Whew! Though it took me nearly 60 days (rather than 40), I am glad I spent the beginning of 2006 with Rick Warren’s book (similarly to what I did with the Purpose-Driven Community last spring).

I was deeply impressed, particularly with how Rick:

* Covered the essentials of the Christian life

* Consistently focused on God, rather than ourselves

* Balanced biblical theology with practical suggestions for spiritual growth

* Developed a few new (to me) insights on the relationship between beliefs and actions

* Emphasized how the Christian life is an ongoing process, not an event

* Made even old, familiar truths feel alive and relevant

* Kept it all remarkably concise and readable

To be sure, that doesn’t mean I agreed with Rick on very little detail of either theology or presentation: I did feel he occasionally glossed over important subtleties, and I have a slightly different perspective on how to reconcile the sovereignty of God with the source of evil. But those are minor quibbles.

Overall, I completely agree with his fundamental perspective, and more importantly I feel his methodical approach to understanding God’s purposes for my life was of great benefit.

How? Well, paradoxically, the most useful lesson was merely realizing how far short I fall of God’s purposes. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of church/work/family life, and measure myself against my goals (or other people). Rick consistently and repeatedly forced me to examine my life against God’s standards and purposes, which wasn’t always pretty. Far from depressing me, though, these revelations encourage me to press deeper into God.

The second key takeaway was the idea of wor-ship as the opposite of wor-ry. I don’t normally think of myself as a ‘worrier’, in the sense of being fearful and anxious about the future. However, I realized that I tend to ‘worry’ over ideas and plans the way a dog ‘worries’ (gnaws) on a bone: more content than upset, but still unwilling to let go. I need to find a way to take all my ‘great learning‘ about God and use it as the basis of constant, faithful worship to Him and with Him, not just about Him. And trust that ultimately such worship is a better way to solve problems than merely applying my own intellect.

The third insight was his marvelous metaphor of the motorboat on autopilot, demonstrating how we can’t sustainably will ourselves to change unless we also change our beliefs. This isn’t so much about theology as it is about how we genuinely relate to Jesus, others, and ourselves — in that order! Do I really believe that Jesus is God? Do I really believe that my greatest happiness comes from dying to myself? If not, then all my attempts to do good will ultimately leave me feeling frustrated rather than fulfilled.

The final takeaway from his book — and the spiritual health assessment — is the recognition that I am extremely weak on evangelism. While I have many non-Christian friends — who are generally well aware that I’m a Christian — I rarely talk to them about spiritual things, invite my neighbors to church, or engage in evangelistic activity. To be sure, there’s various reasons for this situation (and many of them may be valid), but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m overall failing to fulfill this aspect of God’s purpose for my life. Worse, I don’t even have a clear vision of what I can or should do about it.

If you’re a Christian, and you read this, would you please pray for me? Even as I pray for you.

Prayer: God, I thank you for the privilege of sharing this journey with Rick Warren, as well as several readers who have written me, and others who may read it in the future. Father, ultimately speaking: I don’t matter, Rick doesn’t matter, and this blog doesn’t matter: only You matter. Help us to know you better, and manifest your purposes in our lives, relationships, character, ministry, and mission. Teach me — teach us all — how to share your love and purpose with those who so desperately need it. I ask all this in Jesus name,

Your child,
Ernie Prabhakar