Faith and Family

The School of Hard Knocks

By Lynn Jones

John Knox was a great church reformer, one of whose legacies was the Presbyterian Church. While most have never heard of John Knox’s father, his father founded a well-known school that still bears his name. John Knox’s father’s first name was “Hard.” To this day his school is known as “The School of Hard Knox.” That is a tidbit of information offered with tongue-in-cheek, but it points to a truth. The School of Hard Knocks is a school that exists today that consistently enrolls many students.

No one enrolls in this well-known school by choice. Enrollment is forced by the circumstances of life. Hard knocks come into the lives of us all. A best-selling book written by Harold Kushner asked “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” The simplistic answer to that question is that bad things happen to all people. Problems face all of us. Life is a problem-solving business.While we have no choice about our enrollment in the School of Hard Knocks, we learn while we are there. 

The lessons are often difficult to master, but those who are open to learning always benefit greatly from their days as students. In fact, it would not be overstating the case to say that the most profound lessons that anyone ever learns are learned while enrolled in that school. We learn about the brevity of life, the value of some things that we have taken for granted, our frailty and God’s strength, and the need for greater faith in God and less in ourselves.

As far as I know, a person never gets too old for the school. When Michelangelo was 80, he was walking down the street when someone asked him, “Where are you going?” He responded, “I am going to learn.” All of life is to be spent learning.

Jesus invited, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” We have often been guilty of taking His yoke upon us without going on to learn of Him. One of the ways that He forces us to learn is with periodic semesters in the School of Hard Knocks.

The Apostle Paul spent a very difficult semester in this school when he was sent to prison in Rome. He wrote to the Philippians from prison about what he had learned there. He wrote, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philip. 4:12-13).

Are you enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks? I encourage you to be a good steward of your time spent there. The studies may be difficult, but the lessons can be profound.

Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at:

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