Greater: Dream Bigger, Start Smaller, Ignite God’s Vision For Your Life, by Steven Furtick
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by WaterBrook Multnomah Press in exchange for an honest review.]
If I have one pet peeve with the few contemporary Christian authors who focus on the story of Elisha, which is often ignored in exchange for the more rough-and-ready Elijah, it is the fact that nearly all of them who mention Elisha fail to grasp the meaning of his request for a double portion of the Holy Spirit that was in Elijah. They think that Elisha was being cheeky and asking for twice the spirit that was in Elijah, whereas Elisha was asking to be recognized as the successor to Elijah, receiving the double portion of the inheritance that the firstborn son did (since there were other sons of the prophets and others, like Obadiah the Steward and Michaiah and Jehu the son of Hanini) who were notable prophets of God as well. Elisha got his wish, but the failure to understand the nature of the request is related to a larger problem that a failure to understand the laws and ways of God from the Torah often lead writers to fail to grasp what the prophets and the new covenant were really about. A failure to understand God’s ways makes it impossible to understand what the Bible is really saying when it uses shorthand expressions like “double portion” in a later story.
The story of Elisha, however, does serve as a fitting way of organizing most of the material in this work, which looks relatively closely at the works of Elisha (often in very picturesque ways) in order to describe different aspects of the Christian walk of faith. Whether we are burning the plows of our complacent “good enough” ways or dragging behind ox rears in our habits of behavior, Furtick urges us to break free from the mediocre and dare for being greater, walking in faith as God leads. While urging us to dream bigger, though, Furtick changes course around a third of the way through the book and then examines how we should start smaller, by beginning with our gifts and limitations, and using what God has given us here and now to start living our lives in obedience to God’s ways. Towards the end of the book, the author urges us to ignite our faith in God by learning to see through our faith instead of our fears and to make sure that we surround ourselves with people who help encourage our faith rather than quench it with doubts and derision.
This particular volume has some quirks that appear to spring from the author’s mindset and purpose. It would appear as if this is a book written for a new believer, filled as it is with personal stories and the passionate urge for the believer to act upon the prompting of God, while tending to assume that the stories of Elisha’s ministry are not familiar to the reader , being presented in a “cliffhanger” fashion to increase the dramatic appeal for those who do not already know how the story turns out. Likewise, the book is full of all sorts of cute and somewhat gimmicky language that might either be taken as a genuine effort to connect with younger audiences or an example of pandering. Examples of this language fill the chapter titles and content of the book: Lesser Loser Life, Trust Fund Baby, Saving Captain Awesomesauce being the main examples of this in the chapter titles. Whether readers see the tone of this work as pandering or quirky and personable will depend on how charitable they are in reading this work.
In many ways, though, this work deserves to be commended. Not only does it speak out vocally against the prosperity gospel, but it deals honestly with serious struggles of faith in the author’s life and those of other Christians. One of the most powerful stories of this volume, for example, is a dying father taking his minister son to the place where he was “saved” and challenging him for simply going through the motions and having lost the fire of genuine belief in God. Other passages show the author bravely facing his failures to be a mechanically inclined sort of macho man and admitting his sermon ritual of drinking diet mountain dew and eating junk food (perhaps a change in diet would be in order), all the while giving a lot of references to Southern life and culture that appear to have become part of the author’s way of describing his life and his world (even if he does throw in a few references to Justin Beiber to show he is at least trying to be au courant). Readers who are both slightly indulgent to the author’s lack of deep biblical understanding (especially about God’s law) but who are also appreciative of his openness and obvious sincerity will find much to encourage and inspire them within these pages.
 Obviously, this is not the case with me:
https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/samuel-a-lasting-legacy-of-godly-leadership/ (which includes references to Elisha’s actions with the Sons of the Prophets)
https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/an-honorable-profession/ (which includes a reference to Elisha’s spying for Israel against the Syrians)