OK, I might as well admit it. I’m getting old. The debut of Mustangs and the Beatles, cassette tapes and word processors, microwaves and cell phones, have all happened in my lifetime. I have the wrinkles to prove it.
But let me tell you: there are advantages to getting older.
• The longer I live, the thicker the lenses become on my rose-colored glasses.
• The collection of memories to enjoy has grown large, and more precious.
• I appreciate other old people, especially saints who have stayed the course. They demonstrate grace and integrity that have developed over time, through an ever-growing relationship with God.
• History takes on greater significance, and heroes of the faith from centuries past pique my interest.
Today’s example of just such a saint is A.W. Tozer. Born in a small farming community of western Pennsylvania in 1897, he and his five siblings grew up in poverty, his formal education ending after eighth grade.
Then it happened. At age seventeen, on his way home from work at a tire company, A.W. heard a street preacher say, “If you don’t know how to be saved…just call on God.” A.W. did, and his life took a new path.
Five years later Tozer accepted an offer to pastor a church. For the next forty-four years, he served God in the ministry, pastoring several different churches. His longest pastorate was in Chicago, where his reputation grew as a wise and godly man. He became well-known throughout the city.
As his sphere of influence increased, Tozer was invited to teach the Bible on radio, and he wrote dozens of books which are read to this day. Some are considered classics.
How is it possible that a boy born into poverty, with no more than an eighth grade education could achieve such wisdom, such prominence, and such literary excellence? Yes, God gifted him, but Tozer made the effort to educate himself over years of diligent study.
And he prayed. Continually. Tozer asked God to:
• increase his desire for more of Him
• to give him spiritual understanding
• to purify his heart
• to make him passionate for holiness
They say he read on his knees, asking God to enlighten his understanding.
Yet this giant of Christendom, called a twentieth-century prophet even in his lifetime, also prayed with great honesty and humility:
“I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me
thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace.
I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God. I want to want Thee; I
long to be filled with longing. I thirst to be made more thirsty still”
(The Pursuit of God, 1949).
Tozer’s life-choices backed up his words. He and his wife, Ada, lived simply, avoiding the materialism that consumes many Americans. They never owned a car, using public transportation instead. Even before becoming a well-known author, Tozer gave away much of his royalties to help those in need.
Allow me to share a few examples of Tozer’s wisdom, God-given, but which became magnified through his. These all come from The Pursuit of God.
• The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One.
• God formed us for His pleasure…He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile.
• God says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Our strength and safety lie not in noise but in silence.
• When the habit of inwardly gazing Godward becomes fixed within us, we shall be ushered onto a new level of spiritual life.
• Not perfection, but holy intention [makes] the difference.
One of my favorite Tozer-quotes points out the fascinating dichotomy of the Christian life:
“A real Christian is an odd number. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is pooorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge>”
I like being “an odd number” for God. I love the way A.W. Tozer renders it.
Thank you, Father, for giving us powerful examples like A.W. Tozer—who show us the way to humility, integrity, and faithfulness. May we embrace the wisdom they share and absorb the passion they emanate. May we also live up to the potential you’ve planted within each of us and manifest Your glory to those around us.