The experiences of menwho walked with God in olden times agree to teach that the Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.
A.W. Tozer worked in a tire plant, until he was confronted by God through the work of a street preacher in the city of Akron. He went on to become a prominent preacher in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the long time editor of their magazine, Alliance Life. He wrote countless books. He was completely self-taught. He never attended seminary, but his grasp of the things of God are amazing. When I was first introduced to him, it did not take me long to fall in love with the amazing clarity that he brings to the subject of God. He passed away in 1963, but his books are absolutely timeless. The messages that are contained in them are just as true today as they were when he originally penned them. If you are not familiar with his work, then I would suggest that you put him at the top of your to read list. I am certain that you will not be sorry.
One of his most notable books is called the Pursuit of God. When I look at that title it just seems a tad bit ironic to me. Is it really accurate to ever say that we pursue God? He is the initiator of our faith. We can never truly pursue God, until he has pursued us. It is that pursuit that I would like to discuss. Tozer has another book called God's Pursuit of Man. I think that nothing sums up the plan of God for humanity more than a title like that. If you look at the totality of the scriptures, then you will see one long running narrative of God pursuing a people that he can all his own. God chooses to reveal himself to men and then through the work of His spirit pursues a relationship with us. He doesn't pursue us because he is lacking anything. He pursues us because he is continually acting in our best interest.
The fourth chapter of Tozer's book is called Victory through Defeat. It is that chapter that I took the quote that I started this post with. I think it is amazing to think about the truth of that statement. When I think about Jesus calling us to take up our crosses and follow him, I don't think that we ever truly follow him with our whole hearts until we have been stripped of all reliance on our old selves. Before we can truly have all that God has for us, then he has to conquer every part of us.
Tozer uses the story of Jacob to explain what he is trying to say. Jacob was the second son of Isaac. God had promised that Jacob would be the son through whom God would bless the descendents of Abraham. According to the tradition the birth right would pass to his older brother Esau. However, God had promised to break that tradition and pass the birth right to Jacob. Jacob failed to trust God. He knew in his heart what God had promised, but he believed he had a better way to achieve God's design. Jacob used deception to trick his brother out of his birth right. I am certain that God could have achieved his goal without Jacob resorting to deception. Jacob trusted in himself rather than God. Esau was angry, and Jacob was sent into exile. He went to live with his Uncle. He fell in love with Rachel. He is told that if he works for seven years that he will be allowed to marry Rachel. After seven years, Jacob is deceived by his uncle and is married to Leah. It is not hard to see God teaching Jacob lessons as he is struggling through this time in his life. Remember, Jacob is the son whom God will give the promised land to Abraham's descendents. He has been driven from the promised land, by his angry older brother whom he cheated. He worked a total of fourteen years to marry the only woman he wanted. He has to be puzzled as to how God will fulfill all of his promises through him. I am certain he could not be able to see God's plan from his perspective. After spending all this time in exile he decides to return to Canaan. One night as he is sleeping, he come upon by an angel. He wrestles with the angel all night. It had to be a long and painful struggle. The angel touches Jacob in the hip, and he is overcome with the pain. We are told that he walked with a limp from that night on. Jacob has to have realized at this point that he cannot win. He does not have the strength to fight his attacker. Jacob refuses to let go. He knows he is beaten, but he will not let go. He clings desperately to the stranger and swears that he will not let go until the stranger blesses him.
I think in each of our lives we are faced with a similar situation. We may not physically struggle with an angel, but we don't fight with God. We come to that point where we cannot see what God is doing, or what he is asking of us is just more than our human hearts are willing to give. Perhaps he is asking you to give up some dream or desire. Perhaps he is calling you to serve him. We can spend years fighting him. Perhaps we have spent a large part of our lives depending on our own goodness to save us. God will strip all that away. He will come upon you. We spend all this time talking about faith. It is situations like this that the rubber meets the road. We have a couple of choices. First, when it gets too hard to follow, or God is asking too much of us, we can run. I think that a lot of people do this. Our faith is good until it asks too much of us, then we just abandon it. Perhaps we don't completely turn our backs on God, but we never let our faith move beyond something very superficial. We try to keep God at arm's length. God has amazing things for us. He has created each and every one of us for a purpose. If we bail when the going gets rough, then we are trading all the blessings of God for something that can never compare to what he has for us. The other choice we have is to surrender to God. We give up our reliance on our flesh, and simply take God at his word. In our darkness moments, the greater blessing is for those who will not walk away, but will cling to God. We must be like Jacob. We have to take God at his word. We have to cling to him and vow to not let go of Him until he blesses us. These are the moments that make our faith. These dark nights are what bring us closer and closer to the heart of God. A soldier is can never become a hero, until they are in the heat of battle. No one has ever won a medal for valor on KP duty! The same thing for our faith. Think about the giants of our faith. Is it not those dark times of their life that we look to inspiration? It must be the same with our own faith. God has brought that crisis or he has allowed it to happen. He is calling you to stop trusting in your own wisdom. Will you face the struggle? Will you cling to Him and demand a blessing?