(Watch this message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page)
Very few things are more important than character during this time in history?
The question is, can character be shaped? If it can, how do you do it?
Well, the Apostle Paul answers that question in Philippians 1:6 where he says, “God is the one who began this good work in you. And I’m certain that he won’t stop before it is complete on the day that Christ Jesus returns.”
So, can character be shaped? Absolutely.
And the Bible says that God is deeply committed to helping us hone, shape, and develop our character. Not only for our benefit but that the world may see and witness the fact that we’ve been changed by his love. And we not only love our father, we actually look like our father in our character.
In Hebrews 12:1, the Scripture says, “Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us.”
And the Bible tells us that God is involved in shaping our character, but it also tells us in Hebrews chapter 12 that we must be involved in shaping our character. There’s a dual effort here. It’s as if God says I’ll work with you, but I want you to work with me.
I believe that when we hone, develop and shape our character to become more Christ-like, not only will doors swing open but relationships will thrive and we will feel better about ourselves.
Why? Because we will be like our heavenly father.
Four tools for shaping character
Number One: Truth shapes character.
We tend to live according to what we believe to be true. In other words, if I believe that truth-telling is good, I’m going to live in that, in light of my beliefs. But we live in a world where we have become accustomed to people using this phrase, “my truth” or “your truth.” It’s as if we no longer have absolute truths, and truths can now become personalized.
Well, the Bible tells us that there are some gray areas, but by and large, most areas are very clear. There are stark and real absolutes. Absolutes don’t mean it’s constricting and it’s suffocating. Absolutes are a way for us to have a moral compass.
Jesus made it very easy. He tells us in John 8:31, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ ”
He erases the whole notion of your truth, my truth. And he says let’s scrap those personalized-perspective truths. Those are far lacking. He says, “I’m the truth.” He embodies truth. He’s the physical representation of truth and his teachings reflect truth.
And Jesus says, “If you want to see your character shaped, accept me as your truth.” And then your truth will indeed be the truth because it’ll hone, shape, adjust and chisel off of you things that need to be broken off.
So when I want to understand what truth is, I’m not going to look inward because that’s going to be misleading. I’m not even going to look at other people because that may be misleading. I’m going to look to the Scriptures to see what Jesus said and how he lived. And then more importantly, what he calls me to do and how he calls me to live.
And so positionally, Jesus becomes truth when I accept him as Savior and practically becomes truth when I follow him as a disciple.
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?
Have you invited Jesus into your life to be your savior?
Because when you do, you’re going to learn what truth really is. It was many years ago, July 6, 1982, at 10:00 pm. I sat on the edge of my dormitory bed and I prayed this simple prayer.
I didn’t even know it was a prayer because I was an atheist prior to this prayer. I said, “Jesus if you are real, change me.”
At that moment, I was changed. Days afterward I recognized I had a problem. See, every other word out of my mouth was an expletive. I would just drop F-bombs. And I wouldn’t even think about it. I was just graduating from school and I didn’t know how I was going to fair. When I would go on interviews, the interviewer asked me the question, “Why do you want to work here as a mechanical engineer?” And I may drop some F-bombs as to the reason. I couldn’t help myself. But somehow when I accepted Christ, I recognized he is the truth. I didn’t know the Bible but I knew enough that Jesus would not be pleased if profanity was part of my speech.
I’m so thankful that God washed me. 36 years and no expletives since I’ve been walking with Jesus.
But I want you to know it didn’t happen by my own strength. I wasn’t even aware of how I could be set free, but the truth sets me free. I want you to understand the value of this.
1 Peter 1:22 says, “Now that you have cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. Your new life is not like your old life.”
Truth liberates. Truth is freeing.
Number Two: Relationships shape character.
Character development happens within the crucible of a community. If the community is a wicked backstabbing community, then it’s normal for me to be wicked and backstabbing. But if my friendship base, my community is honest, full of integrity and morally based, then all of a sudden, I’m like a nurse at a doctor’s convention. I just feel like, uh, I don’t have the same qualifications as everybody else. I feel odd.
