Character is the springboard from which all we do and say in life comes. Developing Biblical character in the face of our daily life and even in adversity is essential and the proof text that we have a growing relationship with Christ! Character is not just having integrity or honesty or doing the right thing, it is not one aspect or even a few, it is a living, growing relationship in Christ which produces a synergistic combination of the fruits of the Spirit.
"Character is what you are in the dark." D.L. Moody
Some time ago, searching the market to buy a house with a very limited budget, one was found that seemed a real good deal for half the normal price. In Southern California this is a rare and rich find! The reason for the great price was because its foundation was cracked. It did not seem to be a big deal; after all, it could just be filled in with some kind of cement, I thought. But, a builder friend of mine explained to me how essential it was to have the foundation completely intact. So, reluctantly, with a lot of pouting and moping, I had to pass up this great deal. I then realized how this is like character. We desire to go and find the easy way out of the hard and time-consuming things of life to get to the point of our day or quest. This happens even in ministry. Even if it cuts the corners off Character, we strive to shortcut our way though spiritual growth and serving God.
A few months later, I drove by that house and talked to the new owner who was quite beside himself in frustration. It seems he was having a lot of problems with water leaking into his house all of the time, even when it was not raining. It will cost him more to fix the house's foundation then it would be to tear it down and rebuild. He ended up with a very raw deal that I almost got my family into. I realized through this that skipping character for convenience may seem OK at the time, but it will catch up with you. So, let us look at God's Word and find out what character really is and why it is important.
In 1 Samuel 25, there is a story of a little known OT personality with great character; a woman named Abigail. This was during the time that David was running from Saul. Passionate jealousy and paranoia drove Saul to pursue and kill David, while popularity and integrity followed David who, although he had many opportunities to kill Saul, chose out of character and respect to let him go. Saul lived in a palace of stone and pride, and David in a cave of dampness and humility, hanging out with the outcasts of the land and his mighty men. During this time, David and his men were doing a security service to the sheep ranchers, saving others sheep from poachers and rustlers. David fulfilled way beyond his duty by protecting what was not his. Then, one of the ranchers who was very rich and had power and authority over the others convinced the ranchers not to pay David and his men. His name was Nabal, which means "a fool!"
What parent would give their child such a name? It probably did not mean that then, but over the years, the meaning changed due to Nabal's actions. What a legacy to leave behind to be so self-willed and prideful that the meaning of your name changes to describe whom you are--in this case, a fool. How sad and ironic that he came from the house of Caleb who was one of the great men of integrity of the Bible, one of two people to survive the Exodus and venture into the Promise land due to his honor and trustworthiness. Nabal came from this house and family lineage, which was founded upon this great integrity and character, faith and strength, which somehow escaped Nabal.
When Nabal decided to cheat David, he ventured upon a dark path of greed that he thought could be lit from his pride. He thought, what could David do, and then decided to cheat him. David, who had just about had it with Nabal's deceit, saddled up his men and all drew their swords to kill him. Maybe David was not being what he should be, but Nabal "dug his own grave." David was consumed with anger and was about to kill him (and justly so in the eyes of his culture and times,) when Abigail intervened. She was a woman who had great character and discernment. She was the wife of Nabal, who owed David financial compensation for saving his sheep and servants from harm. She was able to turn the payback of the evil of her husband into good. Abigail was the complete opposite of her husband!
David was going to repay Nabal's evil for more evil, even though David let Saul go in the previous chapter for a much more grievous sin. Yet, Nabal, for some reason, really pushed David's buttons and exasperated his anger. Abigail's intervention soothed that anger. Thus, David was able to grow stronger in his character development by doing good, even in his anger, and even though he was wronged and cheated. David could have murdered Nabal, suffered consequence for it, and perhaps even forsaking his future kingship. The levelheaded action of Abigail saved the day for him and provided a prime example for David, as well as for us today.
