Review: The Fight of Your Life
Posted by Andrew Towner, 27 Aug 2020
Andrew Towner reviews John Stevens' book on resisting temptation.
John Stevens has served us most helpfully here in distinguishing between temptation and sin. This enables Christians to be equipped for the fight against the world, the flesh and the devil, whilst also encouraging us that every resisted temptation is an enjoyment of victorious Christian life. Those truths are easy to write, but are each worth dwelling on, and in this book they are carefully distilled from the Bible, with many pastoral applications. In particular, Christians are encouraged not to feel guilty about being tempted: temptation is normal, and it is not sinful to be tempted. Careful Biblical and real-life examples are given to clarify and earth this, and believers are encouraged to be less depressed by our temptations (frustrating and wearying as they are) and to rejoice at seeing more of God’s work in our lives (slower than we would like, of course) as we note many ungratified temptations.
The author, John Stevens, serves as Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches’ National Director. The Fight of Your Life started off as a Word Alive seminar in 2014, and maintains the feel of such seminars – at times requiring hard thought, but always worth it. The writing demonstrates the author’s knowledge of Scripture, familiarity with theology, local church experience, and deep pastoral concern. And there is rich food for all here.
I would encourage readers not to be put off by the complexities of (and I think unnecessary overdependence on) Romans 7. The arguments are complex, and the author’s case is well made even if some are confused or unconvinced by his reading of this debated chapter. I would also urge those using this book not to be distracted by some complex words (“connote”, “corollary” and “prophylactic”) and to persevere through the meat theological sections to enjoy and benefit from the careful and edifying application.
Only one Book answers all of our questions, and there are a number of good issues to consider after reading this most helpful volume. Thought could be given to whether we Christians should feel guilt for the temptations which our past sinfulness magnifies (James 1:14-15. Further, amid the current debates around same-sex attraction, even within the orthodox, Reformed camp, the issue of whether all temptations and desires are morally neutral is a matter of debate. Each of these questions is not only important theologically but very significant pastorally, and would help readers to take the themes of this book further.
The Fight of your Life is an encouraging read, being full of gospel truth and rich in careful application, especially in the final two chapters. It sits helpfully alongside other books in this area, such as Simon Vibert’s The Perpetual Battle, John Chapmans’ A Sinner’s Guide to Holiness and Vaughan Roberts’ Battles Christians Face (though perhaps at times at a slightly less accessible level). It is a good read for pastors, and anyone who would attend seminar tracks at Word Alive; it is designed to stretch and encourage us; it answers many questions, and (of course) leaves a few. John Stephens makes us open up our Bibles, engages our minds and warms our hearts, equipping us for both thankfulness and battle in the every-day Christian life.
Andrew Towner is Vicar of Houghton and Kingmoor, Carlisle and Chair of Church Society Council.
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