Many a Christian has some habit of private devotions, attends church, and perhaps tries to connect the mundaneness of life to his walk with God, but often sees little of God’s beauty. Why is this? Again, the posture of the Christian life is faith rightly responding to who God is, and rightly situating itself to keep seeing who he is. Wrong postures interrupt communion and distort the sight of God. For many a Christian, there is little in the way of the ‘life-posture’, the resurrection-like posture of vigorous, zealous seeking of God. Jonathan Edwards said “true religion consists in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actings of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart?”1
If a true walk with God consists in a vigorous, lively, fervent, pursuit of God, it is safe to say that a lethargic, slothful, sluggish pursuit of communion with God will hardly give us a sight of the God in whose presence we live. Edwards tells us why this is so unfitting:
“If we be not in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigor in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious.”2
God told the Israelites that even in exile, he could be found by them, on one condition:
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
What does this vigorous pursuit look like?
1) We must seek communion with God above all else. If he is our ultimate need-love and ultimate gift-love, we demonstrate that by seeking him first, relegating the pursuits of the unsaved to much lower status.
This is also what the Bible means by wholehearted seeking. When David prays for a united heart (Ps 86:11), a purified heart, and an enlarged heart, his poetry resonates with us. We know the burden of double-mindedness, or limping between two opinions. Diligent seeking narrows the focus of our trust and delight, so that our hearts are not divided or serving two masters. We see Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, transfixed with the Master’s teaching, while Martha was distracted with much serving. And to her complaint, Jesus commended Mary for choosing that good part, the one thing that is needful: seeking God (Luke 10:38-42).
This narrowing of focus must necessarily exclude other things as ends in themselves. If God comes to occupy the goal and end of all our pursuits, then other pursuits must either submit to that one pursuit, or be eliminated altogether. All other lawful pursuits aim at the one great pursuit: the pursuit of God.
Make no mistake, we do not come to this in a day. We do not yet know how much of our hearts are unsurrendered. The ongoing work of the Holy Spirit will progressively teach us what it is to present all of ourselves as living sacrifices. Yet we are to surrender all we know, pursue him in as wholehearted a fashion as we can. In the pursuit we will find out where our remaining idols are.
2) We must seek communion with God intentionally, expecting to find. We must search for God like a treasure-seeker diligently seeks out real riches.
My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
When our Lord told us that if we would ask, we would receive, if we would seek, we would find, and if we would knock, it would be opened to us, he meant to tell us that the honest, diligent seeker can expect a response. Seeking the living God brings a response from the living God! Our faith must embrace this, and approach the pursuit as a real pursuit of a real Person that will lead to real communion.
The hidden unbelief that our seeking is aimless, self-referential, and nothing more than a conscience-calmer will have its reward: little experience of God.
3) We must seek communion with God God diligently and persistently. We cannot seek God intermittently or give up impatiently. We do not enjoy a relationship where someone is bored with us, using us, or casual and half-interested in us. The persistence of lovers is much of the romance. We are to engage our entire beings in the pursuit of God.
Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. (1 Timothy 4:15)
Jesus often spoke of the persistence needed in prayer. Though God knows our prayers before we ask them, he has called for enduring, persistent seeking. Jesus clearly meant to teach us that, whatever God’s sovereign workings, from the human perspective, we are to keep seeking. Though answers or responses from Heaven may seem to tarry, the pursuit is to go on, with the same persistence we apply to our needs for food, or justice (Luke 11:5-13, 18:1-8)
A.W. Tozer wrote much on the need for diligently seeking God, with his book The Pursuit of God being an apologetic for earnest, singleminded pursuing of God. Elsewhere, Tozer wrote of four laws regarding seeking God:
1. You will get nothing unless you go after it.
2. You may have as much as you insist upon having
3. You will have as little as you are satisfied with.
4. You now have as much as you really want.3
Scripture supports the idea that God’s people experience as much of God as they truly desire and go after, and their lack is their own fault. Our spiritual state represents our spiritual desire, for God does not withhold himself from the one who refuses to let go until God bless him.
God commands persistent, diligent, hopeful seeking, and no truth about God’s sovereignty, omniscience, or eternality ought to dampen our zeal to seek until we find. Indeed, a misunderstanding on this very point leads some to ask if such a hard-working pursuit nullifies grace. Gladly, Paul is a model of understanding the balance between our effort and God’s grace.
To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. (Colossians 1:29)
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)
“Work” nullifies grace when it refers to proud and independent efforts to earn merit with God, and supposedly place us in good standing with him. Such is true legalism: placing our faith and trust in our own works. Such works, filthy with the smell of self-righteousness, cannot make us right with God or keep us right with God. However, people who are in Christ are called to work out what God works in us.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)
God places desires in us, but we must act on those desires wholeheartedly. The result will be that we will ‘fan into flame’ more desire for God, and God will work through us. (2 Timothy 1:6)
The Spirit-prompted, Spirit-enabled work of seeking God is an active work. We must seek him. This grace-empowered work of pursuing God is an intense work. Laziness is a sin, and diligence is never more needed than in the work of seeking God. We are to work with all our heart, but we are to do so dependently. Indeed, can you imagine how weak and heavy-laden we would become apart from the Spirit’s empowerment? As C.S. Lewis said, we are half-hearted creatures; only the continuing work of the Spirit can energise our fractured and dissipating desires and focus them on Christ. Only he can wake us up each day with new mercies to this end. His work of illumination means the pursuit can becomes as thrilling as the discovery, and every discovery of God’s beauty in communion encourages a more wholehearted pursuit. Our need-love and gift-love can only become more ultimate in nature with every discovery of the beauty of God’s trustworthiness and desirability.
Because God is exquisitely, astonishingly, and satisfyingly beautiful, faith seeks God as a pre-eminently, diligently, and expectantly.
On this side of Heaven, the communion will not be perfect. Instead, the joy of communion will always lead to the second part of this cyclical process: conviction.