Perhaps it's because he's a pastor. Or maybe because he's "been there, done that." New York Times bestselling author Max Lucado has a knack for figuring out what readers are grappling with in their lives and addressing their needs in a way that engages and entertains while not sacrificing spiritual content. In FACING YOUR GIANTS, Lucado is at his best: witty, yet serious where it's important; spinning yarns while pounding home scripture and retelling biblical anecdotes. Like any good pastor, he knows how to use a catchy phrase to make a moral lesson stick. "Focus on giants --- you stumble. Focus on God --- your giants tumble."
Lucado wraps his book around the life stories of David, a deeply flawed man but one of the most beloved of the Bible. No one is immune to "giants" or challenges, and Lucado seems to have his finger on the pulse of the most common ones. Deep hurts from our past that threaten to embitter our future. Lies we tell others. Lies we tell ourselves. Grief. Losing our position of influence. Debt. Divorce. Our need to forgive the seemingly unforgivable. Shattered dreams. Alcohol. Pornography. A career that screeches to a halt.
Weaving together anecdotes and the biblical narrative, he shows how David slew his "giants" --- and how we can slay our own. Lucado equates the five stones David used in slaying his giant to five decisions we must make when facing a challenge. There's the stone of the past ("Remember His marvelous works which He has done."). The stone of prayer ("When David soaked his mind in God, he stood. When he didn't, he flopped."). Think of your priorities (your highest, Lucado says, should be God's reputation. Let God showcase his power and grace through your failings.). Have passion ("David runs, not away from, but toward his giant."). And lastly, the stone of persistence ("One prayer might not be enough. One apology might not do it. One day or month of resolve might not suffice….").
His legendary wrong sense of direction and forgetfulness makes for some lighthearted anecdotes. Lucado relates how he once boarded a flight and awoke in the wrong city. Another time while in a hotel, he went for a jog, then returned and had two portions of the free buffet before he realized he was in a different hotel. After engaging our interest (in the best pastoral tradition), he segues into finding our own right direction. How do we know what God wants us to do? "David makes a habit of running his options past God," he reminds us.
Some of his content is straightforwardly motivational. "Two types of thoughts continually vie for your attention. One says, 'yes you can.' The other says, 'No, you can't.' … One longs to build you up, the other seeks to tear you down… Do what David did. Turn a deaf ear to old voices. And, as you do, open your eyes to new choices." His prose is always fresh and vibrant. ("We spelunk life's deepest issues in the cave of sorrow.") ("Life blisters by at mach speed.")
As we read about David's failures, we can come to believe in God's forgiveness. If the man whose Psalms still resonate with us today could be forgiven for his many egregious sins, will not God forgive us as well? Lucado makes it seem possible that we too might be used for God's glory despite our failings. There is hope here, and the promise of grace. A substantial study guide will double the appeal of FACING YOUR GIANTS and widen its readership. Don't miss this one!
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on November 13, 2011