There are some books written so well that there is hardly a need for another one to be written on the topic. When People are Big and God is Small, by Edward T. Welch, is one such book.
Yes, I realize one book does not exhaust any topic, but Welch has done such a wonderful job in his book that you will not be left wanting. Interestingly, the book was first published in 1997.
You may ask why am I writing a review on a book so old. Firstly, my friend Luke Gilkerson at Covenant Eyes asked me to write a review because he is still benefiting from its content and he believes it will serve his audience.
Secondly, I have always wanted to write a review for this book because of its enduring shelf life, ever-growing testimony, and its spiritual and practical impact on my life.
There are certain seminal moments in all of our lives where we remember where we were when the moment happened. I remember where I was and how I was affected over a decade ago when I first read this book. It was one of my seminal moments.
I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who has yet to be encouraged by this work. At times I’ve kept a stack of them in my office to give to others. It is on my short list of books which have affected me the most.
The book is deep and profound in some ways, but yet written with the reader in mind. Welch is an excellent communicator.
A Counseling Case Study
You Are Controlled
On page 14 he gives us his punchline and then develops this thought throughout the rest of the book.
Welch says, “It is true: what or who you need will control you.”
One question you never ask a person is whether or not he/she is controlled by something or someone. We all are controlled by something or someone. Hence, his premise statement.
The better question to ask a person is, “What (or who) is controlling you?” And then you can follow-up with, “Why do you allow any person or thing to control you?”
Once you can identify the ruling idolatry of your heart, then you’re well on the way to being changed. Welch will help you to not only identify your functional idolatry, but he will clearly, powerfully, and practically bring you to God’s answer for your problem.
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. – Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)
From this premise of being controlled by something or someone, Welch develops a tour-de-force on the subject of the fear of man, or what many in our culture call insecurity, peer-pressure, or co-dependency.
According to what we discern from the Bible, after the fall of Adam in the garden, humanity has been struggling with insecurity. The most-oft repeated appeal in the Bible is fear not.
Everybody fears something or someone in some way. No one can escape the sinful fruit of the fall. This is why this book is so effective. It speaks to everyone!
Welch follows Paul’s outline in Ephesians 4:22-24 for how he laid out the book. Note what Paul says,
To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,
and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. – Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)
Christian discipleship, as seen in Paul’s model, is a three-step process: (1) putting off your former manner of life, (2) renewing your heart or mind, and (3) putting on the new self, which is in a true likeness to God.
This three-step process is the pattern for When People are Big and God is Small. The first section discusses what needs to be put away or put off:
- Love Tanks with a Leak
- “People Will See Me”
- “People Will Reject Me”
- “People Will Physically Hurt Me”
- “The World Wants Me to Fear People”
Then he begins a process of taking us through mind renewal. And while teaching us how we need to renew our minds, he also instructs us on what we need to put on. This covers chapters 6 through 13 as he develops a mature and biblical understanding of the fear of God. It’s a masterful work.
While most people are not insecure in every area of their lives, there are pockets of insecurity from which they have not gained victory. Though insecurity is not pervasive, it is present within all of us.
Welch will help you to understand where your fear of man exists and how to apply a God-centered, God-fearing remedy to your sin pattern.
Teens – A number of years ago I was counseling a teenager who struggled with the types of clothing he wore to his high school. He was gripped by the fear of man, or what you may understand as insecurity.
During one of our meetings he said, “Mr. Thomas, you don’t wear Walmart to high school.” In that short statement he communicated what was controlling him; it was his desire to be accepted by his peers.
Men – One of the more common “reliefs” for fear of man in our culture today is through Internet porn. Porn is a place where insecure men can go to feel better about themselves.
When they are feeling defeated, discouraged, worn-out, or under-appreciated and are craving sympathy, acceptance, or approval, it can become a sinful quick-fix by conjuring up a few Internet ladies to fill their empty love tank.
It is a trumped-up cyber fantasy world of the mind which does not really satisfy the unmet desires of the heart. It merely creates a longing for more of the same, while breaking down the real relationships in a person’s life.
Ed Welch brings significant and substantive help to this cyber plague which many of our Christian men have yielded.
Women – Females are also prone to the gripping temptations of the fear of man. One of the primary ways they yield to this temptation is in relation to their bodies. Put simply, they feel insecure about how they look.
They are too self-aware, always wondering if they are not enough of this or too much of that. Rather than living in the goodness which is found in the Gospel, they crave the approval and attention of others.
They seek to fill this craving in their hearts by altering, adjusting, and manipulating their appearance. Our secular marketing culture knows this quite well and they are unashamed at how they pump the message of sexuality into our homes.
Sadly, too many of our women are gripped by the fear of not being what they want to be or what they are told they should be.
This inward shame drives their craving for the best possible look, which is an unconquerable quest because of our relentless march toward the dust from where we came (Psalm 103:14).
Two of the ways these women monitor their sinful progress is by the looks they garner or by comparing themselves to the female competition.
Welch provides a better answer for the man or the woman who is tempted to look for love, acceptance, approval, significance, or respect in all the wrong places. He does this by turning our focus toward a right understanding of the fear of God.
Rather than placing your trust in the fading and temporary amenities of our sin plagued world, you will learn how Christ and His Word are the real and secure answers to your problem. Christ (the Gospel) and His Word are eternal and they will never diminish.
If you have placed your faith in Christ, based on His Word, then you will mature in security. If your faith is in anything else, then you cannot be secure.
Faith, trust, belief, confidence, or hope in Christ alone comes by effectually hearing and applying God’s Word to your life (Romans 10:17; James 1:22).
The eternal, living Logos (Christ) and the eternal, written Logos (Word) are an unbeatable pair! Welch will help you to make Christ and His Word the controlling, governing, and directing influences of your life.
By reading and practically applying the contents of this book you will have a growing awareness how Christ has been more than the missing piece in your life.
He is your life. As you grow in Him your restored relationship with the Savior will effectually change you from inside soul dysfunction to outside behavioral confidence.
If you do not have a relationship with Christ, meaning if you have not been born again (John 3:7, 16), then I appeal to you now to be saved from your sins (Romans 10:9, 13).
If you are struggling with life-crippling insecurity or even run-of-the-mill garden variety insecurity, then I recommend you buy this book and prayerfully own it contents at the level of your heart.
Sometimes we just need to be pointed in a better direction. Christ is the better direction and Ed Welch has the practical and applicable remedy to get you started (John 14:6).
Long term homework assignment for any person struggling with fear, guilt, and shame
- Read Rick’s counseling notes on fear, guilt, and shame
- Read the articles linked in the body of these notes
- Watch the Fear of Man Equipping Video
- Read How to take every thought captive
- Learn about our Member Site and ask the LORD if you should join
- Begin reading Ed’s What do you think of me? Why do I care?