Monday, 23 January 2017
Book review: Following Hard After God: Discover how to make the pursuit of God your lifetime affair by Chris Ekwedam
Following Hard After God: Discover how to make the pursuit of God your lifetime affair, Chris Ekwedam, Port Harcourt, Nigeria, PNUR Revival Press & Books, 2016, 157 pages.
The book, Following Hard After God: Discover how to make the pursuit of God your lifetime affair, by Chris Ekwedam has two-fold purposes, first, it is aimed at addressing complacent Christianity and wrong notions that are prevalent in our churches today, and secondly, to stir up God’s children to pursue a close and intimate “personal relationship with God that is real and practical.” The second purpose dominates a greater part of the discussions in the book. It is a book that will create hunger in the heart of a younger Christian to seek God’s face in every situation, challenge an older Christian to leave his place of conceit and comfort to deepen his relationship with God, and the Christian leader to pay attention to his personal relationship with God as he shepherds God’s people.
Chris Ekwedam is a seasoned servant of God, a sound Bible teacher, who has actively been serving the Body of Christ for the past twenty four (24) years in different capacities as a Christian leader. Following Hard After God is a follow-up to his first work “The New Birth”. He is a practicing Project Management Professional.
This book is divided into nine chapters, each chapter starts with either a Bible quotation or an inspiring quote that supports the points canvassed within the chapter. Men like Moses, Daniel and Apostle Paul are presented as examples of men who continued to seek after God in spite of their deep experiences with God. The author argues that in spite of the new birth experience, Christians ought to continually hunger for God and His visitation. In fact, he painted a current situation in our churches, “everywhere I look today, I see people who are hungry for miracles; men who are hungry to see the acts of God. But rarely do you see men who are hungry for God and His ways. We pursue everything except God. We even chase after men who we think can give us ‘access’ to God and His blessings but we never seek after God Himself, the Giver of blessings” Christians are encouraged in the book to hunger and thirst for God like the Psalmist who said “as the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Ps.42:1-2.
Chris argues that man’s desire to be independent, rule and take charge of himself makes him think and act as if he does not need God. He creates several alternatives and options to use to sort himself out in the face of troubles. In fact, even pastors and leaders in Christian organizations are not left out. “when men’s’ power for ministry wane, instead of seeking the face of God for times of refreshment, they relax because they have alternatives around them.” He continued, “to avoid being accused of not serving God or of being irreligious, we have created alternatives for ourselves and to show those who are watching us that we are still spiritual and religious. We cover our real selves and become very busy so as to portray commitment to God to those around us, when actually our hearts are not committed to God” Page 131. The author warns that “our alternatives are empty and temporary solutions like cisterns that cannot hold water”. He said that because of all these, God often brings us to a point of need from time to time to enable us seek Him. No one will stay the way he is and walk with God at the same time. God often brings us to the end of ourselves, with all our options exhausted, before we set our hearts to really seek Him.
Chapter 8 is very interesting as it deals with the Distractions and Deceptions that hinder us from seeking the Lord. Apart from the alternatives we create; the author discusses the worries of this life as another thing that distracts us. The deceitfulness of riches is presented as a killer that makes us have a false sense of security and sufficiency that leads to lukewarm lifestyle. “The Kingdom has lost a lot of believers in the palace of blessings and prosperity as much as in the theater of suffering and adversity.” Who would have imagined that the riches that we pursue and pray for can be a deception that hinders us from the God who gave them to us?
Chapters 1, 3 and 7 presents the argument for seeking after God and pursuing a loving relationship with Him while chapters 2, 4 – 6 and 8 present the factors we must pay attention to in order for our seeking to achieve its desired goals. The factors include avoiding the creation of alternatives, setting our hearts aright and having godly priorities, having a correct view of God, and avoiding the distractions and deceptions that make us either to be complacent or to seek in wrong ways. Chapter 9 is like a closing charge for a Christian not to give up in his seeking. The book fulfills its purposes of addressing some of the contemporary wrong mindsets and also stirring the hearts of believers towards the pursuit of God and making it a lifetime affair. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" Jam.4:8.
Looking at the book critically, I think that there are other things also that can distract us from seeking God which includes legitimate ambitions and desires which are not covered in the book. The organization of the book is poor as chapters 1, 3 and 7 would have been arranged together while chapters 2, 4 – 6 and 8 would have been organized together in a progressive manner so as to make a good flow. Also the introduction is not properly arranged on page 1. A line seems to be cut off on page 29. It is our hope that the author and his publisher will improve and take care of these minor errors during the revision edition.
Generally, the author made some categorical and thought-provoking statements in the book that will send the reader into serious thinking and reflection. For example, he said that “only seekers find God”, “slothful men cannot follow God”, “salvation, as important and free as it is, is not given to those who do not desire, long or ask for it”. Many of such statements can ignite theological questions in the reader; but except for further studies, I discovered that the book answered most of the questions it provoked.
I will summarize with the words of the Ven. Chris Iwuji, who wrote the Forward “Chris Ekwedam has made a clarion call to all who care to hear. It is apt and must be amplified for our generation to hear.” Though some issues raised in the book are very unpopular, it is recommended to every serious minded Christian.