic, The Cloud of Unknowing,
teaches us how to do this. "Lift up thine heart unto Gel with a meek
stirring of love; and mean Himself, and none of His goods. And
thereto, look thee loath to think on aught but God Himself. So that
nought work in thy wit, nor in thy will, but only God Himself. This is
the work of the soul that most pleaseth God."

Again, he recommends that in prayer we practice a further stripping
down of everything, even of our theology. "For it sufficeth enough, a
naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself."
Yet underneath all his thinking lay the broad foundation of New
Testament truth, for he explains that by "Himself" he means "God that
made thee, and bought thee, and that graciously called thee to thy
degree." And he is all for simplicity: If we would have religion
"lapped and folden in one word, for that thou shouldst have better
hold thereupon, take thee but a little word of one syllable: for so it
is better than of two, for even the shorter it is the better it
accordeth with the work of the Spirit. And such a word is this word
GOD or this word LOVE."

When the Lord divided Canaan among the tribes of Israel Levi received
no share of the land. God said to him simply, "I am thy part and thine
inheritance," and by those words made him richer than all his
brethren, richer than all the kings and rajas who have ever lived in
the world. And there is a spiritual principle here, a principle still
valid for every priest of the Most High God.

The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many
ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have
them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never
be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after
one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of
all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight.
Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it
all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever.

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, any love, my fair one, and come away." Then
give me grace to rise and follow T Thee up from this misty lowland
where I have wandered so long. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

From "The Pursuit of God" by A.W.Tozer


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