A key factor in becoming like Jesus is developing godly character. This article will focus on character traits that Scripture identifies as those that Christians should emulate and that lead us to Christlikeness. These Christian character traits can be differentiated from other character traits that, while good, don’t necessarily make one more Christlike. For example, creativity, flexibility, alertness, and decisiveness are good attributes to have, but they aren’t directly addressed in Scripture; whereas faith, gentleness, patience, love, gratitude, and others are.
I was sitting in the car inside a parking lot, taking a moment to think about changes in my life and work. It felt like I had hit a plateau, and I was honestly a little worried.
Suddenly a man popped up next to my window. Short, straggly, and with an air of boundless cheer, he greeted me warmly. I was a little surprised, and even more cautious. Crime is rampant in South Africa, and there are plenty of opportunists looking for an easy mark.
A few years ago my life changed, and not in a small way. There were so many changes at once. It was quite overwhelming and rather discouraging at times.
First, I had to move back to my home country, Ukraine, after having lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina for six years doing missionary and volunteer work. My two sons, who had always been with me, had grown into wonderful young men and moved on to pursue their goals. I needed to find a place to stay, a job, things to do, and motivation to go on.
I’m in the business of helping you take the good things in your life and improve them, making them even better. But if you never take the time to think about these things, maybe because you consider the way you go about it “good enough,” something that works well for you—you’ll lack the motivation to strive for something better.
I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of people who just up and change their lives. The successful surgeon who becomes a baker, the beggar who becomes a Wall Street tycoon, the soccer mom who becomes a backpacking mountaineer, the high-powered corporate couple who embrace minimalism and travel the world living out of a suitcase. I must like the comfort of believing that if it’s ever necessary, I too can change when I need to.
One of the best-known stories in the Bible is also one of the strangest. Nearly everyone, it seems, knows about Jonah and the whale. It’s a Sunday school favorite. But it’s also one of those perplexing tales that makes one wonder, Why, God, why?
The first mention of Jonah in the Bible1 establishes that Jonah was alive circa 800–750 B.C. and was from the town of Gath-hepher in Israel, a few miles from Nazareth. He apparently already had a reputation as a prophet when God called him to prophesy against Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.
A few years ago, I was involved in a volunteer project that operated a meal center for underprivileged students. For the first two years, I helped with cleaning the kitchen, shopping for food supplies, and meal preparation. I felt a sense of pride in helping to produce well-balanced, delicious, yet economical meals. My diligence was recognized by the organization’s leaders and I was given greater responsibility managing the funding and designing the menu.
You can change your life, because I can change anybody who comes to Me, seeking to fulfill My will for their life. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been like or how long you’ve been a certain way. If I made the world and everything in it, don’t you see that it’s a small thing for Me to transform a single life into something better to fulfill My purpose and plan?
A friend of mine told me this bit of friendly advice in an effort to encourage me to welcome some new changes in my life. My wife and I had been living in the Middle East for some seven years, and it had been a great chapter of our lives, but we were finding ourselves slowly being phased out of our roles into a kind of pre-retirement. Over the years, we’d grown our roots, and like a potted plant that outgrows its pot, we felt as if we were running out of good ground to grow in. It seemed to both of us that this could be our time to be transplanted into a bigger pot—a new place with new challenges.
Vanessa waved at me as the doors shut, and I watched the train whisk away a friendship of six years. Vanessa and I had met in junior high school, and our common interest in writing stories and shared taste in novels had started an unbreakable friendship that had lasted through all the highs and lows of our teenage years. Now she’d won a scholarship and was going abroad to pursue her degree, leaving me to try to figure out how to go on despite feeling like her departure had pulled the bottom out from under my life. Of course, I’d always known that one day we’d both leave home and go our separate ways, but now that it was actually happening, I was crestfallen.