We have a choice to act in evil or goodness; to act with our sinful motives or with what God calls us to, which is far better that we can see in the moment. Let us choose being even better. Who we are will determine what we do. The result will be character. Our growth in Him will make us who we are, which will be the character we present to God and others.
This action of Abigail is a prime example for us that character from the Word and the example of our living Lord is the ultimate force we have for good outside of the Spirit Himself. Character lays the foundation of what is right and what is truth in action (Prov. 17:13; 20:22; 24:29).
The Characteristics of a Christian
In the gospel and letters of John, who was directly inspired by God, we are told clearly and without equivocation how we are to behave as a follower of Christ. From the Gospel's example of Christ Himself to the deep comfort of our relationship in Him in John 15, if a person's behavior contradicts what the Word says, he is a just a pretender. In his Epistles, John says if we declare Christ as Lord, have a relationship with Him, but still walk in the darkness of disobedience, how can we be Christian? (1 John 1:6; 2:4) A Christian who denies essential doctrine would be an apostate, which means to reject the truth. For example, claiming Jesus as Lord, and then rejecting His deity, would be a direct contradiction (1 John 2:22-23). Inspired by the Spirit, John tells us that we would be liars. If we decide to love our Lord and hate our fellow Christian, this would also be a direct contradiction, a lie. The three "black lies" of John's Epistle are the moral, doctrinal, and social problems John faced during his ministry. He realized that if they are not followed in truth and obedience, they are in opposition of the Christian faith. Therefore, the Christian would be a liar! We may claim that we are a Christian because we grew up in or go to a church, we made a decision at a crusade, or because our parents are Christian, but when we continue in sin, deny who Christ is, or continue in behavior contrary to Scripture, we are, as John calls it, a liar. Only by what Christ has done for us and by allowing our relationship in Him produce the characters of holiness, faith and love in us, can we prove the claim we have in God and not be liars.
Character comes out from a life that is hurried, stressed, overwhelmed, and yet where promises are made and deadlines are met. It is a computation of who we are in those stressed moments. Character is not just something we put into our lives, but it is what comes out of our lives in those hurried times. It is beyond a system of values or virtue we learn from our parents, or even at church. Character is who you are to God Himself and those around you. It is the real you! The church and parents must teach it, but they cannot insure its function. That is the responsibility of our choice, a determination we make ourselves, a stand in stress that we continue to uphold.
The pastor must preach it, the parents sculpt it, the church encourage and model it through the precepts of the Word!
We as a community of Christians show the world the way of God's truth by modeling His character. What comes from the Christian and the church will be the image of God the community will see, the model of character they perceive God to be. It shows to a deprived society, one that is confused, and searching for spiritual truth wherever they can find it, that truth in you!
What is Character?
Character is aligning our lives so our behaviors are Christ-like. It is the fruit that the vine of our abiding in Christ will produce. Thus, we look to the life of our Lord as our prime example. We seek not so much what Jesus would do, but what would Jesus have me do! This alignment is what produces "the fruit of the Spirit," that we find in Paul's letter to the Galatians: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Gal. 5:22-23a)
Obviously, we cannot re-enact His character with any kind of perfection. However, we can try our best by the power He gives us. The fact that our Lord was also fully human and lived a life of perfection should give us hope and encouragement of what is possible. "Be conformed to the image of God's Son." (Romans 8:29) Below is a listing of the most common fruits and characteristics we are to emulate. These all work together to allow us to shine for His glory. Just like the facets of a diamond, with only one or a few you will not see its depth, splendor, and beauty. Let us be diamonds that shine; that are cut to His purpose and call and not rough and hidden.
Is Good Character In You?
