by Abby Kelly 1/08/2014 / Book Reviews
It sounds so right: Pursue God.
I would be a commanding sermon title, "How to Pursue God." In fact, a Google search of the term garners hundreds of devotionals, videos, lectures and websites designed to help you pursue God. Interestingly, a similar search, "Bible verses about pursuing God", finds not one affirmative hit. So, I tried searching the online concordance for, "pursue". This time, I got about a dozen hits, but not one of them says to pursue God.
What does this mean? Did God not tell us to chase after Him? Have we, as eager Christians, undertaken an admirable agenda that has no basis in Scripture?
Have we allowed our carnal culture to influence our desire for relationship with God?
Particularly in western society, all things good must be pursued. No one is degraded for a relentless pursuit of success, happiness or fulfillment. But many are chided for their lack of motivation.
Maybe we eager Christians have allowed the carnal culture to influence our desire for relationship with God.
In her new book, Chasing God, Angie Smith, suggests this idea. She presents a compelling case, enticing the reader with the peace-inducing concept that we were not intended to chase God, but rather, He has pursued us.
"It's safe to say that our running [chasing after any number of desirables] was based on the presumption that we want something more than it wants us." (pg. 2)
That line stopped me in my tracks. Am I prepared to say that I long for God more than He longs for me?
A quick recall of 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us", disproves that idea.
Smith states, "The goal of this book is not to present you with a formula for living out Christianity. It's to offer my thoughts on the difference between looking for Him and looking at Himthe difference between following and chasing." (pg. 2-3)
The difference, Smith says, is that chasing is what happens when we use religion to fill in the gaps of our faith.
This is revolutionary, but honestly not completely new to me. As an enthusiastic student of Scripture, I know a lot of passages about following God, but nary a one that mentions chasing Him. Food for thought.
Smith gets right to the point in the introduction and I was hooked. Unfortunately, in subsequent chapters, she seems to get bogged down in witty statements and excessive puns. Quite likely, a very engaging speaker, Smith brings that conversational tone to the printed page. Her anecdotes are hilarious and fun to read, but detract from the impact of her message.
The meatiest material in, Chasing God, is found at the front of every chapter. Smith quotes John Calvin, C.S. Lewis, Charles Hodge and more.
In one such quote, C.S. Lewis puts the entire book succinctly, "But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."
No matter how hard or long we chase God, we will never "catch" Him. We are over-matched in the pursuit. The peace-inducing truth is that He has pursued us, loved us through Christ's death on the cross (1 John 3:16). Now, we are called to follow Him, in the Greek, to, "join as His attendant, accompany Him, become His disciple".
Angie Smith has written on a wonderful topic, much needed by the modern church. However, a few good, inductive study questions at the end might improve the book's usefulness to small groups and in personal Bible study. The book looses some of its effectiveness in her casual writing style, but is nonetheless a very enjoyable read.