I’ve heard at least once that great writers first need to be great readers. The idea is that if you want to write well, you need to read books and other written works of people who are already where you want to be. The process of reading helps an individual develop his or her own voice and style, while learning from the foundations that others have laid. Reading great books also helps stimulate great thoughts and ideas, as well as motivation for personal or communal change.
For the first time in my life, I have created an actual written reading list–it identifies several books I intend to read throughout this calendar year. It is my desire to share notable quotes, thoughts, ideas and insights from many of these books periodically. I hope my readers find value in this process.
I have to admit that most books that made my list were fairly recent publications that were already on my bookshelf. However, there was one little book that has been around for quite a while that I have yet to read. Written on a long train ride in the late 1940s, “The Pursuit of God” by A.W. Tozer has been called one of the most spiritually influential books of the 20th century by many evangelical leaders and publications. I have just begun reading it and I would like to share a few excerpts that I found both challenging and encouraging.
To have found God and still 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. (Tozer, pgs. 14&15)
Come near to the holy men and women of the past and you will soon feel the heat of their desire after God. (Tozer, pg. 15)
The stiff and wooden quality of 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. (Tozer, pg. 17)
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. (Tozer, pg. 18)
I believe Tozer’s words speak for themselves pretty clearly, but I would like to emphasize that belief in God and acceptance of Jesus is not a one-time event that never needs to be revisited. God is about relationship and we all know that good relationships take work and effort on both sides. God has already done the work of creation, providence, salvation, etc and has given us a desire to seek Him. Tozer references John 6:44 which says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (NIV). Please note the use of the word draw–it doesn’t say force or coerce–it simply says draw. I believe God gives us a desire in our hearts to know Him and He does a lot of work on us without us even realizing it. However, it is also clear to me that we have a responsibility to respond. He will not force us to surrender our wills to His; He will not force us to change. But He will challenge us and change us if we would only pursue Him with passion. Accepting Christ as Lord is not the end of the journey, it is merely the beginning of a new life. I would like to finish up with a prayer that Tozer writes at the end of Chapter 1 in “The Pursuit of God”:
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, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name. Amen. (Tozer, pg 20)