Ordering Your Private World: Revised And Updated, by Gordon MacDonald
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Every once in a while an author stumbles upon an area of massive importance and manages to write thoughtfully enough to establish himself as an authority in that field, and this book, which has somehow sold more than a million copies, is testament to the fact that the right book at the right time can mean a great deal. This particular book is an update of a well-regarded book on the importance of believers, and especially Christian leaders, in ordering their own private worlds and managing their time effectively in the face of contemporary demands. At its core, this book seeks to counter the common focus on externals among Christian leaders by pointing to the frequent existence of a wide gulf between success in the public sphere and immense failure in the private sphere of life among prominent believers . Throughout the author’s approach is full of well-told personal stories and a sense of personal warmth that makes the message a lot easier to pay attention to than would be the case if the author had been less generous of spirit and more strident in his delivery.
Beginning with a tale about a particularly bad day on the part of the author during a time of workaholicism, the book (including its study guide) takes about 220 pages to wind to its conclusion. In between are fifteen chapters that focus on the problems people face in being good stewards of their time and their personal lives. The author begins with the problem of sinkholes, looks at life from the view of a bridge, comments on people caught in a golden cage of unceasing labor to keep all the balls of their lives in the air, and gives a tragic tale of an all-too-common successful loser. At this point the author shifts gears a bit and talks about how we are to live as called believers, how we misplace our own time, and how we recapture our time so that we may live wisely. The author returns to some extended discussion of anecdotes while discussing a race in which the better runner lost to the author because of his lack of stamina and the sadness of a book never read. From this point the author moves on to discuss various aspects of Christian living such as maintaining order in one’s personal world, living with a sound core so that no outer props are necessary, remembering that all good things must be entered, what it means to see through heaven’s eyes, and the importance of having genuine friends and engaging in God’s commanded Sabbath rest, sort of. An epilogue praises virtues and then the book closes with a study guide and some notes and biographical information on the author.
This is the sort of book that comes off very well because it is written by someone who is towards the end of their lives. One of the more dramatic personal stories included in the book’s epilogue is the way that the author faced brain surgery on a tumor at the age of 74, a difficult experience for anyone to deal with. The fact that the author doesn’t appear to be the fastest person or the smartest person in the room and has a way of discussing himself with a good deal of humility also makes his suggestions far easier to deal with than would be the case otherwise. In a book that urges difficult personal change as this one does in terms of our approach to life and to our behavior in life, it is of vital importance that an author not come off too strongly, lest someone be alienated by the messenger rather than reached by the message. This is a book, fortunately for the reader, that comes with a winsome and appealing messenger that makes its message an easier one to take. It is to the author’s credit as well that he tackles the Sabbath and the need for rest, which is all the more remarkable given that the author does not appear to be a Sabbath-keeper himself, but a fairly ordinary Sunday preacher.
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