Every Christian writer dreams of writing the next Christian classic. The fact is, few have achieved that dream. Dr. A. W. Tozer, writing on this theme, said, "Such men as these became for the Church sample Christians, many of them gave direction to a whole generation and spiritual tone to generations following." (ALLIANCE WEEKLY, 10/03/51) Dr. Tozer was such a "sample Christian."
Writing a book was not something Dr. A. W. Tozer took lightly. He often cautioned aspiring writers with this warning, "The only book that should ever be written is one that flows up from the heart, forced out by the inward pressure. You should never write a book unless you just have to." Throughout his career he followed his own advice.
None of Dr. Tozer's books published during his lifetime were written to establish his reputation or for monetary reward. Neither were his books a collection of sermons. What he published he carefully polished and rewrote. He might condense three or four sermons into one short chapter in a book or editorial. He cultivated the ability to condense things very succinctly. It was his trademark. Even the several books of collected editorials Tozer carefully edited before publishing in book form. Constantly rewriting was his habit.
Dr. Tozer's books sprang from a deeply burdened heart. He had a message from God that had to be given. In his preface to the DIVINE CONQUEST(now THE PURSUIT OF MAN), Dr. Tozer explained, "The sight of the languishing church around me and the operation of a new spiritual power within me have set up a pressure impossible to resist. Whether or not the book ever reaches a wide public, still it has to be written if for no other reason than to relieve an unbearable burden on the heart."
In prayer God would entrust him with a burden. In time he would preach a series of sermons around this burden. Away from his own pulpit he would repreach these sermons. Sometimes the burden would increase. At times it would weigh him down to the point that even in preaching there would be no release. This would then set him to writing and the fruit would eventually be a book.
In 1945 Dr. Tozer was preaching along a particular line of Bible truth. Shortly before, he experienced a fresh encounter with God and was sharing it with his congregation. The sermons were richly blessed of God and the people in the Chicago church deeply touched. During many preaching missions in churches and Bible conferences he repeated these sermons and found a responsive chord in hearts of people wherever he went. In preaching these sermons he sensed a strange pressure building. At first it confused him, but after long hours of prayer and meditation he began to see how God was leading.
The subject of these messages was to be the theme of a book. The subject had burned itself deeply into his heart and something had to be done.
About this time Dr. Tozer received an invitation to preach in McAllen, Texas. This was an opportunity, he thought, to do something about this burden on his heart. The long train ride from Chicago to Texas would offer ample time to think and write. Dr. Tozer boarded the old Pullman train at the LaSalle Street station in Chicago, requested a small writing table brought to his roomette and settled down to write. Along about 9:00 P.M. the porter knocked on the side of the room.
"Friend," the porter said, "this is the last call for dinner. Would you want me to bring you something to eat?"
"Yes," Tozer mumbled, "would you bring me some toast and tea?"
The porter did and Tozer continued writing. He wrote all night, the matter coming as fast as he could write. The subject had taken full control of him.
When the train pulled into the station the next morning around 7:30 A.M. at McAllen, Texas, the rough draft of the book was finished. All he had before him was his Bible. They later published the book as THE PURSUIT OF GOD. That book projected Tozer into the evangelical market as a writer with a penetrating message for the day and a style refreshingly different from other writers.
The success of THE PURSUIT OF GOD, was a pleasant surprise for Tozer. To the writer of an especially appreciative letter Tozer replied: "After reading your letter I am left with few words. I am both gratified and awestruck. `This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.' The blessing that has rested on this little book is so much greater than I had dared to hope that I cannot say that it is because of my prayers that God is blessing it."
Perhaps the fact that his writings were born of such soul struggles explains their wide circulation and continued usefulness. To date THE PURSUIT OF GOD has sold well over 1,000,000 copies. Translations have appeared in many foreign languages, including Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Dutch, German, Swiss, French, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Japanese, Kisukuma (Tanganyika), Korean, Marathi, Portuguese and Spanish.
Through his writings, Dr. A. W. Tozer "gave direction to a whole generation and spiritual tone to generations following."
James L. Snyder