Character is something of an intangible thing that we all desire.  Character is important to all of us no matter what walk of life we come from.  Every person desires the people that they relate to and do business with to have good character.  This is evident by the types of people we look up to and admire.  People like

  • Gandhi
  • Martin Luther King
  • Mother Teresa
  • Billy Graham
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • and many others

The importance of character is also made evident when we find it lacking in those around us.  Whether it be people of importance in society, or simply the people we relate to we are disappointed when we find a lack of character in others.  Having good character is important to us.

But what is character?  How do we know if we have character?  How do we know what type of character we have?  How do I develop my character?  These are questions I have asked, and a great many others have been asking as well.

We most often define character by listing a series of admirable traits that we desire to have.  Traits like Responsibility,  Faithfulness, Honesty, Courage, Loyalty. And this is just a few.  We also look negatively on the traits that reveal a lack of character in us like Dishonesty, Cowardice, Rebellious, Apathetic, Lazy. But character cannot be defined by listing a series of traits.

So what is character?  It seems to defy definition.  One of the other ways we try to define character is to look at the lives of people who demonstrate good character.  If you watch NCIS you know the character Jethro Gibbs to be a man of character.  One of my favorite movies is Braveheart, and William Wallace is a man who stood in the face of great opposition and changed the world he lived in because of the strength of his character.  People of good character inspire us to rise above ourselves, and challenge us to become better.

But what is character?  Like many others I had difficulty defining what character really is.  Until I heard Andy Stanley preach on character.  He said “Character is the will to do what is right, no matter what the cost.” Finally I was able to define what character is.  All of  the people we admire who changed the world around them were people of character.  People who chose to do what is right, no matter what it cost them personally.

Living a life of character is costly to us personally.  The question is will we pay the cost.  The rewards greatly exceed the price we pay.  This is the question before us on a daily basis.  Will we “have the will to do what is right, no matter what the cost.”  This is a question only we can answer.  No one can develop character for us.  Only we can decide to rise to the occasion before us, or to remain in the shadows of mediocrity.

Do you know what you believe?

Recently I heard about a poll being taken about what Christians believe and why.  I was astonished to find out that the Christians surveyed knew little to nothing about their  faith.  I was even more astonished to find that the atheists which participated in the poll knew a lot of what we believe.

Although I can’t say that I am surprised, I am disheartened by the fact that we as Christians know so little about the truth that we are supposed to be living by.  People all over North America call themselves ‘Christians’ and according to studies that have been done have little to no difference in their lives from those who consider themselves ‘Non-Christians’.  I no longer wonder why that is.  If we don’t know anything about our faith and history, how can we live it out.

I think this needs to change in our society.  Jesus came that we might ‘know the truth’.  And according to recent polls we know very little of the truth.  I took part in the survey which can be found on the internet, which includes some of the core doctrines of our faith as well as the history of our faith, and to be honest while I scored better than 71% of the people who took part of the survey I only correctly answered 57% of the questions.  I was a little disappointed in myself.  8 years of studying in bible school and I was only 57% correct.

This isn’t to put a damper on the Christian church.  But it is a call to awaken to who we are and what we actually believe.  I know I am looking to deepen my understanding of our history as well as our faith.  It is important that we know what we believe and why, otherwise we will be unable to defend our faith in the world around us.  And, to quote Alexander Hamilton “‘Those who stand for nothing will fall for anything”.  If we don’t know what we are standing for and why, we will be taken in by everything else around us that seems to be good.  I welcome you to join me on the journey of discovery.

Changed by Our Focus

Have you ever wondered what was wrong with you when you read the verse in scripture, “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” Romans 8:37 (NLT)?

I know I did at times.  There were times when I found myself struggling to become who I thought I was supposed to be.  Times where I struggled to change behaviors that I knew were wrong.  Times where I wasn’t having overwhelming victory in my life.  I have found as I talk with other Christians that I am not alone in this.

Recently I have found the answer to my question.  God asked me ‘What are you focusing on?’ To be honest I didn’t understand the question, because I didn’t really know what my focus had to do with overcoming life’s situations and problems.  Situations and problems that we all face on a daily basis.  They may be character issues, where we know we are not behaving as we should.  Or they may be attitude problems, where we struggle to respond correctly in the situations we find ourselves in.  This has been one area I struggle, especially when I drive.  I get a little frustrated, and I know it doesn’t do any good.

But maybe there are other areas you struggle in.  Areas of addictions;

  • Alcohol and drugs
  • The need for recognition and approval
  • Gambling
  • Sex
  • Pornography
  • Wealth – Chasing a profit at all costs
  • The list of possible addictions could go on and on

Or maybe it is issues like debt, or family problems.  We all face them every day.

God lead me to a verse in scripture which has brought new opportunity to grow and overcome into my life.  Matthew 6:33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” The reason we struggle to overcome is a problem of focus.  What are we focusing on.  Usually we are focused on the problem or behavior we are confronted with.  God wants us to focus on Him

“Seek first” is the direction that God gives.  Make our relationship with Him our primary concern.  Focus on Him and knowing Him and everything else will be given unto us.  What that means is all the answers to the problems we have are found in our relationship to God.  The things that need to change in our lives can only truly be changed in our relationship to God.  Paul said “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13  I can handle every situation,  get through every problem, overcome everything that comes my way through Christ.

It is a relationship with God that can see us through.  It doesn’t promise that all our problems will go away.  Nor does it promise an easy life.  But God does promise to look after us, and to provide for every need we have.  Not always what we see as a need mind you, but still to provide for every need.  All we have to do is rest in His sovereignty and promise to look after and provide for us.

Our focus needs to be simply on our relationship to God, because everything else comes out of that.  Everything else is a side effect you might say of our personal relationship to God. “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.” 2Peter1:3 (The Message)