Character

suffering-with-hopeWe rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:3-4).

It’s an old story. We would much rather complain about the way things are than make the sacrifice to change it, but character requires sacrifice. Those of us who know the Lord are called to make that sacrifice; we are called to live on a higher plane. Christians, above any other group, should be known as persons of character.

The references to character in the Bible indicate it’s something to be sought after. The Apostle Paul points out the unique relationship between suffering, perseverance, and character. The suffering he’s referring to are the trials and difficulties experienced by believers. He’s assuming, of course, that those who are persecuted would faithfully and courageously endure their persecutions; that they would not break under pressure and deny their faith in Christ.

It is important to recognize the difference between perseverance and character. Perseverance is something we do, but character is something we have… or don’t have. Character is all about who we are and what we’re made of. Paul’s conclusion is that those who persevere through trials are men and women of character. Their character is made evident by their response to what is happening to them. This definition of character presupposes two things.

First, there is an Absolute Standard by which to define right and wrong. People of character don’t make up the rules as they go along. They have already agreed upon the rules beforehand. When faced with any situation, they don’t ask, “What’s right for me?” Instead, they ask, “What’s right?” People of character believe in an Absolute Standard of right and wrong that overshadows the entire human race, one to which all people are held accountable. According to the Bible, God is that Standard. He determines what is right and wrong. He has already set limits on human behavior. His code of conduct never changes or shifts with a particular culture or time period.

The second thing character presupposes is the ability and willingness to obey. Agreeing with the rules of the game is one thing, but playing by the rules is something else entirely. How many of us break the law every day? Men and women of character have not only agreed to God’s code of conduct, but they also live for it.

Whereas achievement and fulfillment are the chief pursuits for many in this world, it’s different for men and women of character. They’re not necessarily opposed to achieving certain goals, but the difference is in their priorities. They are not against personal fulfillment, but for them, obedience takes priority over achievement. Self-control takes precedent over self-fulfillment. It is all a matter of priorities.

Are you willing to make character a priority? I have never met anyone who is against character, yet few people make it their priority. Men and woman are often quick to compromise their character if that is what it takes to reach the next step in whatever ladder they choose to climb. For many people, what they can do on the outside is not nearly as important as who they are on the inside.

To be persons of character, we must submit ourselves to God’s code of conduct. We must agree with Him that His ways are right – whether we understand or not. We must have the attitude that says, “Lord, before You even tell me what the right thing to do in my particular situation is, I already believe You are right.” Then, we must follow through and actually do what God says. People of character do what is right simply because it is right. It is right because God says it is right.

I’d like you to try an experiment with me: think about all the places you could go to improve your outer appearance. Most stores are geared toward making us look or feel better. We’re bombarded from every direction by products designed to improve our looks and health. Just pick up any magazine and flip through the advertisements, or watch any commercial on TV.

Now, think for a moment about how many places are geared toward developing character. This list is significantly shorter than the first. Other than church, we don’t have much to choose from. There was a time when we could have put school on that list, but that’s not necessarily true anymore.

Clearly, we live in a world that is totally committed to the outer person and neglects the inner person. Yet, the social problems in this nation, the ones commentators and politicians are constantly complaining about, are not rooted in our appearance. Most of our problems stem from a lack of character among our leaders and citizens. Our biggest deficit in this nation is not a budget deficit or unemployment, but a lack of character.

If we don’t have a plan for developing our character, we simply will not. We will fall in line with everyone else. The only difference is believers will go to heaven when they die and unbelievers will not. My point is this: none of us drift into character. It takes effort; it takes a plan. Even as Christians, we’re prone to allow the cares of this world to choke out any time for working on the part of us that is most crucial to our genuine happiness and success – our character.

Character is to relationships what oil is to an engine. If we took apart the engine of a new car, we would find that each part is made to work perfectly with all the other parts of the engine. They were made for each other. Yet, if you run that engine without oil, it will eventually destroy all the other parts around it. The fact the parts are perfectly suited for each other is not enough. When there is a deficit in character, we pay for it in our relationships. It does not matter how perfectly suited we are for each other. If we don’t have character, there is going to be friction.

A Plan for Developing Character:

Part of my plan for developing my character involves a list of several traits I want to be known for. I rehearse my list mentally throughout the day. I meditate on Scripture that deals with these things. I pray every day that God would work on my character to the point where these characteristics will shape my public reputation. I want to be known as a man of godly character.

Praying to God for help developing my character is one thing, but when I get specific, that’s when I really begin to see a change. I think through the kind of person I want to be (not what I want to accomplish, but what God and others perceive me as being in my heart). Then, I work the list. I look for practical ways to work the qualities into my life.

You will be amazed at how your personal plan unfolds. You may change your list from time to time. That’s fine. But keep it going. That way, you will see your progress and you will stay involved in the process. 

* Did you enjoy this post? Read more in my book, Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living.

