For a Christian, character isn’t just having integrity or honesty or doing the right thing—it’s a living, growing relationship with Jesus that develops the fruits of the Spirit in our lives. This issue of Activated helps you progress on that path.
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
On a late Saturday afternoon, traffic crawled towards the congested, narrow intersection in the large metropolis. Pedestrians zigzagged through the lanes. Lines of cars were pulling out of one of the busiest shopping malls, adding a strain to the already overcrowded junction. With no traffic lights or traffic controllers around, the traffic quickly became deadlocked.
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.
We live on a country road on the outskirts of a small town. There are two ways to enter our village from our side of town, but both present several obstacles for cyclists like my husband and me.
One entrance has a STOP sign that is habitually ignored by the motorists, many of whom pay no attention whatsoever to the right-of-way rules. Many folks use this road as a shortcut and don’t realize that there are narrow stretches, pedestrians shopping at roadside stalls, and lowly cyclists on our way to town.
Jesus gave a simple command: “Love your neighbor.”1 However, “neighbor” is pretty vague, and some wise guy asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”2 Jesus answered with the story about a traveler on the way to Jericho who was ambushed by thieves, beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Two people passed him by but didn’t stop to help.3
I can speculate on what each might have been thinking as he passed that poor guy on the side of the road.
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
In a video clip I watched on YouTube some time ago, one of the participants in a panel was talking about a trying time in her life that had led to serious depression. A friend advised her to put together a list of 1,000 reasons for gratitude, so she started keeping track of the good things that came across her path each day, and slowly the tide of negativity turned.
When I was 17, I went with friends to spend carnival in the city of Salvador. We rented a very cheap house and slept on the floor like most of the locals. Even though our neighbors were very poor, they were exceptionally nice to us. The simple life they lived and the love and friendship they gave freely were the secret to the happiness and laughter they shared. It dawned on me, for the first time, that love was the answer for many of the problems of humankind.
As I was skimming headlines on an online news website, I saw this headline: “He’s a Fighter: Guo Youming Won’t Succumb to Rare Disease.” Intrigued, I clicked on the article and started reading Guo Youming’s incredible story.
As a child, his mother noticed that he walked unsteadily and had frequent falls. His condition worsened until he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at age seven.
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.
It is a common reaction for people, when faced with a negative situation, to feel justified in complaining and dwelling on the negative. Others have discovered the power of positive thinking and find it beneficial. The power of positive thinking is multiplied when your thoughts are turned into praise for My goodness, protection, supply, and the many blessings in your life.