Former Open House host Sheridan Voysey’s releasing his fifth book this week. It’s called Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life (don’t miss the free giveaways) and is a book of 90 readings, tracing the theme of resilience through the Sermon on the Mount and beyond. Here’s an exclusive excerpt.
A God Of Surprises
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law. ~ Matthew 7:28–29
Sometimes I wonder what it was like just before creation sprang into existence. Were the angels surprised when God sketched out plans for a universe he didn’t need? They must have been—as surprised as when they saw the first waters rush forth and the mountains burst up through the seas. As surprised as when they watched the first bird take flight and saw the first humans open their eyes.
God surprised Abraham with a promise, Sarah with a child, and Moses with a flaming bush that never burned up. All Israel walked in wide-eyed wonder as they followed the cloud and the fire, marched beside walls of water, and fled to a new land.
God surprised Isaac with a wife and Jacob with a dream. He surprised Samuel with a voice and Elijah with a whisper. God surprised David with kingship, Solomon with wisdom, Hezekiah with life, and Isaiah with a vision. And then one day God surprised a teenage girl with an angelic visitation.
The child born to that girl surprised the learned with his knowledge of God. After coming of age and learning a trade, he surprised those around him by setting off on a mission. On that mission he surprised blind men by opening their eyes and the demon-afflicted by casting their tormentors into swine. He surprised crippled women by straightening their backs and wedding hosts by turning water into wine. He surprised the poor with his attention, children with his affection, the leprous with cleansing, and sinners with restoration. It was a surprise when this Lord returned to life after death and offered to forgive the very ones who betrayed him.
And as he’s sat on the mountain delivering his Sermon, he’s surprised all who’ve listened (Matthew 7:28–29). He’s blessed the poor and troubled, not the rich and well, and said such little people will change the world. He’s said conflicts are resolved by loving one’s opponents, by turning cheeks and going the extra mile. He’s rewritten the rules on living with others, equating anger with murder and overturning customs on vows. He’s told us the birds of the air can teach us about trust, and our best desires can help us make choices. He’s said weakness can become strength and suffering can become service . . . that a resilient life is made by putting his words into practice.
Putting his words into practice. That’s been the most surprising thing—the startling weightiness of Jesus’ words. He hasn’t spoken like other rabbis with their borrowed authority. He hasn’t said “the law tells you” or “Moses says.” He hasn’t even spoken like a prophet, adding “thus says the LORD” to his pronouncements. He’s been more audacious than that. Without caution or apology he’s said “I tell you,” “My words,” and “I say” throughout his Sermon. Each of his words has echoed with divine authority.
“He’s said weakness can become strength and suffering can become service . . . that a resilient life is made by putting his words into practice.”
And now, what surprises await us as we take up his challenge? As we accept his invitation to be forgiven, restored, embraced, and rewarded? As we take up our calling to be salt, light, and love in the world? As we develop holy hearts and words, holy commitments and promises, as we give, pray, and trust the way he’s shown? As his book, his voice, and his Spirit guide us? As we turn his words into deeds with all the strength we have and practice resurrection with all the creativity we can muster?
Here lies the promise as we go forth in our lives with this God of surprises:
At the end of our days we will finish strong, having found the resilience of a Jesus-shaped life.
And we will enjoy his ongoing surprises forever.
About Sheridan Voysey
Sheridan is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His sixth book Resilient: Your Invitation to a Jesus-Shaped Life launches this Wednesday October 21, with a bunch of free giveaways to celebrate. Follow Sheridan on Facebook, Twitter, and subscribe to his newsletter for free articles, podcasts, and ebooks.