There are defining seasons in our walk with God. They usually involve divine introduction of testing into our lives. Such testing often takes the form of family trials, for the domestic battle against sin is in many ways the front line of our Savior’s gospel march through history. Testing is often aimed at our health or work. It might also consist of a battle with long-standing sin, or some event that makes brings this contest to the forefront of our lives with such force that all else recedes into the distant background. The death of someone dear to you is one of the Lord’s most serious occasions of testing, for through death the soul is pierced and violently shudders. You may have your eyes open to the great evils of your time and, like Lot, feel a constant vexation of spirit and burden for the trampled glory and law of God. These seasons have in common the splinters of the cross: the trembling of the soul as God touches its life-chords and a more personal participation in the sorrows and sufferings of our Savior. They also share a loving purpose. Through them, our Father leads us by the hand to seek him with all our heart and soul.
In Scripture, you will frequently receive the call to seek the Lord and encounter compelling examples of those who answered his call. The occasions are varied, usually brought on by crisis. I think of David in his years of hiding from Saul, of Hezekiah when he received the letter from the officer of Nebuchadnezzar that threatened the immediate annihilation of Jerusalem, and of Daniel when the prophesied seventy years of exile were drawing to a close. Our Savior’s hour in the garden is an unparalleled example of seeking the Lord, for at that hour the shadow of the cross consumed the horizon of his humiliation to a degree that almost destroyed him. Some of the most poignant, deeply personal, and uncomfortably transparent prayers to be found in Scripture flowed from these occasions. These examples of seeking the Lord are so defining that they have challenged, directed, and sustained the church for millennia. This is always the effect of seeking the Lord. We find him. He comes to us. And when he comes, the foundations of the world are shaken. Faith and faithfulness are defined for all time. Great deliverances, saving works, and kingdom advancing events transpire in the wake of our God’s coming to us as we seek him. For those who seek him, life is forever changed. We are comforted, challenged, and humbled. We taste of God’s goodness, learn the blessedness of a God-centered life that enables some degree of self-forgetfulness in the wake of his all-consuming sovereignty, love, wisdom, and power, and have our feet set or reset upon the rock that cannot be shaken.
The Holy Spirit says that we must seek the Lord continually (1 Chron. 16:11; Ps. 105:4). Who among us heeds that heavenly, life-changing call as he should? We grow lazy and careless, consumed with our individual situations and responsibilities, and generally forgetful of the privilege of having the God of the universe call us to seek him. So, he arouses us. He does this through making us feel the evil of sin, allowing us to be unsteadied by the evil schemes, hostilities, and convulsions of unbelieving men and nations, and removing the artificial supports upon which we so vainly seek to build our lives and to which we often bow as so many idols. While it is true that we see only the beginning of his ways, one of his certain ways is hedging us in so that we are forced to seek him, so that we, since we are his children, learn that our Father is our joy, his house our home, and his presence our pleasure. So complete is our blindness and ingratitude that though we should always recognize the blessing of seeking him and embrace the promise of finding him (1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 15:2), he uses the calamities of life to open our eyes, expose our weakness, and lead us to him as our safety and refuge.
Seeking the Lord, truly seeking him, however, is a serious affair. It is so serious that we have at least one biblical example of the appropriateness of making a covenant to seek the Lord, of vowing to make him our true delight, only desire, and single pursuit (2 Chron. 15:12). Seeking the Lord requires a prepared heart, one determined to seek with him “all our heart and soul” (Deut. 4:29; 2 Chron. 30:19). Said another way, the Lord must be the “one thing” we are seeking (Ps. 27:4): his glory and beauty, his presence and joy. Because the Lord is intensely holy and knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts better than we do, any half-hearted, sin-protecting, anything other than a single-minded calling upon his name, with a sincere sense of our neediness and his sufficiency, our lowliness and his glory, our sinfulness and his mercy in Christ, cannot be truly called seeking the Lord. Seeking the Lord also requires separation from filth (Ezra 6:21). If we regard iniquity in our hearts, if we are not honest with him about our sins or if we have no real intention or commitment to confess, repent, and put them away, he will not hear us (Ps. 66:18). How many of our prayers are pathetic and ineffectual because they are not joined with a holy hatred of everything that displeases him as evidenced by seeking his grace to turn from them and to the path of his commandments? This is not just the “big” sins but includes the chief sins, which are always deeper: anger, unbelief, despair, envy, covetousness, and selfishness.