Here is how you can find out. Look through each of these character and fruit listings from God's most precious Word and ask yourself:
1. How can they be exhibited?
2. How can they be developed?
3. How can they function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?
The Galatians Fruits: (Galatians 5:22-23)
· Love will enable us to appreciate our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and, of course, our family, and others around us. Love is taking the initiative to build up and meet the needs of others without expecting anything in return. (John 13:1; 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:3)
· Joy will allow us to enjoy His creation, others, and our circumstances with an expression of delight and real, authentic happiness from and with harmony with God and others. (Proverbs 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13)
· Peace is surrendering and yielding to the Lord's control, for He is our ultimate peace! It is allowing tranquility to be our tone and to control our equanimity. This will be fueled by our harmonious relationship with God so we can hand over control of our heart, will, and mind to Him. Once we make real peace with God, we will be able to make and maintain peace with others. (Matthew 5:9; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7)
· Patience is showing tolerance and fortitude to others, and even accepting difficult situations from them and God without making demands and conditions. (Matthew 27:14; Romans 12:12; James 1:3,12)
· Kindness is practicing benevolence and a loving attitude towards others. (Ephesians 4:32)
· Goodness displays integrity, honesty, and compassion to others, and allows us to do the right thing. (Matthew 19:16)
· Faithfulness is the "gluing" fruit that will preserve our faith and the other characters of the Spirit as well as identify God's Will so we can be dependable and trusting to God and others. (Matthew 17:19; 25:21; 1 Cor. 12:9; Hebrews 11:1; 1 Thess. 5:24)
· Gentleness is the character that will show calmness, personal care, and tenderness in meeting the needs of others. (Isa. 40:11; Phil. 4: 5; 2 Timothy 2:24; 1 Thess. 2:7)
· Self-Control will allow us to have discipline, and restraint with obedience to God and others. (1 Thess. 5: 22)
More Biblical Fruits:
We will be studying these characteristics, along with the Galatian fruits and the book of Matthew in our online Bible study.
· Forgiving is the realization of how much we have been forgiven by Christ. This enables us to forgive the insignificant things that are done to us. It involves not being resentful to others, and ignoring the wrongs that we have received so we can heal relationships by expressing Christ's love. (Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13)
· Humility minimizes arrogance and removes pride. It is understanding our fallen nature and tendency to think we are better than we are, and our striving to lift up ourselves above others and God. It is admitting that others, and more importantly God is responsible for our achievements. Humbleness will enable us to be a teachable person who is willing to have the attitude of submission and servant-hood, one who confesses sin and remembers how Christ served us! (Luke 22:27; Phil. 2:8; 1 Peter 5:3-5)
· Fairness sees a situation from the viewpoint of each person involved and not just ours. It seeks the best, just, equable solution, even if it hurts us. (Matthew 7:12)
· Courage realizes that God has given us the strength to face any situation, trial, or peril. It is the ability to react, knowing that God is in control, that He who is in me is greater than he who is against me. (Deuteronomy 31:6; 1 John 4:4)
· Friendship is the companionship and closeness we are to have with one another. It is the commitment to help form the character in others. This is not to be feared but embraced, even when it hurts! (Proverbs 27:17)
· Honesty & Truthfulness mean being straight and honest with others and doing what is right. This trait will allow us to earn trust by being accurate with facts and situations. (2 Cor. 8:21; Ephesians 4:25)
· Dependable is being constantly reliable and trustworthy. It will allow us to continue in our commitments even if it means personal sacrifice. (1 Corinthians 4:2; Colossians 1:10)
