The Mighty Longing
Hymnody is sweet with the longing after God, the God whom, while the singer seeks, he knows he’s already found. “His track I see and I’ll pursue”, sang our fathers only a short generation ago, but that song is heard no more in the great congregation. How tragic that we in this dark day have had our seeking done for us by our teachers. Everything is made to center upon the initial act of “accepting” Christ ( a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible), and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him, we need no more seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it’s taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise. Thus the whole testimony of the worshipping, seeking, singing church on that subject is crisply set aside. The experiential heart-Theo,Otey of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture which would certainly have sounded strange to an Augustine, a Rutherford, or a Brainard.
In the midst of this great chill there are some, I rejoice to acknowledge, who will not be content with shallow logic. They will admit the force of the argument, and turn away with tears to hunt some lonely place and pray, “O God show my thy glory”. They want to taste, to touch with their hearts, to see with their inner eyes the wonder that is God.
I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long in vain.
What the world needs is an awakened church. For far too long we as the people of God have complacent in our pursuit of God. Too many of us go through the preparation of going to church every Sunday, spending more time and concern about our physical appearance and activities than the pursuit of God. It may seem a radical concept that we should anticipate and indeed expect an encounter with God in a deeply personal and spiritual way. The unfortunate thing of religion is that the participants get so involved in the ritual that they forget the purpose. I’ve never heard anyone get upset over the pursuit of God but I’ve seen more conflict than I want to see over methods and tradition. I freely confess that the older I get the more I like established life patterns, partly because my mind and body are getting slower to respond. Often I’ve been asked how I can fit in different denominations. My answer is that I am a Christian and denominational preferences are just one way to express our desire to pursue God. I pose some questions to us as the people of God. Has God changed and does He no longer desire to be physically and openly involved with humans? If God in the past made Himself known and was experienced by humans, then should we in our day expect the same relationship? Are the encounters we read about in the Bible just for that day and time or is it too radical to believe that God still wishes us to see Him and hear His voice? Should we be content with merely going to church, singing songs, participating in church activities and so forth? Is it going too far to desire the tangible presence and touch of God each time we gather? When you attend church, what do you expect to receive from your effort of going? Is there a longing for your journey with God to be more than just a journey of faith/ belief and to become as Adam a walk and talk with God in the Garden?
I ask these questions of us as I am thinking of our current world and all it’s challenges. I ask them while considering our current environment as a nation. I recognize that many are placing their hope in political candidates and what they can do to bring help and hope, but I ask us, the people of God, where is our hope. Someone has said, “As goes the church, so goes the nation.” In the Old Testament, just prior to the flood, the Bible records that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes”. Then it tells us that every evil thing that could be imagined was occurring. The absence of God whether from an individual, a family or a nation opens up the way for evil. The future of our nation rests not in elections but in an awakening. That awakening must begin with the church. We must move away from complacent Christianity, the uncertainty of our faith and the attempt to blend with other religions and return to the intentional, passionate pursuit of the Christ who said,”I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” We must seek God and actually expect Him to answer. We must desire and believe that He wants to make Himself known to us in more powerful ways. I leave you with this. If God manifested His presence to the Israelites in the wilderness with a visible cloud and pillar of fire, if God’s glory was seen at the dedication of the tabernacle of Moses and the dedication of the temple of Solomon, if the wind was felt and the tongues of fire was seen on the Day of Pentecost, might we not believe that in this time of fear and doubt that God would show us His glory if we sought for it?
What will we do? Will the end of this year, the end of the crisis find us in the same place spiritually as we were last year? Will we be content to just go through the motions with little or no expectations other than the satisfaction that once again we have met our obligation for the week? Will our prayer life remain minimal and stale? Will our worship be passionate or formality?
May God grant that we have a visitation of His glory and presence that transforms our until we say as the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Did not our hearts burn within us!”
Dr. John Thompson