Yesterday was leadership workshop time for the London International church of Christ. Family Group leaders from all over London (and I even spotted some from Birmingham, Norwich, Manchester and Glasgow) gathered for inspiration and instruction.
The afternoon program was split men/women. Toks gave the men a talk on character, and here below are my edited notes on that lesson.
Perseverance Produces Character
Rom 5.3-5 “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Talent is seen on the outside. Character is about what is inside a man. The latter is more important than the former, for this is the substance of who we are.
James 1:4 “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
What is a godly character, and how can it be grown? Here are three important aspects.
2Tim. 4:2-5 “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
Let’s remember that people have been patient with us. That should help us to be patient with our wives, our children, the people we are trying to help, and those we are training. Jesus is a great example of patient love. He was patient, but not tolerant of sin. Let’s learn to differentiate between the two. They can look similar, but are very different.
Whether we are correcting, rebuking or encouraging (as Paul instructs Timothy above) we must salt all of these with patience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit and will grow in us if we want it to and pray for it.
One symptom of patience is being consistent in discipling/training others. Do we have consistency in our relationships?
One symptom of a lack of patience is giving orders instead of careful instruction. We get impatient when we take on too much. Are we discipling too many people?
2. Pride & Humility
Prov. 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”
One sign of pride is self-sufficiency – which is deadly. It is like saying we do not need God. We need the wisdom of God’s Word and we need it brought to us by other people. It is important to remember that spiritual wisdom always trumps worldly wisdom.
Prov. 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Prov. 18:12 “Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honour.”
One sign of pride is being resistant to change. How does this show itself? By not asking questions, not being on touch, not accepting criticism, being defensive and hiding what is in the heart. Do we struggle with these tendencies?
Another sign is only listening to the advice we want to hear. Rehoboam did this in 1 King 12. The result was a divided kingdom.
Prov. 15:31 “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.”
Prov. 10:17 “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.”
One last symptom of pride is when we agree with someone when with them (at least we give the impression of agreeing, but may not do so in our hearts) and then go away and do something different. If we disagree we must speak up.
Luke 6:39-40 “He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”
Gen. 39:12 “She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.”
Joseph’s example is inspiring. He fled from a situation in which sexual sin was a very real possibility. Is sexual sin hindering the men’s ministry? Are we talking about it? Confessing our sin? Confessing temptations? Asking one another?
Job 31:1 “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.
Num. 25:7-8 “When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped;”
Let’s be aware of where we can be tempted. What are the circumstances of my greatest temptation? When alone, or travelling? Plan a defence. Where do I need to be radical? Perhaps Potiphar’s wife was needy. We must beware of spending time with ‘needy’ women who are not our wives – whether at work, or in the church. Instead, let’s live in the presence of God (like Joseph), and we will be strong in resisting these temptations.
1Cor. 6:18 “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.”
An important principle what helps to inoculate us against sexual temptation is to stay busy with God’s work. Leave no vacuum.
Godly character is built by persevering in learning to be patient, valuing humility over pride and protecting our purity.