· Gratitude is an attitude of being thankful, even when we do not see what we have. This is an aspect of worship, expressing to God and others how they have benefited our lives by showing their support and benevolence. (1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Thess. 5: 18)
· Responsibility is to know and do what God and others expect. (Romans 14:12)
· Contentment is the attitude of accepting whatever God provides for us, and being happy with it. It does not seek what we do not need for gratification, and does not find happiness in the shallow things of life. (Rom. 9:19-21; Phil. 4: 10-13; 1 Tim. 6:6-9)
· Generosity allows us to give to others because God has given abundantly to us. It is the wise use of stewardship and the attitude that all I have belongs to God and knowing we are the caretakers for His purpose. (Deut. 16:17; Matthew 10:8)
· Purity & Holiness is being set apart for God's use, which is holiness in action. It does not allow us to be contaminated nor interfere with others in our growth and relationship in Christ. (Matt. 5:8; Phil. 4:8; 1 Tim. 1:5; 5:22; James 4:8)
· Confidence helps us rely on the Lord for all things in our life. It will enable us to push forward in the direction that we are called because He is governing. It makes us realize we are not responsible for the results--only the obedience. (Philippians 4:13)
· Encouragement will lift, support, and help others up through difficult circumstances, all from God's perspective. (Psalm 119:28; 143:3; Matt. 3:17; John 14:1; 1 Thess. 5:11-14)
· Availability is being willing to adjust our own schedule, agenda, and plans to fit the right desires of God and others. It makes personal priorities secondary to the needs of God and others. It is to reflect God's priorities so we are always available to Him and others when we are serving. (Mark 1:17-18; Acts 16:10)
· Attentiveness will recognize the value of other people by giving them listening ears, respect, courtesy, and total concentration. This means paying attention to others, not just listening to our own needs and desires, and also giving genuine contemplation to God's Word. (Hebrews 2:1)
· Wisdom truly desires the knowledge of God's Word and the proper application to our life. This will enable us to make good judgments and decisions. (1 Kings 3:9; Psalm 119:97-98)
· Compassion will feel the pain and plight of others. It will enable us to convey a deep feeling of love and concern that moves us to meet their distresses, struggles, and needs. (Job 29:13; Isa. 40:11; Mark 1:41; Luke 19:4; 1 Peter 3:8)
· Enthusiasm will enable us to overcome disappointments and setbacks, so we can be positive, optimistic, and keep up our interest, attitude, and zeal, even when things are harsh. (Matt: 5:16; Rom. 12:11; Gal. 6:9; Col. 3:23)
· Initiative will take the front position to recognize and do what needs to be done before being asked to do it. (Prov. 22:29; Philippians 3:14; 4:13-15)
· Diligence allows us to operate with our best for His highest with excitement and passion in order to complete our work and call from the Lord. (Prov. 10:4; Rom. 12:11; Colossians 3:23)
· Thoughtfulness considers and gives attention and care to others and their feelings first. (Philippians 2:4)
· Efficient is being well organized, competent, and resourceful so we can make the most of every situation, doing our best and seeking better ways. (Psalm 90:12; Ephesians 4:23; 5:15- 16; 1 Pet. 4:10)
· Discretion keeps our minds and focus on sound judgment, giving serious attention and thought to what is going on. It will carefully choose our words, attitudes, and actions to be right for any given situation, thus avoiding words and actions that could result in adverse consequences. (Psalm 112:5; Proverbs 22:3; Rom.12: 2, 9; 14:19, 22)
· Optimism will think the best of and be positive with people and all situations, even if later proven wrong. (Luke 21:18; John 16:33; Romans 8:25; 28)
· Obedience is submitting to do what God requires of us. It is also recognizing the authority and direction from others, such as the pastor and church, so we can create winning situations. (Deut. 13: 4; Prov. 19:16; John 14:14; 15:14; 2 Corinthians 10:5)
· Reverence is recognizing and respecting people, not just because of their position and authority, but as brothers and sisters in the Lord, regardless of their personality, knowing He loves them too! (1 Peter 2:13-14)
More Character attributes: These are the further fruits that are produced when we are following the above principles!
