A resilient life is defined as the ability to “bounce back”…a common analogy is a rubber ball versus an egg as they hit the floor…very different outcomes.
Resiliency is the process of becoming more like the ball and less like the egg.
Here on the overhead is a picture of a model for how resiliency skills “work” in life (just a model, life is more complex…but this is accurate)
Prior to a major life stressor or “bang” we build (ideally) resilience skills…then when an event or time period comes that make it necessary then we exercise those skills.
The use of these skills allows us (ideally) to thrive in times of adversity (though it may feel to us like we are surviving not thriving)
Especially when the “bang” is occurring…imagine a rubber ball hitting the floor in slow motion…it feels like an egg when it is contacting the floor.
Then as a result of exercising these skills…we grow as people…post trauma or post event growth…we move to a new normal with more resiliency…”Bam! I’m good!”
Then we cycle back to the skill building stage…it’s a never-ending process…nobody “arrives” in this life…but we can grow in becoming more resilient…if we make certain ongoing choices.
Resiliency is a topic that gained the attention of the medical, military, and academic communities a few years back.
It has been around as a topic of interest for a long time…but gained a lot of attention in the past 15 years or.
It really describes, in the best-case scenario, a life that the Bible puts forward as the “thriving life” or a life of “faith.”
The men and women of faith in the Bible….were resilient people.
Not everyone in the Bible, but specifically the ones who were learning to trust God…they became increasingly resilient.
They were, as Paul wrote “struck down, but not destroyed”…they bounced.
They bounced because of their faith
Faith in Christ produces “bounce” because…”Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
This current crisis, event, struggle…whatever it is…is not the final word…Christ has the final word…and he is in control of the circumstances of my life.
My family went through a recent crisis…and we are the “grow” phase…cycling back to the building phase.
It doesn’t always feel like growth…and it is an up and down process…but I have seen it clearly in my kids and my wife…their faith (not their own personal greatness) is allowing them to bounce.
The reality of resiliency is evident in what happens over time not how we feel about how we are doing at each point in time.
Faith is a grace-gift of God…we bounce not because we are so strong but because he is faithful and we have are learning to put our confidence in him.
We began this year looking at the Bible as a single narrative with multiple sub-plots.
Top Tier: The “top-level” meta-narrative is “God’s activity to redeem humanity”
Mid-Tier: The sub-narrative under that is “God calling a people to himself to make his glory known to the world…Israel, then the church.”
Bottom Tier: The sub-narratives (plural) under that are “All the individual stories in the Bible of people demonstrating the reality of God and the reliability of his word…either through the positive or the negative choices they make…and in most cases both the positive and negative choices these key characters make.”
So Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses…and all the host of characters in the OT proved God’s word true by both their good and bad choices.
Then In the life of Jesus all three tiers merge together.
- He is the eternal plan of God to redeem humanity
- He is the seed of Abraham and the head of the church
- He lived a 33 yearlong life as one of us on planet earth…demonstrating perfectly by his obedience the reality of God and the reliability of his word.
We see that Jesus, who follows his Father’s path perfectly…is the supreme example of human resiliency.
He has the full range of healthy human emotions, he thinks with perfect clarity, he acts with complete wisdom and integrity…he shows us what it looks like to “get it right.”
He is what human resilience looks like…and what it could look like for us.
Of course he is the Savior not just an example to follow…but he is certainly, as the Savior, the greatest example for our lives in every way.
There are lots of movies and TV shows about people who get closer to some imagined ideal level of human perfection…either through science, or accident(lightning strike, radiative spider bite), or evolution…they achieve a level of intellectual or physical ability that is way above the norm.
Then there are the real-world examples of how much “potential” we supposedly have that is untapped
You’ve heard the stats…humans only use “x” percent of their brains.
You can see real life people who are savants…music, math, design, athletics
So what does resiliency, Jesus and super-heroes and savants…have to do with each other?
They have to do with goals, aspirations, models of what human thriving looks like and what is possible for us…what we should aspire to…what God has made available to us.
For Hollywood…the “ultimate human”…has exceptional physical or mental power and then hopefully and occasionally the moral capacity to go with that power.
This tension between power & morality is the most common theme for all “super human” stories…”will the power corrupt the person who holds it or not?”
“Will they use it for good or not?”
A movie that came out this summer, that fortunately has not done that well…is called “Bright Burn”…haven’t seen it, won’t see it.
It is about a super human who is morally depraved…so to the question will these “super humans” use their power for good or not? Answer in this movie is…NOT.
But It’s all way off target… in terms of what the ideal human looks like.
Jesus…the one actual human being with unlimited power and moral goodness…demonstrated what it looks like to be an exceptional human.
It was not in his ability to manipulate nature, defeat death…not in his ability to do anything that can be done…ultimate power…but it is in his holiness.
He lived a life set apart for the purposes of God the Father…that is a “holy life”
It is Holiness…not intellectual or physical capacity that makes for a resilient and exceptional humans…it is what it means to live the thriving life…in spite of all that comes our way.
Holiness is accessible to all through Christ…it is the outcome of sanctification…as we become more like Christ…we become more holy, more set apart for god.
