Book review – Resilient
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 5 to 7) 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. 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.
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.
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.
This review originally appeared in Sight Magazine and is used with permission.
Review by Nils Von Kalm