Book Review: Radical Reliance

February 15, 2012 at 11:14 am | Posted in Books and Movies | Leave a comment

I recently finished reading Joseph Stowell’s wonderful book Radical Reliance.  It is a great read, reminding us about one of the most important things in life: our relationship with God.  I haven’t read a book about basic relationship with God for a long time, but such reminders are often needed, and even if they are not needed, the fresh perspective is beneficial.  The book is reasonably short and simply presented, yet profound in many ways.  This one will be worth your time to read.

Stowell begins with the basics.  “The ultimate issue of life is where do I look for real satisfaction, and where can I be assured of sufficient resources to sustain and secure me.”  This book, he goes on to say, is to be “a primer, a starting point in the wonderful adventure of finding satisfaction, security, and sustenance in growing intimacy with God.” (p. 15)  Of course our relationship with God begins with Him.  “While we have life and breath, God will not cease to pursue a rewarding, deepening intimacy with us.  He is not content to leave us alone.  His unceasing, unconditional love for each of us compels Him.” (23)  The absence of this relationship leaves us in a state Stowell calls “aloneness.” Aloneness is not being alone, instead, “Aloneness is what we feel when we are functionally disconnected at the core of our being from all that truly satisfies, sustains and secures.” (30)  We try to alleviate our aloneness in all sorts of ways, many of which are not bad in themselves, but not the best for us.  “The issue is not that we have fixed our hope on wrong things but that we have fixed our hope on lesser things.” (50)  “It’s not that the things and thrills of this world don’t temporarily satisfy and sustain.  It’s that at best they are like fireworks in the shoreline of life, lighting the night of our lives with transitory rushes of excitement.  But then the night is there again.” (38)

The solution to aloneness is repentance – changing our minds and turning our lives in the opposite direction – and Stowell gives practical steps to repentance in chapter seven.  These steps begin with an accurate view of our own frailty.  Next the author offers intentional steps toward intimacy with God, including ways to establish regular patterns of communication with Him.  In this part of the book, Stowell shares interviews with Christians he knows who have healthy walks with God and shares their insights.  He includes Christians like Joni Eareckson Tada, Elizabeth Elliot, Bill Hybels, Max Lucado, Bill Bright and others – it’s like a mini discipleship conference with great Christians!

The book finishes with five myths about intimacy with God and counters those with five truths.  The first myth he addresses is that intimacy is about what God will do for us.  “We tend to validate His reality and measure the quality of our relationship to Him by what He is doing for us at any given moment.” (153)  One of the truths that counters this is number three: God has already done for me more than I deserve.  “God has already dramatically intervened in a major way in our lives when he opened up the story of the cross to us and bid us come by the power of His Spirit.” (161)

My readers can tell by the number of times I quote from the book that it has some great lines and paragraphs, but I still have to conclude with one more:

We can serve God our whole lives as elders, Bible teachers, Sunday school teachers, kingdom philanthropists, counselors, missionaries, pastors, or college presidents.  We can be emotionally charged as we sing exhilarating songs of worship in grand and glorious cathedral settings or highly energized praise rallies.  . . .  But it’s all a show if unhindered pursuit of God is not at the center of our lives.  God doesn’t want our busyness; He wants our hearts.  (74)

If you need a primer on the basics of the Christian walk, if you need a boost in the day-to-day rut of living, if you need some direction in pursuing God, or if you ever disciple another in his walk with God, then this is a great resource to have.

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