Author Daniel Maritz. Photo courtesy Thomas Nelson PublishingWelling deep within our souls is the innate desire to be known. Whether it is to be respected near or far in our chosen vocation, or to provide an indelible, lasting impact on our families, our lives can be winnowed down to a singular pursuit: seeking the heart of God.
Popular Bible teacher, YouTube influencer, and former model Daniel Maritz knows this struggle well. Turning his back on God early in life, Maritz suffered greatly after losing two of his brothers to senseless violence. But through it all, he learned to eventually trust God again and came to realize that he was known by the only one that mattered … his almighty creator.
In his latest devotional book, Bold Pursuit: A 90-Day Devotional for Men Seeking the Heart of God, Maritz seeks to equip men with the tools they need to find spiritual strength, encouragement, and inspiration in the everyday.
I recently spoke with Maritz from South Africa to discuss what it means to fully surrender to God, how a man can find his true purpose, and why he chose to move to China when his father had only weeks to live.
If you were trying to convince someone to pick up a copy of your book Bold Pursuit and give it a read, what would you say to them? What would your sales pitch be?
I wrote this book first and foremost, of course, because I think God led me to do it. But it’s also part of my life because I realized that I wasn’t a real Christian. I said I was but I wasn’t. And I think there are a lot of people out there who don’t even realize that they might be lukewarm Christians. And we know what the Bible says about lukewarm Christians. God says in Revelation 3 that He will spit you out of his mouth. And so it is a dangerous time that we live in, especially now. People need to take their faith seriously to make sure that when they die, because we will all die, that it’s a time to be born and a time to die. And when we die, that we’re really going to see Jesus, that we’re going to heaven.
This book is called Bold Pursuit because it will help men around the world to pursue the right things. And it starts with pursuing God because it’s more important than anything else in our lives. And if He is first in our lives, then everything else will just fall into place.
You have an interesting story in that your father was a pastor and missionary, but you didn’t give your life to the Lord until after losing two brothers and realizing that worldly success, money, and women left you empty. What was the turning point in your life where you decided you couldn’t straddle that tight rope any longer?
I had a great example. One of the best, because my dad lived the way he preached. He stuck to Scripture no matter what, and he followed Jesus, no matter the cost. And that is the example I had, but my heart was very hard. I wanted to sit on the throne of my own heart. So, although I knew God existed because of the example of my Dad, my Mom, and how I grew up, there were also a few other people who were influential to me. And so I talked to these people. I saw these things as a child growing up, so I knew it to be true. My first brother died when I was 13. He was killed in Johannesburg. He was shot three times in the chest.
That made me a little bit angry towards God, because why would he take my brother? And as I continued to grow up after school, I just wanted to go abroad because we struggled a bit with money as well. I wanted to live for the world. I had this inner voice the whole time from God pulling me back. So in a sense, I was like the prodigal son, but I wanted to drink. I wanted to live an experience just chasing girls, going to clubs, and partying. But that’s what I wanted to do. And then I got a phone call from my Dad. I knew something was wrong because his voice was the same when he told us about my eldest brother who passed away. Another brother was shot in Johannesburg. And he said, “Etienne was in a car crash and he’s not looking good. He said I needed to come back home. So, I flew back home. I remember just walking down the long hall, seeing my sister, and the way she looked at me. She just cried and ran towards me. And, I knew right then that my brother’s not alive anymore. I remember that I went into that hospital room and I asked for some alone time with him. I closed the curtains and sat down next to him. I saw his body. And at that moment, I remember it doesn’t even matter, these things I was chasing. He worshiped God. He lived healthy. He was a good example for me, but I just wanted to live for the world.
I asked God, why did you do this? Why did you take my second brother? And I remember I continued on like this, and it was suddenly, it’s like He spoke to my inner man and kind of took me out of my own selfish thinking. And I had this objective bird’s eye view of my life. And these questions started to come towards me. The first one was, ‘Daniel, if you died, where would you have gone?’ The second was, ‘What are you doing with your life? Where do you think it will end up?’ So, I started to look at reality and it was God just working within me. And I started to appreciate the time I had with my brothers. Everything started to change in a moment. And I started to pray. I said to God, I will give my life to you. I want a real relationship with you, not just manmade tradition. I I want to know you deeply and personally, so come and change me. Make me a new creation because I can’t do it myself because of my sinful flesh, I want to drink, I want to do all these things. And it changed. Everything changed for me.
You talk a lot about “complete surrender” in your book and online sermons, so could you give us an example? How did you come to the point of fully surrendering to God?
