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When God Moves Quickly

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.

16 Comments

  1. “He had everything, but he possessed nothing.” I really like that, and yes I can honestly say I want it to be true of me. It’s easy to point a finger at the rich young ruler, but I know that I have had those moments that I’ve hesitated laying something aside. Thanks again for a reminder and challenge.
    Philip recently posted..A Bunch of IdiomsMy Profile

    • God gives us the invitation, but we have to trust Him. I know there have been so many times I thought, “God wouldn’t ask me to give up that.” It seemed like a good thing, a God-thing even; but so was Isaac. Very convicting to think about! Makes me repent and seek His grace again! Thanks Philip.

  2. This was a tough chapter… We all have the treasures that we desire to hang onto like a little kid hangs on to their bottle. I’ve been stripped of my worldly treasures… It was the best thing that ever happened to me, I just didn’t know it at the time. The characteristic that my treasure pointed to wasn’t the treasure itself it was the pride that it represented.

    I agree with Tozer’s words, “And if we are set upon the pursuit of God, He will sooner or later bring us to this test.” If we desire Him to be the true treasure of our lives, He’s going to burn down the competing idols…. I like Tozer’s illustration, “it must be torn out of our heart.”

    It’s the struggle of the flesh to not use our senses to worship the gifts instead of the Giver.

    • That’s a great point, Floyd. It’s usually not just about things (especially for us guys), it’s about the pride and value we get from the stuff we have. It “proves” we are smart, provide for our families, or any number of things. Where our treasure is, that’s where our heart is going to be. I agree, it’s a tough chapter and the visuals of ripping, tearing, and anguish fit pretty well with my experience! In all of it though, it’s God’s goodness to restore us to the perfection of relationship--that we might be one with Him as Jesus prayed. Thanks Floyd.

  3. We cannot stay as we were and grow close to God. The process of walking in relationship with Him is one of transformation. We will be tested as if by fire. We will be required to let go of those things we allowed to possess us. We will be drawn to let go of anything that would keep God from being the center of who we are.

    We cannot serve two masters. We will love one and hate the other…

    So God moves quickly to ask us, “Who do you love? Me or _____ ?” The answer defines our relationship.
    Dusty Rayburn recently posted..Blessed Kingdom-Possessing BeggarsMy Profile

    • What’s sad is that we don’t often recognize that those answers define our relationship. He gives us so many opportunities and exercises so much grace. Makes me stand in awe all over again. Thanks so much, Dusty.

  4. That statement about Abraham just reverberates in my head Jason. He had everything but possessed nothing. Reminds me to hang on to things loosely.
    bill (cycleguy) recently posted..AudienceMy Profile

    • I agree. It’s a beautiful meditation that we can learn a lot from. Thanks so much, Bill.

  5. He had everything but didn’t have the mindset of Blessed to Be A Blessing mindset. If the dude would of had that mindset he could of been better than Solomon or Abraham cause The covenant he had would of been thousand times what he had originally. That why renewing your mind is very important. We are the ones that are going to get the wealth transfer here on earth before we get to heaven.
    andrew singh recently posted..Christmas-Winterland Photo ExtravaganzaMy Profile

    • That’s definitely the issue, Andrew! Whatever we have now, we can trust Him with--whether it’s a little or a lot. Funny how we’re going to tell God we have too much to turn over to Him, right? He must laugh, but then I know He’s broken hearted too because we don’t receive the fullness of what He wants to pour out to us. Thanks Andrew.

  6. This is going to sound bad, but it seems everything I want God to move fast in, He inches along at a snail’s pace. But those things I don’t want Him to deal with, those areas I want left alone, those are the ones He breaks into faster than lightning. Guess it just goes to show that my priorities and His are not yet fully the same,
    Jason Vana recently posted..Called Out RulersMy Profile

    • Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean! And I know it has to do with our being able to handle the blessings and fulfillment of promises that He gives, but it still feels horrible to wait. Thanks be to God who always leads us in His triumph! He reveals where we are and takes us into the future. That’s good enough for me (most days). :) Thank you, Jason.

  7. “…it’s not about taking something away from us, but giving everything back to us in the right order.”

    Man, if I could just really, really get that. Not in my head, but in my heart. Workin’ on it, though. Thanks for helping with the lessons. :-)
    Sarah Salter recently posted..Driven?My Profile

    • Ha! You and me both, Sarah. He has every right to take it all away--we committed and pledged our lives. But He honors our trust and surrender and goes so far beyond. He allows us to call Him not only Master, but Father. Wow. Thanks so much, Sarah.

  8. When our hunger for God is fed with the truth, it doesn’t always taste good. So instead we feed upon junk that cannot satisfy.

    Interesting contrast between the rich young ruler and Abraham. I think we take for granted that Abraham was rich and we focus in only on this part of his life. I’m sure Tozer was right, all of his possessions never again looked the same after that call to sacrifice.
    Frank recently posted..Catching SquirrelsMy Profile

    • Our family is trying to eat healthier and maintain a healthy lifestyle, and I can testify that many things that are extremely good for us don’t taste that way! When we go by preference, we end up malnourished and depleted of important vitamins. Thank you, Frank.