Book Review: God’s Plan For Spiritual Battle

God’s Plan For Spiritual Battle: Victory Over Sin, The World, And The Devil, by Russell M. Stendal

[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Life Sentence Publising/Aneko Press in exchange for an honest review. A copy of this book may be obtained from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Spiritual-Battle-Russell-Stendal/dp/1622450515/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1421299134&sr=1-2 for those not fortunate enough to receive a free review copy.]

Russell Stendal is a prolific writer [1] whose claim to fame is being a missionary to Colombia who happened to make a big impression after being kidnapped by some Communist rebels in that deeply divided nation. This book, which contain ten chapters made up of messages that he has given about spiritual warfare, is mostly based around a close reading of the Sermon on the Mount, with later discussion of the seven woes in the Olivet prophecy and also the seven trumpets. The author draws interesting parallels between scriptures, some of which are quite excellent and some of them seem a little bit forced. That said, the book is sincere and open-minded in its own fashion (it combines the usual exhortation of hellfire with a remarkable kindness towards those whose heart is in the right place even if their understanding is lacking, a category that at times may include the author), and also full of piercing insight about many of the problems facing Western churches.

This particular book is divided into chapters that deal with such aspects of faith as the importance of integrity as opposed to hypocrisy, the importance of submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ, how one puts Satan to flight through humility and obedience in faith, the importance of virtue, peacemakers, rebuilding the ruins, and the role of personal victory as paving the way for public victory as a Christian leader. Throughout there are deeply personal touches, a confessional tone at times in admitting areas of personal struggle, and a rigorous epistemological focus on using the proper word (restore as opposed to renew, discussing the proper definition of meek, along with suitable Greek uses of the term, at some length). Each chapter ends with a custom prayer, sometimes lasting several pages, written by the author in the first person plural implicitly including the reader. For a book that seeks to focus on the heart of worship, it is a very intellectually clear one at any rate, and filled with a lot of sharp and critical observations about the rigidity and division and lack of moral courage of the contemporary church. The author’s scathing comments about those who make merchandise out of godly truth is also spot-on and very pointed.

That said, this is not a flawless book. As is the case with many books, there is a bit of a contradiction between the author’s strong claim to admit the lordship of Jesus Christ and his equally obvious denial to accept the Lord of the Sabbath and to follow His example. Likewise, the author shows obvious intellect and value in intellect but praises the heart at the expense of the head so often as to make it a possibly heretical imbalance. To be sure, intellectual gifts without a humble spirit lead to arrogance, but a passionate heart that lacks sound self-discipline is also immensely destructive. A zeal not according to knowledge is of no use to God either, and this book comes close to praising, or at least excusing, such a failing in this book. Additionally, the author seems to claim that the failure of previous missionaries was due to a lack of faith and obedience or courage. Given the lack of correspondence between physical fruits and the excellence of one’s work (witness, for example, the failure of Jeremiah to achieve conversions during his ministry), this is as dangerous a claim to make as the claims of Job’s friends, miserable comforters justly condemned here. Ultimately, these flaws are serious, but they do not hinder the fact that this is a book of considerable worth, especially in showing the depth of the Sermon on the Mount in giving marching orders to Christians on what to do as well as what to avoid.

[1] I have previously reviewed one of his books and cited another:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/book-review-the-hidden-agenda/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/a-family-of-trees-wanted-to-be-haunted/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Book Review: God’s Plan For Spiritual Battle

  1. Thanks for the thorough review, Nathan.

    Please pray for Russell, as he’s facing some spiritual battle himself: http://blogs.cbn.com/globallane/archive/2015/02/20/american-missionary-released.aspx

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