He sets us apart as we trust him…then we grow in living the “set apart” life.
Not set apart as in separate from people, hard to get along with, or isolated in Christian sub-cultures…but we live among people set apart for the purposes of God.
As Jesus lived among people, deeply engaged in their lives…he lived his life devoted to the purposes of God.
This meant many things…most importantly that he did not shrink back from the cross…or any other act of obedience.
He lived to give his life away rather than to serve and protect himself.
Scripture says that for the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross…holiness is, ultimately, happiness…real joy.
It makes sense since we are made by God for God…the more we live our lives set apart for his purposes…the more we will thrive…the better life will go for us.
Tim Bergling, whose stage name was Avicii (Ah vee chee) was a musician whose most successful song was “Wake me up when it’s all over.”
-He died by suicide last April at age 28.
-I read his story recently…I was fascinated by his search for meaning, for purpose…particularly in the face of his physical, mental, and relational hardships…evidently he gave up that search.
*It was, as these stories are for me…very sad.
We are hard wired for purpose…everyone is searching for it…it matters that we align our search with what is real about how God has made us, why he has made us.
So the good news is that in order to live the “ultimate human life” you don’t have to have a radiative spider bite or wait for a favorable mutation to happen to you.
Holiness is a path you can take if you choose to.
But this path of holiness is a specific one…spelled out in Scripture…it is not merely trying to be “spiritual”…it is obeying in practical, actionable ways.
What was called the “New Atheism” is already dying out…it was fostered by a younger, louder, confident small group of public advocates of atheism.
It was and is quickly losing its appeal…it is really just the same old arguments repackaged and marketed to a new generation.
But where atheism as a worldview is losing sway…it is not biblical holiness that has taken its place…but rather a vague sort of “spirituality.”
My daughter who lives in Denver says she just doesn’t encounter many young atheists…but lots of young people are who “spiritual” but not followers of Christ.
Spirituality is a sort of non-descript sense of “I am more than just a physical being” but it does not define what the resilient life of “set apartness” or Christ-like holiness actually looks like.
Spirituality most often is a path to “self-fulfillment”
But it is not pursuing love for God revealed in Christ, resulting in sacrificial love for others.
The pursuit of holiness is the pursuit of a life set apart more and more for the purposes of God…those purposes are mostly manifest in personal ethics and moral purity and in active love for others…particularly when that love is costly to us personally.
Let’s read from Mark chapter 8…take a look at resiliency and relationships and holiness…set apart for God.
Mark 8:27-38 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
Jesus knew what people were saying…but he wanted to open a teaching dialogue with his disciplines.
They told him what was being said and these were clearly defective views, John, Elijah, and the prophets were all forerunners to Jesus…they were signs pointing to something greater than themselves.
So he asked Peter, who spoke for the group.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
The Greek word translated “Christ” translates the Hebrew word “Messiah” and it came to be a name for the promised King who would deliver his people and bring righteousness on earth…he would restore the power and fortunes of the Jewish people.
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
The reason he didn’t want them broadcasting this yet was because they were still very confused about who the Messiah was and what he had come to do.
Their thinking was all tied up in the Messiah as a political/social figure who would restore the physical Jewish kingdom to its former glory and power.
So…he said…”Keep this to yourselves”
He didn’t say “Because you are still clueless” but he could have and it would have been true.
This is quickly evident in what follows.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
We don’t have all details of what he said, just the summary…but he was clear…he told them he was going to die.
Peter showed he was clueless in his response…he rebuked, or tried to correct Jesus.
And Peter was then rebuked in return…because he was out of sync with the reality of why Jesus had come.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Peter you are thinking the thoughts of a man, not the thoughts of God.
Jesus then expanded his audience, it was no longer just the disciples but a larger crowd.
The larger audience indicates this message was not just for a select few…but for all who would hear and respond to the gospel…for us.
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
Two requirements of following Jesus are expressed here:
(1) denial of self and (2) taking up one’s cross and following Jesus to death.
“No” to the demands of our selfishness
“Yes” to a life set apart for the purposes of God…signified by “death to self”
- By denial of self, Jesus does not mean to deny oneself something for the sake of discipline.
It is not giving up certain foods, or activities that he is speaking to.
He means to renounce self—to cease to make self the object of our life and actions…to make God’s glory not self-glory or gratification our controlling passion.
This involves a fundamental reorientation of the principle of life.
God, not self, must be at the center of life…this is a constant “dethroning process”
-Self looks to get back on the throne in our heart.
Of course this denial of self will show up in actions and attitudes…but it not about “self-discipline” it is about make “self” sub-serviant to Christ.
- Cross bearing does not refer to some irritation in life or even necessarily to some kind of suffering.
You may have some physical suffering or a cranky boss…but that is not what Jesus is talking about here…that is not what he means by “cross bearing”
The picture is of a man, already condemned, required to carry his cross on the way to the place of execution…to die.
What Jesus is saying here is we are to “die to self and live to God”
The path to human thriving and resiliency is not about self-actualization, self-fulfillment, self-protection, self-understanding, self-whatever.
