True Character

January 22, 2022 at 11:51 AM 6 comments

We live in a little town in a rural area of our state and in the town square, there is a sign that is changed roughly every week or so. It normally has some type of pithy saying on it that is supposed to cause people to ruminate on its message. The most recent message said something like, “A person’s true character is seen when they are all alone.”

I thought about that and concluded that it’s wrong. A person’s true character is seen when they are under pressure and in front of others. It is this pressure that causes people to fold, lash out, or carry on resolutely. What I’ve come to realize about myself is that I don’t like my true character all that much simply because when I am under a great deal of pressure, I tend to lash out. I don’t necessarily lash out at others, although I’m sure if you were to ask them, they might say otherwise (due to my frustration at myself at the time). I am really lashing out at myself for not being able to push through the pressure to the other side of it.

The only true conclusion because of this is that I am not a humble man. I say that in all honestly because it needs to be admitted. I simply do not do well under pressure. My very being tenses up at new situations in which I do not feel I have the necessary strength to soldier on without allowing the situation to cause me undo alarm and growing stress. As I stated recently in the article, “Wrestling with God?, instead of immediately submitting myself to Him for His care, guidance and ability to withstand the pressures of the situation that has arisen (as Moses and Aaron often did, as well as many others), I tend to almost immediately take that “fight” (from flight or fight), position ready to push back.

I don’t think it’s possible to change your personality. Only God can do that. The best we can hope for as Christians is that God will “perfect;” by sanding off, eliminating and essentially remolding our inherent personality into the perfect image of His Son’s remarkable, perfect character. Of course, if we’re honest with ourselves, this takes a lifetime and depending upon our innate personality, some will have a far greater struggle with this than others who have a more easy-going personality. But in truth, all human personalities have their pluses and minuses. God needs to sand off the edges and build up aspects of everyone’s personality.

But my concern is with my own personality. It troubles me greatly that having become a Christian at the age of 13, I am still fighting with some of the same old negative personality traits that I’ve been dealing with for years. There seems to be little to no major improvement in me some 52 years later in some areas. Others who know me personally might disagree with that about me, but for me, it is not only irksome, it is often supremely annoying. It’s as though I’ve learned nothing at all in following Jesus these many years.

In spite of the many untold blessings the Lord has provided for me throughout life, I continue to grieve Him in the way I am tempted to respond to situations and too often, actually respond poorly to the stress that He allows to come into my life. It’s like hearing a scratched record continuing to skip or repeat in the same place in spite of every attempt to eradicate the scratch that causes the skipping.

Spiritually, I know that I am complete in the Lord. I know that He loves me mightily and that He does not sit on His throne wagging His mighty finger at me with a “Change or else!” attitude. I know from Scripture that He is mindful of my weaknesses, that He loves me in spite of those weaknesses and that He will never leave or forsake me in spite of my ability to be lazy where He is concerned and if not careful, to leave or walk away from Him. This is so disconcerting to me that it is very difficult at times to see Him working in my life because my own failures seem to loom so large.

I think of Job and I wonder how he managed to maintain. I’m not at all comparing myself with that particular saint of old. I’m simply saying that his natural character, even though he obviously grew so tired and frustrated with his ordeal that God specifically allowed, caused him to continue to wait on God in a holy fear of offending Him. Because of this, Job never once sinned though obviously he was tempted mightily to do so. At the end of Job’s story, we realize though Job certainly did fear (offending) God (Job 1), it becomes very clear that Job needed to grow in that area. In essence, one of the great take-a ways from the book of Job is that none of us can ever fear offending God enough in this life. We will never come to the end of that prior to our death and we have our inherent sin nature to thank for that. It keeps us focused on our flesh and our faults. It keeps us eyeing the “prize” of being independent from God. The sin nature is bent to do Satan’s will, not God’s. Because of this, the battle is ongoing and continual.

So what is someone like me to do when it feels as though my sin nature wants to overwhelm me by allowing my own sinful proclivities to rise to the surface and carry me forward? What do I do when my own personality and nature does what it can to get in the way and strongly attempts to keep me from being obedient to God by not fulfilling the desires of my flesh (in this instance, by being tempted to follow the dictates of my fallen nature as seen in my natural character)?

The only thing I know how to do is to push on through prayer, praise, and adoration of my God who is so big, so mighty and so caring that He will allow these pressures to mount in order that I might resolve to do what Paul did at every turn (Romans 7:24).

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.…

Commentators disagree over what Paul meant here. Some believe that Paul had, through many experiences, finally come to the “end” of himself and lived without sin from that point onward. I find this very difficult to believe that this is what Paul meant. Rather, I believe he was saying on one hand that everything in his flesh resulted in death and corruption. It was only when he turned to lean on Jesus in all situations that he found the victory to live as he knew God wanted him to live.

For me, this is the most difficult aspect of being a Christian and maybe it is for most people. We live in dying bodies that begin decaying the moment we are born even though it doesn’t seem like that. Though we have the new life within us via the Holy Spirit, too often it seems like we spend most of our time working against ourselves. Inwardly, my personality or parts of it is what bothers me. I realize I simply do not do well under stress and life is filled with it. Depending on the level and intensity of that stress, it can be emotionally debilitating at times. That translates to physical and mental fatigue.

How does one become more humble is the question? How does one change the personality they’ve had for sixty something years so that the hard edges are rounded off and sanded down? How do we, though earmarked for salvation, appropriate that salvation now so that we know that we are not in this fight alone, that God is with us and only allows certain situations into our lives that He intends to use for our growth and His glory?

