Book Review of Max Lucado’s “For These Tough Times”

Posted: February 25, 2009 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews, Suffering

I have never read a Max Lucado book before and must admit that I thought it would be a waste of time. I was pleasantly surprised  by most of what Lucado had to say.

For one, Lucado adresses the issue of tragedy and pain by beginning with God. He doesn’t even emphasize God’s imminence,nearness, or the incarnation, but rather God’s transcendence. When one is tempted to question whether God is really in control, Lucado resoundingly urges the reader to trust in God’s control, “It is important to recognize that God dwells in a different realm. He occupies another dimension” (p.1).

Lucado laters states, “Though we may not be able to see his purpose or plan, the Lord of heaven is on his throne and in firm control of the universe and our lives” (p.6). I was pleased that Lucado upheld God’s soveriegn character in the midst of our trials and tragedy. Many theologians are now abandoning the sweet doctrine of providence because they reason that a good and powerful God certainly wouldn’t allow suffereing in our lives. Lucado doesn’t fall prey to such dangerous reasoning.

Lucado later summons a precious truth from God’s word, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”. While Lucado doesn’t emphasis that God being for us is rooted in His divine elective pruposes, he does however grasp the assurance afforded believers from this truth that God is for His own. He later goes on to cite Rom. 8:32 and encourages believers to fully trust in God’s loving disposition towards those for who Christ has been given, “Would he be nailed to the cross for your sins and tehn disregard your prayers?” (p.16).

I think Lucado goes to far in stating about God, “He placed his hand on the shoulder of humanity and said, ‘You’re something special'” (p.18). While the sentiments are nice, the truth is that we aren’t special. I would contend that what makes God’s love truly amazing is that He loved us while we were yet sinners…that He loved us when we were enemies with Him…not because we were special.

One other brief comment from Lucado troubled me a bit. When speaking of Lucifer’s fall, he says, “The angels, like humans, were made to serve and worship God. The angels, like humans, were given free will. Otherwise how could they worship?” (p.33). The undergirding presupposition is that we can’t genuinely worship God apart from free will and the potential to disobey. To such reasoning I ask, “Is it possible that the other angels have fallen as well? Is it possible that they can fall in the future? If true worship requires free will, then will our eternal worship require the possibility of refusing to worship and sin? If their isn’t the potential to sin in our glorified state, then is such worship ‘true’?”.

The rest of the book leans heavily on God’s sovereignty, so much so that I doubt Lucado is asserting what I am presuming he is asserting in the “free will” statement. Lucado positively quotes Erwin Lutzer as follows, “The devil is just as much God’s servant in his rebellion as he was in the days of his sweet obedience…The devil is God’s devil…he must do the bidding of the Almighty. We must bear in mind that he does have frightful powers, but knowing that those can only be exercised under God’s direction and pleasure gives us hope. Satan is simply NOT FREE to wreak havoc on people at will” (p.35, emphasis mine).

Lucado proceeds to explain how Satan is used in the providence of God for our good. God uses Satan to:

1. Refine the faithful. Lucado states regarding Job, “God set both the permission and teh parameters of the struggle…Satan has no power except that which God gives him. Even when Satan appears to win, he loses…” (pp. 38-39).

2. Awaken the sleeping

3. Teach the church

Lucado touches on the need for forgiveness in chp.5, the need for quiet reverance in chp. 6 to listen to God, the need for prayer in chp. 7, and concludes with the hope of heaven in chp. 8. Lucado’s final paragraph concludes with proper eternal perspective on our siffereings in this life, “It is right for us to weep, but there is no need for us to despair. They had pain here. They have no pain there. They struggled here. They have no struggles there. You and I might wonder why God took them home. But they don’t. They understand. They are, at this very moment, at peace in the presence of God” (p.76).

Apart from a couple of my noted criticisms, the book was pretty right on for a brief book to encourage people through the common struggles that we face. Lucado meditates on God and less on ourselves, as it should be. I do wish that it was more Christ-centered and Gospel-centered. While Lucado invoked Romans 8:32, it was couched in language of us being “special”. More emphasis should have been placed on the cross that everything good towards us proceeds from that transaction.

I give the book a 3.5/5 and would only recommend this book with some disclaimers and the need to supplement the material with some other reading.

For more information on the book, visit this link.

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