I’m sure we have all known and understood the times that God seems to adopt a snail’s pace in doing things. We earnestly believe that all our requests should be filled, all our problems be fixed—well, yesterday. We know He isn’t being slow about His promise, as some count slowness (2 Peter 3:9), but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel that way.
Are there times when God moves quickly, when He just can’t wait to get in there and set things right? I believe so. When a hungry heart and/or a faithful friend has set their gaze and attention on the Living God, He will attempt to cut to the heart to get everything out of the way so He can be with this person.
I believe the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-27 qualifies. In my opinion, this man came legitimately seeking. He knew there was more than what He had experienced of God, but he didn’t know how to get further. I can picture him sitting and studying, thinking and wondering what to do. He was a man of means used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it, but this conundrum of getting closer to God felt oppressive. Then somehow he heard about Jesus and knew this was his ticket. He tried a little flattery and got shot down, but undeterred, he pressed on with his questioning.
“I know there’s more, but what do I do to get there?”
Jesus’ answer seemed to shock him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22).
Was Jesus angry or upset? Was He trying to get rid of Him? I don’t believe so at all. He met his hunger with the truth. The things that this man possessed were really possessing him. He couldn’t see past them. In a moment, Jesus cut to this man’s heart and invited him to a restored identity, an identity that man enjoyed before the fall. This identity wasn’t bound in success, earnings, possessions, or abilities. This identity was as a son of God, a child of the Kingdom.
He went away sad because he was extremely rich. Interesting that we never know his name, but in this moment of decision, he made the choice. He retained his identity and we still call him the “rich young ruler.” It was never about money because Jesus tells His disciples in the next verses that those who give everything up will receive many times as much in this life. It was about how he identified himself and the question goes to us as well.
Every God-seeking person who is truly and intensely fervent on knowing Him intimately will have these moments where God tells us to unequivocally lay down what impedes us from gaining our heart’s desire. Money, power, influence—even friends and family—God will ask us to put them on the altar. It’s not the slow and comforting stroke on the cheek we were hoping for; it’s the precise and stabbing surgery to our heart with too little anesthesia.
Abraham experienced the same when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. As Tozer writes,
God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the cneter; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. —The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer (chapter 2)
Our hunger and friendship stirs in our Father the impulse to quickly move everything out of the way that would compete for first place. It’s rightfully His, and He proves over and over that we can trust Him with everything. We fear He will mistreat or mishandle, but it’s not about taking something away from us, but giving everything back to us in the right order. We now follow Abraham to the mountain, to the altar, and we can’t stop short no matter what it is He calls us to lay down because when the final tally is made, we want it to be said of us,
He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. —The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer (chapter 2)
And nothing possessed him either.
Have you seen this principle in your life? How?
What are your thoughts on this?
Welcome to week 3 of our book club discussion of the Pursuit of God (disclosure) by A.W. Tozer. We are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it. If you have a response on your blog, head over to my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s blog for the widget and another great take. Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please share your thoughts! We always appreciate a vibrant conversation.