Out west it is said that you can tell the character of a cowboy by the type of horse he rode. The same could be said of a Christian, he might not be riding a horse that is physically seen by the natural eye, but it doesn’t take long for him to be identified by the horse that he rode in on. You cannot keep your character hidden as it will leave tracks that are easy to follow if a person has any horse sense at all.
Integrity, honesty, loyalty, responsibility, respectfulness, humility, compassion, and fairness all leave deep tracks that show the discerning not only where you have been but where you are heading. Those who are dishonest, mean, rude, greedy, quarrelsome, and are unforgiving will also leave a trail that is easy to follow and the discerning should be quick to recognize the tracks and get a pretty good idea as to the person’s intent.
It seems that the moral character of a person was a highly regarded quality in the old days but by today’s standards most people would rather be a ‘character’ rather than someone who has ‘character’. Character is demonstrated not only by the wise and good choices we choose to make but also by the bad choices we choose to avoid.
It is said that character is the bridge that spans the church to the world. With character the fruit of the spirit ripens and many will come to taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8) Without character fruit spoils and becomes rotten. When that happens, people begin to question our motives and soon our integrity comes in question. This is when they loose their trust in us and walk away from what God is offering.
A friend of mine who works on the streets of San Francisco told me once that you must build a bridge of integrity and trust if you ever expect to reach the hurting of this world. They have been hurt so many times that it takes time to earn their trust. They will challenge you to see what you are made of, what you stand for and if you can be compromised. They do this so they can see if you can ultimately be trusted as a person of integrity and a person of Godly character.
R. A. Torrey said years ago, “The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle to prepare, where others succeed because they gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came to them…anticipate your battles’ fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.”
Character means allot to God, so much that He will spend all of your life building it within you. Poor and demeaning character is what stops us from achieving our full potential in Him. It is our observation that we spend much of our time developing strategies to take neighborhoods, to build larger churches and ministries but far too little time on character building.
General H. Norman Schwarzkoph said, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without strategy.”
In the 1980’s several high-profile Christian leaders stumbled and fell due to morale failures. They felt that developing strategies for taking the world for Christ were more important than developing their personal character. It forever put a blight upon their ministry and their lives. Flawed character destroyed the foundations they stood upon. Trust once violated is only restored through true heartfelt repentance and witnessed over time by a change in your attitudes and actions.
The apostle Peter learned this the hard way as demonstrated in the Gospel of Mark. We all have read of his boasting in Mark 14:29, that he would follow Jesus to his death. Only to read a few pages later in Mark 14:66-72, where he denied ever knowing Jesus, not once but three times. Your character will be tested and exposed and when it is, you, and those around you will see you for who you really are. After Jesus came back and restored Peter we find a different man in the remaining gospels than the one we saw before.
Integrity will come upon you in a greater or a lesser measure depending on how you allow the Lord to break, mold, and refine you in times of conflict. Within the refining it is made evident that people can gain trust and have confidence in you.
Several years ago a cartoon in the New Yorker showed two clean-shaven middle-aged men sitting together in a jail cell. One of them turned to the other and said; “All along, I thought our level of corruption fell well within community standards.”
Integrity becomes the compass in which our decisions are guided. Every day we are faced with decisions. Often our smallest decisions become the groundwork for how we face our greatest decisions. Once we set out on a path it is hard to forge out a new one.
Integrity and trust are forged when we accept full responsibility for our past mistakes and by allowing our heart to fully acknowledge and repent for our actions. This happens not only by our decision to not walk that way again but to patiently give others, who were hurt by our actions, time to heal and come to the place where trust can be reestablished. Is it easy? No it isn’t! But it is crucial that we overcome that which hinders us from realizing our full potential as followers of Christ.
We need to be honest with ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal our hearts to us so that we can take the necessary steps to change the path on which we are heading. We need to discover the areas in our lives that are lacking and with the Holy Spirits help make a concerted effort to change them. Stop pointing the finger while blaming and complaining and start taking command of the situations and do something about it. (Isaiah 58:8-10) Anoint your house with oil and set aside a time of prayer and study of His word. Draw close to Him and He will draw close to you. He is waiting with His arms open wide.
The old cowboys say that if you get thrown from your horse, you have to get up and get back on, unless you landed on a cactus; then you have to roll around for a while and scream in pain. That’s how life is. Sometimes our horse throws us because we never took the necessary steps to stop it from behaving badly. “…the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4 When tested, we have to pick ourselves up off the ground, dust ourselves off, figure out what happened and train ourselves so what just happened won’t happen again and then get back up on our horse.
There are times however, when we break trust with others and when that happens we need to man-up and take responsibility for our actions and work to re-establish that trust. Knowing that our relationship will probably never be the same as it was before but understanding that giving up is not an option that will ever be on the table. Cowboys who have grit don’t give up, but being real, expressing their pain and frustration to God they climb back on and in time their character shows it.
Lord we pray that you teach us your ways and write your precepts upon our hearts and minds so that we may willfully follow you all the days of our lives. Free us from the manipulations and practices we have learned that have kept us in bondage to our old nature. I ask that you take your rightful place on the throne of our hearts.
Much Love to all,