· Agreeable finds Biblical solutions and support for others, without compromising truth. (Amos 3:3)
· Appreciation gives God our heartfelt thanks as a lifestyle of worship and adoration. This allows us to give to, and value others with respect. (Romans 12:10)
· Avoiding anger is the knowing of its destructive force and striving to maintain "cool" and serenity. (James 1:19)
· Being a Good Example is not allowing your relationship with Christ to become hypocritical, since people see your example as to what a Christian is! (1 Pet 2:21-2; 1 Pet 2:12,15,17)
· Childlike Faith is the wonder and awe of what Christ did for us. It is something that we should never lose. Let us maintain our enthusiasm and not become just a subculture or routine! (Mt. 18:2-4; 34)
· Commitment is being dedicated and pushing ahead as well as being satisfied with what you have. It is vowing to honor and be the best with what God has given of spiritual and material things. (1 Timothy 6:20)
· Communicating is being willing to convey thoughts, attitudes, feelings, and actions to others in a kind and listening manner that reflects Christ. (1 Timothy 4:12)
· Conviction is devotion to and following of the precepts of Scripture with zeal, whatever the cost. (Daniel 1:8)
· Cooperativeness is the support and willingness to work together in peace, unity, and harmony. (Eph. 4:3)
· Creative is being resourceful and imaginative in using the best of the goods and talents we have been given to serve the Lord. (1 Timothy 4:14)
· Diligenceis the loving of our call and the pursuing of our work, doing our best for His glory. (Colossians 3:23)
· Dependableis always being reliable and trustworthy. (Colossians 1:10)
· Determination is the ability to make difficult decisions and accomplish God's goals based on the truths of God's Word, regardless of the opposition. (Psalms 119:30; 2 Timothy 4:7,8)
· Deference is being willing to bend personal freedom for the respect and esteem of others. (Romans 14:21)
· Devotionis aligning personal desires, plans, worship, and hope with God. (Colossians 3:2)
· Discernment is the ability to see people and situations the way they really are with of neutrality and justice, while also being cautious with right timing and actions. (1 Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 19:2)
· Discreet is the ability to not bully people with our personality or actions, or even with sound and right opinions. It is giving serious respect, attention, and thought to what we say and do. (Psalm 112:5)
· Discipline is upholding and continuing a consistent and well-ordered life through godly obedience, regardless of how we feel. (1 Timothy 4:7)
· Decisive is sticking to right and just decisions based on God's perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
· Not to swear or slander is refusing to verbally hurt others! (James 1:26)
· Endurance is the inner strength to remain in Him with staying power in order to accomplish God's will. (Galatians 6:9)
· Fearless is facing down peril without being stupid. Sound mind is being bold since God gives us strength. (2 Timothy 1:7)
· Flexibility is being open to others plans and ideas and willing to be instructed and challenged to change for the better. (Colossians 3:2)
· Godly Priorities is choosing to follow Scriptural precepts as the primary important schedule and value for life. (Matthew 6:33)
· Godliness is being pious, which is rearranging our priorities to line up with God's character. (3 John 11)
· Grace is elegant simplicity and calm that minimizes crudeness. (Psalm 94:11; James 4:6)
· Guidance is a willingness to help others to apply the precepts of Scripture in everyday and difficult situations. (Proverbs 27:9)
· Honest is being truthful and doing what is sincere and right before God and others. (Heb 7:26)
· Hospitality is a willingness to share, with discernment, what God has given us, including our family, home, finances, and food. (Romans 12:13)
· Integrity is the obedience to a moral code of values that have honor, truth, and reliability. It will allow one to keep his word and do his best even when no one else is looking. (Psalm 78:72)
· Justis doing what is fair, moral, impartial, and right, according to God's will. (Genesis 6:9)
· Loyalty is remaining committed to those whom God has brought into our lives and has called us to serve, even in times of difficulty. (Proverbs 17:17)
· Meekness is not about being weak! It is strength under control, which yields personal rights and expectations to God. (Psalms 62:5)
· Mercifulis demonstrating more forgiving and gracious kindness than the world requires. (Luke 6:36)
· Patience is the fortitude to accept from others difficult situations that we do not like. With God, it is trust of His timing, and not giving Him a deadline. (Romans 12:12)
· Perseverance is not being faint with our call, but being able to persist and continue to deal with stress so we can accomplish what God calls us to. (Galatians 6:9)
· Persuasiveness advocates God's Word to others so they can be changed in their thinking and can conform to His will. (2 Timothy 2:25)
