I just finished reading The Pressure’s Off by Dr. Larry Crabb. I am fond of Dr. Crabb’s writings and have read four or five of his books. I found his former books authentic, honest, engaging and down to earth. The Pressure’s Off has the same qualities.
Gleaning from sixty years of Christian experience (Dr. Crabb became a Christian at eight years of age) and forty years of experience as a Christian counselor, Dr. Crabb offers many insights into the human condition and Christian experience. Not satisfied with cliché answers or fortune cookie wisdom, Dr. Crabb challenges his readers to find real answers to life’s toughest questions.
Some of these questions include: Why did God allow my marriage to fail? Why is my daughter suffering from anorexia? Now that I have been let go from my job, how will I provide for my family? And instead of getting better, why does my chronic pain seem to be getting worse?
The old way vs. the new way
Dr. Crabb suggests the answer to all of our unsolved questions is to seek God in our problems instead of using God to escape our problems. He calls using God to escape our problems the Old Way and seeking to know God in our problems as the New Way. The basis of this New Way is found in Romans 6:3 which says, “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The Pressure’s Off is Crabb’s attempt to unpack this “newness of life” in order to bring us into the liberty of the gospel. Although Christians have heard much of this Law/Spirit dichotomy before, he offers new insights into this centuries old problem.
A better hope
To summarize his argument and to hammer out his premise on the anvil of God’s Word, Crabb uses Hebrews 7:19 repeatedly throughout his book, “…for the Law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God”.
The “better hope” that Christ procured on the cross is not temporal blessings or physical healing or perfect children, but the ability to draw near to God and to know Him intimately. This is the living hope we have been born again into. This hope is the Christian’s greatest joy and the key to escape using God as a genie for blessings.
Two kinds of Christians
Generally speaking, Crabb observes that genuine Christians usually appear in two varieties: those who seek the Blessed Life and those who seek the Blesser Himself. Those who seek the Blessed Life tend to fall apart when things go awry, while those who seek the Blesser tend to grow stronger while everything else falls apart. Here is a quotation from the book:
“Christians come in two varieties: those who trust Jesus to get them to heaven while trusting Him now to provide a good life of blessings till they get there, and those who trust Jesus to get them to heaven and discover that what they really want even now is to ‘see and savour Jesus Christ.’ They’re actually willing to lose every blessing and suffer any indignity if it will bring them into deeper relationship with Jesus” (The Pressure’s Off, page 96).
Instead of looking to God for the Blessed Life, Crabb encourages Christians not to seek God for the blessings He can give – healing, financial freedom, children who love the Lord, mental health, etc. – but for the sole motive of drawing closer to Him and knowing Him more.
To demand to be healed and to be upset with Him when our finances, marriage or children are failing, is a sure sign that we are using God for the blessings He can give and not “laying hold of eternal life” (1 Tim.6:12) which is to know God intimately in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
We all have an agenda. When we woke up this morning, we began to pursue our agenda – to promote our career, to raise our children, to renovate our home, etc. These “mini” agendas are fine unless they become “macro” agendas and become idols in our lives. Instead of being consumed with our own petty agendas, Crabb asks us to consider Immanuel’s Agenda, that is to say, the God-With-Us Agenda.
We need to realize that everyday God is relentlessly pursuing His agenda, which is to conform us to His image, and to fulfill His eternal mandate which can be found in the last few chapters of the book of the Revelation, which says:
“Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev.21:3).
Immanuel’s Agenda is happening right now. We can align ourselves with it, and we should avail ourselves of it. Instead of looking at our lack of blessings as a curse or an obstacle, we can look at our sufferings and hardships as the means by which God is accomplishing His own agenda, in His own time.
God’s desire is to have His tabernacle with you, right now, in the midst of your suffering. God’s will is to dwell with you right now in your pain and disappointment. God’s will is to be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Immanuel’s Agenda began before the beginning and will go on after the end. In another sense, it began the day you received Christ as your Savior and will continue until the day of Christ Jesus – till it forever culminates in eternity.