Mike Guzzardo. All In: Finding True Life on the Path to Total Surrender. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011.
I would like to thank Moody Publishers for my review copy of this book. See here for Moody’s page about it.
How can a person accept Christ as his or her personal savior, and not experience God? I have wondered this a lot, but the question especially comes to my mind when I read about Christians who become atheists. There are evangelicals who would say that Christians who become atheists must not have been true Christians to begin with, or that they must not have truly experienced God within a life-changing relationship. How, after all, could one experience God, then conclude that God is not real? I find that analysis to be rather judgmental, and yet I still wonder: Why is God more real to some Christians than God is to others?
Mike Guzzardo’s All In: Finding True Life on the Path to Total Surrender attempts to address this question. According to Guzzardo, God wants to have an intimate relationship with all Christians, and yet a number of Christians are holding themselves back from this through their disobedience. They do not completely trust in God’s love for them, and thus they doubt that God’s commands—-in God’s word and also in the leading of the Holy Spirit—-are truly for their well-being. Or they may be trying to obey God’s commands and are unsuccessful, and they need to connect more intimately with their loving God.
The parts of this book that I found most compelling were Guzzardo’s stories about his own experiences. I could identify with Guzzardo’s desire for acceptance, and I appreciated his story about how God led him past his personal insecurities. Guzzardo also has stories about times when he believed that God was speaking to him, and how his obedience to God in those cases turned out to be for his good: God may have wanted him to remove distractions that were hindering him from his ministry, for example. Guzzardo portrays God as one who is like a teacher, who is sensitive to what people need at particular stages of their journeys. This God also helps those who seek him in prayer to get better a perspective on how to see and to live life.
If I have any reservations, it is that I doubt that a conservative evangelical road fits everyone. Guzzardo would probably argue that it should: after all, if God has our best interests at heart, does that not mean that our obedience to God’s commands results in good for us? Not everyone testifies that it does, however: I think of homosexuals who try to overcome their homosexuality yet finally feel peace when they stop struggling and accept who they are. Conversely, there are people who may not live in a manner that Guzzardo would consider obedient to God, yet they still claim to have had spiritual experiences.
Moreover, some may have difficulty believing that God is as loving as Guzzardo thinks, on account of passages in Scripture in which God does not appear particularly fair. While I did not expect for Guzzardo to wrestle with this issue in this book, I do believe it is one factor behind why many may not feel deep-down that God loves them.
Despite my reservations, I do appreciate Guzzardo’s insights. I do not envision myself becoming dogmatic about when God speaks to me, but I do believe that I am on a journey, and that there may be times when God wants me to let something go because it is holding me back from experiencing a full life, which includes service to others. In my opinion, God does want to lead us in the direction of health.