4 out of 4 stars
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“What are you going to do when you grow up?”
“I have no idea what I am doing. Why was I even born? What do I do now? What is my purpose?”
Do any of these statements or questions sound familiar? There is no doubt that it is not always easy to know what you are on this planet to do or be. Melvin Bell believes that our existence is not just some cosmic accident but, instead, has a godly purpose. Based on this assertion he has written Why Am I Here? as a guide to help us understand what that purpose is.
This short book (79 pages) is broken into five simple chapters which are liberally sprinkled with Christian Bible passages as supportive text. In chapter one Bell starts with the life of Saint Paul and what can be learned from Paul's journey toward understanding his purpose. In chapter two we learn that the “Birthplace of Purpose” begins by understanding that our purpose will always relate to the “furtherance of the Kingdom of God.” In chapter three we discover that our godly purpose cannot be understood outside of an intimate relationship with God, while chapter four elaborates further on how our relationship with God impacts our discovery of purpose. It is dependent on living into our calling, which is only discoverable as we mature in our relationship with God. In chapter five Bell wraps things up nicely by presenting us with eight questions to reflect on as we apply all the previous chapters of the book.
This book is a beautifully presented, virtually flawlessly edited book. It has instant curb appeal and is made more accessible by the fact that it is quite short, so even those who are not avid readers will not feel daunted. The chapters are well thought out, and have a logical progression of thoughts. The questions at the end are quite practical. If you only read the titles, there might seem an initial overlap of ideas, but Bell does a decent job of explaining the differences between each question. I am thinking specifically of the questions focused on “What gives me joy?” and “What am I passionate about?” He gives detailed definitions to help you understand how these questions diverge from each other.
This book is likely to be most appealing to those who have a Christian worldview. The idea that we all have a God-given purpose is a primary assumption of the book. Those who are curious about this viewpoint will also find that this is an interesting read. Those who are Christian, but hold a more progressive Christian stance may find this book a little challenging and not as practical. The use of the King James Version (KJV) throughout is one example of why. The KJV tends to be loved by the more traditional, and perhaps more conservative, minded, whereas Progressives tend to gravitate toward a more gender-inclusive translation. I also prefer a more readable translation of the Bible. Although I love the KJV, that is mostly for nostalgic reasons. Much has happened in the world of scholarship since the KJV was penned, the discovery of the Rosetta Stone to name just one thing, that makes more modern versions desirable. Most other translations also tend to be more easily understood, an important detail when you are trying to communicate well.
I would have liked to see some variance in Bell’s gendered language. He exclusively uses male-gendered pronouns. In today’s world this seems like something of a mistake, and for me, it felt a bit alienating. However, many people may feel differently about this, even though we are culturally moving towards more gender-inclusive language.
I also would have liked to see a little more emphasis on grace and the power of God, particularly when it comes to the transformational process. Bell spends a lot of time talking about our character being essential in finding God’s purpose, yet God also meets us where we are at, hot mess and all. We are not dependent only on our own power to be transformed. This idea is addressed, at least as an aside, but other aspects of the book could muddy that idea and leave some people feeling like they could never be “good enough.”
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Any critiques I raised are because of personal preference and a different theological stance, and I would not feel justified in dropping a star based on them. For those who are its intended audience, they will find a well-written book that does what it sets out to do, which is to give a simple roadmap toward finding God’s purpose based on their biblical understanding.
Why Am I Here
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