· Promptis not holding others back with our inadequacies; it is respecting the time of others and being able to act quickly when God and others call on us. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
· Prudence is not being a prude, but implementing and applying good, logical, and just judgment to situations that will help in avoiding error and problems. (Proverbs 13:6; 22:3)
· Purpose is in knowing who we are in Christ and acting it out with our call. That is, devoting our life, Spiritual gifts, abilities, and call so it can bring out the best in people and situations. Our meaning of life will have eternal treasure and results. (John 15)
· Respectfulis being polite and courteous to the people, and the civil authorities God has placed in our life. (1 Thess. 5:13-13)
· Security is trust and reliance upon God for our daily needs. This is not laziness, but working with God's values, and organizing our life around God's Will with an eternal outlook in mind for a secure feeling. We are safe because of God's protection. (Proverbs 29:25; John 6:27)
· Submissive is, with awe and reverence, surrendering and yielding our will and plans over to God's guidance. (Ephesians 5:21)
· Self-Acceptance is realizing we are deeply loved and accepted by Christ, thus, we can accept us. To love others we have to love ourselves as Christ implies for us to. Self-hatred is not Biblical! Self-Acceptance will allow us to accept unchangeable physical features and situations that God has made, to allow us to focus on the more important things in life such as character. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
· Selflessness is the altruistic giving of ourselves to others, as Christ gave Himself to us. (Titus 2:14)
· Sensitivity is exercising kindness and compassion so we can go beyond just reason and logic to perceive and respond to others. (Romans 12:15)
· Servant Leadership is exercising real godly leadership as Christ did, by His taking a towel, influencing, equipping, and empowering people to accomplish God's purpose and plan. (Luke 22:26)
· Sincerity is earnest honesty that is readily doing what is right, with pure and loving intention. (Joshua 24:14; 1 Peter 1:22)
· Success is not what the world says is achievement; it is to know and faithfully follow God's Will and His Word. It is our obedience, not our numbers or measurements! (Matthew 25:21)
· Suffering is not sought, but when it happens, it is d allowing it to turn into a mold to allow us to be made for the better as "Christ hath suffered" makes us better. It is not a personal attack, rather it is a means to get our attention to make us better, more useful, stronger, and to understand what takes place in others. (1 Peter 4:1-19)
· Supportive is to come along side others, sharing our strength and courage in their afflictions and troubles. (Galatians 6:2)
· Tactful is being considerate, delicate, and diplomatic with other's feelings and ideas, doing, and saying the right thing. (Colossians 4:6)
· Teach is to share our insights and what we have learned with others, to disciple them. (Matt. 7:28; 28: 19-20; John 7:16; Mark 4:2; 2 John 1:9)
· Temperate is to have self-control so we do not lose control and give in to lust and extremes of society's ills. (Titus 2:12)
· Tolerant is being forbearing and patient with others, even when they are different or weaker. (1 Thess. 5:14)
· Thoroughness is careful diligence that carries out our call with our very best for God's approval. (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23)
· Time is the moments in which we either burn or live for His glory. It is the opportunities we have to live, serve, learn, and grow. In so doing, if we invest wisely, we will produce eternal treasures. If not, it will go to waste. (Psalm 90:12)
· Understanding is the ability to reason and comprehend situations. (Psalms 119:34)
· Virtue is holding onto the principles of moral excellence that calls us to a higher level where few people desire to go, but as a Christian, we must go! (Col. 3:12-17)
We hope you will find this study both challenging and insightful in your walk with our Lord! We will be looking at how we can find character by looking at both positive and negative examples from the truth of the Word, by examining how the characters of the Bible lived their lives, what Christ has taught, what is there, and how they lived. We will study such lives as those of David and Paul. We will see it in the unpronounceable names in Daniel such as Meshach, Abed-Nego, and Shadrach, who stood their ground in the face of death to be virtuous. We will also see how Saul threw it all away.
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of 'Into Thy Word Ministries, 'a discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word and is also a pastor, teacher, speaker and a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena California. Hehas amounted over 20 years of pastoral ministry experience, mostly in youth ministry, including serving as a church growth consultant.
This article also serves as the introduction to our Online Bible Study series on, character!