David: The Way Of The God Chaser — Part 2
Extracted from ‘In the Footsteps of Giants’ by Wong Kim Tok
(Click here for Part 1)
4. God Chasers Know How to Keep Feeding the Soul
God seekers are aware when they have poor spiritual appetites. These are times when they find the Word of God uninteresting and have no desire to pray. Poor spiritual appetites indicate that something is wrong. Thomas Watson, quoted previously (in part 1), has this to say about poor spiritual appetites:
“It is with a Christian, as with a man who is very ill; when he is sick he does not take that delight in his food as formerly; nay, sometimes the very sight of it nauseates him. But when he is well, he goes to his food again with delight and appetite. Just so, when the soul is distempered (i.e., badly affected) through sadness and melancholy, it finds not that delight in Scripture and prayer as formerly; but when it returns to its healthful temper again, now it has the same delectability and cheerfulness in God's service as before!”
Thus when the God chaser resolves the root problem, his spiritual appetite returns.
One obvious cause of poor appetites is when we allow our sinful nature to feed on false desires. Idolatry, addictions, pride and sin fill our hearts with rubbish such that we cannot enflame our desires for an authentic relationship with God. James Houston gives this godly advice in educating the heart:
“The first task then is to discern the false desires of the heart and free us from them, while at the same time enflaming our true desires, so that we long instead for the authentic relationship with God which alone can fulfil our lives” (from “The Desire: Satisfying the Heart”).
At other times, the God chaser may have to deal with poor substitutes which do not really feed his soul, just as junk food may fill our stomachs but do not add much nutrition and, in fact, may be harmful to the body. Such poor substitutes exist. These fall under the category of “Amusement”. Note that the word actually means “not thinking”, where the “a” is the negative marker.
There may even be a category called “sacred substitutes”. In this instance, the time set aside for feeding the soul gets substituted with something spiritual, like having a lot of ministry work. After all, some God seekers feed their desire for impact by doing lots of ministry work, and possibly at the cost of cultivating the inner life.
5. God Chasers Desire to Increase their Spiritual Capacities
The primary means is to develop strong spiritual disciplines, sometimes in an accountability group. Nothing beats having rich bible study with others who can stimulate you in the faith and get deeper into the Word. I am privileged to have a wife who desires to pray and immerse herself in the Word of God. I am so enriched by her love for God and her insights from the Word.
To keep being a God chaser, it is necessary to be exposed to other God chasers. This can be done through the simple means of meeting God chasers through their biographies, or better still, their own writings. Read books not because they are popular or are Christian best-sellers, rather, read books that will feed your soul and develop your Christian mind. The key word is depth.
Being exposed up close to a God chaser can be an inspiring experience. Let me introduce you to a God chaser whom my wife, Dolly and I met.
In 1978, Dolly and I landed in Bangalore, India, as part of the Navigators pioneering team. Soon we were introduced to Pastor Philips, a local pastor who had started to minister in the premier scientific institution in the city, who became part of the Navigators ministry in the city. We were told he used to be a bodybuilder but he looked rather thin. Then we found out why.
As we interacted with him, we realised it was because he would fast and pray regularly. When facing a crisis in his ministry or church, he would go into a fast—sometimes for several days, sometimes a week, 21 days or until the issue is resolved. These were complete fasts — drinking only water. On top of that, he would be working several days in a school and also preaching and pastoring in his church. We had never practised fasting until we met Philips.
Pretty soon, everyone on the staff team started fasting, though not to the length of days Philips did. It was a treat to be in fellowship with Philips, listening to him recount the many times he had heard God’s voice guiding him, witnessing the fulfilment of promises, and seeing prayers answered, among other experiences. He was a man filled with the Spirit.
Philips was deep with the Lord. We thought we were “advanced”, but we were revealed to be shallow. Our spirituality grew as we practised new spiritual disciplines of sustained prayer, fasting, retreats, and the like. Meeting and reading about Christian firebrands and devotional saints enriched our lives in the area of devotion to God. We met God chasers like Philips who was a giant among men. There were other God chasers who were just ordinary men and women but their devotion to God really touched us. We thank God for these God chasers.
Look around you and ask God for a God chaser who can minister to you. Follow in their footsteps. Interact with them and learn from them.
Spiritual Quotient (SQ)
All of us have various capacities. These are measured differently.
Intelligence: the measurement is called “IQ”
Emotional intelligence: we call it “EQ”
Physical capacities: “PQ”? Measured through athletic events
What about Spiritual Capacities? How do we measure “SQ”?
Your spiritual quotient is an indicator of your spiritual capacity. There is really no quantitative measurement of spiritual capacity. Think of it in a qualitative, subjective sense. If God made us for Himself and has designed us to love and relate to Him, the key question in SQ is: “How much do you really love God?”
Note that Jesus did ask Peter, “Do you love me?” — three times. In the first question Jesus added, “…more than these?” In doing so, Peter was helped to estimate his love by means of comparison. One can establish one’s own SQ by comparing our love for Jesus with our love for various things. The answers would yield an indicative sense of our spiritual capacity and whether they are all directed towards loving God.
