Max Lucado’s For the Tough Times Review

This is not going to be one of my easier reviews, but if I want to be a book reviewer, even as an amateur, I will have to write it. I will start by saying that I am not the target market for this book. I have a lot of respect for Max Lucado and by no means do I wish for my words to reflect negatively on him. Shortly after I became a Christian, my church did his video series for “He Chose the Nails”, which I learned a lot from. Later that summer, while visiting my parents in San Antonio, Tx, we visited his church and saw him preach.

I keep wanting to call the book “Fearless”, and you may have seen me refer to it as such on this blog or my Twitter feed. I started following Max Lucado on Twitter toward the end of his writing and editing of a book that he called “Fearless”, and I assume that this is the same book with a different title. Sometimes books aren’t titled until they go to publication.

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, said in his Twitter feed:

P2: Once the shock from the economic downturn wears off, the market for inspirational books will come back stronger than ever. 9:18 AM Jan 8th from TweetDeck

He’s probably right. The economic news does have a lot of people afraid, and many may turn to inspirational books.

On to the review. “For the Tough Times” is subtitled “Reaching Toward Heaven for Hope”. The product page can be found here. This is a small book, measuring 4.6” x 6.4'” x .5” and clocking in at 96 pages. MSRP is $10.99. Amazon has it new for $8.62 and new and used from $7.28 currently. It was a very quick read for me, and I’m not a fast reader.

First, I’ll tell you what I think overall, then I’ll do the best that I can to evaluate the book from the perspective of it’s target market. If we could divide Christian books into beginner, intermediate, and advanced, this book would fall into the beginner category. I will turn to the writer of Hebrews (I believe it was Paul, but you’re welcome to disagree with me):

Hebrews 5:[12]  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. [13]  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. [14]  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Writing like this makes me think of milk, but again, I think Max Lucado is not exactly writing the book for my benefit. I often use the term for this category “devotional fluff”. I don’t mean to be derogatory with that term, as there is a huge market for it. I just mean that I don’t fall into it, and I don’t know if I would write to it if I were a writer. I really didn’t learn anything new from the book, although the picture of Satan as God’s 2×4 (p43) is priceless.

On to the book. If you’re like me and could probably get into and survive a seminary if you so chose, then you probably aren’t in the market for this book. If you’re facing tough times, and don’t know why, and wonder where God is in all of it, but you haven’t done a lot of reading and studying of the Bible, then you might be in what I perceive to the the target audience.

Life is hard, and bad things happen, yet in the middle of it us Christians are running around trying to tell you that God loves and and Jesus died for you. Sometimes we can be very annoying about it, but we do mean well. But that message often falls flat when life seems to be falling apart. Why do bad things happen? Why didn’t I sleep well last night and why did I have to wake up with a headache today? Why do good people die? Why is does the economy seem to be heading into turmoil? The answers are rarely simple, but Max Lucado in this book seeks to present a simple answer.

The book is divided into an introduction and 8 chapters, followed by a prayer at the end. Max Lucado quotes verses from many different translations of the Bible, from the NIV to the NCV to the NASB to The Living Bible to The Message to the Jerusalem Bible… you get the point. I’ve never been fond of this because it seems like the writer just keeps checking versions of the Bible until he finds a rendering of a verse that helps to make his point best. I don’t believe that on the surface it’s bad, and I didn’t see any verses taken out of context as some authors who use this tactic do.

As a note on my last paragraph, it is sometimes difficult to translate from one language to another. The Bible was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, not English. I used to joke that “If the King James was good enough for the Apostle Paul, it’s good enough for me!” I can remember my high school German teacher would always tell us “You can’t translate literally!” Some people will tell you that most versions of the Bible are Satanic perversions. Some might be, but I’m not convinced that all of them are. I looked into the issue heavily several years ago. Often when compared verse by verse, some Bibles do appear to be lacking, but when compared passage by passage, then normally say what they’re supposed to. There are different methods to translate depending on whether you want a literal or readable rendering. The more literal a translation, the harder it is to read in the new language. The more readable the translation, the less accurate it is. You can look at other sites for more information on this, unless it becomes a topic that gets me more traffic in which case I could write about it, but I’m not desirous of the flame wars that could break out in my comments if I were to explore it, so I’ll leave it to others.

The introduction explores what happened to some of God’s most faithful servants, like Moses, Joseph, and Daniel. Of course, Job makes mention several times in this book as the bad things in his life are really hard to top, even for people trying. Don’t get into a suffering competition with Job, you’ll lose every time.

Chapter 1 is titled “Where is God?”

Chapter 2 is titled “God’s Great Love”

Chapter 3 is titled “Eyes on the Father”

Chapter 4 is titled “Good Triumphant”

Chapter 5 is titled “The Bitter Taste of Revenge”

Chapter 6 is titled “In the Silence, God Speaks”

Chapter 7 is titled “In the Storm, We Pray”

Chapter 8 is titled “From God’s Perspective”

and of course, the book closes with a prayer.

One thing I like is that this book isn’t totally written to the non-Christian. Lately I’m getting annoyed when I buy what I expect to be a thorough Christian book (say intermediate to advanced category), and find what seems like half the book devoted to the sinner’s prayer. I’m thankful that Max Lucado didn’t do that here. I’m not against evangelism as that seems to be the primary calling of the church (Mat 28:[19]  “Go therefore * and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20]  “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. *) It just seems that we limit ourselves in evangelism methods.

In closing, Psalm 90 speaks of our days being “threescore and ten”, or 70 years. In those 70 years (give or take), we all experience good and bad, hardships and blessings, trials and joys. Our societies and economies rise and fall for various reasons. Maybe it’s God’s hand. Maybe it’s just a bunch of greedy and idiotic investors combined with intellectual incest among the cream of the crop financial and political leaders. We live in a fallen world, and bad things happen. Good things happen to, but for some reason those don’t make the news. In the end, nobody gets out alive. I don’t see how calamity can possibly be an excuse to dismiss the existence of God.

If you need help in the tough times, get this book.

If you enjoyed this review, read some of my other book reviews here.

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