Character is defined as strength of moral fiber.  For diamonds it is their clarity; for precious metals it is their purity; and the genuine measure of a man is his character.  Generally people thought to have character are described with traits such as honesty, integrity, ethics, and charity.  When we hear someone described as a man of character or a woman of integrity, most people associate that with character.  Those lacking character are described with traits such as dishonest, unethical, and self-centered.

When determining a person’s character we must take a holistic approach looking at the sum of a person’s thoughts, intentions, and actions.  Character should be based on how a person generally behaves or responds rather than a single isolated incident.  A good example of this would be King David.  If we look at his entire life we would describe him as a man of character yet he did have occasions where he disappointed God by his sinful behavior.  On the other hand King Ahab acted with character once; overall his life demonstrated a lack of character.

Godly character is more about the choices we make than it is about innate traits with which we are born.  Scripture tells us The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”[1]  Duplicity can be defined as “double mindedness.”  Proverbs gives us some very sound advice when it comes to character when it says “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.  Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.  The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.  Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.  In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls, but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.  Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”[2]  So if Godly character is about choices and how we make them, then the closing portion of this passage of scripture is incredibly important!  We must start our children off on the way they should go to make good choices.

God instructs Samuel with the directions “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”[3]  We live in a culture that is driven by how things look rather than digging beneath the surface to discover the genuine drivers and motives a person or organization may actually have.  We act on emotion rather than fact and often get way too far down the path before we realize that we have been following someone or something that totally lacks character.  Paul tells us “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”[4]  You see Godly character is all about being transformed.  It is then that we are able to test and approve God’s good, pleasing and perfect will!

So why is God more concerned about our character than our comfort?  Paul gives us some great insight when he said “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”[5]

There are times in our lives where we will face trials and difficulties and through these we will have to make choices.  Those choices will be the things that shape our character and more importantly, whether or not it is Godly character.  It is when we realize that life challenges, trials and yes, sometimes tragedies, produce perseverance.  This perseverance directly impacts our character and through growing and maturing in Godly character we have the hope that can only come through a personal relationship with only true hope, Jesus Christ.

So as you go through what Paul states as “sufferings,” don’t lose site of the fact these are the things that lead to Godly character.  When speaking to the church at Philippi, Paul says “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.   Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”[6]  A word of caution here — do not get confused and interpret when this passage says “continue to work out your salvation” as salvation by works.  Our salvation comes from faith alone in Christ alone … PERIOD!  What Paul is saying is that once we are saved, we have to work out our salvation so that we can grow and mature and be prepared at all times to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

There will be times where God will shake us out of our comfort zones in order for us to grow in Godly character.  Athletes, musicians, artists, to name a few, will all tell you if you want to reach the elite level it requires a great deal of training and working out to achieve your goal.  If we want to achieve the elite level of Godly character it will require us to train and work out in order to accomplish our goal.  This will include times of discomfort, challenge, and struggle yet each time we work out our salvation we grow stronger in Christ, we develop endurance to withstand the negativity the devil will throw our way and we develop courage and boldness to stand on the Word of God regardless of what others might think or say.  So I guess it boils down to this — are you seeking comfort or Godly character?


[1] Proverbs 11:3a.  All Scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Proverbs 22:1-6

[3] 1 Samuel 16:7

[4] Romans 12:2

[5] Romans 5:1-5

[6] Philippians 2:12-16

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