Today I start a weekly Saturday biographical sketch. The first biography will be of A. W. Tozer, simply my favorite teacher and author. If you have never listened to his sermons or read his books or articles I encourage you to do so.
“Sonny, I want to love God more than anyone else in my generation.” A. W. Tozer
I cannot say that Tozer loved God over everyone else in his life, however in reading his books and listening to his sermons and what his contemporaries said of him, it is apparent that he tried.
Aiden Wison Tozer; Dr Tozer; or simply Tozer (April 21, 1897 – May 12, 1963), was born on a farm in Western PA. At 15 his family moved to Akron, OH. When he wsa 17 and on his way home from the tire company where he worked as a teen, young Tozer overheard a street preacher say,“If you don’t know how to be saved…just call on God.” Upon returning home, Tozer climbed into the attic and heeded the preacher’s advice. In those early years in a crowded home he found in the basement a place for prayer and bible study.
In 1919, five years after his decision to follow Christ, and without formal theological training, Tozer accepted an offer to pastor his first church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. From there he pastored in Indianapolis, IN and then onto Chicago with the Southside Alliance Church for thirty years. His final years were spent at the Avenue Road Church in Toronto, Canada.
Considered by many to be a modern-day prophet, Tozer felt that the church was on a dangerous course towards compromising with “worldly” concerns. In 1950, he was appointed editor of the Alliance magazine, the weekly publication of his denomination founded by A. B. Simpson The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA). In his first editorial, dated June 3, 1950, he wrote “It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run, and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.”
Prayer was of vital personal importance for Tozer. “His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life,” comments his biographer, James L. Snyder in the book, In Pursuit of God: The Life Of A.W. Tozer. “He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them”.
Leonard Ravenhill said in his sermon, No Kiss “Dr. Tozer told me as a mature man in his sixties that there where times when he lay on the rug for an hour, two hours, three hours, four hours and never uttered a word of prayer, and never uttered a word of praise. He said, “I’m lost in adoration, I see Him in His glory, in His majesty, in His beauty. I can hear those holy beings crying, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.’” And he said, “I’m silent in adoration before Him. I had no language, it is beggered.” And he had a vocabulary as good as any man I know, and he had read more of the mystics, I think, than any man I know, and he had some of the closest encounters to God of any man I know.”
Among the more than forty books Tozer authored, at least two are regarded as Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. His writings impress on the reader the necessity to abandon worldly comforts in favor the deeper life that comes with following Christ. Living out this simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, Tozer and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, he signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need.
Tozer had seven children, six boys and one girl. He was buried in Ellet cemetery, Akron, Ohio, with a simple epitaph marking his grave: “A. W. Tozer — A Man of God.”
For almost 50 years, Tozer walked with God. Even though he is gone, he continues to speak, ministering to those who are eager to experience God. As someone put it, “This man makes you want to know and feel God.”
A few quotes from his sermons
“Some of my friends good-humoredly , and some a little bit severely, have called me a ‘mystic.’ Well I’d like to say this about any mysticism I may suppose to have. If an Arch-Angel from heaven were to come, and were to start giving me, telling me, teaching me, and giving me instruction, I’d ask him for the text. I’d say, ‘Where’s it say that in the Bible? I want to know.’ And I would insist that it was according to the scriptures, because I do not believe in any extra-scriptural teachings, nor any anti-scriptural teachings, or any sub-scriptural teachings. I think we ought to put the emphasis where God puts it, and continue to put it there, and to expound the scriptures, and stay by the scriptures. I wouldn’t, no matter if I saw a light above the light of the sun, I’d keep my mouth shut about it until I’d checked with Daniel and Revelation and the rest of the scriptures to see if it had any basis in truth. And if it didn’t, I’d think I’d just eaten something I shouldn’t, and I wouldn’t say anything about it. Because I don’t believe in anything that is unscriptural or that is anti-scripture.”
“God wants us to worship Him. He doesn’t need us, for He couldn’t be a self-sufficient God and need anything or anybody, but He wants us. When Adam sinned it was not he who cried, ‘God, where art Thou?’ It was God who cried, ‘Adam, where art thou?’ ”
“The best book is one that sets us off on a train of thought that carries us far away from and far beyond the book.”
“When we say a man lives a beastly life we’re insulting the beast and lying about the man.”
“We are immortal until our work is done.”
editors note: Some information is from cmalliance.org