Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear By Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson, 2009, 224 pages.
Fearless is a practical book addressing various fears in life by pointing to Jesus as the answer to those fears. The book is filled with real-life illustrations of fear and the things people do to run or hide from those fears. Lucado answers those fears with examples of biblical stories and Bible verses. He does use a variety of translations to make his points which might give pause to some readers. However, there are a few other speed bumps to give the reader pause.
Full disclosure: This was the first book by Max Lucado I have ever read.
Lucado does a good job of pointing out the fears people struggle with in life. When those fears become the center-piece life they lead to sin to cover them up in some way or another. Those fears lead one away from trusting Jesus. This is where Lucado is very good at using life illustrations. He offers a helpful “eight worry-stoppers” that are abbreviated in the acronym “P-E-A-C-E-F-U-L.”
He tackles these practical fears in life and points the reader to Jesus. The book certainly shows Christ to be the hope of the world in this life and after. The reader is pointed to the fact of the resurrection and the reliability of Jesus’ loving promises. In this light, the book exposes peoples’ problems and exhorts them to trust Christ.
Fear, mismanaged, leads to sin. Sin leads to hiding. Since we’ve all sinned, we all hide, not in bushes, but in eighty-hour workweeks, temper tantrums, and religious busyness. We avoid contact with God. We are convinced that God must hate our evil tendencies. We sure do. We don’t like the things we do and say. We despise our lustful thoughts, harsh judgments, and selfish deeds. (35)
Jesus loves us too much to leave us in doubt about his grace. His “perfect love expels all fear” (1 John 4:18 nlt). If God loved with an imperfect love, we would have high cause to worry. Imperfect love keeps a list of sins and consults it often. God keeps no list of our wrongs. His love casts out fear because he casts out our sin! (37)
Lucado offers a very surface level approach to trusting Christ in life’s trials while exhorting people away from sin. This is a reason many will find this book encouraging and engaging. A few issues were not very clear though.
What is unclear in the book is man’s sinful position in relation to God. As in the above quote from page 37 it is as if sin is minimized. God may not keep a ‘list of sins’ but He does care about sin so much that Christians should be mindful of their lives. It might be asked if Lucado is speaking solely to Christians or to non-Christians or both.
While Lucado does present life’s fears and difficulties it is almost as if man is a victim. Although he does use the language of choosing to live for God which shows some level of responsibility. What is not stressed is the sinfulness of man as the reason for his hopelessness. It is not just that people do not trust God and sin. It is that people actively rebel against God. People are much worse than they think.
Another aspect of the book that wasn’t entirely clear is concerning hope after death.
Suppose death is different from how they thought of it, less a curse and more a passageway, not a crisis to be avoided but a corner to be turned? What if the cemetery is not the dominion of the Grim Reaper but the domain of the Soul Keeper, who will someday announce, “O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!” (Isa. 26:19 rsv)? (117)
Lucado goes on to say that this is the promise of Christ. It is clear that this afterlife is the promise of Christ. It is not clear that this promise is exclusively for Christians. It is good to trust Christ to overcome sin. The missing component is that the reader is not told what the wages of sin brings which is death. This is missing from the book.
The consequences of sin which would have fit nicely with the biblical illustrations. Even in the context of arguably the most quoted Bible verse, John 3:16, verse 18 (ESV) states, “…whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not o believed in the name of the only Son of God.” The fallen state of humanity is very important to understanding how Jesus saves people in spite of self.
Lucado does give a good warning in the last chapter about putting Jesus in a box. It is agreed that Jesus should not be aligned with a certain political party nor should He be created according to one’s own preconceptions. He then offers an ambiguous statement.
About putting Jesus in box “Define Jesus with a doctrine or confine him to an opinion? By no means.” (171)
It is hard to understand what is meant by defining Jesus with a doctrine. It is difficult to divorce theology from the Person of Jesus. While not desiring to put Jesus in our own boxes He must be understood as He is revealed in the Bible.
There is a study guide at the end of the book. It fits well within the context of the practical issues of fear that the book addresses. One disturbing recommendation in the study guide is Roman Catholic theologian Peter Kreeft’s book Love Is Stronger Than Death. (For more on this see the Amazon review of Kreeft’s Ecumenical Jihad where potential universalism along with an out of body experience are documented.)
The book does point to Jesus and His work on the cross. It is missing the clarity of the bad news of sin and death which makes the sweetness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that much clearer as the worlds only hope.