In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer writes, “God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may.”
To think of God as a Person is a different kind of anthropomorphism than the kind encountered by the gods of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel. Those cultures envisioned the gods as humans writ large. Tozer is saying something more profound—that God is more than an unconscious Force, more than a Prime Mover of the universe, more than the collective consciousness of Nature. God is a conscious being with a will, a personality, and the ability to be in relationship with other conscious beings.
It is this aspect of Personhood that Tozer explores in his book. “In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills, and our emotions.” So God is personal, but more than that, the Bible teaches that God is in pursuit of a relationship with His creation. We may not be comfortable with the notion that God needs anything, much less a relationship, and we would be correct in that God is not in any way diminished were he not in relationship with any of his creation. The Trinity says that God is always and eternally in relationship of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. Yet the Trinity also says that God seeks out relationship with his creation because it is his very nature to be in relationship. It literally is who he is.
Being created in the image of God means that we, also, were created in relationship, and just as God pursues a relationship with us, so also do we crave a relationship with our Creator. Yet, our falleness reveals that we do not always pursue that relationship with God, and when we do, it is often not with the Creator that we pursue relationship. In an ironic yet tragic twist, we seek to fulfill our desire for a relationship with the Creator by pursuing relationships with things other than the Creator.
Thus we never find rest. We are continually restless. No matter how much we achieve, no matter how many friends or lovers we have, there is always that nagging sense deep within that says, “There has to be more than this.” Because there is, we just have to look for it in the right place.
It’s not enough, however, to pursue and to be in relationship with God, because this Creator God not only is, but does. He not only exists in relationship with his creation, but he also in active in, with, and on behalf of his creation. God has a plan for his creation, and to be in relationship with this God is also to be active in God’s plan for his creation.
This is where the doctrine of election truly comes to play. Israel was chosen by God to be special instruments in accomplishing his plan for creation, and inasmuch as they cooperated with God in pursuing that plan, they were living within his will. When they didn’t cooperate but pursued their own agenda—national wealth, the security of their homeland, self-aggrandizing worship to ensure their economic harvests—they were outside of his will. This is what God called sin, and it is from what they needed to be saved.
As much as we need to pursue a relationship with God, we also need to pursue the agenda of God. Sadly, it seems that few Christians can articulate what the Bible says is God’s will for his creation, other than to say that God wants everyone to be saved. Well, yes, but what exactly does that mean? If it only means that God wants everyone to go to heaven when they die—which is of course true—but if that is all one can articulate, then one has a very truncated understanding of God’s will for his creation. In fact, that only says what God’s will is for heaven, but it says nothing at all about God’s will for this earth, his creation.
In the New Testament Paul speaks of the Church being God’s elect, but, like in Israel’s case, it is an election to play a role in accomplishing God’s agenda. Yes, that means that those chosen are saved, and that those chosen have relationship with God, but all to the end that God’s will is pursued on earth, just like it is in heaven. “Elect” is not just a status, it is a role to be fulfilled on behalf of all of God’s creation. Election does not result in a group of people separated from everyone else for all eternity, but rather a group of people set apart for a role in bringing all peoples together. God doesn’t choose some people to be his children, but chooses some of his children to help him rescue the rest of his children.
It is sad that, for many people, the will of God is such a mysterious subject, and we struggle to know what it is. It is equally sad, if not more so, that for many Christians the issue of the will of God is framed as the issue of understanding the will of God for my life, as if my life is the center of God’s attention, when actually it’s the other way around. We need to stop worrying about our lives and start worrying about the life of God, for the real issue isn’t whether we are going to invite God into our lives, but whether we are going to accept his invitation to share in his life. We need to stop worrying about God’s will for our lives and start concerning ourselves with God’s will for the world, for when we understand that, we’ll see where our lives fit in the larger plan.
God pursues a relationship with all people, and he is pursuing his plan for all the people in all his creation. Likewise, we need to pursue a relationship with God and, just as much, we need to pursue God’s plan for all the people in all his creation.
And in doing so, we find a life that is worth living forever.