Possessing Nothing to Possess All

Mark Earley | President, Prison Fellowship | Friday, July 11, 2008

Possessing Nothing to Possess All

July 11, 2008

1948 was the year the "Big Bang" theory was introduced, the game "Scrabble" was first played, and state of Israel was established. It was also the year that A. W. Tozer wrote The Pursuit of God—a small book, but one that has profoundly influenced Christians for the past 60 years. It has challenged me, and I hope this summer you give it a chance to challenge you.

Ken Boa, who features The Pursuit of God this month in his tremendous "Great Books Audio CD" series, says that Tozer was "a modern mystic who had given priority to the lost art of meditation." Tozer, a self-taught pastor in the Chicago area, was not known among those in his congregation as the most gregarious man. In fact, it was rumored that Tozer rarely visited his congregants unless they were deathly ill. But his aloofness was simply the product of a man relentlessly chasing after God.

Boa explains that when Tozer prayed, he would often put on a ragged pair of pants—what became known as his "prayer pants"—and spend hours in solitude with God. In fact, it was during one solitary train ride from Chicago to Texas that Tozer penned The Pursuit of God—all of it!

Tozer's behavior might seem a bit strange to us today, but his words offer timeless significance. In The Pursuit of God, Tozer tramples on mediocrity in the Christian life. He wrote: "The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty and abnegation of all things. The blessed ones who possess the kingdom are they who have repudiated every external thing and have rooted from their hearts all sense of possessing."

Here, Tozer confronts what he called the "tyranny of things"—in other words, the subtle way that materialism can take us captive. He asks readers to consider whether they are willing to walk through sadness, suffering, and solitude in order to know God deeply. This he calls "the blessedness of possessing nothing."

He explains that man can discover this blessedness only by wholeheartedly running after God. "The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One," he wrote. "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."

Much of what Tozer had to say slaps modern man in the face. He calls into question the materialism and idolatry that continue to infect our churches and our lives. He asks us to question why we have difficulty spending time in solitude. And, he gives us the opportunity to return to a place of "meekness and rest," where Christ becomes all that we need.

I highly recommend you pick up this book this summer and read it. It is quite short, but I guarantee you will be surprised by its depth and profundity. But also prepare to be challenged by what it truly means to pursue God.