One dictionary defines character as “the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances.” In this definition, it references qualities “built” into an individual’s life…these qualities don’t just happen to appear in your life. You must, with intention and awareness, take care to build or plant them into your life.
There are many “characteristics” or traits of character that your character can be comprised of…both good and bad. Just as honesty is a positive character trait, dishonesty is a negative character trait. So the question arises. What character traits do I want in my life and what is my conviction or integrity anchored to?
In last week’s discussion we talked about integrity being the foundation of character. Integrity is the conviction that leads us to hold certain character traits dear or of great value. Our integrity or conviction needs to be anchored in something immovable, something unchangeable. If it isn’t anchored in something immovable, then it really is likely just a strong opinion and subject to change under the right set of given circumstances. There is only one thing that is immovable and that is truth, and our Integrity can only be anchored on the truth that we know to be true.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32, James the brother of Jesus expanded on this when he said, “Do not merely listen to the word (truth), and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word (truth) but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. Our faith or integrity needs to be based in the truth of the word of God, and the word of God, like a mirror shows us how we measure up to the truth and where we fall short. The word sets the bar for the character we should exhibit in our lives however, as James says we have a tendency to forget or become distracted from what we should be. We have short attention spans so how are these character traits established?
Building character is a lot like going to the gym to build muscles. Body builders are extremely conscious and consistent in diet and exercise. If they aren’t consistent they will have subpar results. There is no other way to achieve the results. In the same way, building character is the product of diet and exercise. We have to continually, daily look into the mirror of God’s word and digest it. This is our diet. And our exercise is to practice, thru repetition exhibiting the character traits that will give us a clear reflection as we look into the word of God. Growth is work. It requires effort, discipline, time and the repetition of choice under trying circumstances.
The Apostle Peter says this about our growth."... Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith (integrity) put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory." 1 Peter 1:7 This tells you how much God values your faith in Him and his truth.
The Prophet Malachi speaking of Gods working in us said "He'll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He'll scrub the Levite priests (those who are dedicated to the service of God) clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they're fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness.
Is it time for a good scrubbing?
Have you ever made a conscious decision about the character traits you want to live out in your life?
What is your integrity or conviction for living based on?
Is your integrity a true conviction or just a strong opinion? How do you know?
How has your integrity been tested recently. What choices did you make?