First the good news. This book contains much good information and teaching. Crabb draws from his seventy plus years of experience and ministry to encourage a new way of living. He argues that the best kind of happiness comes from our doing what Jesus wants of us, giving ourselves to others. He calls on us to recognize how we don't love like Jesus does. He writes that this love is deeply relational, is sacrificial, and is not just doing good deeds. It develops, he writes, “when we struggle to love others with a costly love that is possible only if we have a life-giving relationship with Jesus that is grounded entirely in His love for us.” (20)
There were a couple of sections in this book that I found particularly interesting. One was Crabb's exploration of happiness and joy and the difference between the two. The other section was on prayer. Crabb writes about asking in faith and receiving, based on Matt. 21:22. He shares his own disillusionment with that concept and clarifies what he believes Jesus was really saying. He adds that Jesus Himself practiced conditional prayer, “If it be Your will.” Crabb realized, “Jesus taught one kind of prayer and practiced another.” (60) His continuation on the topic was very enlightening, including identifying the prayer God always answers.
Now the bad news. I found Crabb's writing style hard to follow. Many of his sentences are very long, with a couple of dashes and with lots of commas. I often had to read a sentence several times to try to understand what he was communicating. And why did he ask all those questions? (A random count on pp. 176-177 yielded fifteen question marks.)
I almost felt like I was reading along as Crabb himself tried to understand what he was saying, clarifying his own thinking. He makes these revealing statements: “I did not begin writing this book with a well-worked-out set of ideas that I wanted to teach you about what it means to live your life on the narrow road. I rather began with questions I felt were important enough to explore, and as I do so I'm feeling a few familiar truths coming freshly alive in my mind. The fog is lifting from two truths . . .” (90-91) And, “This book is a story unfolding. I did not begin writing with a well-developed message that I was confident I could articulate. I expect to complete the last chapter with more loose ends hanging in my mind than in yours.” (185)
It seems this is a personal account of Crabb trying to understand his own spiritual condition. He asks, for example, “Am I a spiritual man, a Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus? Ask me that question and most often I will feel immediate discouragement.” (193) He goes on to question whether he has been receiving evil lies about what a Spirit-filled disciple is like as spiritual truth. That was disconcerting to me. I would hope that Crabb, in his seventies, would no longer be questioning such things.
If reading a book where the author is thinking through his message as he is writing appeals to you, then you may like this book. If you would rather read an organized and well thought out message that has been edited for clarity and comprehension, you may need to look elsewhere. There is a great deal of good material in this book about relational sin and what God desires of us. I just wish it had been presented in a more cohesive manner.
Food for thought: “God is right now devoting His unlimited resources of power and wisdom and love to forming those who receive the gospel into disciples who relate like Jesus. He has not promised to smooth out life's bumps with new or restored blessings.” (153)
You can download an excerpt here.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Larry Crabb is a well known psychologist, conference and seminar speaker, Bible teacher, popular author, and founder/director of New Way Ministries. He is currently scholar in residence at Colorado Christian University in Denver and visiting professor of spiritual formation for Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta. He and his wife live in the Denver, Colorado area. You can find out more at www.newwayministries.org.
Baker Books, 256 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.