In the midst of a trial, when pressure squeezes us from all sides, only our character can testify on our behalf. By character we mean our moral, ethical and spiritual undergirding that rests on truth, reinforces life and resists the temptation to compromise.
Think of the people who have influenced you with the silent strength of their character — perhaps a parent, a teacher, a coach, a neighbor or an elder in the Lord’s church. We recall how their integrity and ideals spoke for them during hardships (James 1:2-4). In many ways, they were the ones who set the mold into which we have poured our own life. Consider these observations about those who leave a lasting legacy of character greatness.
First, greatness of character is found only in people. Of all God’s creation, only mankind bears the stamp of His image – a stamp that separates us from the animal world and gives us a built-in moral capacity (Gen. 1:26-27). Into that character reservoir God pours glimpses of His own character in such forms as justice, honesty and virtue. We will not find virtue in nature, technology or material wealth. Character is the product of the human soul, as God made us.
Second, character is developed and proven in the crucible of pain and difficulty (1 Peter 1: 6-7). Hardship, not comfort, tempers character. We tend to run from pain as soon as it strikes. But can we really escape to some hidden island where adversities will not find us? No, as one of Job’s counselors observed, “For man is born of trouble, as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). There is no golden ticket to a trouble-free life.
Third, character is not quickly acquired. Great character is not a mail order commodity, shipped by overnight express. We can’t expect it to arrive on our doorstep, neatly packaged with no assembly required. It takes time and individual effort. Each person must take the reins of responsibility for his or her own character development.
Fourth, character is not necessarily a permanent possession. Our Bible is filled with men and women whose character wilted. The reasons for their lapses are many: moral compromise, greed, fear and stress. But the results are the same: embarrassment, loss of respect and wasted potential. That is why it is so important to till God’s values into the soil during our children’s formative years. We want to make sure we have done all we can to help them have their roots deep enough to last a lifetime.
It is so important that we give them more than facts and figures. It is so important we do more than drive them to be on a winning team. We must build character! Who we are is so much more important than how we look. Wardrobe and words will not guarantee success. Integrity and courage are more important than image and position.
by Rickie Jenkins