First Corinthians 15:33, the Apostle Paul says, “Do not be fooled. Bad friends will ruin good habits.” So in other words, relationships shape you. It informs your character. It will add things to your character that are bad, morally bankrupt, and it doesn’t align with the Scripture or it could shape your character and become good.
Do you have friends in your life that can get in your face? And what do you do when they get in your face? Do you cut off the relationship? We live in a “cancel culture” world. We cut off the relationship, sometimes even in churches, and that is a tragedy.
In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul tells Timothy all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing people what is wrong in their lives, for correcting faults and for teaching us how to live right.
One of the ways you know you’re in a healthy church and that your community is a safe community is when the Scriptures are being correctly taught and they get in your face and challenge you. And when that takes place, you know, you’re in a healthy church.
Number Three: Problems shape character.
Nobody likes problems, but there’s an upside to problems.
Romans 5:3 says, “We also have joy with our troubles because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.” Paul is telling us that there’s an upside to trouble. That trouble essentially shapes character or produces character.
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.”
‘Troubles’ is the Greek word that references pressure, anguish, persecution. In other words, its longstanding trouble. When facing trouble, you can either get bitter or better. You can either allow the trouble to chisel off of you, junk, sin, bad habits, bad perspectives and internal attitudes that are not like Christ. Or you can just get bitter and angry, and justify your actions by saying, “I’m going through something so I can snap and behave in a way that’s un-Godly.”
The better choice is to use trouble as gasoline in your engine to move you closer to Christ. Trouble changes your perspective; trouble adjusts your philosophy. Trouble helps you to pace yourself and ask questions like, “How can I maintain my quest to become Christ-like while I’m in this longstanding trial”?
You don’t run away.
You don’t hide from the church.
You don’t hide from relationships where they can get in your face and ask you questions.
You don’t do that.
You let trouble become like jet fuel that causes you to just move forward.
When you ease people’s troubles, at times, you are hurting them. That’s why when you are a helicopter parent and you want to rescue your kids from every difficulty, you raise what we call in our culture “snowflake kids.” They just melt in any condition and they can’t function as adults. Why? Because mommy or daddy rescued them. And I’m not saying that you need to just take the totally opposite approach and never help your child. What I am saying is that you have to know at times, troubles shape character.
We must recognize the value that trouble brings to our lives.
Number Four: Coaching shapes character.
You don’t get where you want to go by yourself. The idea of becoming the kind of man or woman that you want to become in terms of your character and integrity requires times of specific and intentional help from a character coach.
In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul says to Timothy, “You should teach people whom you can trust the things you and many others have heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others.”
Paul is telling Timothy, I coached you on some specific things, character, thinking, relationship with Jesus, how you deal with problems, how you deal with difficult people, and the list goes on. When you read first and second Timothy, you see a whole host of ways.
Paul was a coach to Timothy. And then Paul says, Timothy, I want you to take that play out of my playbook. And I want you to function as a multigenerational coach, to others in your life. I want you to look for people that fit certain criteria. In other words, they’ll value what you say to them and you’ll coach them and they, in turn, will coach others.
Don’t overlook the function of coaching to shape your character.
Think about this for a moment. The average NFL team has 15 coaches. They have all kinds of coaches from defensive to offensive coaches, to punting coaches, to fitness coaches. Even Tom Brady has a quarterback coach. Even when you look in the world of tennis, Serena Williams, arguably the best female tennis player in the world or in history, has a coach. When you think about acting, even the legendary actor Tom Hanks, has an acting coach.
You may find yourself thinking, I’m good. And yes, you may be good, but the purpose of a coach is not to keep you in that place where you qualify as good, but the coach is to help you get better and better to fulfill your potential. I’ve had coaches in my life, preaching coaches, diversity coaches, all kinds of coaches to help me grow in specific areas where I recognized I needed to grow.
These are four things that you and I can practically use as tools to help develop and shape our character. Truth shapes character, relationships shape character, problems shape character, and coaching shapes character. If you don’t have a coach, find one, it could be a friend that you just appoint as your coach. Ask them to help spot things in your character, ask them to help you. They may offer you a book. They may offer you a YouTube link, whatever it is to help you become that powerful man or powerful woman of God.