Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Spiritual Awareness: Excerpt from AW Tozer

Excerpt from "The Pursuit of God: A 31-Day Experience" by AW Tozer:

If God is present at every point in space, if we cannot go where He is not, cannot even conceive
of a place where He is not, why then has not that Presence become the one universally celebrated
fact of the world? The patriarch Jacob, “in the waste howling wilderness,” gave the answer to that
question. He saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I
knew it not.” Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside the circle of that allpervading
Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours. Men do not know that
God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew.
The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one
without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as
we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work
it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will
manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life
and a life radiant with the light of His face.
Always, everywhere God is present, and always He seeks to discover Himself. To each one he
would reveal not only that He is, but what He is as well. He did not have to be persuaded to discover
Himself to Moses. “And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed
the name of the Lord.” He not only made a verbal proclamation of His nature but He revealed His
very Self to Moses so that the skin of Moses’ face shone with the supernatural light. It will be a great
moment for some of us when we begin to believe that God’s promise of self-revelation is literally
true: that He promised much, but promised no more than He intends to fulfill.
Our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us.
The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance upon a time to pay a brief and
momentous visit to the man’s soul. Thus to think of it is to misunderstand it all. The approach of
God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of
physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.
To speak of being near to or far from God is to use language in a sense always understood when
applied to our ordinary human relationships. A man may say, “I feel that my son is coming nearer to
me as he gets older,” and yet that son has lived by his father’s side since he was born and has never
been away from home more than a day or so in his entire life. What then can the father mean? Obviously
he is speaking of experience. He means that the boy is coming to know him more intimately
and with deeper understanding, that the barriers of thought and feeling between the two are disappearing,
that father and son are becoming more closely united in mind and heart.
So when we sing, “Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,” we are not thinking of the nearness
of place, but of the nearness of relationship. It is for increasing degrees of awareness that we pray, for
a more perfect consciousness of the divine Presence. We need never shout across the spaces to an
absent God. He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.
Why do some persons “find” God in a way that others do not? Why does God manifest His
Presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian
experience? Of course the will of God is the same for all. He has no favorites within His household.
All He has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies
not with God but with us.
Pick at random a score of great saints whose lives and testimonies are widely known. Let
them be Bible characters or well known Christians of post-Biblical times. You will be struck instantly
with the fact that the saints were not alike. Sometimes the unlikenesses were so great as to be
positively glaring. How different for example was Moses from Isaiah; how different was Elijah from
David; how unlike each other were John and Paul, St. Francis and Luther, Finney and Thomas a
Kempis. The differences are as wide as human life itself: differences of race, nationality, education,
temperament, habit and personal qualities. Yet they all walked, each in his day, upon a high road of
spiritual living far above the common way.
Their differences must have been incidental and in the eyes of God of no significance. In some
vital quality they must have been alike. What was it?
I venture to suggest that the one vital quality which they had in common was spiritual receptivity.
Something in them was open to heaven, something which urged them Godward. Without attempting
anything like a profound analysis I shall say simply that they had spiritual awareness and
that they went on to cultivate it until it became the biggest thing in their lives. They differed from the
average person in that when they felt the inward longing they did something about it. They acquired
the lifelong habit of spiritual response. They were not disobedient to the heavenly vision. As David
put it neatly, “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I
As with everything good in human life, back of this receptivity is God. The sovereignty of God
is here, and is felt even by those who have not placed particular stress upon it theologically. The
pious Michael Angelo confessed this in a sonnet:

My unassisted heart is barren clay, That of its native self can nothing feed: Of good and
pious works Thou art the seed, That quickens only where Thou sayest it may: Unless Thou show to
us Thine own true way No man can find it: Father! Thou must lead.

These words will repay study as the deep and serious testimony of a great Christian.
Important as it is that we recognize God working in us, I would yet warn against a too-great
preoccupation with the thought. It is a sure road to sterile passivity. God will not hold us responsible
to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and the divine sovereignty. The best and safest
way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, “O Lord, Thou
knowest.” Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God’s omniscience. Prying
into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints.

Receptivity is not a single thing; it is a compound rather, a blending of several elements within
the soul. It is an affinity for, a bent toward, a sympathetic response to, a desire to have. From this it
may be gathered that it can be present in degrees, that we may have little or more or less, depending
upon the individual. It may be increased by exercise or destroyed by neglect. It is not a sovereign and
irresistible force which comes upon us as a seizure from above. It is a gift of God, indeed, but one
which must be recognized and cultivated as any other gift if it is to realize the purpose for which it
was given.

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