(Watch this powerful message by clicking play on the video at the bottom of this page)
Character is so important, but it’s something we always struggle with. But, what exactly does character mean?
The great American evangelist D.L Moody once said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” In other words, nobody’s watching, nobody’s looking, you are as if it were hidden from everyone’s attention. At that moment, how will you function?
You can’t “will” character into being. You can’t muscle your way through it, but you must be intentional and you must be able to focus on it because that’s your responsibility.
Every one of us has character flaws. That’s normal and to be expected. Don’t beat yourself up just because you saw an area of your character that still needs to be honed. Every one of us has areas that still need to be honed and developed and shaped so we can be like our heavenly father in terms of our character.
The Three Building Blocks of Character
First: Value your name
Your name is akin to your signature. It’s your resume. It’s your calling card. I’m not just talking about if your name is Fred or your name is Mary or it’s Hazel or Jessica or David. That’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about what Solomon says in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name (earned by honorable behavior, godly wisdom, moral courage, and personal integrity) is more desirable than great riches; And favor is better than silver and gold.”
Solomon is counseling us that you need to value your name, in other words, labor to have a good name and value it. And when you value that, he says, when you give it great thought, a good name, it’s worth more than great riches.
A good name is about having godly wisdom. I’m not talking about wisdom where you can just solve problems, but wisdom that empowers you to maintain godliness and integrity. That’s what it means to have a good name.
Think about the whole idea of moral courage.
Moral courage may not be a party-line word and moral courage may not be something where you just go along with the group. When you say I have a good name, you make sure that you honor that and do it in a courageous way.
If you want to build your character, it starts with valuing your name.
In Philippians 2:19-23, Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon. I will be happy to learn how you are. I have no one else like Timothy, who truly cares for you. Other people are interested only in their own lives, not in the work of Jesus Christ. You know the kind of person Timothy is. You know he has served with me in telling the Good News, as a son serves his father. I plan to send him to you quickly when I know what will happen to me.”
Paul was writing this letter to the church at Philippi, from behind prison bars. And he says, I can’t come to you, but I’m sending Timothy to you.
And then Paul pulls back the curtain as if it were to say, let me tell you about the real Timothy. You may know him from the platform, from the stage, from being a speaker, but let me tell you, I know Timothy from behind the scenes. He’s the same as what you see in front of the stage as he is behind the stage. Timothy, he’s a godly man. Timothy has served with me like a son serves his father. And Paul continues to brag about him.
Has anyone ever bragged about you? Has anybody ever said, man, do you know so-and-so? And they just started to lavish your reputation and your character. And when those individuals met you, they had not a false reading or false interpretation. They valued your name.
Do you value your name?
If you do, then you need to recognize it’s a building block to godly character.
If you’re going to build character, the first building block I offer you to use is value your name.
Second: Keep your word
Oftentimes what I admire most about others is the fact that they value and honor their word. They keep their word.
Jesus did that. In Matthew 24:35, Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Jesus is telling us that he keeps his word. He honors His word. He places great value and importance on His word so much so that His word is like a calling card. His word is an extension of His person. When you want to know about Jesus’ character, look at His words.
I want you to understand the value of what it means to keep your word. And so Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:7, “But let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these comes from the evil one.”
What Jesus was saying is this, when you give your word, honor your word. And he’s saying if you say “Yes,” follow through. If you say “No,” follow through with that. Now he’s not suggesting you can’t change your mind. He’s just saying that when you do change your mind, be integrous about it, go back to the person, give a reason and be as supportive as possible to make as many adjustments as you need to.
Jesus was saying in essence, you need to give some thought before you give an answer to a request. You need to be honest with people and don’t just quickly give a yes. And don’t just go and say no, just because you really didn’t mean it. Give some thought to what you’re going to say, because your word should be honored by you.
When your word does not align with your character, then you have to start adjusting your word. You’ll find that your character will follow suit.
Your word speaks of who you are. Now, none of us are perfect, but every one of us uses words. And what we try to do is to not only value and honor our word, but we keep our word and we make sure that our words reflect honesty.
Sometimes we glibly respond to people and say it because we speak prematurely or we’re afraid of their response, or we’re afraid, to be honest. We ought to always be honest, but sometimes people are not being honest because they’re afraid.
Our heavenly Father is our example of how we should keep our word. Psalm 89:34 says, “I won’t break my agreement or go back on my word.” That’s God speaking through the Psalmist. He’s saying, here’s how I roll. When I say yes, I mean, yes. When I say no, I mean no.
So we need to try to emulate, imitate, and mirror our heavenly Father and how He carries Himself. Here’s what Jesus said on that same note in Matthew 12:36-37, our Lord says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words, you’ll be condemned.”
Jesus was telling us to keep our word because your words create life. When you give your word, it creates expectation and a sense of promise. People can bank on it or they should be able to. And when you find that you can’t keep your word, then you need to then begin to change that. You don’t want the word on the street about you to be, “They never keep their word.”
So, how does this start in a very practical way? Value your name by keeping your word.
If I asked your family and friends, do you keep your word? What would they say?
If I said, do you keep your word? If they say no, don’t be angry. Make a shift. If they say yes, be excited and continue keeping your word.
Third: Guard your heart!
Your heart is the birthplace of your character. It’s the soil where character grows and develops. It’s that nutritious soil where godly character should be able to get all the nutrients necessary to grow no matter what the environment is externally. You can still grow godly in a broken and corrupt world.
Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”
What Solomon was telling us is that your heart is the home of your integrity. That’s the foundation of your character. Guard your heart, your soul, the inner core of who you are, the essence of who you are as a man, the essence of who you are as a woman, as a young person, guard your heart. Because when you don’t guard your heart, it gets all filled up with junk and you can feel the duplicity and you can just sense the insincerity that comes out of people. And that’s a very dangerous thing.
Solomon is telling us because our heart is the seat of integrity.
So what does it mean to guard your heart?
Matthew 12:33 says, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, it’s fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”
Jesus made it very plain to us, a heart is the soil of godly character. If you don’t guard your heart, all kinds of things will come in. Bitterness, anger, hatred, duplicity. And when people ask you questions, you tell them what you think they want to hear and you’re not honest.
Initially, you may get away with it, but over time, what you’re doing is building a duplicitous character. When your character lacks integrity and your life is no longer integrated where your actions fit your attitudes, which fit your character, it’s out of alignment because you didn’t guard your heart.
Your heart is so precious and you must guard it. It’s the wellspring of your integrity.
And I always want to guard my heart so that it doesn’t become junked up. I don’t want to become someone that knows how to say the right thing, but doesn’t feel what I say or don’t say what I feel. I want to have alignment in the interior part of my life.
When you think about building character, it’s not some elusive thing that’ll happen in the by-and-by, or because you hope it’ll happen or you will for it to happen.
It’s going to require you to intentionally use these building blocks:
You value your name.
You keep your word.
You guard your heart.
And when you do that, you’ll find integrity and godly character begin to blossom out of your heart. And when people look at you, they’re going to inspect and taste the fruit from your life. And when they taste it, it won’t be sour. The fruit will be sweet. Why? Because a godly character produces good fruit.
The fruit is not for you, but the fruit is for others that are in your life, on your job, in your home, in your church, in your community, in your sphere of influence, that’s who eats from your life. And they’ll say, when I get around that individual, I feel good about myself because they’re such a great example to me, of someone who has a morally upright character, and godly character.
We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost. When health is lost, something is lost. When character is lost, all is lost.
I want to encourage you. Let nothing cause you to lose your character. Guard your heart because it’s the home where character is developed.