For me, unfortunately, there seems to be no easy way. It is a struggle and sometimes an ongoing one that causes me a weariness within that I cannot easily escape. I know of no other thing to do except to turn to Him in prayer and praise and even then, it can take a good amount of time to see results. In the meantime, the stress that dogs my path remains and I have to learn to ignore it. So difficult.

I wonder if you have experienced some of this same type of problematic response to life’s issues at time? Surely, I cannot be the only one. I marvel at those who seem always to be able to pursue God, to trust Him in spite of the circumstances they’re engaged in at the time. I admit I am a bit jealous of them.

The constant trying of my soul and my inability to immediately give God the situation and truly let it go proves to me that I am not as humble as I should be. Just as Peter, with his seeming type A personality put him in awkward situations where he was publicly rebuked by Jesus on several occasions (Matthew 16:13-28; Mark 8:33), and even after the Holy Spirit was poured out onto him and the other 119 in Acts 2, Peter still needed to be rebuked in a godly way by Paul (Galatians 2:11), because of Peter’s error. Peter was headstrong and often spoke before he thought. That alone brought about difficult situations for him that others of a different personality would not necessarily create for themselves.

It is very clear to me that the Lord must do a work in me as in all of us. Our personalities are who we are and every personality type has pluses and minuses. For me, in realizing that I tend to want to immediately rely on my own strength (often to protect myself), is something that certainly cannot and does not please our Lord. Because of it, I’m sure God will continue to allow situations into my life designed to get me beyond this. However, it is still my choice to cooperate with God or to dig in my heels and try using my own energy to get through the situation, which will always result in failure. I can remain fully reliant on my own inadequate resources to deal with the many and various situations that come into my life or I can pursue God’s purpose for each situation and His help to get me through.

The goal of every Christian regardless of their unique personality is the same as noted by Paul in Philippians 4:11-13.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

For all the years I’ve been a Christian, I’m not there yet. Not even close.

 

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Wrestling with God? Rejecting Truth

6 Comments

  • 1. Eric  |  January 22, 2022 at 8:09 PM

    Hi Fred,

    You are not alone, brother. I am exactly where you are. I, too, often struggle with my personality. Particularly when I think of the regrets through the course of it. The decisions and choices I have made (or have not made) for that matter. So, yes, I completely relate to you in every way. I do. In fact, just a few days ago I was retaking some of those personality tests to shed some light (get an assessment) where I stand today. I realized that absolutely nothing has changed in me in that regard. Not even in the slightest. Even in the best of times in my life. I’m still me. I’m still the same person that I was then, good or bad.

    Many years ago I was doing some soul-searching (researching the topic) and came across a story of Tim LaHaye back in the day when he was a former chaplain for the then San Diego Chargers. One night he was holding a Bible study with several of the players from the team (whom were Christian I presume) and addressed them the all-important issue for every believer as it related to Galatians 5:16-17. He posed this question: Since we always have that constant battle and continual struggle between the flesh and the spirit, how do we know which one wins out? Someone responded with a very simple yet so profound answer. He said simply, “That’s easy! The one you feed the most!” (Matthew 26:14). So true it is! It hits the nail on the head. However, it is easier said than done. It is a very difficult thing having to live in a sin-ridden world.

    It is interesting that you mention character which is found in the very title of your article, “True Character.” Like you, I had the idea that true character is the person you are when no one is looking or as you put it, “A person’s true character is seen when they are all alone.” No. I too have been wrong. You are correct and it makes sense. As you stated, “A person’s true character is seen when they are under pressure and in front of others.” I have never considered that or thought of it that way. True character is the person you are (and revealed!) when the rubber meets the road. As long as we remain in this world, we are all a work in progress until the Lord takes us home or He returns for His Bride (whichever comes first).

    I am neither a humble man and it shows in my response to those close to me all the same. It may be an attitude of mind but it is still a heart issue still in need of day to day surgery as I often state it from time to time. The most difficult aspect of being a Christian IS having to lean on Jesus through it all in all situations. I agree. Praising God in all things is extremely difficult. It IS emotionally debilitating at times. But as you have also pointed out in the course of your article, the Lord is absolutely all the difference.👍You said it well, “The only thing I know how to do is to push on through prayer, praise, and adoration of my God who is so big, so mighty and so caring that He will allow these pressures to mount in order that I might resolve to do what Paul did at every turn (Romans 7:24).” Amen, Fred. You are most certainly not alone, brother. The Lord is continuing to do a work in me as well as in all of us. You are not alone at all by any means. I relate to you completely and we are with you. I believe you stated it beautifully in the end of your article:

    “The goal of every Christian regardless of their unique personality is the same as noted by Paul in Philippians 4:11-13.

    ‘Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’

    For all the years I’ve been a Christian, I’m not there yet. Not even close.” Amen! No one is. At least no one on this side of heaven that I am aware. Philippians 4:11-13! It is a learning process indeed from which true character truly abounds content in all things! You hang in there brother and know there are many of us in your shoes keeping you and yours in our thoughts and prayers just as well. You take care now and God bless you and your family, Fred. God bless you!

    — Eric

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    • 2. modres  |  January 22, 2022 at 8:13 PM

      Thx Eric. I appreciate your insight and transparency. Won’t it be great when we no longer have a sin nature to deal with anymore?😎

      Like

      • 3. Eric  |  January 22, 2022 at 8:56 PM

        Yes! I long for it. 👍

        Like

  • 5. Maranatha Today  |  January 22, 2022 at 12:25 PM

    Psalm 138:8
    The Lord will perfect that which concerns me (YOU); Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

    Romans 8:28
    And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

    It is well Modres, we are all a work in progress…thanks for your honesty…you are not alone in this. Blessings always.

    Like

    • 6. modres  |  January 22, 2022 at 12:27 PM

      Thanks so much Maranatha. I appreciate your words and your prayers.

      Like


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