“Once it was the blessing,
Now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling,
Now it is His Word;
Once His gifts I wanted,
Now the Giver alone;
Once I sought for healing,
Now Himself alone.
Once ‘twas painful trying,
Now ‘tis perfect trust;
Once a half salvation,
Now the uttermost;
Once ‘twas ceaseless holding,
Now He holds me fast;
Once ‘twas constant drifting,
Now my anchor’s cast.
Once ‘twas busy planning,
Now ‘tis trustful prayer;
Once ‘twas anxious caring,
Now He has the care;
Once ‘twas what I wanted,
Now what Jesus says;
Once ‘twas constant asking,
Now ‘tis ceaseless praise.
Once it was my working,
His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him,
Now He uses me;
Once the power I wanted,
Now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored,
Now for Him alone.”
~A. B. Simpson
The Pursuit of God
“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
One of the most challenging endeavors in life is to pursue a right relationship with God. The pursuit of God is impossible for the unconverted because the heart of the unrighteous is totally alienated from God. They want nothing to do with Him. “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalms 10:4).
The only hope for the unconverted is for a day of divine visitation. God must draw near, convert the soul, and instill a new will, a new mind, and a new heart with a capacity for fellowship with the Lord.
In matchless and sovereign grace God does justify the ungodly. But that is not the end of the story for sin is still a mighty force to be dealt with in the heart of the converted. If the truth were told sin often gains the ascendance in the soul of God’s people.
All through the Old Testament era the Lord sent prophets to His people to exhort them not to forget Him but to seek Him. Great promises were made such as the one in 2 Chronicles 7:14. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”
Sometimes the people of God responded to the gospel message and began to seek the Lord. I trust that will happen here. I pray that you and I will commit ourselves by grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit to seek after God with hope in our heart that He will be found.
Understand that the biblical word for hope carries with it the concept of certainty. “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deut. 4:29). Only when God is found can we become the individuals we would like to be.
If your heart is like mine, at times, at times, I do not like the person I see in the mirror. I do not like the individual I see because there is a heavy burden of repetitive sin that I long to be free of. Part of the Christian’s testimony is recorded in Romans 7:21-24. “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
Because of the abiding presence of indwelling sin I need the hope of heaven. I need to hear the voice of God saying, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isa. 1:18).
In the pursuit of God where shall we begin, and how shall we continue? The answers will not be too surprising, for God has appointed the acceptable means by which He may be sought, and by which He may be found. The search for God begins in the heart. And the heart begins to search for God sometimes because it is weary with the burden of sin.
In his autobiography, Rebel with a Cause, Franklin Graham tells how he became “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Weary of a life without God he called upon the name of the Lord. There came a time when Franklin Graham began to seek the Lord in the integrity of his heart. He is not alone.
In 1958 A.W. Tozer wrote,
“In this hour of all but universal darkness one cheering gleam appears within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct “interpretations” of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water” (The Pursuit of God).
Let us be numbered among those who are seeking after God in our hearts if for no other reason than we are weary of sin staining and saturating the soul to the point that not only does the Lord want to spew us out of His mouth, but we loath ourselves and wish to spew ourselves out – if that were possible. If we find ourselves seeking God from the heart, we know that grace has been shown to us.”
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.” The psalmist said, “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me” (Psa. 63:8).
Mr. Tozer writes,
“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 the 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 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.”
As the heart engages in the quest for God there is an initial work that needs to be done. There is something that must be put to death and that is the “tyranny of things” to use Tozer’s expression or the “toys of time” to use mine. Within the human heart “things” have taken over.
“There is within the human heart a tough fibrous root of fallen life whose nature is to possess, always to possess. It covets “things” with a deep and fierce passion. The pronouns “my” and “mine” look innocent enough in print, but express the real nature of the old Adamic man better than a thousand volumes of theology could do. They are verbal expressions of our deep disease.”
Jesus made reference to this tyranny of things when He said to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny Himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoseover will save his life shall lose it: and whosover shall lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
The church could evangelize the world by simply selling the toys of time stored in boxes in closets and attics.
The early Christians might have realized this too, for we read in Acts 2:45 how the believers “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
The Church would be wise to do the same thing today, but there is a practical problem if the truth were told. The problem is this. Our hearts are often drawn away from God by our possessions. In order to enjoy the “things” we have we must spend time with them or what is the purpose of having so much?
But in the abundance of our possessions, we can lose our fellowship with God. It may be that God will ask us to put to death the “tyranny of things.” In fact, I am sure He will. God has always asked His people to put to death the idols of their hearts. I tell you a true story from the writings of A.W. Tozer.
“Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From that moment when he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms he was an eager love slave of his son. God went out of His way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream.
As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at last the relationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.
“Take now thy son,” said God to Abraham, “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get them into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” The sacred writer spares us a close up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form and convulsive wrestling alone under the stars. Possibly not again until a Greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul.
“If only the man himself might have been allowed to die. That would have been easier a thousand times, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with God. Besides, it would have been a last sweet pleasure to let his dimming vision rest upon the figure of his stalwart son who would live to carry on the Abrahamic line and fulfill in himself the promises of God made long before in Ur of the Chaldees.
How should he slay the lad! Even if he could get the consent of his wounded and protesting heart, how could he reconcile the act with the promise, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called?” This was Abraham’s trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible.
While the stars still shone like sharp white points above the tent where the sleeping Isaac lay, and long before the gray dawn had begun to lighten the east, the old saint had made up his mind. He would offer his son as God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead. This, says the writer to the Hebrews, was the solution to his aching heart found sometime in the dark night, and he rose “early in the morning” to carry out his plan.
It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to God’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of His great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament Scripture, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find.”
God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect,
“It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that thou fearest God, seeking that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”
Then heaven opened and a voice was heard saying to him, “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shores; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou has obeyed my voice.”
The old man of God lifted his head to respond to the Voice, and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him.
God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus He practiced an economy of means and time. It hurt cruely, but it was effective.
I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was still his to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife and his friends, and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart, which can be learned only in the school of renunciation.
After that bitter and blessed experience I think the words “my” and “mine” never had again the same meaning for Abraham. The sense of possession which they connote was gone from his heart. Things had been cast out forever. They had now become external to the man. His inner heart was free from them.
The world said, “Abraham is rich,” but the aged patriarch only smiled. He could not explain it to them, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal.
In the pursuit of God there must be a passion for Him, and Him alone. If we would indeed know God in growing intimacy, we must go this way of renunciation. And if we are set upon the pursuit of God He will sooner or later bring us to this test. At that testing place there will be no dozen possible choices for us; just one, and an alternative, but our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.
Perhaps God is asking you for your Isaac. It may be that your Isaac, that which you love most, is not a gift of promise, but a secret transgression of the Moral Law of God. Perhaps there is a secret idol that you make provision to go to and worship for it is believed that this idol of the heart brings a measure of personal pleasure, despite guilt and shame on the other side of the will to power.
May God grant the understanding to see that Christ is more precious than all else, and may grace be given to offer that which God asks for, ourselves. Amen.