The School of Hard Knocks
25 Jun 2011, Dr Alex Currie
(Alex is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
The School of Hard Knocks (sermonette delivered during Pathfinder investiture) - Scripture Reading: Romans 5:3-4
When a young teenager I was introduced to a book entitled "The School of Hard Knocks" by a young man who was significant to me because he was working and I was still in school. I found my own copy of the book and treasured it for years for it highlighted how to deal with the challenges, problems and trials life throws up at us.
'We can rejoice too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us - they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.'(1)
Christians are not immune from trials, suffering and tragedy. John the Baptist was beheaded. John the Beloved was dipped in boiling oil and imprisoned on Patmos. Paul was beaten and almost lost his life. The Greek word translated 'sufferings' is a powerful word. It refers to real hardships and not minor inconveniences. The Greek word is thlipsis which literally means pressure. This word is used for crushing olives in a press and squeezing grapes to make juice from the fruit. Life's trials, challenges and difficulties pressure and squeeze Christians so as to make life awkward.
When I was a teenager I wanted to buy an English Raleigh bicycle with a three speed Sturmey Archer hub. Soon after I purchased this functional bicycle, I was riding to school in a storm. The rain was pelting down and it was cold and wet. So I put my head down and literally stood on the pedals to make pace. Suddenly, right in front of me loomed a trailer that was attached to a car. I ended up in the trailer but my front forks and wheel were bent badly out of shape. For me that was a trial.
While attending high school my mother fell ill with cancer and was given three weeks to live. She was anointed and lived almost three years. In that extra time she was able to impart values and ideals that have blessed me over the years. During those bonus years she helped shape me for what I am today. This was an incredible trial for the whole family.
Suffering, trials, difficulties, and challenges do one of two things to people. So trials crush people like grapes in a press and you either feel crushed or realise that something good is coming from the crushing, just as crushed grapes produce refreshing juice. So view trials as instruments to open up new opportunities for growth and development. People who see trials as opportunities for growth can rejoice or boast in life's pressures and tribulations just as Paul suggests. The word Crisis is rich in meaning. The English word comes from Greek Krinein meaning that it is a time of decision, judgment or a turning point for better or for worse. In Chinese the word Weiji which is made up of two symbols. i. despair, danger, and ii. opportunity (variety of ideas) both occur at the same time.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn admitted "It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirring of good. Gradually, it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes, not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through all human hearts. So bless you, prison, for having been in my life."(2)
The word Endurance or Perseverance comes from two Greek words, abide or stay under. It means, we learn to abide (trust) in Jesus when things are going well as well as in difficult and challenging times. It is so easy to quit when things are challenging. Christians discover through hard experiences that they enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus. A Christian in a non-Christian country pressured to give up his faith and conform said "We are like nails: the harder you hit us the deeper you drive us." Now that is perseverance, that is "staying under" the rule of Jesus.
The following advertisement is said to appeared in a London Newspaper: Notice: "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton - 4 Burlington Street. More than 5000 men responded and 28 were selected for the 1914 expedition. Their ship, the Endurance, was caught in the Weddell Sea and crushed. The crew pulled long boats over the ice and eventually 5 men rowed 800 kms to South Georgia and eventually all his crew were rescued. Shackleton and his men demonstrated endurance.
Endurance develops character. Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."(3) Webster's Dictionary defines character as "Highly developed or strongly marked qualities...moral vigour or firmness, especially as acquired through self-discipline." "Strength of character consists of two things - power of the will and power of self control."(4) Some character qualities are: love and compassion; honesty, courage and 'stick-to-it-tiveness'; initiative; Independence; Pulling the reins on sudden impulses; doing what is right when no one is looking.
Character consists of qualities or attributes that distinguish an individual. Character is what you really are and reputation is what people think you are; moral excellence and firmness. Character comes from the Greek word 'char' which was the name of a tool to carve or design leather. The finished product was character. There was a man who was about to retire. His boss asked him to build one final house before he retired. The man built the house in a hurry and chose poor materials. On completion the boss gave his employee keys to the house and said "It's all yours." His poor workmanship was soon evident along faults in his character.
Character leads to hope.(5) 'Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.'(6) We usually use 'hope' that implies doubt. 'I hope John comes to visit me.' Almost like a wish. Paul does not use 'hope' that way. For him 'hope' is certitude. So when he writes about the 'blessed hope' or the second coming - the Advent is a certainty! It was not a question of if but when! Paul says we have this hope 'because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit."(7) 'Poured out' is not a moderate word , it means 'to flood.' God doesn't give His love with an eyedropper, but in torrents.
An overseas school system had a policy of visiting children when they were in hospital for a period of time. A teacher was assigned to a student who had been badly burned, to teach him nouns and adverbs. The teacher was upset at the sight of the lad and felt they she had accomplished little. When the teacher visited the following day, a nurse enquired: "What did you do to that lad?" The teacher thought she'd done something wrong and began to apologise. The nurse said "We'd been concerned about that lad, but ever since yesterday, his attitude had changed. He's fighting back and responding to treatment. It looks as though he's decided to live. Sometime later the lad explained that he'd given up hope until that teacher arrived. Everything changed when he said to himself "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?"
Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: "They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?"
So remember TECH stands for Trials, Endurance, Character and Hope. Wayne Hooper picked up that certainty when he wrote the hymns "We have this hope that burns within our hearts, hope in the coming of the Lord. We have this faith that Christ alone imparts faith in the promise of His Word. We believe the time is here, when the nations far and near shall awake and shout and sing Hallelujah! Christ is King! We have this hope that burns within our hearts. Hope in the Coming of the Lord.
(1) Romans 5:3-4 New Living Bible
(2) See Internet 'Bless you prison.'
(3) - unknown
(4) E. G. White, Counsels to Teachers, p252.
(5) Romans 5:4
(6) Romans 5:5
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