The Pursuit of God
The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
Chapter 1: Following hard after God
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.
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
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 he act of coming. The impulse to
pursue God originates with God, but the outworking 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
In practice, however, (that is, where God's previous working meets
man's present response) man must pursue God. On 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 waterbrooks, 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
unto 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
manner 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 is 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.' (John 17:3)
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 redeemed 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 thought 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 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 cannot 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 depths of
the Triune God neither limit nor end.
Shoreless Ocean, who can sound Thee?
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
Thine own eternity is round Thee,
We taste Thee, O Thou Living Bread,
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 ardour, and the
next day called Moses into the mount, and there in solemn
procession made all His glory pass before him.
And long to feast upon Thee still:
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
David's life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with
the cry of the seeker and the glad shout oft he 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' (Phil 3:8).
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
Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing
Church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-
theology 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 Branierd.
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 the 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
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
God 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
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, 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.