* Character developed by difficult circumstances
God tested Abraham, not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity to obey God and thus to develop his character. Just as fire refines ore to extract precious metals, God refines us, our character, through difficult circumstances. When we are tested, we can complain, or we can try to see how God is stretching us to develop our character. (NLT)
Genesis 22:1 – Later on God tested Abraham’s faith and obedience. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”
* Character degraded by sin
Jacob hesitated when he heard Rebekah’s deceitful plan. Although he questioned it for the wrong reason (fear of getting caught), he protested and thus gave her one last chance to reconsider. But Rebekah had become so wrapped up in her plan that she no longer saw clearly what she was doing. Sin had trapped her and was degrading her character. Correcting yourself in the middle of doing wrong may bring hurt and disappointment, but it also will bring freedom from sin’s control. (NLT)
Genesis 27:11-13 – “But Mother!” Jacob replied. “He won’t be fooled that easily. Think how hairy Esau is and how smooth my skin is! What if my father touches me? He’ll see that I’m trying to trick him, and then he’ll curse me instead of blessing me.”
“Let the curse fall on me, dear son,” said Rebekah. “Just do what I tell you. Go out and get the goats.”
* Character tainted by jealousy and immorality
This chapter [Genesis 38] vividly contrasts the immoral character of Judah with the moral character of Joseph. Judah’s lack of integrity resulted in family strife and deception. In chapter 39, we see how Joseph’s integrity and wise choices reflect his godly character. His faithfulness was rewarded with blessings greater than he could imagine, both for himself and for his family. (NLT)
Genesis 38:1 – About this time, Judah left home and moved to Adullam, where he visited a man named Hirah.
* God judges by character not appearance
Saul was tall and handsome; he was an impressive-looking man, Samuel may have been trying to find someone who looked like Saul to be Israel’s next king, but God warned him against judging by appearance alone. When people judge by outward appearance, they may overlook quality individuals who lack the particular physical qualities society currently admires. Appearance doesn’t reveal what people are really like or what their true value is.
Fortunately, God judges by faith and character, not appearances. And because only God can see on the inside, only he can accurately judge people. Most people spend hours each week maintaining their outward appearance; they should do even more to develop their inner character. While everyone can see your face, only you and God know what your heart really looks like. What steps are you taking to improve your heart’s attitude? (NLT)
1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions.”
* Can your character face pressure?
A test can bring out a person’s true character. God tested Hezekiah to see what he was really like and to show him his own shortcomings and the attitude of his heart. God did not totally abandon Hezekiah, nor did he tempt him to sin or trick him. The test was meant to strengthen Hezekiah, develop his character, and prepare him for tasks ahead. In times of success, most of us can live good lives. But pressure, trouble, or pain will quickly remove our thin veneer of goodness unless our strength comes from God. What are you like under pressure or when everything is going wrong? Do you give in or turn to God? Those who are consistently in touch with God don’t have to worry about what pressure may reveal about them. (NLT)
2 Chronicles 32:31 -However, when ambassadors arrived from Babylon to ask about the remarkable events that had taken place in the land, God withdrew from Hezekiah in order to test him and to see what was really in his heart.
* Evaluating God’s character
All God’s words are true and trustworthy. The Bible is reliable because, unlike people, God does not lie, forget, change his words, or leave his promises unfulfilled. We can trust the Bible because it contains the words of a holy, trustworthy, and unchangeable God. (NLT)
Psalm 33:4 – For the word of the Lord holds true, and everything he does is worthy of our trust.
* How can we be perfect?
How can we be perfect? (1) In character: In this life we cannot be flawless, but we can aspire to be as much like Christ as possible. (2) In holiness: Like the Pharisees, we are to separate ourselves from the world’s sinful values. But unlike the Pharisees, we are to be devoted to God’s desires rather than our own and carry his love and mercy into the world. (3) In maturity: We can’t achieve Christlike character and holy living all at once, but we must grow toward maturity and wholeness. Just as we expect different behavior from a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult, so God expects different behavior from us, depending on our stage of spiritual development. (4) In love: We can seek to love others as completely as God loves us.
We can be perfect if our behavior is appropriate for our maturity level–perfect, yet with much room to grow. Our tendency to sin must never deter us from striving to be more like Christ. Christ calls all of his disciples to excel, to rise above mediocrity, and to mature in every area, becoming like him. Those who strive to become perfect will one day be perfect will one day be perfect, even as Christ is perfect. (NLT)
Matthew 5:48 – [Jesus said] “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
* Character strengthened by temptation
Jesus left the crowds and went into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan. Temptation is bad for us only when we give in. We should not hate or resent times of inner testing, because through them God can strengthen our character and teach us valuable lessons. When you face Satan and must deal with his temptations and the turmoil he brings, remember Jesus. He used God’s Word against Satan and won. You can do the same. (NLT)
Mark 1:12-13 – Immediately the Holy Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness. He was there for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.
* How our character is strengthened
For first-century Christians, suffering was the rule rather than the exception. Paul tells us that in the future we will become, but until then we must overcome. This means we will experience difficulties that help us grow. We rejoice in suffering, not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life’s difficulties and Satan’s attacks to build our character. The problems that we run into will develop our perseverance–which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence about the future. You probably find your patience tested in some way every day. Thank God for those opportunities to grow, and deal with them in his strength. (NLT)
Romans 5:3-4 – We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us–they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation.
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