At times, you may feel that your spiritual capacities or appetites are reduced. The spiritual landscape may look like a desert. Nevertheless, it should be noted that no matter how dry your soul may be, it can be revived with drops of living water into your soul.
There was a time when I went through depression. I did not know what it was until much later. It was a year-long period of physical exhaustion. I experienced emotional pains and extreme anger. I was spiritually dry. I was disillusioned. Everything was dark. Then God intervened. I recovered, but it was literally "drip by drip, inch by inch", as it were. A verse from the Bible a day; a short walk a day for exercise — these and other tiny steps helped me to recover. The recovery period was just as long as it took to slide into the depression.
My spiritual capacity during the depression was essentially nonexistent. When I recovered, I seemed almost normal. I had a new normal. There was a qualitative difference in that the whole experience enriched me in helping me discover afresh the grace and love of God. My spiritual quotient increased instead of reverting to normal.
The lesson I have gleaned is that when we go through pains and difficulties and handle them rightly, these experiences deepen our walk with God. Our spiritual “senses” are awakened. God is closer to us than ever before. He has always been close, but it takes some refinement through painful circumstances for the soul to regain its faculties. Previously, we might have been preoccupied with things, work, ministry, but not God.
We can pray to the Lord to increase our spiritual capacity. This was what Augustine of Hippo did in his prayer:
“My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray for you to enlarge it. It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it. It contains much that you will not be pleased to see: this I know and do not hide. But who is to rid it of these things? There is no one but you.”
6. God Chasers Overcome Delight-Killers
A delight-killer is an issue or problem which overwhelms the Christian such that his faith is shaken or his joy in the Lord is affected and he stops pursuing God. There are of course too many problems to enumerate here. Life is too complex and complicated to reduce problems to a single catch-all problem.
The principle to apply is that whatever robs you of your joy in the Lord is a delight-killer. When an issue or a problem takes centre stage, Christ is off-centre. We no longer trust God or believe that He is in control and sovereignly in charge of all things. Our ordered universe suddenly seems chaotic or broken. We question whether God is really good. If He is good as the Bible says, we wonder why He allows such a thing to happen. When an event pains us deeply or when we experience a great loss, we tend to think this way. The result is that we stop our spiritual habits and disciplines and get upset or angry with God.
Andrew Gray, a Scottish preacher (d. 1656) warned his readers in his treatise “The Necessity and Excellency of Delighting in God”, that "nothing quenches love more than jealousies and suspicions; and nothing quenches delight more than misapprehensions and misconceptions of God’s excellent ways".
A side note on anger towards God: Recently, I reflected on Job’s anger against God. He kept addressing God and kept talking with God about why he went through so much suffering. He did not have the total picture but what impressed me was that he did not keep his anger to himself. He fought with God. It was always face to face. He did not walk away from God. If only I had learnt this truth 20 years earlier, I would not have to go through the pain and lows of depression. But then again, God in His mercy allowed me to gain from the experience nevertheless.
7. God Chasers Keep their Drive for Intimacy a Priority
We have established in the beginning of this chapter that there are two primary drives in the soul.
One is the drive for impact represented by King Solomon who asked God to help him rule and govern the people (1 Kings 3:9).
The other great drive is the passion for intimacy where King David had only one desire and passion to dwell in the house of the Lord all his life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek God in his temple (Psalm 27:4).
It is commonly experienced too, that these two drives result in two sets of results in life. It goes without saying that the God chaser must not allow the drive for impact to dominate his motivation.
The God chaser puts the drive for intimacy as priority because he knows that that is what God made him to be. Ephesians 1:4-5 establishes the priority:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will”.
Our relationship with God was established long before our creation. It came before Adam’s first work to take care of the Garden of Eden and long before he had to till the ground.
A W Tozer puts it in stark words: “We’re here to be worshippers first and workers only second. We take a convert and immediately make a worker out of him. God never meant it to be so. God meant that a convert should learn to be a worshipper, and after that he can learn to be a worker…The work done by a worshipper will have eternity in it”.
David had the ability to order his life according to the drive for intimacy. He himself was also a great warrior and a great king. He didn’t twiddle his thumbs while contemplating in the temple. He did not avoid his responsibilities. He also accomplished many things. The distinctive thing is that he prioritised his drive for intimacy over the drive for impact. Could it be that it was because of this priority that he could then have space in his life for the things that had to be done? It seems to be similar to the Matthew 6:33 principle Jesus taught His disciples.
Perhaps one reason why we tend to prioritise impact over intimacy is that we validate our identity through our accomplishments. However, we should seek our significance in who we are rather than through what we can do. James Houston, Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College enlightens us on the importance of being overdoing. He writes in his book, “The Heart’s Desire”:
“It is said that we live not so much through our achievements as through our desires. The successes we achieve do not last, but we desire what is immortal…. What we long for determines the scope of our experiences and the depth of our insights.”
(Stay tuned for Part 3!)