REVIEW: “Fearless” by Max Lucado
Max Lucado, a Christian publishing powerhouse, releases his new book today to millions of struggling Evangelicals needing real theology applied to real problems. Does this book address that need?
Imagine Your Life Without Fear.
That’s the subtitle of Max Lucado’s new book Fearless. A daunting call indeed – sensationalist, even (or that’s the fear, at least). Lucado spends fourteen chapters going through different things that we as humans fear. There includes chapters on insignificance, poverty, death, doubt, and (surprisingly) a fear of God proving your doctrine of Him wrong. He opens each chapter with a story or image that depicts this kind of fear in action, he then describes what this fear is, and then why humans fear this. The last half of every chapter is a presentation of a Biblical passage that addresses this fear and application of it.
As I’ve written before, I was expecting this book to be pop evangelical light fare. No talk of sin, no reference to wrath, no mention of the Gospel, just good ol’ Pharisaical moralism wearing the clothes of Christianity. You know, things like “God says here ‘Do not fear’, so a good obedient Christian shouldn’t fear. It’s disobedience, so if you’re fearing something, you’re disappointing God, and you don’t want to do that, do you? So stop it.” No dealing with real issues, no wrestling with the human heart, just a bunch of spiritual milk, when we all need meat.
The first chapter began to show me I was wrong about Max. He opens up with the account of his brother’s sudden, heartbreaking, painful, death. After that, though, I’ll admit, the first several chapters of this book began confirming that original theory of mine. For example, the first “fear” chapter is about the fear of insignificance. Lucado’s answer? God made you! He doesn’t make mistakes! And because He’s so awesome, and he made you, you can hold your head high and get that promotion or relationship you’ve been waiting for. If you hang your head low, then you won’t get those things! Joel Osteen couldn’t have said it better. This isn’t the Biblical answer. There are many things that God makes that he will willingly destroy. What is the Gospel answer to this fear? Jesus loves His people and His Glory shown in them, so He dies so they can get lost in something bigger and more meaningful than themselves. This gives them purpose and hope in the midst of that poor job and relationship, not necessarily to escape it. Our hope in this is that even in our weakness and very real earthly meaninglessness we can work for the glory and sake of an eternal kingdom. (Admittedly, the “Discussion Guide” in the back of the book gets at some of these issues, but it frustrated me that Lucado wouldn’t go there himself.) This is the way Chapters 2-6 are.
I was so ready for Lucado to prove me wrong and as I read the book, you can see my notes in the margins of my copy grow increasingly frustrated that he wasn’t doing so. His Introduction, and explanation of why we fear these things was so amazing. He understands the human heart so well. Not only that, even unpacking the Biblical passage was very well done. He was explaining Greek, Hebrew, and historical contexts in a way that shocked me. But I just couldn’t understand why the application of that passage kept being so incomplete.
But then came Chapter 7: Fear of Worst-Case Scenarios. Lucado’s answer? Jesus experienced this fear too, and wasn’t delivered from it. He drank the full cup of the wrath of God that it might work out for His Glory and our good, thus securing that all our suffering will move to those ends regardless of whether or not you are given relief from them. Wow. I literally dropped the book at finishing that chapter. And from here on out, the book only gets better. The second half of this book more than makes up for the first, and in many ways he even returns to earlier ideas and fills them in more.
I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if he became convicted so he switched directions. I don’t know if it was his plan all along to suck people in with more “traditional” thoughts and give them a right hook halfway through the book. Heck, God knows how much control publishers and editors have on the content of the book, so their fingerprints may be all over these decisions. I don’t know. But I do know that this book helped me so much. Not only in its content (which really did move and grow me in many places), but also in the fact that I know this book will be a best-seller. I know it will sell millions of copies. I know that a huge swathe of nominal mainstream Evangelical America will read this book and they will receive the Gospel! They will hear solid theology and doctrine being applied to an accurate understanding of the human heart.
In light of all this, I highly recommend this book. It was a healing process for me in many ways and I hope it does the same for you.