Gary Thomas Dishes on Thirsting for God


EDITOR’S NOTE: Back in 1999 when I was working for Dr. Charles Stanley’s In Touch magazine, my editor Angela Ramage gave me a book to read and asked me to contact the author when I was finished for a possible magazine interview. The book? Gary L. ThomasSeeking the Face of God.

That book awoke something within me. Until that time, I had never really explored ancient Christian writings–or knew where to start to find them. But what I discovered while reading Gary’s book was that the hunger I had for a deeper connection to Scripture and to my Christian heritage was available through these writings.

I ended up landing an interview with Gary, which turned out to be delightful. In fact, he turned out to be delightful. In all my years of journalism and the hundreds of people that I’ve interviewed, he is one of only two people who have ever handwritten me a thank you note for the article. (Not that I would ever expect it, but it’s encouraging.)

Now, Gary has updated this gem of a book and retitled it as Thirsting for God (Harvest House, 2011). It’s unusual for a reissued edition of a book to surpass its original, but “Thirsting for God” does this and more. So, I wanted to share Gary’s heart behind this new edition of one of my favorite books written by a living author. (And I’m giving away a copy, maybe two — see how you can win one at the bottom of this post.)


An interview with Gary Thomas, author of Thirsting for God:

Q: What was the thinking behind the way you revisited the content in Thirsting for God?

Gary: I’ve had another 17 years of living with the classics since the book was first written, so I was able to explore the same topics with a greater breadth of perspective and with many more quotes to draw from.  Secondly, the Internet really has changed the way people read.  Longer chapters have become problematic for contemporary readers, so instead of 12 chapters, there are now 48.  A few of them are completely new, which adds to the length somewhat, and every chapter has been rewritten, though this re-writing often involved cuts as well as additions, but the end result is that Thirsting for God presents an entirely new format.  As I continue to read the classics, I find myself preferring those that have shorter chapters (such as Bernard of Clairvaux).  I think this is more suitable for devotional reading in particular.

Q: That was one of your first books. How have you seen people respond to the challenges that you lay out in that book to seek a deeper spiritual walk?

Gary: In one sense, as an author, you get 18 years to write the first book, and 18 months to write the second, and sometimes that shows. Several have said to me that this remains their favorite book of mine, though Sacred Marriage and Sacred Pathways have probably had more influence and certainly more sales.  When I first wrote it, the publisher was very nervous about an evangelical quoting from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox writers, which is why they were so pleased to get J.I. Packer’s enthusiastic endorsement.  Fortunately, quoting from the classics is now a much more acceptable practice, and I’m gratified that God chose to use this book to help foster such an attitude.

Q: How did you first get interested in reading the classics?

Gary: My fifth grade teacher introduced me to C.S. Lewis and my college pastor got me reading Brother Lawrence, so I was primed for Dr. James Houston’s encouragement to explore the classics when I enrolled at Regent College.  I found such a depth in them that they’ve become a staple of my devotional times.

Q: Who is your favorite classics author and why?

Gary: I honestly can’t answer that; there are so many, and they speak to my heart differently at different seasons.  If I started I’d feel unable to pare the list down to less than ten.  But that makes sense, doesn’t it?  The reason a classic is a classic is because it’s been proven.  Dry wells get abandoned; oases are visited time and time again.

Q: What do you think about new delivery technologies for books, such as digital formats for computers and eBooks, and their impact on the way people can access Christian classics literature in the public domain?

Gary: When I first wrote this book (it was first published in 1994), I actually had to state how you can find the classics.  Some of my earliest copies were searched out at used bookstores around the country.  Since the dawn of Amazon, and cheaper publishing technology, virtually every significant classic is easily available.  It’s phenomenal; if people only knew what I used to go through to try to get my hands on some of these titles, and how I was occasionally told that since the book I was looking for was considered a “rare book” it would cost me $90 or more, well, they might be even more thankful for the access to this treasure trove of wisdom that we can enjoy today.

Q: What’s next for you (This is where you pump your new book :) ?

Gary: Zondervan is releasing Simply Sacred, a daily devotional that contains excerpts from all of my books, in September.  In December, my next original book comes out.  It’s titled Every Body Matters and seeks to fill an important gap in today’s discussion about spiritual formation: it addresses how physical fitness can be a valuable tool to help grow our souls.  How can we address the physical issues—specifically gluttony and sloth—that hinder us from becoming more effective, spiritually speaking, to seek first the Kingdom of God and to “be prepared to do any good work”?  In the minds of the ancient Christian writers, these two battles are “gateway” struggles that, when lost or ignored, weaken us in all areas, including lust, impatience, ungodly anger, and overall idleness.  Positively addressing our physical condition, with the right motivation, can lead to increased sensitivity to God’s voice, renewed strength to fight temptation in all its forms, greater energy to accomplish God’s work, superior joy to live life, and a fortified soul better able (and more willing) to serve and love others.



If you would like to win a copy of Gary Thomas’ new book Thirsting for God, please leave a comment below about your favorite ancient Christian writer and what it is about his or her writing that you like so much. I’ll have a winner (or two) selected at random from the replies made below up until Friday at 5 p.m. PDT, and I’ll announce the winner on the blog Monday.

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