Friday, December 29, 2006

A Man of Character

Character is defined as the combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person as someone of moral or ethical strength. So a man or woman of character is a man or woman of moral or ethical strength. We read in our history books about people whom were described as having moral or ethical strength. We may wonder, why does it seem that in our time there is none? It seems as everyday the news media has a new scandal of someone whose reputation was above reproach, and suddenly they fall from grace. They have allowed a moral or ethical weakness to destroy their character. This happens at all levels and in all areas of our lives. The cry of all who listen to the news is, “Who can we trust?” There is always a fault, an ulterior motive, a hidden agenda, a conflict of interest and or an unethical behavior. Why do they go wrong?

There is a saying that goes: "Sow a thought, reap an action; Sow an action, reap a habit; Sow a habit, reap a character; Sow a character, reap a destiny." What starts as a little indulgent thought, ends up destroying your life and that of those around you. That is perhaps why someone rephrased this saying as “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.” This is a nice thought. However, which one of us can say that we can do this on our own strength. The Bible is clear that “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and there is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3: 23; 3: 10. Christ said to His disciples “All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean’” Mark 7: 23. Every single one of us is shapen in Sin and conceived in iniquity. Is there any hope?

We look at Joseph? He never stole anything from his boss. When the opportunity to sleep with a beautiful woman arose, he chose to go to jail, rather than sleep with her. While in jail, he was a model prisoner, in fact he was the warden right hand. After he was made prince of Egypt, he was married to the daughter of a pagan priest. He lived among the pagans. He chose not to avenge himself of the treachery made by his brothers. When he revealed his true identity to his brothers he made certain his implicit trust in the God of his father Abraham. Joseph was a man of character. But, how can a man like you and I have so much moral and ethical strength?

Joseph continually chose to yield to God his whole being. He surrendered all to God. God in return gave Joseph a pure mind. God gave to Joseph a heart full of positive attributes, virtues and qualities. God sowed a thought in Joseph’s mind which reaped an action of obedience (listening with a willingness to do), which reaped a habit of listening and yielding, which reaped a virtuous character, which reaped a life that glorified God by displaying moral and ethical strength. Joseph did not have to watch his thoughts, God did that for him. Joseph listened to the Spirit’s prompting and yielded to the Spirit’s leading. Joseph followed Christ advice in John 15,

John 15: 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

The Ethical and moral strength Joseph displayed was the fruit the Spirit bore in him, as he abode in Christ. Where did all these other men who fall from grace go wrong? They tried to do it on their own strength. They did not abide in Christ. They did not yield themselves to the Holy Spirit. They did not depend and trust God as Joseph did. They could have, but chose not to. So, the question for us is this, what are we going to continually choose to yield as Joseph or will we choose as many other men that have to try in their strength?

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