Although A. W. Tozer died in 1963, his life and spiritual legacy continue to draw many into a deeper knowledge of God. Tozer walked a path in his spiritual life that few attempt, characterized by a relentless and loving pursuit of God. He longed to know more about the Savior—how to serve and worship Him with every part of his being.
Throughout his life and ministry, Tozer called believers to return to an authentic, biblical position that characterized the early church—a position of deep faith and holiness. "He belonged to the whole church," says James Snyder in the book, In Pursuit of God: The Life Of A. W. Tozer. "He embraced true Christianity wherever he found it."
During his lifetime, Tozer pastored several Christian and Missionary Alliance churches, authored more than forty books, and served as editor of Alliance Life, the monthly denominational publication for the C&MA. At least two of Tozer's books are considered spiritual classics, The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy—a tremendous accomplishment for a man who never received a formal theological education. The presence of God was his classroom. His notebooks and tools consisted of prayer and the writings of early Christians and theologians—the Puritans and great men of faith.
Tozer's conversion to Christianity came when he was seventeen. As a result he gained an insatiable hunger and thirst for the things of God. A cleaned-out area in the family's basement became his refuge where he could pray and meditate on the goodness of God.
Tozer once wrote, "I have found God to be cordial and generous and in every way easy to live with." To him the love and grace of Jesus Christ were a recurring astonishment," writes Snydner.
Although he had not attended Bible college or seminary, Tozer received two honorary doctorates. He accepted an offer to pastor his first church in West Virginia in 1916. By December 1921, Tozer and his wife, Ada, moved to Morgantown where they had the first of seven children, six boys and a girl.
Money was extremely tight in the early days of his ministry. The Tozers made a pact to trust God for all their needs regardless of the circumstances. "We are convinced that God can send money to His believing children—but it becomes a pretty cheap thing to get excited about the money and fail to give the glory to Him who is the Giver!"
Tozer never swayed from this principle. Material things were never an issue. Many have said if Tozer had food, clothing, and his books, he was content. The family never owned a car. Tozer, instead, opted for the bus and train for travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, Tozer signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need.
His message was as fresh as it was uncompromising. His single purpose in life was to know God personally, and he encouraged others to do the same. He quickly discovered a deep, abiding relationship with God was something that had to be cultivated.
While pastoring a church in Indianapolis, Tozer noticed his ministry changing. While he did not depart from the theme of evangelism, God began to lead him into a new phase of ministry. For the first time he began to record his thoughts on paper. This change eventually carved out a place for him as a prolific writer.
In 1928, Tozer accepted a call to pastor the Southside Gospel Tabernacle in Chicago, where he remained for thirty years. The church grew from a small parachurch to a full-fledged church. Missions and the deeper life in Jesus Christ were its two primary focuses.
A. W. Tozer died on Monday, May 12, 1963, almost a week after preaching his last sermon. The pursuit was over, the destination reached. A simple epitaph marks his grave in Akron, Ohio: A. W. Tozer—A Man of God.
The wondrous pursuit of God is more than a legacy. It is a way of life passed on to us that we too might experience what A. W. Tozer lived. Have you begun your pursuit of God?
"We must face today as children of tomorrow. We must meet the uncertainties of this world with the certainty of the world to come." (-- Of God and Men, 132-133 --)
"God dwells in eternity but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as He has lived all our yesterdays." (The Knowledge of the Holy, 45).
"We have become so engrossed in the work of the Lord that we have forgotten the Lord of the work." (The Banner, Dec. 4, 70, p. 2)
"If God is the Supreme good then our highest blessedness on earth must lie in knowing Him as perfectly as possible." (That Incredible Christian, 65)
"God being who He is must always be sought for Himself, never as a means toward something else." "Whoever seeks God as a means toward desired ends will not find God. The mighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, will not be one of many treasures, not even the chief of all treasures. He will be all in all or He will be nothing. God will not be used." (Man the Dwelling Place of God, 56-57)
For a long time I have believed that truth, to be understood must be lived; that Bible doctrine is wholly ineffective until it has been digested and assimilated by the total life. (That Incredible Christian, 92).
The yearning to know what cannot be known, to comprehend the Incomprehensible, to touch and taste the Unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its Source. (The Knowledge of the Holy, 9).
The greatness of God rouses fear within us, but His goodness encourages us not to be afraid of Him. To fear and not be afraid---that is the paradox of faith. (The Knowledge of the Holy, 84).
All things being equal, our prayers are only as powerful as our lives. In the long pull we pray only as well as we live. Some prayers are like a fire escape, used only in times of critical emergency -- never very enjoyable, but used as a way of terrified escape from disaster. They do not represent the regular life of the one who offers them; rather are the unusual and uncommon acts of the spiritual amateur. (The Root of the Righteous, 81).
God formed us for His pleasure, and so formed us that we as well as He can in divine communion enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of kindred personalities. He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile. (The Pursuit of God, p. 34).
Worship means "to feel in the heart"....Worship also means to "express in some appropriate manner" what you feel....and what will be expressed? "A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder." (Worship The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church 8, 9).
In the New Testament there is no contradiction between faith and obedience. Between faith and law-works, yes; between law and grace, yes; but between faith and obedience, not at all. The Bible recognizes no faith that does not lead to obedience, nor does it recognize any obedience that does not spring from faith. (Paths to Power, 24).
"...no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God." (The Knowledge of the Holy, 9).
"Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us." (Pursuit of God, 65).
"It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything." (The Pursuit of God, 127)
"There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake. Truth divorced from life is not truth in its Biblical sense, but something else and something less." (Of God and Men, 26).
"The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin." (A.W. Tozer)
"Men who refuse to worship the true God now worship themselves with tender devotion." (The Divine Conquest, 52).
"One of the most stinging criticisms made against Christians is that their minds are narrow and their hearts small." (The Root of the Righteous, 113).
"We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God." (That Incredible Christian, 46).
"Every man is as holy as he really wants to be." (Man: the Dwelling Place of God, 40).
Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image. (The Pursuit of God, 101).
"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." (The Knowledge of the Holy, 7).
"God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work." The Knowledge of the Holy, 53.
"The Christian is a Holy rebel loose in the world with access to the throne of God. Satan never knows from where the danger will come."
It is precisely the "yearning" and the "fainting" for the return of Christ that has distinguished the personal hope from the theological one. Mere acquaintance with correct doctrine is a poor substitute for Christ, and familiarity with New Testament eschatology will never take the place of a love-inflamed desire to look on his face.
If the tender yearning is gone from the advent hope today, there must be a reason for it; and I think I know what it is, or what they are, for there are a number of them. One is simply that popular fundamentalist theology has emphasized the utility of the cross rather than the beauty of the one who died on it. The saved man's relation to Christ has been made contractual instead of personal. The "work" of Christ has been stressed until it has eclipsed the person of Christ. Substitution has been allowed to supersede identification. What he did for me seems to be more important than what He is to me. Redemption is seen as an across-the-counter transaction which we "accept", and the whole thing lacks emotional content. We must love someone very much to stay awake and long for his coming, and that may explain the absence of power in the advent hope even among those who still believe in it.
Another reason for the absence of real yearning for Christ's return is that Christians are so comfortable in this world that they have little desire to leave it. For those leaders who set the pace of religion and determine its content and quality, Christianity has become of late remarkably lucrative. The streets of gold do not have too great an appeal for those who find it so easy to pile up gold and silver in the service of the Lord here on earth. We all want to reserve the hope of heaven as a kind of insurance against the day of death, but as long as we are healthy and comfortable, why change a familiar good for something about which we know very little? [ The End ]