Sheridan Voysey
Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life
Discovery House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, US, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1627073561

Resilient cover

 

"The Sermon on the Mount is meant to be practical, and this is exactly what Voysey brings out. He reveals the attractiveness of the sermon, the fact that it unflinchingly deals with all the relevant issues of life. It touches something deep within the human heart. It is both comforting and challenging. Through it, Jesus calls us to something beyond ourselves."

Have you ever read the Sermon on the Mount every day for a month? Australian author Sheridan Voysey tried it, and the results are captured in his latest book, Resilient.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters five to seven) has been one of the most discussed and disputed parts of the Gospels. The arguments about it range from the idea that Jesus couldn’t have meant us to take literally what He was saying in it because it is just too hard, to whether or not the sermon is a list of commands or statements of fact.

When I first saw the title of this book and then read what it's about, I wondered what the Sermon on the Mount has to do with resilience. But because I love the sermon and have gained a lot from Voysey’s views over the years, I was interested to read it.

An attraction of any book like this is that its contents arise out of personal experience. What is more, the personal experience of Voysey in this book comes not just from the fact that he read the Sermon on the Mount every day for a month (and then a second and third month), but that he read it after going through a season of pain and grief in his life. For this reason, the book carries extra weight, authority and authenticity for me.

The insights that Voysey gained from his fascinating experiment were that, as he puts it, he was “amazed to find in [the Sermon on the Mount] a guide to the essential aspects of life; our callings, our relationships, our spirituality, our choices". But he also found more, and this is the significant point for him. He says he found what leads to resilience.

The subtitle of the book - An invitation to a Jesus-shaped life - helped me to understand what Voysey meant when he related Jesus’ sermon to the virtue of resilience. As I read the sermon again myself, I was reminded that, in it, Jesus talks about things like building your house on rock instead of on sand, and seeking first the Kingdom. There is also much about trusting God and what makes for blessing. It took me back to my own troubled times, when I found joy in the midst of turmoil by trusting that Jesus was indeed walking with me during those times.

Throughout this book, Voysey tells of his own experiences in relation to a particular theme that the Sermon brings out. Using his own typically readable style, he helps the reader to stay engaged with the topic. The way Voysey tells his own stories also adds to the relevance of the book for just about anyone.

The Sermon on the Mount is meant to be practical, and this is exactly what Voysey brings out. He reveals the attractiveness of the sermon, the fact that it unflinchingly deals with all the relevant issues of life. It touches something deep within the human heart. It is both comforting and challenging. Through it, Jesus calls us to something beyond ourselves.

All this is eloquently revealed by Voysey as he relates story after story of the change he experienced in himself as the sermon changed him. As he says in the introduction, the sermon revised his priorities, kept his desires in check, put his dreams into perspective, and influenced how he should act.

As I made my way through the book, I found myself wanting to go back to the sermon myself, to make the time to go through it each day and let it shape me. That is the message that Voysey wants to bring across: that by taking in Jesus’ words, Jesus Himself will change you as you become more like Him. Jesus lived everything He spoke in His famous sermon, and this book certainly helps to reset where you are at in your own life if you are willing to try Voysey’s experiment for yourself.

Reading Resilient has made the Sermon on the Mount more attractive to me. If I take on Voysey’s experiment for myself, I feel both daunted and excited about what I am letting myself in for. But that is the whole point of his book. And that is why it is worth reading.