Have you ever put a stalk of celery in colored water? What happens is that the celery starts to change color as the water is soaked up through the stem. It takes a couple of days to see the change, but soon the celery stalk will take on the color of the water it’s in. Celery also very quickly absorbs any poisons and pesticides in the air or in the soil.
I remember memorizing Hebrews 11 as a child, which detailed quite a few gruesome ways to die: “They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.”1
I was raised in a Christian home by dedicated Christian parents. We prayed before we went out, whenever we got in the car, before we cooked, before we started our homework, and of course, before going to sleep. The bookshelves were full of children’s devotional books and Bibles, and we watched Bible cartoons in the evenings.
In computer science and mathematics, Garbage In, Garbage Out describes the concept that flawed or nonsense input data produces nonsense output or “garbage.” In other words, inaccurate or faulty information at the start will inevitably lead to inaccurate or faulty results.
One of my favorite forms of exercise is weightlifting. I’m no bodybuilder; I just do it to stay toned and keep in shape. I also find it interesting how akin weightlifting can be to our spiritual growth.
In our “spiritual weightlifting,” we have a truly awesome trainer. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” To me, the “yoke” is symbolic of anything that strengthens and exercises our faith and Christian walk. Jesus goes on to promise right after that, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”1
The great American evangelist Dwight L. Moody had a pithy phrase to describe character: Character is what you are in the dark.
As Christians, we all want to grow in spiritual maturity and Christlikeness. We want to become all we can be with Christ’s help, to put aside sin and who we are in our worst moments, and replace that with behavior that demonstrates the fruits of the spirit—love, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and so on.1
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 lived in a village in Tanzania that had a big, old avocado tree that was a local treasure. The tree grew in the middle of town, and its fruit was available to anyone in the village. The tree was cherished and protected by the villagers—for some of whom an avocado might comprise most of the food they’d get in a day.
There are many instances when we pray for people and they are healed immediately or within a short time. But we also experience situations where we pray for some very serious afflictions repeatedly over months and even years, and still don’t see the results we’ve asked for. We could then be tempted to wonder what has happened. Has something gone wrong?
The cares of this life and its many burdens and worries can easily distract you from your close fellowship with Me, and fear of failure can cloud your ability to look to Me and have faith that I hear your prayers and love you and want to bless you. I want to raise you up from your burdens and give you a new start. I want to make you a testimony and a witness of My love.