A. W. Tozer in his book The Pursuit of God spends a portion of the text writing about spiritual receptivity. I would love to write out his whole argument, but that would simply take up too much space. I will attempt to summarize. His general argument is that a Sovereign God desires for us to know him. Therefore, he does not hide himself in riddles and shrouded mystery, but is available to all. The difference in two individuals’ closeness to him, then, is their spiritual receptivity.
Simply put, when people of profound faith encounter a spiritual longing or urging, they do not discount it, but pursue it vigorously. They develop a “lifelong habit of spiritual response.” The pursuit of God becomes a life goal, something which requires patience and perseverance. Tozer, writing in 1948, says this about the culture of the day:
“Failure to see this is the cause of a serious breakdown in modern evangelicalism. The idea of cultivation and exercise, so dear to the saints of old, has now no place in our total religious picture. It is too slow, too common. We now demand glamour and fast flowing dramatic action. A generation of Christians reared among push buttons and automatic machines is impatient of slower and less direct methods of reaching their goals…The tragic results of this spirit are all about us. Shallow lives, hollow religious philosophies, the preponderance of the element of fun in gospel meetings, the glorification of men, trust in religious externalities, quasi-religious fellowships, salesmanship methods, the mistaking of dynamic personality for the power of the Spirit: these and such as these are the symptoms of an evil disease, a deep and serious malady of the soul.”
The point in all this is that when we relegate the pursuit of God to professionals or radicals, we remove from our lives the responsibility and the joy of the struggle. Knowing God is more than what we have made it. It is a pursuit. It is labor. It involves trial and tribulation. Faith is more than a belief, it is a fight.
I can say personally that my faith struggle over the past weeks has been just that, a struggle. I have dealt with self-doubt and a lack of confidence in my ability to preach the truth. I have wondered at my effectiveness and influence. I have even at times doubted by call. But always there has been God. I believe that through these struggles he has been ever-present, not taking pleasure in my stumbling, but taking pleasure in my effort. And for all the doubt I still struggle with, the joy I realize when I glimpse God will surpass all the heartache I’ve felt during the struggle.
The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
The responsibility of knowing God is up to you. It is a responsibility we each face and we cannot escape. I can’t know God for you, you can’t know him for me. It should also be noted that since God is a relational being, and since you and I are individuals, our relationships will each be different. As unique as our talents and abilities are, our relationship with God will manifest itself uniquely as well.
In closing, I will leave you with another quote from Tozer: “What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world-scale I do not claim to know: but what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days.”