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Character That Counts

character-that-counts

We live in a world today where it seems that competencies and skills are valued far more than character. Character counts to God and it should matter to us also. In the two primary passages on leadership for churches (I Timothy 3 and Titus 1) the qualifications overwhelmingly focus on character not ability. There is one exception: teaching! But God is far more interested in who we are than what we do. The scriptures make it clear that God’s focus is character and the heart of man, not outward appearances.

John 7:24 says, “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” Matthew 15:16-20 says, “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Following all the outward rituals does not insure the having right heart!

Here are some great quotes on character:

  • Howard Hendricks: “The greatest crisis in the world today is a crisis of leadership and the greatest crisis in leadership is a crisis of character.”
  • General Norman Schwarzkopf:  “99% of leadership failures are failures of character.”
  • Coach John Wooden:  “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
  • Arthur Friedman:  “Men of genius are admired.  Men of wealth are envied.  Men of power are feared but only men of character are trusted.”
  • David Star Jordan:  “Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it!”

Unfortunately, all too often we focus too much on ability and skill and too little on character. In Leaders Who Last, Dave Kraft compares capacity and competence to gliders. They can fly and stay up in the air soaring for a while but not indefinitely. They eventually will come down and they do not hold up well during turbulent times. Maybe this why some leaders come crashing down so hard. They have been elevated too quickly because of their charisma or capabilities but their character is not equal to the task?

Kraft goes on to say, “Who you are will take you much farther than what you can do. Character will stand the test of time and hold up when the winds howl and the storm rages around you.” So how do we develop character like he just described? Kraft also points out, “Character development is not a short-term project, but a lifelong pursuit.” It is walking with Christ daily and developing an intimacy with Him. If we desire Christ-like character then we must spend time with Him and abide in Him.

The importance of our daily spiritual disciplines cannot be overstated. Hopefully, we do not come to our daily quiet time with the Lord just so we can check it off of our list, fulfill our obligation, or feel good about doing what we should have done. Following Christ is about developing a relationship with Him. Great men and women of God are great because they enjoy exceptional intimacy with Christ. Here is an excellent example from John Ortberg in his article, “Motorboats, Sailboats, and Rafts,” on how to approach our daily habits of the heart:

“One of the analogies that has been kind of helpful to me is the difference between a motorboat, a raft, and a sailboat. In a motorboat, I’m in charge. I determine how fast we’re going to go, and in what direction. Some people approach spiritual disciplines that way. If I’m just aggressive enough, if I have enough quiet times, I can make transformation happen on my own.

Some people have been burned by that kind of approach, so they go to the opposite extreme and will say, “I’m into grace.” It’s like they’re floating on a raft. If you ask them to do anything to further their growth, they’ll say, “Hey, no. I’m not into works. I’m into grace. You’re getting legalistic with me.” So they drift. There are way too many commands in Scripture for anybody to think that we’re called to be passive.

On a sailboat, however, I don’t move if it’s not for the wind. I can’t control the wind. I don’t manufacture the wind. Jesus talks about the Spirit blowing like the wind. But there is a role for me to play, and part of it has to do with what I need to discern. A good sailor will discern, “Where’s the wind at work? How should I set the sails?” Practicing spiritual disciplines is like sailing.”

It is important to remember Zech. 4:6, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.” And Acts 2:1-4, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in once place. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” We cannot control the wind, nor can we manufacture it, but all too often we try to produce His presence and power ourselves. Phil. 2:13, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and the ability to work out His good purpose.”

For Him to work on us we must place ourselves in the position to be filled with His presence and power. How do we do that so that we can develop Christ-like character?

  • Make sure you are relying on His energy – not your own!
  • Make sure you are pursuing His plans and purpose – not your timeline!
  • Make sure you desire His presence in your life more than His blessings!
  • Make sure you are abiding in His presence daily!