About This Blog

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"If" (Mark Batterson)

TITLE: If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God's What If Possibilities
AUTHOR: Mark Batterson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015, (304 pages).

If a word can launch a thousand thoughts, a book can surely create boundless imaginations. Using one word, author and pastor Mark Batterson helps bring us away from the "if only" of past regrets toward the "what if" of future possibilities. Believing on the need to renew the mind and to be filled with good thoughts, Batterson believes that this one word "if" can change our perspective of life. Basing this book on the eight chapter of Romans, which he calls the "Great Eight," he distills ten "ifs" that add up to limitless possibilities. Central to it all is Romans 8:31 which says: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

It is very much Batterson's positive thinking equivalent for his followers. Loosely based on Romans 8, the author distributes 30 chapters of stories, narratives, anecdotes, and tips over four major parts. The first part is about past regrets often denoted by the "if only." If only things were better. If only I had done that. These two words "if only" can usually be mind-crippling. It makes us forget the grace and mercy of God. It makes us feel guilty with self-condemnation. Very quickly, the second part of the book is a defying voice against the impossible circumstances. Instead of being fixated on the things of the flesh, we can choose to focus on the things of the Spirit. We can pledge to dig deeper into God's Word rather than to become distracted by anxieties and cares of the world. We can make a beeline for the Cross. We can choose not to let fears dictate our lives. We can choose to live as children of hope. Part Three tighten the screws of optimism by helping us turn outward to blessing others; to look beyond our self-needs; to bear fruit for Christ; etc. Some of the "what ifs" in this section is particularly powerful. Like:

  • What if you started giving God the firstfruits of your time, talent, and treasure?
  • What if you started praying like it depends on God and working like it depends on you?
  • What if everything in your past if God's way of preparing you for something in your future?
  • What if you sowed a seed at your point of need?
  • What if you let God leverage your greatest failures and deepest disappointments?
  • What if the circumstances you're asking God to change are the very circumstances God is using to change you?
  • What if money weren't an object and you knew you couldn't fail - what passion would you pursue?
The fourth IF "overcomes all refutations" to be conquerors in Christ. It is a commitment to forever look forward to Christ and to put all other things behind us. Just like Paul concludes Romans 8 with a powerful declaration of: "37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

As a motivational book, this book scores high on the index of positivism and possibility thinking. As an inspirational, the stories and the anecdotes Batterson provides makes the book a grippling and entertaining read. However, I would not recommend this for Bible study as it does not do enough justice to the Romans 8 passage. It is more of a daily devotional reading for a spiritual perk-me-up. With thirty chapters, just by reading a chapter a day should enable readers to get through the book in one month.

If I were to critique this book, it would be simply this. The words "what if" when described so positively by Batterson can be neutralized by "what if NOT." Without sufficient exegesis and study of the initial seven chapters of Romans, it is easy to have positive arguments derailed by a pessimist. That is why the anchoring on the Word of God is important. Use this book in conjunction with a more indepth treatment of Romans.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

No comments:

Post a Comment