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Developing Character - Rev. Kola Ewuosho
The first indispensable quality of a leader according to John Maxwell, in his book, 21 Indispensable qualities of a leader, is Character. Character has to do with inner qualities. What a person is made of. Character in a leader inspires confidence in others. How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells many things about his character. Crisis reveals character. According to John Maxwell, "adversity is a crossroad that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise. Every time he chooses character, he becomes stronger, even if that choice brings negative consequences." He also says "the development of character is at the heart of our development not just as leaders, but as human beings. Action is the real indicator of character not just talk. Your character determines who you are. Who you are determines what you see. What you see determines what you do. Character is a choice! Leaders cannot rise above the limitations of their character. There are 4 A"s that can befall anyone with weak character: arrogance; painful feeling of aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking, or adultery."
Developing in Character demands that we examine ourselves, where we are in the internal growth dynamics on our way to Christlikeness. Many subjects need attention if we are to truly build character. Subjects like "Commitment, Integrity, faithfulness, loyalty, humility, accountability, and teachableness. We can also see transparency, sincerity and definiteness of purpose as subjects involved in developing character. We can add Single minded focus to the list.
We all know that progress in any field is impossible without commitment to some things that make for progress. If we can conceive of a life without commitments then we see someone who is going nowhere fast with their entire life. He will flow wherever the wind blows him. Here today, gone tomorrow.
As Christians our commitment is first to God, to His principles and to His people and His purposes on earth. Loving God includes commitment to Him. This may be the bedrock of character development as character may well be the bedrock for personal development. Our commitment to God is what produces honour for God in our hearts, what the Old Testament calls The Fear of God. It is this that helps us love and value what God loves and values. We desire to do the things that are pleasing to God because we love Him and are committed to Him. It"s a choice we make!
LORD, WHO shall dwell [temporarily] in Your tabernacle? Who shall dwell [permanently] on Your holy hill? He who walks and lives uprightly and blamelessly, who works rightness and justice and speaks and thinks the truth in his heart, He who does not slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his friend, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbour; In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he who honours those who fear the Lord (who revere and worship Him); who swears to his own hurt and does not change; [He who] does not put out his money for interest [to one of his own people] and who will not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.
We honour those who honour God. Our commitment to God is the basis of our faithfulness to Him. We are committed to Him, His Word (principles for living) and His people and purposes, no matter how life comes across to us. Our commitment must go beyond convenience, then we can be called faithful, and when faithfulness is beyond comfort, we are called Loyal. Our commitment is also the basis for our Integrity. Integrity has to do with being wholesome, saying and meaning what we say, saying and doing what we say!
The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the [whole] person; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and bright, enlightening the eyes. The [reverent] fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even than much fine gold; they are sweeter also than honey and drippings from the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is Your servant warned (reminded, illuminated, and instructed); and in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his lapses and errors? Clear me from hidden [and unconscious] faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then shall I be blameless, and I shall be innocent and clear of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my [firm, impenetrable] Rock and my Redeemer.
Commitment to God will cause us to walk in reverence for God, honour humankind created in His image and walk in ways that please Him. Being duplicitous is not pleasing to God as we are not truly representing His nature that we were made to represent.
Other character traits that we need to develop flow out of these issues we are looking at. Humility, teachableness and accountability all flow together. Just like commitment flows into faithfulness and faithfulness flows into loyalty. Let"s see what the story of the wise steward says about faithfulness in Luke 16.
He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the [case of] unrighteous mammon (deceitful riches, money, possessions), who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not proved faithful in that which belongs to another [whether God or man], who will give you that which is your own [that is, the true riches]? No servant is able to serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (riches, or anything in which you trust and on which you rely). Now the Pharisees, who were covetous and lovers of money, heard all these things [taken together], and they began to sneer at and ridicule and scoff at Him.
Faithfulness in little is faithfulness in much. Do you see the connection between faithfulness and loyalty? We cannot truly serve God and anything in which we put our trust and reliance on. We must be loyal to one or the other. This deals with our motives too. What is motivating us to do what we are doing? Our love (commitment to) for God or our needs? What are the things we have come to put our reliance on?
We have very wrong notions about this subject. (Please visit www.fowm.org to read up under our archives of publications for this subject). Humility like meekness is strength under control. (See the message on Brokenness). It is knowing who you are and not letting whatever you think you are affect the correct responses you should give to life"s challenges. Whether it is in obeying God or dealing with issues or people. David"s response to the challenge Goliath gave was a mark of humility as it demonstrated his dependence on God. When I put myself under the Lordship of Christ and humble myself, I will be teachable, and accountable to those who God has put in my life for that purpose. I will not be full of myself and my sense of pride in my achievements or abilities. I will demonstrate a dependence on God and a subjection to His will for my life. If a dead clock can be right twice in 24 hours, then we can learn from everyone else. It"s all our choice!
Do nothing from factional motives [through contentiousness, strife, selfishness, or for unworthy ends] or prompted by conceit and empty arrogance. Instead, in the true spirit of humility (lowliness of mind) let each regard the others as better than and superior to himself [thinking more highly of one another than you do of yourselves]. Let each of you esteem and look upon and be concerned for not [merely] his own interests, but also each for the interests of others. Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus:[Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [ possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self- distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. Do all things without grumbling and fault-finding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves], That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, Holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may have something of which exultantly to rejoice and glory in that I did not run my race in vain or spend my labour to no purpose.
Change becomes inevitable if we would fulfil destiny. Many times, we undergo crisis so our inner values can be exposed, challenged and possibly changed. When we refuse these changes, we are simply preparing ourselves for more of such crisis. The earlier we adjust our lives, pass our tests and become better not bitter, the earlier we bring the crisis to an end. Our end product is coming into the image of the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
If this study exposes anything in you that need changing, do not despair, we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper who has be called alongside to help us. With His help, set up a plan to adjust and prevent yourself from making those mistakes again. Plan to rebuild a new future. Face up to the past, build the future with His help.
Finally, it has been observed that suffering can help build character. The right kind of suffering in the flesh for God"s glory will help develop character.
1 Peter 4:1-9
So, since Christ suffered in the flesh for us, for you, arm yourselves with the same thought and purpose [patiently to suffer rather than fail to please God]. For whoever has suffered in the flesh [having the mind of Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [has stopped pleasing himself and the world, and pleases God], So that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living by [his] human appetites and desires, but [he lives] for what God wills. For the time that is past already suffices for doing what the Gentiles like to do—living [as you have done] in shameless, insolent wantonness, in lustful desires, drunkenness, revelling, drinking bouts and abominable, lawless idolatries. They are astonished and think it very queer that you do not now run hand in hand with them in the same excesses of dissipation, and they abuse [you]. But they will have to give an account to Him who is ready to judge and pass sentence on the living and the dead. For this is why the good news (the Gospel) was preached [in their lifetime] even to the dead, that though judged in fleshly bodies as men are, they might live in the spirit as God does. But the end and culmination of all things has now come near; keep sound minded and self- restrained and alert therefore for [the practice of] prayer. Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and disregards the offenses of others]. Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). [Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ"s body.] And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly (cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him).