I believe that if you asked most people, they would say that good character is something they strive for. The deferences in how people describe good character would be a different story altogether. Some would simplify good character to doing what is right in life. Others may describe it as doing what feels good to them, while many others might paint a picture of a loved one who they believed modeled good character to them throughout life. Some would focus more on the actions of others, and some would focus more on words. As followers of Christ we are to have our character shaped by he who died so that we may live. Our actions must reflect our words and vice versa.
We view a sample of Godly character in Acts 19 in the telling of the story of the Sons of Sceva. The passage starts with a description of the miracles that God was working through Paul. These miracles of the Holy Spirit helped to spread the Gospel and grow the early church. Paul’s character was constantly growing in Christ because of his faith, that in turn, was strengthened because of his actions and words aligning. In one of my favorite passages of scripture, Romans 5:1-5, this concept is perfectly illustrated.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith
into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does
not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the
Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:1-5
Paul’s words in this passage give us a pathway through character formation for followers of Christ. As we have faith we realize we will suffer as our Lord did. The sufferings we go through continually produce endurance in our faith. Over time, out of the endurance of our faith, our character is formed in the hope that God gives. Paul’s life speaks to this truth more than one can describe.
After witnessing the miracles happening around Paul in Acts 19:11-12 because of the Holy Spirit, we see what happens when our character is not formed from our relationship with Christ. The seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were trying to exorcise demons using the name of Jesus. Their reasoning seemed to be that it worked for Paul so the same thing should work for them. For these men their words did not match their actions. They tried to use the name of Christ without knowing or following him. Sadly for them their failure ended in humiliation, but the Gospel still advanced to the glory of God.
I often think that we fall into this very same trap. We may speak of Christ in our homes and churches, but then our actions tell a different story in the community and our places of work. It may be the other way around. We may think that our actions of service and humility around others show our relationship with Jesus but never speak of the reasons why we live this way. In both cases our words and actions are not aligning to show our relationship with Jesus. Our character is not developing through endurance in the faith.
Finally, the endurance Paul speaks of for forming character strongly relies on consistency. Are we routinely checking our actions with our words? Are our words aligning with our actions? Are we who we say we are in Christ? We consistently need to stop and reflect on our actions and words. Daily we need to seek God’s purifiying grace to endure in the hope that only he can give. This all happens when we dedicate daily time to prayer, study of the scriptures, and reflection on who we are in Christ. Only then will we receive the endurance that produces character, that produces hope.