Because it would be the height of audacity to seek the Lord without an invitation to do so, seeking him aright is always in response to his promise, his invitation to us to seek him (Ps. 27:8). Need we any other incentive, can we find any greater hope in seeking the Lord, than his foregoing promise to us that if we seek him, we will find? If we ask, it will be given? If we knock, the door will be opened? (Matt. 7:7). Whatever our need – direction, provision, the revival of the church, comfort, deliverance from a particular evil or a horde of them – we have his promise that he will hear our voice and answer our prayer even before we ask (Isa. 58:9). Seeking the Lord, then, comes from a believing sense of the privilege and opportunity (Isa. 55:6), faith that we now have a high priest over the house of God, Jesus Christ, that the throne of the God of the universe is for us a limitless source of grace and mercy to help us in our hour of need (Heb. 4:16). Our unassailable confidence in Christ, however, must be joined with humility, for the Lord resists the proud (Dan. 9:3). We must confess our sins, original and actual, besetting and occasional, willful and ignorant. As repentance unto life is a grace (Acts 11:18), we must seek from the Lord a heart that is so struck with the greatness of his mercy to us, of his faithfulness to his promises, and of his total sufficiency to supply our every need, that we cast ourselves upon him completely. If we seek him in this fashion, we have every expectation that his response to our seeking will be to rain righteousness down upon us (Hos. 10:12) – to cause us to cling more steadfastly to Jesus Christ as our only righteousness, walk in greater obedience to his word as the only path of righteousness, and so build the church and kingdom of his Son that the nations desire to walk in righteousness.
One would think we require no more incentives to seek the Lord, but we are also promised joy (1 Chron. 16:10; Ps. 40:16; 105:3) – real joy, not the passing, animal satisfaction of consumer joy but an abiding, deep, soul-satisfying happiness in him, a happiness that is in some measure independent of our immediate circumstances. Do you want this happiness, to find your joy in your God, to possess the peace that passes all understanding? You must seek the Lord, for the Lord only gives himself and, therefore, joy to those who seek him. He promises never to forsake those who seek him (Ps. 9:10). Never? Never. In every season, the Angel of his presence will be with us, our glorious Savior and his indwelling Spirit, to guide and protect, forgive and sanctify. Incredibly, he says that those who seek him will lack no good thing (Ps. 34:10). This does not mean he will grant our wish list. He changes our wish list so that we will want true good – things, persons, outcomes, and opportunities that are intrinsically good and good for us because they are pleasing to him, who is the sole standard of goodness. He promises to deliver those who seek him from evil (Zeph. 2:3), to bring comfort and salvation to them (Isa. 51), and to grant them, as a sum total of every imaginable blessing, life (Amos 5:4) and good (Lam. 3:25). Who would not seek such a wonderful Father? Who would not sell everything for the pearl of great price that grants us the right to such benefits?
Practically, seeking the Lord requires the prostration of the soul before God. It is difficult to put into words, but if you have truly sought the Lord, you know exactly of what I speak. It is not casual prayer, hastily conceived words and phrases without any concentration of the mind and heart. It does not consist in form prayers and the daily repetition of prayers uttered a thousand times. To seek the Lord is to be engaged with him, even to wrestle. It is the cry of our soul to him, at times, perhaps, inexpressible, which is the reason we are promised the Spirit’s intercessory assistance. It often involves the Bible, for seeking the Lord usually occurs when we take his promises or commands more seriously than usual and plead back to him the promises he has graciously made to us. Seeking the Lord is consuming. We rise up changed, still seeking, even if we must be engaged in other responsibilities. Neither his word nor our desire for him is quenched. It is enflamed. It wholly occupies us. And it is believing – that he is faithful, that we are his children, that he hears and approves our cries, that he is already ours because Christ is ours. When we truly seek the Lord, our aim is more than relief, a new job, faithful children, direction. It is God himself. Our soul longs for him, for if we have him, all the other problems and challenges of life are put in perspective as so many occasions in which we know he will work all his holy will and reveal his power in our weakness. This is enough for the seeker of the living God: to have the light and power of God dawn in his soul. It is heaven already gained, everlasting life already enjoyed, the very kiss of God upon the lips of our deepest selves.
Seek the Lord. Let nothing interfere with this daily pursuit. Find and keep regular times and special times to seek the Lord. Put away the frivolities and vanities of life that prevent seeking the Lord. Seek him at all times, without ceasing – as you work and parent, play and repair, rest and worship, in crisis and calm. Have a golden nugget of his word in your mind at all times as a reminder of his precious invitation. And persevere, for seeking the Lord is not for a day or a year but for eternity. He may seem to delay, but this is so that the finding will be the more glorious. If you seek him with all your heart, you will find him. He never turns away his children. Even before we call, he says, “Here I am.”