James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from Heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.
How Do We Build Character?
Character is built through challenges, through suffering, and through temptation.
Building a strong character in a horse when training is a culmination of all the steps necessary in teaching a horse to be a productive partner in life…earning trust, creating submission, developing patience, and establishing a good relationship. In all of those steps there are challenges in learning new things totally unfamiliar, suffering through the long hours of riding and conditioning and temptation to not accept and submit to direction. Isn’t that how God works with us in building our character? Aren’t there times in our life when we are challenged (tested), go through different degrees of suffering, and are tempted by the world to think, speak, or act in ways that do not glorify God?
God Tested Abraham
Genesis 22:1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said “here I am.”
God tested Abraham to deepen his ability to obey, and to strengthen his character. Sometime God puts us through difficult situations in life to refine us and strengthen our character. When we are in the midst of those difficult times, we have two choices. We can complain, feel sorry for ourselves, and recluse; Or, we can see try to see how God is refining us, stretching us, to strengthen our character and answer God’s call with “here I am”.
Strengthening Our Character Through Suffering
Romans 5:3-4 And not only this, but we also exalt in our tribulation, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Through the centuries Christians have suffered for their faith. For the early Christian (First Century) suffering was the rule, not the exception. What Paul teaches us in this passage is that the suffering that life sometimes brings leads to a series of chain reactions. Ultimately, leading us to hope. The hope of everlasting life with our Heavenly Father brought forth by the reconciliation through the death of his only Son.
Overcoming Temptation Builds Our Character
Mark 1:1-13; Matthew 4:1-11
Mark 1:12-13 Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said. “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’ ” Deuteronomy 8:3
Matthew 4:7 Jesus said to him, “on the other had it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD, YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’ ” Deuteronomy 6:16
Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’ ”
Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20
After Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness where he was tempted. So, Jesus was baptized, came out of the water and heard the voice of the Lord say (paraphrased) “With you my Son, I am very well pleased. But now you must go into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted by Satan. I love ya, but you gotta go!”
If we read further in the gospels, we find that when Jesus comes out of the wilderness (after he faces the temptations with the power of God’s word at hand), He goes right into his ministry laying the groundwork for the ultimate truth to be revealed.
God put Jesus in a place where he was tempted and His character was strengthened. As you go through temptations in life and find yourself face to face with Satan having to deal with the turmoil that he brings, remember Jesus. Fight the temptations with the power of God’s Word. Instead of resenting the trials, embrace them as God strengthens your character and teaches you lessons allowing you to grow closer to Him.
Now let’s go back to the horse analogy. If we take the time to build and nurture a horses character versus just teaching it a few things along the way, that horse will live its life serving its rider (master) well. However, the horse that does not build a strong character will always revert back to what comes natural in tough times, especially if it goes through a dry period where its training is not called on for a window of time.
Aren’t we the same way with our life? If we allow the Lord to build our character through challenges, suffering, and temptations we will grow in our faith and live our life serving God and others well. However, if we simply go along in life learning what we can (mostly what we feel is best for us) we will probably find ourselves reverting to what comes natural in tough times. We will find ourselves in doubt, recluse inward, and bitterly feeling sorry for ourselves not able to serve God, others or ourselves.
How do we apply this to our life today?
Let’s go back to our example with the horse for a moment. Earlier we mentioned that submission is the key to having a horse which is teachable. A horse must be teachable in order to develop a character that is productive for its owner (master). A strong character in your horse is critical if you are to have a working relationship with your horse which is built on trust. Your horse must submit to your leadership in order for you to be able to train, work with, and trust him completely. That willingness to submit defines your horse’s character.
On the same note, it is important that you know, understand, and tend to the needs of your horse as well. Your example teaches character that words cannot build.
By doing so, you change the dynamics of the relationship from a boss/worker scenario to a partnership/team situation. When you get to that point in your relationship your horse will want to work for you out of a desire to please, not necessity or fear. The desire to please and do a job to its fullest becomes a part of your horse’s character.
If you think about it, that is no different than other relationships in your life. Whether you are a spouse, parent, friend, boss, or all of the above, if you look into the lives of others and submit to their needs as well as them submitting to yours, your relationship will be stronger over time because it will be built on respect not fear. By doing so, you are leading with an example of your character.
What we have learned is that Character is built through challenges, suffering, and temptation. Think of a Challenge you are facing today. God is testing you as he did Abraham. Is your answer “here I am”? Do you find strength in God and trust in Him for your direction to face the tests head on as Abraham did? When God calls your name is your answer “here I am”?
Some of us (possibly most of us) are living through some form of suffering today. Either in finances, illness (maybe of a spouse of loved one), a loss, or some other area of our life. Do we feel sorry for ourselves in our suffering and go to that place of selfishness, or do we look deep into that suffering and find hope in Jesus Christ?
We are all tempted on a daily basis. Do we give in to those temptations and continue living in sin, or do we stand up and fight those temptations with God’s Word as Jesus did?
The question is…do you posses a strong, Godly character as a leader, as a spouse, as a parent, as a boss, or as a friend?
How do you know if you do or you don’t?
If yes, great! If no, what do you do?
Simple! Do what Jesus did. Lead with love. Lead with gentleness. Lead with kindness, and be merciful.