In a nutshell, Lyons was a successful businessman and former body builder who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 47 after an exceptionally severe attack that left him temporarily paralyzed. A believing Christian, in the midst of his life falling apart, he returned to weightlifting, and sensing the power of God working in Him to reach and encourage others,
The writing style is informal. It isn’t Shakespeare, but it’s coherent and easy to understand, so I have no complaints there.
Overall, the book can be very encouraging, which actually surprised me. Truth be told, I am rather put off by the whole bodybuilding/fitness world (although I myself do regularly lift weights for health and strength). Having grown up in southern California, I have been around it enough to see in it so much that is worth despising. Pride, vanity, superficiality, self-absorption, a perverted idea on manliness that focuses more on how loud you grunt than who you are in Christ, and devoting way too much of people’s lives building up glory for oneself that is fleeting. But in Lyon’s case, it was clear that he had a mission that wasn’t just about himself. Seeing the fruits of his labor, and how so many have been encouraged by his story, it seems to me that indeed God was behind him. Heck, the fact that a man with MS and partially paralyzed leg could leg press 900 pounds alone is evidence of that much!
The (Mini) Elephant in the Room – His Divorce
I don’t like the way his divorce to his first wife was presented to us. I know I sound like a stickler, but Lyons is a born-again Christian talking about Jesus and the period of his life around where he got divorced. I’m not judging the world, but rather, holding a believer to believer standards. Divorce is usually a sin. Therefore, if one gets a divorce, one of two things I necessary: repentance, or a decent justification. If it wasn’t a sin in a particular case, if your hands are clean, explain why (decent justification). At least give us something so that we can give you the benefit of the doubt. Or if it was wrong, then it’s not enough to just say that it was a loveless marriage and that God’s forgiveness is beyond understanding. The key element of repentance is turning away from wrongdoing. It isn’t enough to say “eh, well, God forgives me.” There needs to be an element of “I was wrong; if I could do it all over again I would have done it differently.”
Unfortunately, Lyons doesn’t really give us either repentance or a satisfactory explanation. When it comes to his divorce, the overall message is “yeah, God does not condone divorce, but our marriage was no longer working so whatever.” And ultimately, he was the one who left! It’s not even like he was abandoned. He was the one who called it off. And I get it, by the sound of it, she was a pretty terrible mate, but we’re not like the rest of the world. We can’t just divorce because we are unhappy! Lyons didn’t do enough to justify himself, and there was no indication of real repentance. And this left a sour taste in my mouth through parts of the book. In his second wife’s postscript, she made a point about how when it gets difficult, they remember their vows and work through it. The cynic in me just thought “like he did with his first wife?” And then the rest of us have to clean up the mess by answering to the skeptics who point out that professing Christians divorce at the same rate as unbelievers.
Now, to be fair to Lyons as a person, this may just be a shortcoming in the narrative. He might just not have explained his situation well. For all I know he really is repentant, or his actions were justified. Maybe God considers his disease an extraordinary circumstance that exempts him from the usual requirement to try to fix things. If he were applying to be an elder of a church where I was an elder, I would ask him about this in much greater depth, so I could understand the situation and not wrongly judge him. I’m not necessarily saying that Lyons as a person was definitely in the wrong. But this is a book review; I can only judge the book on what’s in the book.
Again, I know I sound judgmental, but this is a book by a Christian telling people about Jesus through the story of a part of his life. I’m not bringing up something unrelated to this in order to dis him. I probably wouldn’t even bring up this element of his personal life if this were a commentary of Jude or something like that. But this whole book is about his personal life! His divorce is totally relevant to his story.
Although the divorce element did leave a bit of a shadow on the book, it is still clear that David Lyon’s experience has helped a lot of people, and it is an encouraging story. Not gonna lie, it is rather full of Christian cliché’s (stuff about “His timing, not mine” and stuff like that), but the core is strong enough to be an overall good read.
“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
(Originally published 05/05/2013: http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2013/05/book-review-davids-goliath-by-david.html. Immaterial changes have been made).