Character Development
By: Donna J. Kazenske

"Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny."

According to the above statement, our character has something to do with our destiny. Since our destiny is of such great importance, shouldn't we be more than concerned about developing our character?

Character is defined as moral firmness, self control, integrity, truthfulness, honesty, commitment, purity, thoughtfulness, thankfulness, generosity, love, sharing, helpfulness, responsibility, thoroughness, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, courage, diligence, desire for excellence, perseverance, self discipline, determination, etc.

Christian Character is formed through a lifelong process that begins at the new birth experience. When a person gives their life to Christ, the Holy Spirit begins a process of developing His character traits within the soul of the individual. It's not an instantaneous development, but a consistent lifelong process. While many wish their character could be transformed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, the fact of the matter is that character transformation takes time.

Character development is similar to the formation of a pearl within the shell of an oyster or mollusk. The pearl is formed over a period of time as layers build up around some particle of sand or other irritant that has made its way into the mollusk's shell. The oyster secretes a liquid called "Mother of Pearl" in order to protect itself from irritation. This liquid hardens and forms a smooth surface around the offending grain of sand or irritant. The layers created eventually produce a natural gem.

When irritating situations arise in our lives, the Lord wants to release His anointing as a protection against the wiles of the enemy. The Lord takes that which was once an irritating situation, releases His anointing in it, turns it into somethin g that works for our good and causes something beautiful to happen on the inside of us.

God allows times of suffering and trial to cause change to take place within our lives. He knows exactly what's going on and the enemy can only go as far as the Lord will allow Him to go.

Remember the story of Job? It's interesting to me that Satan began his first attack against Job's character. The Lord told Satan that Job was a blameless and upright man, one who feared God and shunned evil. Satan tried his best to destroy Job's character by destroying his property and by killing his children. He wanted to see how Job would react in a pressure situation. I'm sure that Satan was more than surprised when Job refused to curse God and blessed Him instead. Job's character withstood the test of his lifetime.

How do you react in pressure situatio ns? Do you curse God and put your fist in His face commanding that He do something to deliver you or do you prostrate yourself before Him and ask for grace and mercy?

Pressure situations have a way of bringing out the best or the worst in every human being.

Deuteronomy 8:2 - "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not."

God already knew what was in their hearts. He allowed them to go through this time of great testing so they could see what was really on the inside of them. He wanted them to see their own heart condition.

We might think we are super spiritual until a time of testing comes into our lives and God allows us to see what's re ally in the deepest depths of our hearts.

I've been amazed at those times when venomous words have proceeded out of my mouth as a result of things not going my way. I didn't expect pressure situations or suffering to come knocking on my door at such unexpected times, and when they did, I unleashed all the venom that was in my heart towards the situations. How did this kind of response make me feel afterwards? It caused me to see a dark place in my heart that I had never seen before. It brought understanding of what the Holy Spirit was trying to speak to me, and it caused me to cry out to God with a repentant heart and allow change to take place.

Sometimes the Lord allows us to go through situations because we are not grasping or understanding what He is attempting to speak to us. Sometimes He allows us to go through trials and trouble because He wants to make us more like Him. He's more concerned with our character transformation than our success rate.

Gal. 4:19 - "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you..."

In the above Scripture reference, Paul is addressing the need of maturity in the lives of the Galatian believers. He is interceding and travailing for the ransformation of their inner man. His desire is that Christ be formed within each and every one of them.

Since character development is a process, we must allow the Lord to do whatever it takes to transform our character into His likene ss.

Rom. 5:3-4 - "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope."

According to Scripture, tribulation actually produces perseverance, character and hope in our lives.

How can we know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings if we never suffer? How can we minister to those who have been through hard times if we have never been through hard times? How can we relate to those who have needs that we don't understand?

2 Cor. 1:3-4 - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselve s are comforted by God."

Everything that we go through in this life is preparation for our future. The Lord has called us to minister to all kinds of people who are facing all kinds of situations. He allows us to go through certain situations so that we can be better equipped to meet the needs of those whom we will be ministering to in the future. And in the process, the Lord is transforming our character, making us more and more like Him.

Many are crying out for bigger ministries and bigger buildings when they should be crying out for transformation on the inside. I believe God's more interested in our character transformation than in our preaching ability. If our character does not line up with what we are preaching in our pulpits, our ministry will be a reproach in the site of God.

Christian character is not about how good you look on Sunday morning; it's about who you are when no one is watching; it's about how you act when the storms are raging all around you and there's no life boat in sight; it's about how you respond when things don't go your way; it's about how you treat your friends and neighbors when you have other things of more importance that you need to get done, etc.

Character is defined by what you do, not by what you say or believe. Every choice that you make in this life reveals the kind of person you really are on the inside. Doing the right thing even if it costs you everything shows Christian character within. Everything that we do in this life makes an impact on someone or something. We need to understand that we have the power within us to make our lives count for something other than selfish gain or selfish motives. When we glorify God in our earthly bodies, we make this world a better place.

Christian character is not something that's painted on the outside; it's something that is formed from deep within.