You have incredible potential. However potential that is not reached is wasted. So how can we reach our full potential? The secret is not about working harder or smarter or some other trite phrase. The secret is in developing our character. Let me illustrate.
Character Is What You Are Made Of
I started out in the ministry as a youth pastor and worship leader. As a young man, my passion was art and music, so I was thrilled when my wife Kathy and I received an invitation from a church in Hereford, Texas to serve as their worship pastor. Hereford was a big change for us, geographically, coming from the farms of Ohio and finishing high school in Colorado. Living in west Texas was a shocker. It’s flat terrain suggested that during creation God took His hand and scraped everything west of the Mississippi and piled it up to create the Rockies. Needless to say, we missed the mountains, but we loved the people of west Texas.
One of the couples dear to Kathy and I was John David and Bev. They took us in as their own and poured love and life into us. We had mutual interests not only in our church, but also our shared passion for antiques. Their home was a collector’s dream house. Early on, John David invited me to join him one Saturday morning at an old building downtown. It was scheduled to be remodeled and he was going to tear out the old tin ceiling before the other interior work was started. John David worked out a deal to keep the tin pieces he removed, and he offered to give me some if I would help.
We began kicking the tins off of the rafters from the top down. Several times one hard kick would leave us hanging perilously from the 12 foot ceiling. Most people would have let the pros do the demolition work. It was dusty and sweaty and painful getting those ceiling tins down. By midday we had kicked down all the tin and loaded it for storage. We divided the booty (I later used my portion for some great wall design) and called it a day. As we wrapped up, John David looked at me; “You know,” he said, “The real reason I invited you to help me today is I wanted to see what you were made of.” John David was talking about character.
1. Choose The Path To Character Development
Paul gives us insight into character in Romans 5:3-5, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 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.”
2. Don’t Take Shortcuts
I want to be known as a man of character. More specifically, when people check to see what I’m made of, I want them to see the character of Christ. But I’m not so fond of the way Paul connects the dots between character, problems and trials, and endurance. There has to be a short cut to having character, right? Wrong! My grandmother used to say the longest distance between two points is a shortcut. There are no shortcuts to character.
What you are made of is imperative for living life as the masterpiece God created you to be. However, character is not a thing you do; rather, it is developed in you through faithful endurance. It seems somewhat demented when Paul says, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials.” That’s not my normal first reaction to difficulty. Yet what could possibly make you want to praise God when you face a problem? You can rejoice in the confident knowledge God is working on a masterpiece, trusting the artist has a design which will produce a composition that will ultimately reflect His qualities.
I’ve gone through many things in my life, especially in ministry, and given the choice I would never go through again. While I don’t want to endure painful trials again, I’m so grateful for what God taught me; He gave me the strength to persevere and to allow my character to be strengthened. The word “character” in Romans 5:4 comes from the Greek word dokime, which communicates the concept of being proved by trial. It’s like John David inviting me to help tear down a ceiling to see what I’m made of. Both of us saw evidence of my resolve and were each strengthened as a result.