“Men of genius are admired, men of wealth are envied, men of power are feared; but only men of character are trusted.” – Alfred Adler
That was the quote Pastor How used to begin his sermon last weekend. He was starting a new series on character because it is one of our most important assets as human beings. And just as Billy Graham once said:
“When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” – Billy Graham
But how do we know if we truly have character? How do we know if it is lacking in some areas and we have to make a change for the better? Well, we just have to put it to the test and we will know. That is why this series is called The Character Test. There are a set of tests that we can put ourselves through, and by how we respond to these tests, we will have a clearer picture of our character. Our responses reveal the real us!
And it is so important for us to know our own character and the character of the people around us because all relationships are based on trust – every relationship. So if you have even a tinge of doubt about a person’s character, your relationship with him/her will be affected! This applies to God too! If we don’t know His character enough because we don’t read His Word enough or we don’t spend time with Him enough, then we will doubt even our perfect Heavenly Father!
And just like every relationship we have in life, our relationship with God is also based on trust; and trust is based on truth. If a person is always full of lies and deception, you will never trust him, would you? But because there is truth in our God, we can trust in Him and have a relationship with Him.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6
Now I must say at this point that this message isn’t for us to judge others and criticize their character; this is for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and become people of character. Because the depth of a relationship depends on the depth of trust present in that relationship! As much as we would like to have great friends, teammates, colleagues, bosses or even one day marry a person of character, we must first become a workmate, an employee, a leader, a friend and a person of character.
So how do we know if we are people of character and truth? We got to put ourselves through the following tests; because character is revealed by…
1. How we respond to failure
We are all humans, we are imperfect. And sometimes we make mistakes and fail terribly. But what do we do from there? That defines our character. Because we can either make progress and learn from our failures or make excuses and push the blame. It’s one or the other, we can’t do both!
So don’t push the blame to others, because we empower whoever we blame. If we blame someone else for our failures, we give them control over our lives & our destiny! If we blame the devil, we give him power. But if we take responsibility for our own actions, we will be able to control our lives and grow our character for the better! Because taking responsibility is the beginning of change, which will lead to progress.
“Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”” – Genesis 3:12-13
Of course, it is not easy to take the blame. As seen in the scripture above, it is our human nature to blame. So we got to go against the human nature to be a man of character. That’s one way we can identify a person of character, when we observe him/her when they go through failures and mistakes.
#2 How we respond to success
“Don’t let success get to your head; don’t let failure get to your heart.”
You know, failure isn’t the only way that the devil can get to you. If the devil can’t get to you through failure, he will try to get to you by success. Success is a great thing, but we must guard our hearts and our minds when we are at the mountain tops. Because the danger of success is complacency and pride.
“For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.” – Proverbs 1:32 (NLT)
For us Christians, we must always remember to give glory back to God. Staying humble is so important because our talents, abilities, opportunities and education can get us to the top, but only our character keeps us at the top. So to see if a person has character, just look at him/her when they attain success!
#3 How we respond to temptation
Put it simply, if we cannot resist ice cream, we cannot resist the devil. Haha, I know it sounds funny but it’s true! If we can’t resist the everyday temptations of our lives, we will not be able to do great things. Ice cream is mostly just a harmless and relatable example that Pastor How is giving us, but it gives us a good illustration about character.
Because we need to have a characteristic of delayed gratification – the ability to resist what you want now in order to have what you want most. So for example, if you want to lose weight, you have to resist the temptation of eating your favorite ice cream! Or if you want to be successful one day, you got to resist having fun all the time and instead spend more time on studying and acquiring knowledge & wisdom! That is also how we can have character!
“In the short term, people are won over by charisma; in the mid term, people are won over by success; in the long term, people are won over by character.”
Relationships (like marriages) are supposed to be for the long term. Love at first sight usually never lasts. Because to know the character of a person takes time, and that is especially important when it comes to our future spouses. It takes time to know them, it takes time to reveal character. Beauty & charisma might catch attention, but it’s character that catches the heart.
For the potential husbands & wives, dating is the best time to watch the other person when he/she fails, succeeds or are tempted. Unfortunately, character is not revealed when everything is rosy and perfect. Real character is about consistency, which can only be revealed through time.
The difference between amateurs and professionals is consistency. Just like how we would want our favorite soccer team, hairstylist and local restaurant to be consistent, we should want to have character consistently.
And that is all for part 1 of The Character Test series! If you enjoyed reading this post, you will enjoy Part 2 even more hearing it in person. Come visit our church if you’re in Singapore! We’ll love having you with us, and you’ll definitely have a great experience too. Hope to see you soon!
p.s. Pastor Tan Seow How & Pastor Cecilia Chan, more affectionately known as Pastor How & Pastor Lia are the senior pastors of Heart of God Church – my spiritual home.