This devotional is inspired by the BACC February Sunday sermon theme “Strong.”
Throughout the Scriptures, we find that those who had a profound spiritual legacy shared one common quality: strong character. Strong spiritual character is developed and influenced by God, and it equips ordinary people to live extraordinary lives that change the world.
Sometimes natural talent – accomplishments, performance, achievements, personality and innate physical ability – can be mistaken for external character. Internal character, though, is spiritually built not naturally born. Qualities such as love, honesty, faithfulness, integrity, temperance, and self-control define internal character and are hallmarks of the presence of God’s power moving in our lives. (1 Timothy 3:1-12, Titus 1) God has a personal dream for each of us to change lives. His dream requires strong character.
Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
Psalm 105:19 NLT
Character Matters to God
Take no notice of his looks or his height. He is not the one, for the Eternal One does not pay attention to what humans value. Humans only care about the external appearance, but the Eternal considers the inner character.
1 Samuel 16:7 Voice
According to this scripture, what is God most concerned about in a person? Ask yourself, what am I most concerned with? Character or appearances? Pleasing God or impressing people?
Why do we need character?
3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:3-5 NLT
We need character because we can’t love deeply without it. Relationships are bumpy and if we don’t have character we will more easily give up when times are hard.
What is your first response when encountering problems and trials? How does the strength of your character affect your capacity to love others deeply? Are you motivated to persevere with or quit on relationships when they become difficult?
24 For Barnabas was a good man [privately and publicly—his godly character benefited both himself and others and he was full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith [in Jesus the Messiah, through whom believers have everlasting life]. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Acts 11:24 AMP
Barnabas’ good character benefited both himself and others. What impact does your character have on your relationships? Does your character make God attractive to others?
What Erodes Character?
12 Because you refused to accept this truth, My word and purpose, and trusted instead in deceit and manipulation, you will fall. 13 Your wrongdoing, your misplaced confidence and web of lies, will be your undoing. Like a breach in a wall that bulges out and suddenly gives way, your façade will come crashing down in an instant.
Isaiah 30:12-13 Voice
Deceit is a shortcut that we typically use to avoid pain or consequences. But building on deceit is unstable. Like this scripture says, our lives will crash in some way when we build them on lies.
How do you think deceit can weaken character? What is your attitude about truth and how does this attitude influence your character?
2. Bitter envy and selfish ambition
14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
James 3:14-16 NIV
The Bible says that the impact of bitter envy and selfish ambition on relationships is disorder and every kind of evil. It’s hard to make an impact when your life is full of disorder and evil.
How do your motives affect the quality of your character? Do jealousy, selfish ambition, and competitiveness weaken your integrity and your trust with others?
21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:21-23 NIV
Sometimes we can substitute behavior change for character change by making rules for ourselves to follow. However, these rules don’t change our desires inside and eventually they become very hard to keep. Sensuality is just living by your senses – being driven by what feels good – and it can erode our character when it controls our actions and decisions.
What desires do you find most difficult to overcome and why?
The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Obadiah 1:3 NIV
Pride deceives. Pride makes us we think we are doing better than we really are. It makes us lie to ourselves to avoid facing the truth. And when we avoid facing truths about ourselves and our lives, we don’t grow. Also when we are proud, we won’t let down with others about the challenges we are facing so that we can get help.
Do you choose to be vulnerable or distant in relationships when facing adversity? Who can you be transparent and vulnerable with when tempted to isolate and detach in the face of difficulty?
How Do We Build a Character that Builds a Life of Impact?
1. Repetition: Study and obey the Bible
11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
Acts 17:11-12 NIV
Spiritual character is built by studying the Scriptures daily with great eagerness and putting God’s word into practice.
What do you find most challenging to obey in the Bible and why? What Scriptures would strengthen your character if you were to apply them every day?
2. Relationships: Be transparent and vulnerable
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
1 Cor. 15:33 NIV
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NLT
The people we surround ourselves with influence our character. Who do you allow to influence you most? How have these relationships impacted your character?
What impact does your friendship have on others? Are you someone who encourages others to have character?
3. Re-invent: Take personal responsibility to grow
12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:12-14 NIV
We will grow when we make a decision to take personal initiative and responsibility for doing so.
Do you wait for others to motivate you to change or do you take personal initiative? What do you resist training yourself to grow in spiritually? What personal change can you make that would inspire others to change as well?