by Gene Wilkes
I believe character reveals itself as consistent behavior under pressure, and that our actions and words are the clearest indicator of what is in our hearts.
If a friend betrays me or tells an untruth about me, it is how I respond to the betrayal and lies that exposes my true character. If the friend who hurt me was a Christian, would he or she see the love of God mirrored in my actions or not?
People watch us when the heat is on. They are curious to see how we act and what we say in tough situations. Why? Because we all know that how we act and what we say in hard times most often exposes who we really are.
In our book, Character: The Pulse of a Disciple’s Heart, Norman Blackaby and I demonstrate through biblical case studies that character is a matter of the heart: it is “the quality of our intimate fellowship with God.” The true nature of this relationship with God reveals itself most clearly when we are tested or challenged.
If Christ reigns in your heart, your actions and words toward those who challenge or even persecute you will expose your relationship with Him. If you have a maturing relationship with God, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, for example, will be evident even in tough times. If your relationship is not full, your response will overflow from a sin-filled, selfish heart.
The Apostle Paul exhibited Christ-like character in the face of opposition. Again and again he refused to abandon his relationship with Christ and God’s clear call on his life despite people’s opposition and threats. For example, when he was stoned and dragged out of Lystra and left for dead, he got back up and returned to complete God’s call on his life (Acts 14:19–20). His heart was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit empowered him to finish what God called him to do.
Paul taught from his personal experience that “affliction produces endurance,” and it is endurance that produces “proven character” (Romans 5:3–4 HCSB). Character proven over time and tested in tough times is what produces hope in those who trust Jesus (Romans 5:5), a hope that never fails.
We observe in Character: “Like a runner training for a marathon, the ‘affliction’ of training produces the endurance necessary to carry the athlete through to the end of the race. That endurance, when maintained, results in proven results race after race.”
Hard times shape character. Hard times also expose character. Conflict and opposition in your life can create a crucible of character development. Character is created by the “yes” and “no” you choose every day in the context of conflict.
What do hard times tell about your character?
Senior pastor of Legacy Church in Plano, Texas, for more than 20 years, he shares his teaching ministry with the community as a resident fellow at B. H. Carroll Theological Institute in the areas of church leadership and New Testament studies. He is an adjunct professor with Dallas Baptist University in the Graduate School of Leadership and has published many books, including Jesus on Leadership.
Scripture quotations marked (HCSB) are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible © copyright 2000 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.