Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - The Virtues of Character

While I was driving to take care of some errands, I ran across a roadside sign that caught my attention. On it was a quote from the American novelist and short story writer, James Lane Allen. It read, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”

As I continued to drive, that quote began to bounce around not only in my mind but also in my heart. That quote really struck me deeply. I really thought about the words. I began to apply it to Christian faith and our daily walk and life with the Lord.

As we go through difficult situations, character is not something we build in order to face problems. If we relied on ourselves and what we possess in our character, most of us would just run away or curl up and die.

When Job faced his problems, the loss of his wealth, children and his livestock and boils all over his body, he sat scraping his skin while sitting in piles of garbage and ashes. His wife, after seeing all of the things that had happened, did not even try to console him. She abruptly said this in Job 2, “9 Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.

A lot of us would just give up and let the vultures and other animals feed on us as we slowly died. Or, we would look to others for help knowing that they could not help us. That would happen if we looked to ourselves for the strength to go on and for the courage to stand up and fight. 

In Proverbs 25, the author writes these words, “19 Putting confidence in an unreliable person in times of trouble is like chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.

Relying on someone else who is equally frail and unable to help is truly like “chewing with a broken tooth or walking on a lame foot.” Our friends who are very dear to us cannot really do that much for us. Do not get me wrong. I appreciate their words of encouragement and their empathy. It is most welcome. Just talking with them does help as we voice our feelings and thoughts.

When I share my feelings and thoughts, I am not looking for a solution. I am just expressing what I am feeling and thinking. No one can give me a solution. All real solutions can only come from God. God can speak those words through someone, but the mere words of a man or woman cannot give us the direction we need. It is only God’s direction and plans for us that will get us through our difficulties. 

You notice that I am not relying even on myself. When I go through a horrible walk through the valley of darkness, I seek the Lord and His way. In Proverbs 3, the author, once again, tells us about relying on ourselves and our own knowledge and understanding, “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

When you consider the wisdom of Proverbs, you see that you cannot depend on yourself or rely on the help of others. It just will not work. Neither will help you in your time of need. You have to rely on someone bigger and greater than yourself. That means you have to rely on Him and Him only.

In his epistle to Titus, Paul writes, “7 And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. 8 Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us.

As Christians, we must set an example of integrity and seriousness in all that we do. These character traits do not just simply appear. They come from God as He works in our lives. As these traits are nurtured and cultivated, we are to become the example for others. By not relying on our own understanding and seeking His will in our life, we develop our character. As we persevere through life’s problems, we see that our character is revealed not only to us but also to those of the world.

In John 15, Jesus puts this into a context that the disciples could easily understand. He tells them, “5 Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

Unless we have Jesus in our lives, we are not able to produce the fruit that God wants us to produce. We become barren and devoid of the fruits of the spirit. When we become useless, there is nothing left for us. The barren, cutoff vines that are useless are gathered, piled and burned. 

By realizing our character traits come from God and using them in accordance to His will, we are able to produce much fruit, be examples to others in times of trouble and trial and, most importantly, bring great glory to our Father. We may lack the strength to even go on or to fight the good fight, but remember the words of Jesus, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

When we trust in God and in our savior, Christ Jesus, we know that when times do get rough, our character will be revealed to the world and they will see the glory of the Father reflected in our life as we persevere and continue to, as Paul counseled Timothy in his first epistle to the young man of faith, “12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

When we face problems of varying severity that will invariable come up, our true character will be revealed and will be the example to the world that God and His son, Jesus, are working in our lives daily. We will soon discover that we can, through the power and love of our Heavenly Father, stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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