Bill Hybels, the founder and pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, is a household name for most evangelicals. If you desire deep exegesis and penetrating theological insights, he’s not your man, but if you want clear and practical teaching from God’s Word on real-life issues, Hybels is a good author to read. This book is quintessential Hybels. Speaking from over 35 years of pastoral experience, family experience, and full-life experience, the author writes plainly, honestly, good naturedly, and wisely about the following subjects:
Chapter 1: From Exhausted to Energized – replenishing your energy reserves
Chapter 2: From Overscheduled to Organized – harnessing your calendar’s power
Chapter 3: From Overwhelmed to In Control – mastering your finances
Chapter 4: From Restless to Fulfilled – refining your working world
Chapter 5: From Wounded to Whole – making room for forgiveness
Chapter 6: From Anxious to Peaceful – conquering your fears
Chapter 7: From Isolated to Connected – deepening your relational circles
Chapter 8: From Drifting to Focused – claiming God’s call on your life
Chapter 9: From Stuck to Moving On – welcoming new seasons in your life
Chapter 10: From Meaningless to Satisfied – the legacy of a simplified life
Let me share the highlights of a chapter that was personally helpful to me: “Chapter 6: From Anxious to Peaceful – conquering your fears.” Honest confession – I have at times in my life been held back by fear. Hybels reminds us that though there is a place for constructive fear, destructive fear can paralyze us. Simplifying our lives means ridding ourselves of fears wherever they lurk. In the action step section at the end of the chapter, he shares a strategy to conquer our fears. By the way, if you really want to get something life changing out of this book, don’t neglect the “action plan” at the end of each chapter.
- Understand Fear’s Origin: Describe the first time you can recall experiencing your fear. Can you identify the source? Record any incidents that followed that might have solidified your phobia.
- Expose Fear’s Lies: What are the lies that fuel this fear? Remember, they may not feel like lies. They may seem rational. Why do these lies seem believable?
- Face Fear Head-On: What is one baby step you will take to face this fear?
- Speak Words of Truth
- Self-Talk: What strengths do I possess that will help me say no to this fear? What is the logical truth that most people believe about this fear? (Examples: “The elevator is safe.” “Most dogs are friendly.”)
- Scripture: What are two key verses you can commit to memory that will help you quell your fear?
- Prayer: What specific request do you want God to answer regarding your fear? Write your request in one short sentence. Pray this prayer as often as you need, whenever fear strikes.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t have trouble with fear or any of the areas Hybels addresses – a schedule out of control, hurts from the past that haven’t been dealt with, etc.” I’d be surprised that many of you could be thinking that, but even if you are, just know that close to 100% of the people to whom you minister do! Thus, taking a few hours to read and reflect on some practical and biblical solutions in this 300-page book could be life-altering to them.
I was fascinated by a key idea in Hybel’s eighth chapter, “From Drifting to Focused – Claiming God’s Call on your Life.” Among other things, he believes that to keep us on course it’s very helpful to have a “life verse,” which he defines as “a short passage of Scripture that serves as a rallying cry to guide and focus the current season of your life, or your life as a whole.” He encourages the reader to make this a careful and prayerful decision. In an appendix, he gives some helpful guidelines for that choice. One of the guidelines is that the verse should be a call to action. Another is that it should be personalized. “Find a verse that speaks to an area of your life where you need extra reinforcement. Don’t pick a verse that supports where you’re already strong; look for a verse that supports where you are weak.” … Personally I’ve had many verses over the years that have inspired me for a season, but I’m still working on choosing “my LIFE VERSE.” Could Joshua 1:9 be that verse? I don’t know for sure.
Hybels’ last chapter entitled “From Meaningless to Satisfied – the legacy of a simplified life” was the most personal. He shares a lot about his own life growing up in an affluent business-oriented family. He had to learn through personal experience what was really important in life. Using the book of Ecclesiastes as the backdrop, he speaks of seven paths to wind chasing – physical health/longevity, education, pleasure, work, wealth, sex, and fame. Near the end of this chapter, he writes what I would call the summary statement of the book:
“You intentionally say no to things that clutter your soul, like jam-packed calendars, out of control finances, deep-seated fears, and broken relationships. You turn away from rabbit trails that would take you off the main road and distract you from what your life is really about. And you say yes to things that matter, like family, friends, Christian community, satisfying work, and ministry roles that maximize the gifts God has given you to further His Kingdom.”