The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “title” as “the name given to something (such as a book, song, or movie) to identify or describe it.” Sometimes, book titles give a significant part of the plot or message away. As an elementary school teacher, the first book that comes to my mind that fits this category is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Not so surprisingly, the book is about a very hungry caterpillar. That said, some book titles are much more vague, or secretive even. They are designed to create interest. Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell might fit into this category. I think that the title One in a Million, by Priscilla Shirer, sits somewhere in the middle. It grabbed my attention and gave me an idea of what I was signing up to read without giving too much away.
When I saw One in a Million sitting on the shelf at my local Christian bookstore, I was looking for a book to read that would foster personal growth. I had previously enjoyed a Bible study written and taught by Shirer, so I turned the book over to read the back. I discovered that the book’s purpose is to encourage readers to live life as “one in a million.” Shirer explains that this is someone who seeks a “deep, daily experience of [God’s] ever-abiding presence” (back cover). That is something that I want in my life. The back of the book promised that Shirer would explain some strategies to live this way, while taking a closer look at the Israelites’ time travelling in the wilderness, a story that is chronicled in Exodus. I was intrigued, and picked up the book.
There are few books that I have read that have gripped me as much as this one. I have to assume that God led me to read this book during a difficult season of my life because He knew that it would be an encouragement to me. Not only that, but it challenged me to grow. As I read each chapter, I felt that Shirer had written the book just for me. I’d like to record some of the important learning that I experienced during my reading. Reflecting on information is a great way to consolidate learning and to help it sink deep into the long-term memory. Further, if anyone will benefit from these thoughts, or are encouraged to read the book for themselves, this blog posting will have served an even greater purpose.
The book is divided into three sections:
The first section discusses the desire that we have for abundant lives. Fortunately for us, God wants to give us the desires of our heart! He longs to give us confidence, joy, discernment, anticipation, and power. Shirer points out that in order to attain these things, we must flee Egypt. Keep in mind, that if you don’t live in Egypt, this statement still applies to you! “Egypt” can be a state of mind. “Egypt” can be brokenness or bondage in our lives. “Egypt” can be a bad attitude. We must yield to God’s Spirit so we can be free of places that Satan rules… our “Egypt.”
I believe it is so important to ask God for deliverance in areas that we struggle with. Psalm 139:23-24 says: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” I have learned that when we ask God to reveal our sin to us, He will! Then, we can do as Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to do: “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
All this said, it’s important to remember that if we ask God to search us, or if we ask God for guidance, we can’t run away or ignore Him when we hear His voice. If we are going to live abundant lives as “one in a millions,” Shirer encourages us to be “willing to step outside your cozy comfort zone”.
Once we have decided to leave Egypt behind and follow God unreservedly where He is leading, there comes a time of development. For me, one of the main lessons in this section of the book was that God’s path is not always where we might expect. Sometimes development requires a detour to the wilderness. Shirer explains that for the Israelites, a straightforward overland route to Canaan would have been the shortest way to get there. That said, “[God’s] purpose was not to get them to Canaan as quickly as possible. Instead, He wanted to teach them trust and faithfulness. He also wanted them to know Him as their Lord. For us, the wilderness can be a season of struggle. A season when it is harder to have our quiet time. A season when we doubt. Nevertheless, we are called to trust. God desires for us to trust in His ability to provide, regardless of whether or not we understand the path that He is leading us to. If nothing else, following God’s leading into the wilderness will produce endurance! Fortunately, there are many other purposes of the wilderness:
- To protect us.
- To humble us.
- To teach us dependence on God.
- To teach us to trust.
- To put us in a position where we’ll start expecting more from God.
- To determine who or what is ultimately satisfying us.
- To know our Lord.
- To refresh us.
- To teach us patience.
- To engage our faith.
- To draw us near to Him.
- To bring God glory.
- To teach us to be willing to follow.
- To bless us.
In other words, the wilderness can be a time of incredible growth in our lives if we will yield to it. Realizing the purpose that can be found in these times was incredibly encouraging to me as I waded ankle-deep through the sand and sat at the foot of Mount Sinai! That said, Shirer explains that when we truly desire God, we don’t want anything to stand in the way of intimacy. Even the wilderness. When we desire God, we obey, even if we have to experience the wilderness for a while for God to complete His purposes there.
Fortunately, there is a “light at the end of the tunnel.” Eventually, the “winds change” and God leads us out of the wilderness. However, Shirer explains that “Promised Land living is reserved for those with a ‘different spirit’ (Numbers 14:24,30).” We must follow wherever he nudges. Whenever he nudges. Fortunately, He is there with us every step of the way.
Shirer suggests that in order to live abundantly, we must never grow complacent in our faith. We must draw near to Him to ensure continued intimacy. Further, sometimes we must let go of good things to make room for better things. So, how do we do this? We must:
- Advance with courage.
- Accept your post.
- Adopt a willingness to stand alone.
- Act immediately.
- Activate your faith.
- Acknowledge God’s presence.
- Anticipate God’s miracles.
With God’s help, we can do these things! Philippians 4:13 says that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He will help us, but we must do our part: Seek Him. Surrender. Follow. Obey. If we do these things, we can experience “Promised Land living!” I want to… don’t you?