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About Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

Pastor Joe has been serving in Christian ministry for 19 years. He is the author of "Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living." Through a commitment to servant leadership, he proclaims relevant Bible truth, equips the saints for effective ministry, and builds up the body of Christ. Married thirteen years, Pastor Joe and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children.
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25 Responses to Character

  1. Rita D. Palmer says:

    When I began my journey, everything was taken from me. My home, family, finances and my life with my children. I was thrown out into the universe. It was sink or swim. I wasn’t totally alone though, as God talked to me, and showed me a dream that would change my life forever. I was sitting alone looking at the ocean as I sat on the deck outside my small apartment. I wanted to die. I had nothing to live for. I felt a hand on my shoulder and a low voice say, “Rita, I won’t let anything happen to you.” Those 7 words lifted me up. I moved into another apartment, and friends came to visit. I had a dream one night. I was standing on a ledge on the side of a building. I looked down, and thought, if I jump, I will only break a leg, not kill myself. I heard the same voice say, “Do you choose life, or death?” I never hesitated. I said, “I choose Life!” The decision was made for me that very day. I could go on because I was given life, and never once chose death again.
    The journey continued, while I made my way through the mire of events, some good and some very scary. But my strength grew, and I heard a voice say, “Isaiah.” I go in my car and drove around looking for a book store. When I found one, I asked the lady, “Do you know who Isaiah is and do you have a book about him?” She said she didn’t. So I let it go. A few years went by and I was homeless living on the street. I lived on the church steps until 4:00 p.m. on days where the temperature was 30 degrees. We were given blankets and a pillow while we waited outside the doors of the church. Then they opened the doors, and we went inside. I helped with the kitchen workers get the food out and the women were given sleeping bags and a room with a lock on the door. I had to find someone where else to sleep, so I walked over to a place that had lunches, and showers for the homeless. I left after a while and ended up at a hospital. From there I was sent to a state run facility and they gave me a bus ticket to Daytona. In Daytona the downtown was set up for the homeless. There was a Salvation army, where we could stay for $8.00 a night. Someone gave me the money for my first night. I went to the Labor Hall a street away and waiting each day at 7:00 am. to go to work.

    These steps in the journey are important, because I didn’t make the decisions, God did. He walked with me every single step of the way and led me to where He wanted me to be. When
    The last phase was when I was living in a small town in Florida where someone offered for me to stay. The circumstances were not the best, but I worked every day and I survived and even though I could have been killed or injured, God kept me safe. One day as I walked home from the grocery store, I head these words. “Malachi and Job”… the end was nearing and the prophets were telling me it would not be long now. And it wasn’t. Two years and I was home again with my family and grand children, whom I cared for and loved. This is what it means to go through the fire and given Life to hear the word of God, and know Jesus Christ as my savior and healer!

    • This is truly an inspirational and powerful story, Rita, about how the Lord used your difficult circumstances to draw you closer to Him. Life is not easy, but you persevered during your struggles and found true Life in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen! You are a living testimony to us all!

      • Rita D. Palmer says:

        It is a joy to witness to the Lord’s grace and love for us all. We are here because of Him!!
        Jesus Christ, and my children and my grandchildren are all I need. Praise God!!

  2. Rita D. Palmer says:

    Please excuse my mistakes. I didn’t have this on paper, but now I do! Thanks Pastor Joe, for being a good friend to us all! God bless you and your family and church.

  3. Good word, perfectly aligns with my biblical manhood topic tomorrow where we are dealing with endurance/perseverance.

  4. Reblogged this on He Has Magnified His Word and commented:
    Good word

  5. Truth2Freedom says:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  6. jannatwrites says:

    Great post! I like how you explain the relationship between perseverance and character. Good point about the difference in what we pray for. I think my prayers need to be more specific.

  7. I appreciated your message very much Pastor Joe, Character is very important but there is a warning in Scripture about it…

    1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”:(NIV)

    In reference to suffering, we don’t have to be Happy Clappy about our pain and hardship, God is not a sadist and we don’t have to be masochists but we give thanks that He is with us in all we suffer and gives us strength to endure and than works everything out for good and as you said Pastor Joe, it builds Character when we keep our focus on God knowing He will never let us down.

    My life has been a hard one and still is as far as my circumstances go at this time but I’m never alone in my inner being, I have uplifting Joy because I know I’m Loved greatly , no one has to tell me to share about our Awesome God, I can’t stop myself, when you have been forgiven has much as I have been forgiven than your whole being is focused on the one who has forgiven you and you want to tell everyone just how wonderful He is.

    Christian Love in Christ Jesus – Anne

    • Absolutely Anne! Keeping close company with those who live contrary to God’s Word could corrupt good Christian character. We must not let our relationships with unbelievers lead us away from Christ or cause our faith to waver.

      You are truly a bright light. Your testimony is evident to all. You have not allowed your difficult circumstances to compromise your witness and I praise God for you, Anne!

  8. Rita D. Palmer says:

    This subject is very important to discuss. Someone in my family, was just in a car wreck. The cars piled up one after another, as they slid into each other on black ice. It is so dangerous on the roads in the winter. This young man was in the pile up. He opened his door too look at the damage to the front of the car, when another car slid into him. Now he is in the hospital. There is blood in his brain and his back is cracked, and only God knows how the young man, a freshman in college”s, family will change while the long agonizing days and hours go by waiting for him to heal. It is horrible when tragic strikes and we wait helplessly. God is the difference. He is the one to hang onto. He gave His only Son, who was whipped and beaten half to death, and who died on a cross, for us. We received Him through His sacrifice for us.By His blood, we are healed. We are not alone. We have someone who cares and heals and sacrifices and gives us grace and mercy because He is light, truth, the vine, the earth, and most of all He is a God who is love.

  9. Pingback: How To Handle Temptation: Part 1 (James 1:13–16) | Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

  10. Reblogged this on 66 Assurance Way and commented:
    In this season of RENEWAL, our character as Christian is on full display – to God and others. As Joe Quatrone, Jr. notes in this fine post (Romans 5: 3-4), “Paul points out the unique relationship between suffering, perseverance, and character. The suffering he’s referring to are the trials and difficulties experienced by believers . . . Character is all about who we are and what we’re made of . . . none of us drift into character. It takes effort; it takes a plan. Even as Christians, we’re prone to allow the cares of this world to choke out any time” working on our character. Our ‘Sunday’ awaits. Are you a Christian of CHARACTER? Thanks Joe for your insights! Peace be with you, Greg S.

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