Book Review: How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Charles Stanley

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  Early in my Christian pilgrimage, Charles Stanley’s teaching helped me tremendously.  Not only was I looking forward to reading from Stanley, but I also have a keen interest in this topic.  After reading it, I came away disappointed.

In the first chapter of How to Reach Your Full Potential for God: Never Settle for Less Than His Best, Stanley provides the background for the book.  He was sleeping and awakened in the middle of the night with a burning question, Do you want to reach your full potential? He subsequently jotted down what he believed God was speaking to him about this topic,

If you truly want to reach your full potential, you must have a clean heart, a clear mind, a balanced schedule.

If I had stopped at the end of the first short chapter, I would have been fine.  Indeed, a clean heart, a clear mind and a balanced schedule are important and it was great to be reminded of these.  To reach our full potential for God, Stanley breaks the book down into 7 essential elements:

Essential 1: Having a clean heart
Essential 2: Having a clear mind
Essential 3: Using your gifts
Essential 4: Having a healthy body
Essential 5: Having right relationships
Essential 6: Having a balanced schedule
Essential 7: Taking God-approved risks

In and of itself, this is a good list.  However, the development of these essentials creates some problems for me.  Here are some of the problems I have with the book.

Stanley writes about having the mind of Christ.  This is good.  But his discussion of this raised more questions than provided answers.  He warns against the wisdom of the world.  In the early part of the book, he places the mind of Christ in stark contrast to the wisdom of the world.  Again, this is good.  However, much of the remainder of the book is simply a rehashed Dr. Phil type of self-help.

It was worth noting that Stanley refers to a book (p. 224) that he read annually because of the wisdom in the book.  Perhaps you will be as surprised as I at which book that is.  Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  Not exactly the book that coincides with the distinction to have the mind of Christ instead of the wisdom of the world.

In fact, Stanley goes further in promoting self-help books in general:

I do not at all criticize the category of books that people call self-help.  We all need help…These books can provide practical advice and inspiration for pursuing one’s God-given potential (p. 225).

He spends more time relating these principles to the teachings of Jesus.  However, when Stanley gives his practical steps to reaching your full potential for God, he provides only cursory notes of key aspects while spending a great deal of time on less than biblical concepts.

For example, we should avoid touching our face with our hands.  We should wash our hands often and long enough (sing Happy Birthday through twice to make sure your hands are clean.

Stanley also rehashes some of the culturally conservative litany of don’ts without providing any biblical support.

Some of his advice simply isn’t practical unless you are the pastor of a megachurch like he is.  In my work and in my home, I don’t have the option of delegating some of the things that need to be done.  So, when he writes of his decision to be driven around Atlanta instead of having to deal with city traffic, it just doesn’t compute.

In the end, this book doesn’t deliver on the title.  I wish that it had.  I still like Stanley, but wish for consistency with regard to what really is biblical teaching.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson.

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