The Possibilities of a Life — Book Review

Most of the books I review and recommend are widely available. Many of them are bestsellers. Today, I’m going to review a book that you will need to work to get. It’s not on Kindle. It’s not on Nook. In fact, it isn’t available in an eBook version at all. If you want to read a copy of this book, you’re going to have to go out of your way for it.

The Possibilities of a Life: The Autobiography of Max Barnett is only available from the Student Work Development Foundation, a ministry that exists, like many things, because of the work of Max Barnett and the many who’ve partnered with him over decades of ministry. So, why did I read and choose to review a book that is so difficult to track down. Because I personally benefitted from Max’s commitment to the Lord through his desire to invest in the lives of thousands of University students, just like me.

I love to read Christian biographies. Humans are frail creatures of dust and it is our nature to falter and fall. Many followers of Christ do not “endure to the end.” When we read some of the great Christian biographies, we get to read the encouraging stories of those saints who persevered. What a blessing for them and us to read about their lives and how in spite of all of the challenges, they were able to stay faithful.

Max is still with us. He continues to do more in his “retirement” years than many do in full time ministry. It would be worth your time to look him up, or to listen to one of his talks on Discipleshiplibrary.com. What you will find is a man who does not have a strong speaking voice, who might not have the most impressive appearance, but who has echoed a message to all who will hear over more than 50 years of ministry. The same message of our Lord and Savior, “Go and make disciples.”

I count myself as one of those disciples. I benefitted from the ministry of Max and others during my time at the University of Oklahoma, as did my wife. Max’s life goal is “To know, love, and glorify God and be used of Him to raise up qualified laborers in significant numbers as fast as possible. To help fulfill the Great Commission and lead my family to do the same.”

This book recounts the work of the Lord to allow Max to fulfill that goal. It starts by recounting his humble beginnings in Texas, his training and early ministry at Texas A&M and in Ft. Worth and continues through his 37 years serving at my alma mater, The University of Oklahoma. It is a story of faithfulness. The faithfulness of the Lord and the faithfulness of Max to his calling.

His career documents the process of starting over, again and again, to invest in a new group of students. Max spent only about 4+ years with each of us, but the impact was eternal and spans far beyond those short years. This book can only highlight a few of the many stories of lives impacted by and for the Gospel.

I appreciate that he included a section on his retirement years, from 2004 to present. Max left behind his ministry at OU at the age of 68 and was immediately sought out to train others, provide wisdom to other ministries and to continue to serve the Lord in a variety of roles, some of which are still ongoing.

I would encourage you, to pick up this book. In reading it, you will be challenged in your own walk with the Lord. You will see the blessing of what Eugene Peterson calls, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” We could all benefit from learning from Max’s example. Follow him, as he has followed Christ. It is journey with many possibilities.

I’ll end with something from one of the Appendixes on the value of memorizing Scripture. One of the first things I learned from Max, and an important part of his ongoing walk with the Lord.

The Value of Memorizing Scripture
(Treasuring the Word of God)

“I began to memorize Bible verses while a university student and have continued to do so. I have often said, “I would not trade those verses locked into my mind for 10 million dollars.” My life has been so enriched as I have memorized verses, primarily choosing those God used to speak to me in my Quiet Time. I have reviewed, meditated, and prayed over those great truths from God through the years and have sought to live them out in my life.”

In the book, Max provides these verses to get you started, which forms the acronym: GLORIFY THE LORD, beginning with the first verse he led me and thousands of students like me to memorize.

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Chad Hensley grew up in the great state of Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma where he received a BA in English Literature in 1993.

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Chad Hensley

Chad Hensley grew up in the great state of Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma where he received a BA in English Literature in 1993.