When Life Gives You a Ferocious Beast, Jump in a Pit With It: a book review

When I pick up a book and discover that it is entirely based on a few obscure verses from the Old Testament, I generally want to run screaming from the room faster than you can say, “The Prayer of Jabez.”  And usually when I read a ‘self help’ book reportedly based on ‘biblical principles’ I am much too suspicious and agitated to get much of anything out of it.  But I like this book, like what it says and  I like Mark Batterson.  Despite myself, I found myself challenged and inspired. This is the sort of book that I needed to read right now.

Mark Batterson wrote In a Pit with A Lion on a Snowy Day about six years ago (Published 2006). The title comes from an event in the life of Benaiah, one of David’s Mighty men,  in charge of his bodyguards, renowned hero and later commander-in-chief of Israel’s army (replacing Joab). Benaiah had some pretty great exploits. He struck down Moab’s greatest heroes, bested an Egyptian giant with his own spear and one day he chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion (hence this title). Benaiah goes down in history as one of David’s greatest and bravest of warriors.

Batterson is on to something. If  Benaiah were alive today, he’d be a superstar. A video clip of him talking about the lion story would likely go viral on Youtube and he  would be greater than any motivational speaker in any high school assembly. Anywhere. I mean, you’d want to hear this guy’s story. He jumped into a pit with a lion and lived to tell about it. Amazing stuff.

Batterson uses the story of Benaiah and the lion (as well as his other heroic exploits) to talk about our need to chase lions and face our fears if we want to do something significant and if we want to grow in our faith. In fact, Batterson contends that growing in our faith entails us letting go of our irrational fears and taking risks.  Of course he isn’t advocating we jump in the Lion cage at the zoo (he is speaking metaphorically people). He wants to challenge people to step out in risky faith. If you never take any risks but crave security and certainty, chances are you will never do anything great, significant or interesting.  Too often people pray for security or safety when they should be praying risky prayers and acting big and seeing what God will do with it. That is a picture of faith!

I don’t think for a minute that the story of Benaiah carries all the weight that Batterson puts on it, but his message is  a good one (in seminary speak: this book is better homiletics than it is exegesis).  I loved hearing Batterson’s own story of learning to take risks (he was a church planter and currently pastors a multi-campus mega church) and the other risk-takers he profiles (some biblical, some contemporary). My own prayer while reading this book was for God to reveal what risks he wants me to take and ways that I can step out of my comfort zone. Certainly it rings true for me, that my greatest  accomplishments  are those where I took the greatest risks.  In my own pastoral job hunt  and my smarting under rejection has made me somewhat reserved about putting myself out there. But I want to make a big impact for God’s kingdom and that means rising to the challenge and trusting God with the reults. Really what I needed to hear. Thanks Mark!

Thank you to Waterbrook-Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

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