A.W. Tozer. I had heard that his books could be life changing. Even so, I had never read any of them… until today. Today I started The Pursuit of God. I’m only in chapter 2 and I’ve already read chapter 1 twice. It seems that almost every paragraph has some nugget of goodness that needs to be turned over in my mind and thoroughly studied to completely reveal the genuineness, certainty and truth of what he is saying. And then I need to consider how to apply that truth to my own life. In the passage below he is talking about Abraham and why God asked him to kill his son Isaac.
Keep in mind this book was published in 1948. The NIV, NASB, NLT, etc. did not exist yet. The most widely used translation of the Bible at that time was the King James version. Not the New King James… that was not published until 1975, so when he quotes scripture it is from the KJV, which to be honest, I find hard to understand and hard to follow.
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 cruelly, but it was effective.
I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was his still 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. The books on systematic theology overlook this, but the wise will understand.
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.
There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic.
We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.
Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to Him. They should be recognized for what they are, God’s loan to us, and should never be considered in any sense our own. We have no more right to claim credit for special abilities than for blue eyes or strong muscles. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?”
Tozer is not preaching on the faithfulness of Abraham in this passage as is often the case when people preach on Abraham. He is preaching on things and idols and the truth of what he is saying rings through loud and clear. The only way to become rich is to first become poor. We cannot hold anything as ours. I’ll be the first to admit that I do this. I know I have on many occasions been proud of my accomplishments before I remember that they are not in fact mine. They are God’s. I have feared giving up treasures because I fear for their safety, just as Tozer says, but I must remember, they are not mine… and they are safer with God than with me. If God chooses to take them home or take them away, I must resolve to praise Him and His infinite wisdom.
I cannot be rich in spirit and have my identity wrapped up in things and other people. To pursue God I must love Him. I love him by being okay with having “my” stuff taken away. Does this mean you cannot have a big house and two cars and 50 inch flat screen? No, that is not what he is getting at. If you live a comfortable life and have plenty of money, you may be respected and even looked up to by the world for your accomplishments. But what does it all mean if you have not love? if you have not God? Abraham was rich in things, but he possessed nothing.
Ask yourself, would you be okay if your house burned down? How about it if it burned down and your family was inside but you were not? Would you still praise His name? Abraham was asked to kill his own son, and he was ready to do it, not because he was some crazed lunatic but because he knew his son was not his own.
The scripture he references is 1 Cor 4:7. Here is the NIV translation: “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive?”