A Journey to Unshakable Faith (Book Review)

I received a free copy of the book from the author, in exchange for an honest book review.
  • Author: Sydney Witbeck
  • On-Sale Now
  • Synopsis: Forced to flee her lifelong home in the midst of a siege, Princess Esther of Alvastia seeks comfort and courage from God.

Personal Connection

I was drawn to the book, largely, due to the author’s bio. At just 17 years old, Sydney wrote her novel after “hearing how many moms were looking for fiction novels for girls that were both clean and Christian.”

This mission resonates so strongly with me. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I have been discouraged by the content in books for children and young adults. Even books that are labeled “clean” often promote idolatry.

I was excited to see that Sydney (a young lady, herself) wanted to meet this pressing need for strong Christian literature, and I became even more excited as I began reading her book.

I was impressed with the quality of work by such a young person!

Scriptural Themes

Faith and identity in Christ are integral to the book’s main theme.

“So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God, through faith…” Gal. 3:26

“When I am afraid, I will trust in You” (Psalm 56:3)

Christian Content

I was so delighted with the amount of overt Christian content in this book. As the title suggests, the whole book is about Esther developing faith, through experiences of hardship.

Most of the characters in the book are Christians, themselves, and there is are many instances of fellowship and encouragement throughout the pages. Tons of quoted Scripture, as well.

I really appreciate that:

  • The author footnotes Scriptures quoted, throughout the book
  • The author capitalizes all pronouns referring to God
  • Esther is such a great role model for readers! Likewise, her friends and family are awesome representations of community in the body of Jesus.
  • There were some strong one-line points about trust and identity in Christ. Great truths that are worth coming back to!

Family Dynamics

This is another title that deserves a round of applause for family dynamics! Instead of the disrespectful attitudes so often portrayed in books for this age group, the children demonstrate strong respect for their parents. And the parents are actively raising up and discipling their children in the faith. Absolutely lovely!

Plot

This book differed from many Christian books in that the emphasis was on the spiritual journey, even more so than the physical journey. The faith theme was very clear and prevalent, throughout.

With that said, the book felt like a slightly “slower” read. However, I think it lends itself to a slower reading, especially with all of the (footnoted) Scripture references, throughout. There is definitely room to stop and reflect on the themes and Scriptures presented!

Recommended for fans of Mandie…

Psalm 53:6, referenced above, is also cited in A Journey to Unshakable Faith. This verse is also prominent in the Mandie book series, by Lois Gladys Leppard.

In several ways, the book reminded me of the Mandie books, and I feel that fans of these books will likely enjoy A Journey to Unshakable Faith. As in Mandie, the protagonist actively practices her faith and learns a lesson, with the help of her friends. While this is not a mystery, I feel that the plot-line/ pacing (a little on the milder side) is also about the same.

This book is one of the most innocent titles (yay!) I’ve read, in awhile. I really didn’t find any “questionable” content. One thing to be aware of is that there is a battle scene, but the violence is pretty tame— about the level of Adventures in Odyssey.

I would recommend this book to readers ages 8-12.

Calling and Purpose

Tonight, I was reading a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, in which the Master hires workers throughout the day. He enlists some in the morning, comes back later and hires some more, and then returns still later to employ a third group of workers.

But I stopped at a verse before I’d reached the conclusion of the parable:

“And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’

“They said to him, “Because no one has hired us…”

Matt. 20:6-7

For me, verse 7 really pointed to the idea of purpose. The master’s question infers that the men should be working.

The workers’ answer that no one has hired them. Their response is not one of passivity, but an understanding that, ultimately, they are not in control of whether or not they get hired. The emphasis is not on the would-be employees, but on the employer.

The employer (or “master”) provides the men with a purpose, as well as paying them handsomely. They were supposed to be working (as the employer’s question implies) and he provided them a job.

I think about our original purpose in the Garden, how God deliberately chose to make mankind in His image, chose to walk with them in Eden. We, as people, find our purpose in God. God is not the conduit through which we discover our purpose. Rather, I believe that He, Himself is our purpose, “For in Him, we live, move and have our being,” (Acts 17:28, see also Rom. 11:36).

A bee at work in a garden.

Throughout centuries of sin, the Old Testament is littered with references to God’s promise to dwell with His people. Then Jesus comes along, preaching the Kingdom of Heaven— the opportunity to draw near to the Lord in Spirit and truth.

But like the workers in the parable, we are not entirely in control of our “destiny.” Just as they had to be hired, we come to the Father only by the power and authority of His Son, not of our own volition, but as the ones that He draws.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:44

We cannot “hire” ourselves. We cannot save ourselves. But God sent His Son to die for our broken world, and He chooses to draw us into the purpose— that is, the Kingdom—for which He created us. He is, Himself, our purpose.

Our purpose is our calling, but I think that both of these words are used far too specifically. While I very strongly believe that God created us for specific purposes, with gifts that equip us for specific tasks, I think that calling and purpose are also much simpler than that.

The act of being called by God is an invitation into true purpose, which is simply to be in relationship with Him, like Enoch, who “walked with God…” He will surely bring us into the things for which He created us, but He Himself is our fulfillment, our purpose… our calling.

Following the Call (Forthcoming Devotional)

I received a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, via NetGalley.
  • Eberhard Arnold; Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore
  • Publisher: Plough Publishing House
  • This is a collection that features writings from a variety of writers and theologians, including Mother Teresa, Leo Tolstoy and John Wesley.

I was drawn to the book because I was intrigued to see the group of authors featured in the text. I was really excited to read Leo Tolstoy’s contributions, for example, because I really enjoyed the discussion of faith in Anna Karenina.

Previewing a Devotional

This is my first time previewing a devotional and it was a much different experience for me than reviewing a fiction book. While I usually bookmark sections that the Lord uses to speak to me, so that I can revisit them, I found myself wanting to bookmark about 80% of the pages.

The book, a compilation of voices that spans centuries and cultures, is meant to be read in community, just as it was written communally. I can certainly understand why it is meant to be read in groups, as it prompts discussion.

Structure and Themes

The weekly devotional covers the entire Sermon on the amount, divided into 52 sections for a year-long study. Most chapters feature multiple authors, although some are one, longer piece of writing.

Something I really appreciate is that the entire book is about the Kingdom of God. This is one of the main themes that I more frequently encounter in allegory, rather than in Christian circles. It is, however, central to Jesus’ teachings! The book is divided into four sections:

  • Kingdom Character (Matt. 5:1-16)
  • Kingdom Commands (Matt. 5: 17-48)
  • Kingdom Devotion (Matt. 6:1-18)
  • Kingdom Priorities (Matt. 6:19-7:28)

It feels a bit strange to say that one section of a devotional was “my favorite,” but I would say that the most meaningful section, for me, was the section about prayer (Kingdom Devotion).

Overall, I would describe the book as being full of grace, truth and beauty. It consistently promotes Jesus’ Kingdom, centralized on the idea that Jesus meant what he said. There is no room to qualify or lessen His words.

Audience

Reading through the book rather quickly for the purposes of review reminded me, a bit, of my college honors program. At the Torrey Honors Institute, we blitzed through theology, philosophy and classics, sometimes reading and discussing two seminal works in a week. I would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy reading theology.

Although I don’t typically enjoy reading theology, I found this book to be very impactful. I also feel that, because the sections are fairly short for a whole week of study, readers do not need to be theology fans to appreciate the study. The spacing allows for plenty of time to ruminate on what you are reading.

Recommendation:

I highly recommend the title as a community read for friends and groups spanning different ecumenical traditions. I think this is an excellent resource, contributing to unity in the Body of Christ.