The American Heritage College Dictionary defines character as, “the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another… a description of a person’s attributes, as of an individual, group or category” (242). Believers involved in ministry must show attributes that are suitable to one called by God for the mission. Who decides what are acceptable characteristics in the believer? God’s word gives the directive on what individuals should work on in their nature. Even though each believer is uniquely different, there should still be distinguishing traits becoming to all that call on the name of Christ.
To understand building character from a biblical perspective, one must understand the need for God’s power. Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom, the authors of Seeking Him: Experiencing The Joy of Personal Revival writes, “Christian maturity cannot be attained by trying harder or doing more. God has not dangled the prospect of an abundant life before us then set us loose in a maze to try to find our way through. The Holy Spirit acts as our guide and our companion – the One sent from heaven to lead us home. He enables us to obey God, empowers us to become like Jesus, and fills us with supernatural power for work and for witness. We should therefore, learn how to listen to Him, how to follow Him, how to rely on His power and how to walk in His fullness” (215). Our character is developed as we study God’s word and change our actions to line up with what God calls for his people to look like. When one’s character is becoming of a believer, then one’s witness is not hindered.
John MacArthur, the author of Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically states, “Merely proclaiming the Word is not enough, however; the pastor must live out its truth in his life” (19). Showing distinctiveness such as being humble or even-tempered, show others you are living out what you say you believe in. If your character does not match up with what you say, others will not believe your words, and your witness is of no effect.
As one that believes in Christ, I must insure my actions match up with the word of God. One area that God is working on me is in my ability to forgive those that have injured my reputation or said hurtful words to me. I had to glean from God’s word what the requirements for forgiveness were. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). God’s word speaks of forgiving others even if they do not deserve it, simply because Christ forgave me first. He forgave me much more than what any person could do to me. Once I understood this, I had to allow God’s spirit to equip me to make the change in my heart. God’s spirit first reveals the area of growth needed in my life, and then once I accept the truth, His Spirit equips me to carry out the change.
“Forgiveness. The gift everyone wants to receive but finds hard to give. It’s not easy to forgive…When we release our offenders through forgiveness, we discover the key that unlocks the prison doors of our own hearts and sets us free to experience greater peace and joy than we ever dreamed possible” (DeMoss & Grissom, 169). This statement is a truthful one. When I am able to forgive those that hurt me, I find that I have God’s joy.
It is important to have a character that shows your life is in line with what you say you believe. It is important because we are witnesses to the world about the power of God. If we live up to the calling then we show the world we are a “peculiar people”. Our character then shows us as individuals first, then as a group of believers that look like Jesus. It is also important to know that what needs to be changed within us is not possible simply because we will it to, but as a result of God’s spirit working within us.
DeMoss, Nancy Leigh and Grissom, Tim. Seeking Him Experiencing The Joy of Personal Revival. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2004.
Gildea, Spike, Ph.D., et al. The American Heritage College Dictionary. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002.
MacArthur, John, et. al. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005.
Thompson, Frank Charles, D.D., PH.D. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, 5th ed. Indianapolis, IN: B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Co., Inc., 1988.