Listen: Clare Chate interviews Sheridan Voysey about his new book, ‘Resilient’.
When I caught up with Hope Media presenter Sheridan Voysey about his new book, Resilient, it wasn’t just your regular author interview.
I’d been Sheridan’s producer on the Open House show from 2008 to 2011, and effectively, I was catching up with my former office buddy and good friend. So I was excited to hear what he recently discovered, when he embarked on an experiment with Jesus’ most famous sermon.
After The Pain Of Infertility, A Lonely New Beginning
In 2011 Sheridan and his wife Merryn moved to the UK to start a fresh chapter, after a long and painful journey through infertility that forced them to give up on having children.
Sheridan admits it was a tough season.
“When I came to the UK it was a wonderful new beginning for Merryn, because she had this great new job at Oxford University,” he said. “But I’d left the Open House show, and book contracts, and speaking opportunities, and over here I was a no-one.”
An Innocent Bible Experiment Gets Personal
With a lot of time on his hands, Sheridan began an indepth reading of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount, from the book of Matthew (Chapters 5 to 7) in the Bible.
He approached it academically, expecting to gain a little more wisdom from the famous speech that inspired greats like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Junior.
But to his surprise, it became a very personal, healing experience.
“I’d really wanted to explore the Sermon On The Mount for some time so I decided to read it every day for a month,” Sheridan said.
“That led on to two months, and then three months, as the sermon really got a hold of me and started to recalibrate a whole bunch of things in my life.”
“I actually thought I just needed to go deeper into what has become this central speech about ethics, relationships, calling and decisions.
“I didn’t think it was going to help me recover from our tumultuous years that led to us coming to the UK.”
Lightbulb Moment: “So That’s What Jesus Meant!”
Watch: Sheridan describes the moment he discovered the Sermon’s meaning.
One day in the middle of his experiment, Sheridan had a great epiphany—an “aha” moment.
“I got to the end of the sermon, where Jesus gives this famous little story of two builders: one who builds his house on sand, another who builds his house on a solid foundation,” he explained.
“He says that when the storms of life come – and they come to both – the first guy has his house collapse, the second guy has his house stand, because he’s built it on rock.
“Jesus says, “build your life on everything I’ve just told you, and you will weather life’s storms. In other words, you will be resilient”.
In other words, Jesus was saying that the entire package of advice he’d just delivered, was the best medicine mankind could take for withstanding life’s ups and downs.
Sheridan said this discovery came as big surprise.
“It started to shape the way I read the sermon, when I went back the next day and started reading it again.”
Jesus’ Sermon: A Guidebook To Life
The Sermon On The Mount is, in Sheridan’s words, “astoundingly comprehensive” when it comes to addressing the issues of life.
He divides it, in the pages of Resilient, into six sections. They are:
- The “Beatitudes” or blessings in which Jesus welcomes everyone into his kingdom – including the poor, broken and wounded.
- Jesus’ famous “light of the world” statements, about our calling in life.
- Warnings about the forces that destroy relationships, and how to tackle them.
- Guidance about authentic spirituality.
- Wisdom on how to make good decision.
- The parable of the two builders.
“Help! I’m Not Famous Any More!”
Watch: Sheridan gets honest about his search for identity.
For Sheridan, one of the biggest “wakeup calls” he experienced was from Jesus’ teachings on identity.
“When I left Australia, so much of my identity had been built on writing, speaking and broadcasting,” he said. “But who am I when nobody’s wanting me to write anything, nobody’s inviting me to speak at their conferences, and no radio stations are returning my phone calls?
“It was a very good reminder that there is a calling from God to be something else—to be salt and light in the world.”
He added that being “salt and light”, or a source of healing and encouragement to the world around us, was best achieved by allowing Jesus to amplify our small human efforts.
A New Identity: “Child Of God”
He said as a result of exploring the Sermon On The Mount so deeply, he now views himself as a child of his Father, God—before any other titles or roles related to career.
“In the Lord’s prayer,” Sheridan said, “Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father in heaven”. Every time we pray that, we are saying “if you’re my father, I am your child”.
“That was a much better identity for me to build my life on.
“And I think then when some other disappointments came, I wasn’t quite so rocked—as a result of starting to really land my sense of self there, as God’s child.”
“He takes anybody who will come, including those of us who come limping and struggling.”
He said Jesus’ advice on personal relationships was also very helpful, as were the “Beatitudes”, a reminder that God accepted him whatever state he was in.
“When you read through the sermon on the mount, you don’t find a “puppies and daisies” approach to life,” he said.
“Jesus is robust. He tackles the darkness of the world without holding back one bit.
“And he takes anybody who will come, including those of us who come limping and struggling with broken dreams and distorted senses of identity.
“When we’d been through that upside-down tumult, of realising that our dream of having a child was not going to come about, I needed to have that recalibration.”
Walking Into Other Peoples’ Dark Valleys
Watch: Sheridan talks about joining “The Tribe Of The Scarred”.
After writing his earlier book Resurrection Year, Sheridan has stumbled upon a whole new vocation: as a speaker on the topic of broken dreams.
“It’s been a turn in my life and ministry that I was never expecting,” he said. “Whenever I speak at a conference about this, the response is huge.”
In a blog post titled The Tribe Of The Scarred, Sheridan wrote that he and his wife feel as though they’ve joined a secret club—of people who have walked through pain.
“That’s what it feels like Merryn and I have been initiated into,” he said. “Scars get you into the Tribe Of The Scarred.
“It is profound, the level of wisdom you can gain by walking with people through their wilderness.”
“When Resurrection Year came out, with the story of our 10-year journey through the wilderness of infertility, it was kind of like me pulling up my sleeves and showing the scars I had from my battles.
It was almost like an initiation rite, with people saying, “Oh, Ok, you’ve got the scar, come on into the tribe”.
“And once in the tribe, then people share with you at a level you’ve never had before. I’ve had people telling me things that they’ve never shared with anybody before.”
“When you are engaging people at that level of the heart, and people are telling you about their husband being arrested on child abuse charges, or their marriage disintegrating, or murders – all sorts of things people have shared – it is profound, the level of wisdom and learning you can gain as a result of walking with people through their wilderness.
“That does lead to strength. I journal all the time after these conversations, to work out the lessons inherent in these wilderness journeys.”
Your Own Resilience Experience
The book Resilient is divided into 90 readings, much like a devotional. It can be read in a few sittings, or in one reading per day for three months, or can be used as a book to guide small groups or churches through the Sermon On The Mount.
Below: Watch Clare and Sheridan’s full interview.