The 100 Most Encouraging Verses In the Bible, by Troy Schmidt
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany House/Baker Books. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Giving a book the title of “The 100 Most Encouraging Verses In The Bible” invites rebuttal and disagreement. The fact that the author’s previous work involves similar listed themes  does not improve matters either. To be sure, in reading this book someone could easily find fault with the selection of verses included, noting that most of the verses are in the New Testament despite the fact that two thirds or so of the biblical text is in the Hebrew scriptures, and it would be easy to note as well that there were many encouraging verses not included as large sections of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, were skipped altogether. Nevertheless, if one wanted to be a fair reader and reviewer of this book, one could ask whether the verses included were encouraging and whether the author handled these verses well, and the answer to that question is a definite yes. With that said, this book serves as an enjoyable and encouraging small book of around 50 pages on my Adobe Digital Editions version, and likely about double that length in print, and it lives up to the most important part of its title, namely that it deals with encouraging verses.
The structure of this book is simple and straightforward as befits the straightforwardness of the author’s approach and intent. The book contains discussions on 100 verses arranged in the order they are encountered in an English-language Protestant Bible. Each verses is numbered in order of encounter, the verse is cited, quoted along with, occasionally, the version it is cited from in parenthesis, and then a short discussion lasting for a few brief paragraphs with about 100-200 words of text for the verse follows. The author shows a great sense of humor, as well as a love of song references from the 1970s and 1980s that are humorous to those who are familiar with those references. The author makes some striking and unusual choices for encouraging verses, coming at topics from angles that many readers may not see as encouraging, such as the fact that God disciplines Israel but not to the extent that they deserve. This is brave, and certainly sound doctrine in dealing with judgment, but hardly the sort of approach that appears garnered to seeking favor with readers. This willingness to work counter to expectations is a point in the author’s favor, it should be noted.
So, how is one to evaluate this book. On the one hand, this book has a lot in its favor. The author shows a willingness to tackle questions of divine providence and the relationship between God’s mercy and God’s holiness, which serve to present the tension involving the issue of judgment. The author continually points the reader to examine and change their perspective on what goes on in life, acknowledging difficulties but remembering that God is in charge and that no matter how grim things appear to us that our usefulness to God is not at an end because we are facing trials and difficulties, including those as serious as imprisonment and exile. That said, this book appears to be aiming at being both intellectually and theologically serious as well as lighthearted and humorous, and sometimes there are jarring shifts in tone from one discussion to another, and it appears at times as if the author is trying to attempt too much for the limited amount of space provided because of this book’s form. That said, if one is looking for a devotional that provides encouragement through hard times and that desires on the part of the reader a certain change in mindset to cope more effectively with the difficult aspects of life and see trials and tribulations from God’s point of view, this book has a lot to offer and is a worthy addition to one’s library.
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