For me, I thought that I did surrender most of my old sinful lifestyle. And I lived according to how God wants me to live. But my dad, he was the pillar in our family and for me. I went to him for a lot of advice. Sometimes, I would kind of idolize him in a way. Every time I needed an answer, I went to him instead of the Bible. And God tested my heart on this because there was a time where my wife and I were financially in trouble and I was thinking and praying about going to China to continue working there. But at that moment, I didn’t tell my wife about it yet, but at that moment, I took my dad to the hospital and we found out he’s got multiple myeloma cancer.
And the doctor said, “Well, you know, it is what it is. He has maybe just a few weeks.” He is not sure but it’s quite extreme. And that shook me to my core, because if I stayed, then I would be with my dad, right? But we will be in financial trouble. And of course I wouldn’t go to China, but if I went there, then I would lose my dad and not see him again. This is something that I prayed about. And the Bible says that we have to put God first in everything, right? Matthew 6:33. And then all the other things will just follow. But it was a struggle for me.
So I prayed and I asked God, okay, what do you want me to do? But I was praying for it actually, because I wanted Him to say, ‘No, just stay. He was your dad.’ But He didn’t say that. So the first thing that happened was, He gave me confirmation. And then that night, my wife dreamed about me going to China, and I didn’t say anything to her. So the next morning when she told me that, it was a jaw dropping moment. And I talked to my dad, and he said so lovingly, “Well, Daniel, it’s like I always tell you, you have to put God first. He’s got His reasons. You can’t see the future, but He can, and he knows what He’s doing.”
It was a shock to me because it made me realize, well, my dad so lovingly and sincerely told me that knowing that he might not even see me again. So, he had fully surrendered everything, even us as kids. But that night I prayed, and God gave me this verse because I continued to read where I stopped the previous night. It was that part where he authored disciples to follow Him. And the one said, “Let me go and bury my father first”. And Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead, but you follow me.” Wow! it was right in my heart because I still did not want to go, but I asked Him for a third confirmation. And then I just cried. I went to my knees and I cried and said, alright, I’ll go to China even if I’m not going to see my dad again. And I knew in that moment how that disciple felt. I’ve read that before, but now I understand what it means to really put God first in your life. It was probably how Abraham felt with Isaac as well. And though I went to China, God was so amazing that he spared my dad four more years.
You write that at the core of every man’s true purpose and lasting success is a singular pursuit: seeking the heart of God. Why do you think that is?
We are born in this world, and only at our soul level with our own emotions, our own intellect, and our own will. We kind of find our way into life and we start to make sense of everything. And we learn a little bit from our parents, but then there’s a point where we just go into the world as well, and then we just die at the end of our lives. And so, what is the purpose of it all? Is it only to be born and then live according to your own fleshly desires and then just to die? And that’s it? End of the story? There is a lot more to life than that, than worldly temporary success. And we have received deep in our inner man, this need to find purpose and fulfillment. And people try to find it in all the wrong things on earth, contemporary things.
And that’s why a lot of people get into drugs, into alcohol, into whatever. And no matter what they do, they cannot fill that hole because that hole can only be filled by the Holy Spirit. The day we find God himself, where we accept Him as Lord and Savior, and He sends us the Holy Spirit. And only then do we start to enter this new spiritual life, which we never understood before. This is just something that God Himself can do because He is spirit, and we can only worship Him in truth and in the Spirit.
After people have read Bold Pursuit, as an author, what would you like them to get out of the experience? What is your greatest hope for the book?
My greatest hope is that people will come to that point where they realize how important their faith is. That they can’t play with this. There are 250,000 people who die every day. And so, a lot of them are just wasting their lives. A lot of Christians think that they are Christians, but they’re not. And so when they die, that’s it. Their time of grace is up. So while they’re still alive, to really look to Jesus to understand how important their faith is. And then second, I mean there is so much, it’s like you’re at the beginning of a gold mine and you’re just finding out there’s some gold here. But then as you walk in, there’s all these tunnels. The more you grow in Christ, the more value there is in becoming a mature Christian. So the point I would want people to reach at the end of this 90 day devotional is a point of complete surrender. And that is where God wants us to be. That is where we need to be before He can actually use us powerfully for His kingdom, where He can use the talents and gifts that He has given us, and then we can walk in His plan and purpose for our lives.
WATCH A VIDEO OF DANIEL MARITZ’ PERSONAL TESTIMONY:
Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about Why Seeking a ‘Bold Pursuit’ is Nourishment to Our Souls.