3 Stars Out Of 5
Needs more Jesus, otherwise it's good.
October 30, 2013
Written by Lisa Toomey and published by Abingdon Press, Thrive: Live Like You Mean It is a book about living the abundant life Jesus promised in John and that Solomon talked about in Proverbs.
I'll be honest and say that when I first started reading the book I was a little nervous. At the outset there were times I felt like I was going to read a classic self-help book that fell more inline with the "name it and claim it" prosperity gospel movement than with Biblical Christianity. It actually started on the second page when I read the statement, "God wants you to have this amazing life where you live life to the fullest and experience the wonder of human existence through the relationships that you have." But as I worked through the book I found my concerns were put to rest. While there are times I wish Thrive had been more overtly focused on allowing Christ to demonstrate his power through us (particularly in the beginning, when the more generic word "God" was used), as the book progressed I saw more and more of Jesus in it.
The title comes from Proverbs 11:28 when Solomon writes, "Those who trust in their riches will fail, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf." And from there the book focuses on answering the question, "What does it mean to be righteous?" The answer, we find, is in having good (right) relationships - relationships with God, with others, and even with ourself. The next nine chapters then lay out a very practical, understandable plan to develop right relationships, empowering us to live the righteous life, and thereby thrive as the the scriptures talk about.
As I mentioned, I do wish sometimes Christ would have been more forefront - particularly in the beginning of the book. One example is found in chapter 2, the chapter on integrity. The first nine pages of the chapter introduce this idea of letting our "yes be yes", and it talks about it in the context of relationships. But it isn't until 11 pages into the chapter that prayer is specifically talked about in the context of finding guidance - but listed before prayer is finding "wise people, whom you trust, and ask for advice," then we should gather resources, find help, and read wisdom. It's not until the next paragraph we're told, "Take your questions to God." It would seem to me that if having a "right relationship with God is the foundation to righteous living" (a quote that comes about four pages later in the chapter), that it would be the first thing we're told to do, not the fourth or fifth. Another example of this would be in chapter six where we read, "Having a relationship with God is a good way to seek out the truth..." (emphasis mine); I would argue (and I think scripture would support me) that having a right relationship with God is the only way to seek out and know truth. It's little things like this throughout the book that jumped off the page at me.
So where did I finally become more convinced of the book? It was the chapter on forgiveness, which I found to be the most profound chapter in the entire book. Suffice it to say that Lisa clearly pointed to Jesus working in our lives here when she wrote, "We cannot experience the forgiveness of Jesus without having our entire being changed." There was literally a change in the book moving forward where Jesus was mentioned more by name - where he was generally absent in the beginning, he was present from about chapter five on (to be fair he was mentioned, but the more generic name "God" was used, one that in our culture can mean many different things). Later in chapter eight (about hope), it becomes clarified again that we are not doing this alone. Lisa does a nice job of defining "Hope" in a clear, biblical way that takes it out of the contemporary vernacular where we can "hope for nice weather" on Saturday to having a solid foundation in the creator of the universe to care and provide for us.
Overall, then I'll give the book a 3.5 our of 5 stars, mainly because I want to see Jesus more front and center - he needs to be explicit, and there needs to be no doubt that living the abundant life Jesus calls us to (the life Solomon says would be an example of thriving) doesn't always look like we want it to look like; righteousness doesn't mean people don't get sick, bills go unpaid, or bad things don't happen. Righteousness means that even in the face of these things, we still live the life God has called us to live in Christ, we still practice right relationships with him and others, and we measure "thriving" by a different standard than this world's standard (the "My ways are not your ways" from Isaiah 55:8). I think that what I'm saying here was implied in the book, but for me I'd like to see it more explicitly stated. The book is certainly worth reading (if it weren't I'd only give it 1 star!), just make sure you are strongly grounded in some of these issues before opening the pages so that you can fully understand it in context.
For the record, I did receive a free copy of the book from the published (Abingdon Press) in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.