Wednesday, February 23, 2022

            If you play a word association game, you might discover that certain thoughts come to mind at the exact moment that you hear a certain name.  Hearing the name of a friend, a hero, a favorite writer, a co-worker or even the love of your life will likely bring a series of words, thoughts and images to your mind.  In the Bible, Ruth had a reputation.  And it was a good one—the kind of reputation most all of us would enjoy having as well.  Boaz, who would later marry Ruth, had the following to say about her.  “All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11).  Most of us would like for others to think that we are of good character and possess a noble name.  In Proverbs 31:10, Solomon wrote, “A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.” 
            Character is to be prized and prioritized more than one’s outward appearance or one’s prosperity.  Do you remember when God sent Samuel to anoint the next king of Israel after Saul?  God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse (who incidentally was a descendant of Ruth) to find the next king.  Samuel had his own sense of what a king looked like, sounded like or should be.  But God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).  God sees beyond the outward and physical adornments that we may carefully seek to cultivate and to craft.  God looks at the heart and the condition of the character.  God goes beyond the skin and even the reputation we have put forth for others to see.
            Consider for a few moments today what words you would like to know come to the minds of others when they speak or hear your name.  How would you like to be considered or recalled?  One good place for considering how your character can be remembered is Galatians 5:22-23.  In those verses, we read about the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  The fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.  You likely know people who bring those words and values to your mind when you consider them.  Would someone else say that your character is reminiscent of one or more of these values?  God cultivates these values in us and He often works through Scripture, prayer, circumstances and the life of the Church to do so. Many of the battles or circumstances we experience in life can be the raw material that God faithfully uses to develop character in us.  Nothing is beyond God’s ability to shape or to use. 
            God’s character development work in any believer is to enable us to look more like His Son Jesus and less like ourselves.  And by the way, we have to be cautious and gracious about forming quick judgments or opinions about others.  We often do not know what they are dealing with in life or where God may be at work.  We have little real knowledge about where someone else is in life.  We are all unfinished products and people.  God is still working on us and will continue to do so until He calls us home.  Each day you could pray for one of the fruits we read about in Galatians 5 and ask God to cultivate that fruit in your life.  Praying for that fruit helps you to remain aware of how important it is.  And praying enables you to see more clearly where God may be at work in your life and what He may be doing. 
            Finally, stay patient.  Character development rarely happens in the span of a TV sitcom or overnight.  God works in ways and at a pace of His choosing.  There could be seasons of tremendous growth and change.  There could be moments where it seems like the pace is that of a snail.  But we trust our Father’s hands and heart as He prunes away the rough and broken edges and grafts in His grace and the likeness of Christ.  Near the end of Proverbs, Solomon wrote, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).  May we be less concerned with the charms and the beauties that often flee from us and more concerned with who God is making us and what God would like to see in us.  Have a great Wednesday!

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