It is that in order to follow Jesus…to know him and live his kind of life…we must consistently deny self and die to self.
Not by living in some kind of legalism, or harsh treatment of the body, or self-inflicted pride…but by loving God supremely in ways that show up in love for others.
Many deny self for different reasons: to be great athletes, or Navy Seals, or to launch a business, or become famous, to try and subdue their desires by their own efforts, or just for the satisfaction of self-discipline.
This is not that…those are fine…but this is not that.
Here is what Jesus is talking about…next verse.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
This is about the gospel…not self-denial for self-serving reasons.
After all…Jesus says next…
What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Here is the inestimable (in est im able) worth of the human soul…the entire world is of no value compared to it.
You know…Suffering was as unpopular then as it now.
They wanted a successful king not a suffering one…thus Peter tried to correct Jesus’ thinking.
“This is not how it is supposed to be done.”
“The Messiah should ride in like Thor, God of Thunder…and strike down our enemies…and live like the greatest kings of men have ever lived.”
“No” Jesus said, “You are speaking the language of Satan not God.”
Later when the disciples were arguing over who was the best Jesus said…”Among humans the great ones are served but in my kingdom greatness is to serve not be served…”
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
It is commonly believed now and was then…that true greatness is “Have things my own way” this is what money and power provide…freedom to do what you want.
And what makes people angry, distressed, depressed, desperate…is when what they most want, what they believe they must have for life…is blocked by things outside their control.
This is by definition a non-resilient life: when our well-being is largely contingent on things beyond our control then we are eggs not rubber balls.
But the gospel life is the resilient life…it is death to self, in order to live for God…this shows up most clearly in sacrificial love for others.
This approach to life, deny self and take up your cross…either looks like supreme wisdom or extreme folly to people.
What does it look to you?
Those who believe this “cross life” this “set apart life” is foolish…will experience a life void of final purpose.
The avoidance of pain and the pursuit of pleasure has led to untold pain and robbed many of real joy and peace.
Of course we don’t seek suffering and we are grateful for and enjoy pleasure when it comes.
The problem is when pain avoidance and the pursuit of pleasure become the purpose of life.
Then our life purpose is inherently unstable and ultimately will be taken from us.
The pursuit of a life set apart for God is a stable, increasingly resilient life…a life that will bounce.
Holiness is happiness and it is resiliency.
Applications: Let’s look at two
- Pursuing holiness vs avoiding pain is the path to resiliency
John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“You will have peace and you will have trouble”
How is this apparent contradiction solved?
Peace here, is not the absence of trouble, but the presence of a growing sense of well-being.
Where does this sense of well-being come from?
It is “In Christ”…in a growing, trust-relationship with Jesus.
When we “lose heart”…an idiom for “losing courage” it is because we have lost hope in a meaningful future.
Or our ability to make meaningful choices to shape the outcomes of our lives.
“What difference does it make?” “Who cares?” “Why try?” “Nothing will change?”
This is the language of “losing heart.”
So what does Jesus say? “Take heart”
“Take heart”…literally “have courage”
“Why?” because I have overcome the world.
It is not ever hopeless for the follower of Christ.
If we take this truth to heart, it will shape our lives…we will be able to “take heart” to bounce.
The pursuit of a life free of trouble is a vain thing…it does not lead to resiliency, quite the opposite.
The pursuit of God, a life set apart for his purposes…does not lead to a trouble-free life but it is a resilient life.
“How do I know I will have what I need when I need it…how do I know I not break like an egg but bounce like a ball?”
Faith…believing God will be faithful.
When you look ahead (and you should be careful how you do this, if and when you do this)…and you fear what might come and wonder if you will have what it takes.
You must trust God with that future.
Corrie Ten Boom: Train Ticket
Phil. 1:20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
You must trust Christ, that he will empower you to Trust him…when you need to.
Practice this now, in the day to day things of your life.
- Personal resiliency and relationships.
The pursuit of the “set apart life” (holiness) leads to increasing resiliency which directly and positively impacts all key relationships of our lives.
God, self, others.
You can persist in a difficult marriage…learn to thrive there…maybe turn your spouse to Christ.
You can be faithful as a parent when things look dark…hurting, but thriving in Christ.
You can say “no” to sex out-side of marriage…you can be set apart for God purposes so that you do not use others or let others use you for illegitimate purposes.
You can find meaning in singleness, you can bounce on those in lonely days and weeks and years…you can thrive there.
You can pursue health in relationships of all kinds…knowing that the pursuit of peace is within your control…not the outcome of that pursuit(people may reject your offer of peace)…but the choice to pursue the good of others for the glory of God…is your choice.
Heb. 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
“Make every effort” is the translation of a single word…it means the active, persistent pursuit of something.
Here: We are to pursue: Peace with others and holiness.
To be set apart for his purposes…involves ethical and moral uprightness and the pursuit of healthy relationships with others.
Pursue holiness: Ethical, moral purity and a life set apart for God’s purposes…this is what you were designed for.
The holy life is the resilient life, it is the life that “bounces.”
The resilient life is the life best equipped to thrive in relationships…with God, self, and others.