I follow a Facebook page called “A.W-Tozer: A Man of God”; a page that is, as you would expect, devoted to A.W. Tozer’s writings. The page recently shared a quote from A.W. Tozer’s “That Incredible Christian” which caught my attention. The quote references 2 Corinthians 8:5: “And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” and then goes on to say:
“Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done. In God’s sight my giving is measured not by how much I have given but by how much I could have given and how much I had left after I made my gift. The needs of the world and my total ability to minister to those needs decide the worth of my service.
“Not by its size is my gift judged, but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all. No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice…
“In the work of the church the amount one man must do to accomplish a given task is determined by how much or how little the rest of the company is willing to do. It is a rare church whose members all put their shoulder to the wheel. The typical church is composed of the few whose shoulders are bruised by their faithful labors and the many who are unwilling to raise a blister in the service of God and their fellow men. There may be a bit of wry humor in all this, but it is quite certain that there will be no laughter when each of us gives account to God of the deeds done in the body.”
What? What is A. W. Tozer saying here? It’s difficult to tell what his material point is without reading “That Incredible Christian” in its entirety. As it’s not in The Essential Tozer, which is the book I currently have on my shelf, I’ll have to find a copy and may perhaps due a follow-up. What I am going to address in this week’s post is how this excerpt left me feeling empty and anxious and with the idea that no matter what I did it was never going to be enough for God. There was nothing in these words that tasted of the Fruit of the Spirit and I couldn’t help but compare them to words I had just read in Andrew Murray’s “Holiest of All: A Commentary on the Book of Hebrews”.
Andrew Murray is commenting on Hebrews 4:9-10 which states: “There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.”
Andrew Murray then goes on to say: “It is this resting from their own work that many Christians cannot understand. They think of it as a state of passive and selfish enjoyment, of still contemplation that leads to the neglect of the duties of life and unfits for that watchfulness and warfare to which Scripture calls. What an entire misunderstanding of God’s call to rest! As the Almighty, God is the only Source of power. In nature, He works all. In grace, He waits to work all, too, if man will but consent and allow. Truly to rest in God is to yield oneself up to the highest activity. We work, because He works in us to will and to do. As Paul said of himself, “I labour…, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily (literally, “agonizing according to His energy who energizes in me with might” [Colossians 1:29]). Entering the rest of God is the ceasing from self-effort and the yielding up of oneself in full surrender of faith to God’s working.”
What a difference I find in these two quotes! I find they’re a perfect example of what I mean when I say “relationship not religion”. I stick fast on A. W. Tozer’s words:”Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will be judged not by how much I have done but by how much I could have done.” These words are correct if all we have are rules, regulations, the idea that we earn our place in the Kingdom of God through our works, and the deep fear that nothing we do is going to be enough. I don’t find any joy in the A. W. Tozer quote, no trust in a relationship with God, and no rest.
Rest is the focus of the Andrew Murray quote. That rest is found in Christ and we rest because we trust the relationship we have with the Father, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. How can there be anything but joy once we know this? All the scriptures that speak of our works being proof of who we are as Christians are not referencing works we do in order to prove we are Christians. Rather, because of who we are in Christ, because we live in union with Him, because the Holy Spirit lives in us and is a fountain of living water, we can’t help but produce works. Our works are the fruit of His life in us.
I am not afraid that there will come a day when God judges me by how much I could have done. Ever. I know Him, I trust Him, and I trust the words He has spoken through the writers of the scriptures are true. I trust that “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1). I trust that “it is God which worketh in you to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). I trust that “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). I trust that His word still stands and will not return unto Him void but it shall accomplish that which He pleases, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto He sends it (Isaiah 55:11, paraphrased from the KJV).
Amen. So be it.
The A. W. Tozer quote was taken from the A. W. Tozer-A Man of God Facebook post dated Saturday, November 6, 2021. That quote is referenced as being from “That Incredible Christian, 105”.
The Andrew Murray quote was taken from his book “Holiest of All: A Commentary on the Book of Hebrews”, Whitaker House, New Kensington, Pennsylvania, 1996, 2004, Chapter Thirty-One Rest From Works, Page 164
All scriptures are quoted from The Authorized King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2003