Monday, June 05, 2017

BookPastor >> "The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life" (Colin S. Smith)

This review was first published on July 19th, 2016 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: The 10 Greatest Struggles of Your Life: Finding Freedom in God's Commands
AUTHOR: Colin S. Smith
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (208 pages).

The Beatles sing the classic song "All you need is love" as some kind of a catchall solution for the world's problems. "Make Love Not War" is another of those clever cliches to remind people not to fight. Often, such phrases are simplistic darts flung into a sea of relentless splashing waves. Who can adequately capture the essence of the world's problems? Only the Creator of all creation can do that. From the beginning of time, God has known what the world's struggles are and would be. He has given all mankind the Law not to enslave us but to liberate us. One of the most powerful ways that we are enslaved is when we give in to wrong desires, sinful ways, and revel in activities that we tend to blame on 'human nature.' We are not as 'innocent' as we think. We are also not as perfect as we would like to be. Just as the meaning of sin is to 'miss the mark,' sin makes us think off the mark when we look at ourselves, our own capabilities, and our own understanding. The great writer, George Orwell, once wrote that "Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear." There are many things people do not want to hear. That is why they struggle. The Ten Commandments given in the Old Testament remain very relevant today. There are laws in every society against the ills of theft, of murder, of adultery, of perjury, and so on. While the first few commandments to worship God and honour God's Name have become diminished in secular environments, it still presents a struggle at a deeply spiritual level. The truth is, whenever there is tension, where there is a direct pushback against what God says, there will be a struggle. This is Smith's attempt to paraphrase the Ten Commandments in the light of real world struggles, how we combat one or more of these temptations on daily basis. The Ten Struggles as described by Smith are:

  1. Struggle With God
  2. Struggle With Worship
  3. Struggle With Religion
  4. Struggle With Time
  5. Struggle With Authority
  6. Struggle For Peace
  7. Struggle For Purity
  8. Struggle For Integrity
  9. Struggle With Truth
  10. Struggle With Contentment

The purpose of the book is to identify what enslaves us and how we can find true freedom. In ten chapters, we have ten expositions of the Ten Commandments. It is the author's belief that true love is not based on what the world says but on the character of God. God is love and God expresses love through the gift of the Law. The problem why we struggle is because of the sinful rebellious spirit in us. We rebel against God by choosing our own values over God's. We struggle with religion, with many blaming religion for all the causes and violence happening all over the world. God's Name has been manipulated and blamed for the ills of society. Some even try to plagiarize the Name of God in other ways, disrespectful in a way and deceiving in others. On the Sabbath, Smith sees the key struggle as one with time. Whether it is study, work, or even play, there is a sense of rush and a misguided understanding of the essence of work. The biblical view of work goes beyond merely getting fruits for our labour. For when everything is done for the purpose of getting money or reward, then the means of getting it get easily corrupted. For instance, what if we cannot finish all of our work before we leave this earth? Will we then be leaving with a sense of unfulfillment and regret?

The next give chapters cover the second part of the Ten Commandments, which essentially have to do with human relationships up close. On the Fifth Commandment about obeying our parents, Smith calls it a struggle with authority. A key point is that respect for authority begins in the home. Without this foundation, learning to show respect to authority outside the home becomes even more challenging. Smith highlights some interesting aspects to authority, especially when one feels an authority is wrong in some ways in the first place. The chapter on the struggle for peace is a needed one in our world today. Topics discussed include war, euthanasia, capital punishment, suicide, and even verbal abuse can be seen as a violation of the sixth commandment. The quest for purity goes through the struggle to keep the promises we have made. The struggle for integrity is about learning to give more than to receive. For if one seeks more than needed due to greed, invariably it leads to theft. The struggle with truth is against perjury and false witnesses. We are also warned about letting "self-expression" take priority over Christ-centeredness. We are cautioned about "truth terrorists" who prefer brutality instead of love when speaking the truth. We are also reminded that total openness is not only risky, it puts the self above all else. Finally, the chapter on covetousness is about asking a deep question of our heart's inner longing. Without recognizing this, we will not be easily contented. 

Colin Smith is famous for his work in "Unlocking the Bible." A popular speaker, Smith is also senior pastor of Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Illinois since 1996. He understands the modern culture well and is able to bring to life the ancient Ten Commandments and apply it effectively to this era. Instead of using the words "commandments" which tend to be unpopular these days, he paraphrases them in a practical way so that readers can see immediate applications right away. Each chapter is filled with stories and illustrations.about the challenges facing us today. He weaves in issues that most readers will be familiar with. There are lots of opportunities for introspection as many of the struggles are very personal in nature. The commandments do highlight certain aspects of our rebellious being and shows us the gulf between our standards and God's standards. As I reflect on this common struggle, I thought about the effects of sin and shudder when I realize how much of it make us rebel against God. It is only the Law that highlights the way that we lack the standard of God. It highlights most of all the need for us to be submissive to Jesus and His teachings. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, it is difficult to come out on the victory side. This truth is also a paradox. The more we try to free ourselves according to our own ideas, our ways, and our desires, the more enslaved we will become to the things and standards of the world. On the contrary, the more we obey God and follow His commandments, the more liberated we become, from the inside out. It reminds me of the great hymn: "Trust and Obey, for there's no other way. To be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey."

This book comes with a discussion guide at the end which makes it a great book to buy for small group discussions as well.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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