I've been rereading H. Jackson Brown Jr.'s delightful book, Live And Learn And Pass it On. It's a fun compilation of life's little learning curves. And thanks to this best-selling author, I'm able to foresee the sure things in life. From the cradle to the grave, Brown reveals what we learn and when we'll learn them.
For example, the author says by…
- Age 11, if you're in trouble at school, you're in more trouble at home.
- Age 13, just when you get your room the way you like it, your mom will make you clean it up.
- Age 24, nothing brings on an emergency as fast as putting money aside for one.
- Age 29, wherever you go, the world's worst drivers are going there too.
- Age 32, the time to read the instruction book is before you put the swing together.
- Age 39, if your children feel safe, wanted and loved, you are a successful parent.
- Age 46, children and grandparents are natural allies.
- Age 48, there's no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs.
- Age 54, you can't hug your kids too much.
- Age 61, you can inherit wealth but never wisdom.
- Age 76, the best sleeping pill is a clear conscience.
- Age 81, even when you have pains, you don't have to be one.
- Age 88, the days may be long, but life is short.
Could Solomon have said it any better?
But not all our days are predetermined as Brown describes. Sometimes our learning comes from unscheduled appointments known only to God.
Such was the case with Martin Luther.
Like many others who graduated in the lower half of their classes, Luther resisted standard education, or learning by rote. He was driven by a suspicious nature causing him to question the status quo and ask "why" of prevailing reasoning. He was the moth and the Church's teaching was the flame.
As the world's biggest underdog, Luther openly challenged the most powerful force of his time—the Roman Catholic Church.
And as he nailed his ninety-five theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, he added a sticky note inviting opponents to debate him. And because of these debates, Western Civilization was soon turned on its ear.
The end result was a showdown with the baddest dudes in Christendom.
An official indictment was served in the city of Worms to confront this theological renegade. When asked if he would renounce his inflammatory statements about the pope and the church, Luther answered with resilient boldness:
Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.
Luther was 38 years old when he made that statement. And I can't help but wonder—at what point did he learn to be resiliently bold? I couldn't find "resiliently bold" in Brown's book.
In fact, at what point in life does truth begin to matter more than compromise and principle more than popularity? At what age do we cloak ourselves in fearlessness? When did John the Baptizer dismiss his fear of the king, or Daniel his fear of lions, or Paul his fear of death? Moses was 80 years old when his phobia of pharaohs finally ended. It all happened on a mountaintop when he met the One with whom Pharaoh would soon be terrified.
For Joshua, it was during a national debate with cowardly spies. Joshua believed the land could be taken because God said so.
David was a teenager when he became incensed by the "uncircumcised Philistine" who had the gall to taunt the armies of the living God.
Esther was in her prime when she placed her life in harm's way to save her people.
I've never found "resiliently bold" included in any seminary curriculum, and yet it's a standard requirement of every Bible teacher and pastor.
It's what allowed Samuel to announce Eli's downfall. It's what Elijah felt during his all-day battle with the prophets of Baal. It's what buoyed Stephen as the false witnesses testified against him.
And it's what God has asked of us: To preach the Word with resilient boldness.