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“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”
In recent years researchers have begun exploring the factors that lead to human resilience. After physical, emotional, or spiritual trauma, what helps someone bounce back rather than collapse? Findings suggest there are four main factors.
The first factor is emotional fitness, the ability to amplify positive emotions like peace, gratitude, hope, or love, while managing negative ones like bitterness, sadness, or anger. The second is family fitness, having strong marriages and relationships by building trust, managing conflict, and extending forgiveness. The third is social fitness, having good friendships and work relations by developing empathy and emotional intelligence. And the fourth is spiritual fitness, defined as a sense of meaning and purpose from serving something greater than ourselves.
It doesn’t take much to see that Jesus’ Sermon strengthens us in all four of these areas. We’re strengthened emotionally by being the “blessed” ones comforted in our mourning, cared for by the Father, given hope for the future, and equipped to manage anger and worry. We’re strengthened relationally by living lives of faithfulness, forgiveness, honesty, and grace. We’re strengthened socially by living out the Golden Rule, the finest way to develop empathy. And we’re strengthened spiritually by serving One who is greater than all, who gives us a mission to be salt, light, and love in the world.
But here’s the thing: we don’t develop resilience only by hearing or reading about it. We develop resilience through action. Having discovered the factors that lead to it, we put them into practice and develop our fitness. Now Jesus says the same:
It’s not enough to listen to his teaching, or even to believe that it’s true.
We must put it into practice (7:24–27).
Most Christians today have unprecedented opportunity to hear Jesus’ words. We can walk down the street and find a church, or download hours and hours of our favorite preacher’s sermons. We can read the Bible in our own language, in several different versions; buy it in softcover, red-letter, or slimline editions; hear it recorded or view it dramatized. We can watch Christian TV, listen to Christian radio, read Christian blogs, download Christian music, and buy calendars, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and fridge magnets adorned with Bible verses so we can be immersed in the Word. But Jesus says it all amounts to nothing unless we act on what we’ve heard.
Resilience is proven in a time of trial. When the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against us, do we bounce back or collapse? The rains will surely come—storms of loss, betrayal, illness, tragedy, assaults on our faith, or just plain difficulty—and the time to develop strength is before the first drops fall. Jesus says those who listen but don’t act on his words build their lives on sand. Failing to dig a proper foundation, they’ll ultimately find trouble. But those who get to work living out Jesus’ words build a base for their lives that withstands the fiercest winds (7:26–27).
For many of us, listening to another sermon or reading another Christian book is the last thing we need to do. Pause the podcast. Close the book (even this one). Go. Act. Turn Jesus’ words into deeds. Do what the Sermon is calling you to do.
Sheridan Voysey 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.