Recently, we asked women this question, “What qualities and characteristics should healthy and effective ministry wives cultivate into their lives?“
Two features—godly character and personal spiritual vitality—were nearly tied for first. This was a fascinating result because they are closely connected. You cannot have one without the other. In our previous blog, we discussed our spiritual vitality. Today, we want to discuss godly character.
Godly character is visible spiritual fruit in the form of life-change. It stems from a real, life-giving relationship and commitment to Christ as Lord.
Character development is a genuine indication of maturing discipleship.
“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The person who lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten the cleansing from his past sins” (2 Peter 1:3-9).
Peter is writing to those who are saved about their sanctification—not to the unsaved about their salvation. He is calling for diligent, disciplined, life-long effort on the part of believers. Someone has astutely observed, “It is not a matter of perfection, but direction.” It is critical to understand our efforts are based on the sovereignty of God and the sufficiency of His provision. He has given us “everything required for life and godliness.”
Character development is a life-long process.
It truly is a process, and it is called sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which Christians grow more holy and Christ-like through His divine grace. It is something God does in us. He provides all the tools. He uses the truth in the Word of God to teach us and confront us. He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us. God gives us community so we are challenged and encouraged toward godliness. Plus, community can provide loving accountability and correction.
“Sanctification is not my idea of what God wants to do for me,” said Oswald Chambers, “Sanctification is God’s idea of what He wants to do for me.”
Character is not shaped in the safe confines of a classroom. It is formed in life—real life. In every circumstance, temptation, affliction, failure, conflict or comfort, the Holy Spirit works in us to produce the holy character of God. But in order to change us, God has to confront our sins. It is gritty, messy work.
Will we submit to the process? And frankly not just submit but lean into? The number one key is repentance. In my younger years I often denied, excused or ignored my sin issues which stunted my spiritual growth. In time I began to see my sin as God saw it and repentance came much more easily. Sanctification began to happen more often.
“But put on the Lord of Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
Character development is imperative for spiritual leadership.
So why did godly character rate highly among ministry wives? True godly character is the ultimate reflection of Christ manifested in our bodies. As visible public leaders, we know failure to manifest God glorifying character dishonors Christ. This damages our gospel witness and can devastate churches.
Jesus warns us, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Paul warns us, “I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27).
We’ve seen people stumble. When a person has a private character problem, eventually it manifests itself in a public way.
J.C. Ryle says it best. “People fall in private long before they fall in public.” Therefore, the people we lead need to see Christ-like qualities in us and know that we are striving for godliness. We cannot hide our sin in secret.
Character development makes us more effective for ministry and mission.
“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection and brotherly affection with love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:5-8).
What does “useful to the master” and “keep you from being useless or unfruitful” imply to you? It suggests they are spiritually effective leaders and servants. Those who make consistent spiritual and kingdom impacts are believers who demonstrate character and holiness.
This is in no way saying God only uses perfect people. We are all flawed. Yet our integrity, attitude, moral fiber, disposition and the way we treat one another—good or bad—is constantly telling a story. We are part of the advance of the gospel and the work of the Kingdom when our lives tell a story of redeemed people.
Take sanctification seriously. Just keep taking our flaws, bad habits, carnal tendencies and sins one step at a time for Jesus. We must also keep our hearts repentant.
Here is a powerful prayer by pastor Joshua Choonmin Kang. “It is my prayer that as you will become a person who pursues character before success, integrity before popularity, maturity before growth and service to others before accomplishment in your own life.”
Let this be true of us.
Published August 24, 2017