"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

Review: The Principle of the Path

Let me first confess that I am not really expecting any great stuff from “just another self-help book”, or so I thought. It was probably the white cover effect that pulled me over to pick up a copy. Nevertheless, Andy Stanley’s The Principle of the Path came as more than a pleasant surprise.

The strength of this book lies primarily in the ability of the author to weave real life experiences, both negative and positive demonstrations, together with relevant portions of the Scripture in such a melodious manner, bringing new freshness out of the plain old obvious but perhaps ignored principle of the path.

The key idea is that direction, and not intention, determines our destination. And if you want to move in a certain direction, you have to choose the right path. Surely there is nothing extraordinary about the statements. Even commuters know that we have to get on the correct bus or train heading towards the right direction, in order to reach the destination. On the other hand, being sincere on the wrong bus or train, get you anywhere other than the destination.

Essentially, the principle of the path can be condensed into the following equation:

Attention > Direction > Destination

Whatever we pay attention to, we will lean towards them more likely than not. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:34). Andy’s usage of driving on the road as an illustration for the importance of attention is most excellence, or at least I shared his experience. It is therefore important for even veteran to guard our eyes, mind and heart.

Above all, we need to realize that intention is not a reliable guide. For the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9). Only an inward revelation of the truth that our heart cannot be trusted beyond a doubt, will set us free truly (John 8:32). Andy proposed to ask the following 3 questions for a quick motive check:

1. Why am I doing this, really?
2. If someone in my circumstances came to me for advice, what course of action would I recommend?
3. In light of my past experience, my future hopes, and my dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

What’s interesting is the sprinkling of proverbs in the earlier chapters. It does remind me of the richness and wealth of wise counsel in proverbs. Take Proverbs 27:12 for example. The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. Short, simple and straight to the point that you can’t believe it is in the Scripture.

How about Proverbs 3:6? In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. It is interesting to note that while making straight our paths does not necessary mean that there is no trials and challenges in lives, it definitely include making obvious the path we should take. This goes without saying, when we are transformed by the renewal of our mind, we would be able to discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

The major weaknesses in my view is the lack of mention of the Spirit and the-how to overcome the deceitful heart. Given that this is a book which addressed the issue of intention, it is rather strange that there is little emphasis or even no mention of the renewal of the mind. In fact, the principle of the path, if understood properly, can be applied towards anything, secular or not, sort of like you reap what you sow. There is certainly a need to call everyone to move from being self centered to being Christ centered.

The moral of the story straight out from the book is this: In order to make the best decisions now, we need much more than information, common sense, or conventional wisdom. We need God. We need to live with a posture of dependency. We need to acknowledge him in all our ways.

This review is part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Blogger program, of which I have received a free review copy.