Book Review: “Enemies of the Heart” by Andy Stanley

February 10, 2012

My first exposure to Andy Stanley was a few years ago when I was working at a summer camp named TbarM Camp Travis. Once a week all the staff there watched a sermon series he was going through on video as our Bible study. One of the first ones I remember watching was a series called: “It Came From Within.” If I remember correctly, the title came from Jeremiah 17:9, which says that “the heart is deceitful above all things.” His point was that our behavior is not really the problem – it’s just the symptom. The real issue was our heart, out of which flows our words and our actions (c.f. Luke 6:46). He encouraged us to stop our behavior modification, which is really just a sort of filter to make sure what comes out of our heart is clean. Instead, we need to address the issue of our filthy and deceitful hearts. That was the series – and, years later, apparently he turned it into a book.

Enemies of the Heartis about getting to the root of the problem in our sinful outpourings. To do so, Stanley outlines four of what he calls “enemies of the heart”: 1) Guilt, 2) Anger, 3) Greed, and 4) Jealousy. He uses debt imagery to explain each of the enemies and how they surface in our lives. So, for example, guilt is essentially saying “you owe me.” We get angry at people because we think that they need to repay us, and typically they need our help to motivate them to do so. Stanley gives a similar explanation of each of the other three enemies in terms of someone “owing” someone. This debt analogy is very helpful in pinpointing the nature and cause of whatever emotion it is we are wrestling with.
He then goes on to four alternative habits to fight each of these enemies of the heart. Take note of the word: “habit.” These are not quick fixes that make the prolonged problems disappear in a pinch, but are instead lifelong habits that he suggests we learn to slowly change our hearts. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to clean up your issues, this is not the place to look. What he suggests takes time and repetition to deal with deeply-seeded, root issues. Rather than explain each of them to you, I’d suggest you read the book for yourself.
What I appreciate about Andy’s approach is that he addresses the real issue, not just the symptoms. He doesn’t treat the issues as something that can be fixed overnight, but will take patience and commitment to developing new habits. But most of all, he deals with each enemy biblically. The source of true change comes from a proper understanding of who God is, how you relate to him, and consequently how you relate to other people who have been made in his image. Dealing with these four enemies in this way not only stops their attacks, but uses their own weapons against them to form healing habits.
I would definitely recommend this book: for those wrestling with any of the four enemies he lists, for those who want to stop those emotions from emerging, or for anyone looking to get more at the root of their sins. Andy’s writing is easy to read and easy to understand – he is a great verbal communicator, and that translates well into his writing. For the time it takes to read this book, it is well worth the investment.
Rating: 5/5
Note: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. That in now way affected my rating or review. The opinions expressed are my own.

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