Who Am I? What are my character qualities? Have I been changing or growing stagnant? Am I the kind of person who draws people and points them to Christ? Or am I someone who obscures the image of Christ? What in me prevents someone from seeing who Christ is?
These are questions I have been asking myself. We are all people in the process of becoming. What we become can be determined by several factors.
1. Where is my focus?
2. Do I have a plan?
3. Am I engaged in the implementation of that plan?
4. Are there things in my life that distract or side track me?
5. What am I doing about those things.
When I was a young teen, my mother saw something in me that was not healthy. Her response to it was to ask me if I planned to just float, allowing life to take me wherever it will. I really thought about that and decided that I did not want to just be a floater. But I did not know how to change that pattern in my life. I struggled with that for many years learning little tidbits here and there. But I still did not know how to make the big changes that I needed to make. I was living in a fog and could not see what was coming next. I was focused inwardly to my pain instead of seeing down the road to anticipate my next moves. I did not have a plan. At the time, I did not know I needed one. I did not know where to focus. So, I could not see what needed to be seen.
We all have areas of life that need improvement. How am I responding in my relationships? Am I acting, or reacting? What happens to us gives us an opportunity to develop character and to grow. How am I responding to what is happening? Am I reacting and getting upset? Or am I responding in a godly way?
What is godliness? I believe that godliness is simply the process of developing godly character and using that in every situation of life. What is godly character? It is Christ likeness. Paul tells us to put on the mind of Christ. That does not happen automatically. In fact, it sometimes looks like the opposite of what we think needs to be. Love those who hate you and do good to those who persecute you? How do you do that? The process of becoming godly or Christ like is a process that involves change. Now, who likes change? Changes sometimes means that we need to get uncomfortable for awhile. But if we want to build good godly character, we need to be willing to change. That means that we need to be willing to admit that there needs to be change in our hearts.
Because change is not easy, and in some cases is terrifying because we have to leave our comfort zone, we must learn what is truly safe and what is not. We must also determine in our hearts that we are going to enter into this quest and not turn back. That is the activation of choice. Did you know that not making a choice is still making a choice? If we are going to be making choices no matter what, then we must choose whether our choices are going to be toward character building or toward character decay. Those are truly the first choices we make everyday.
So, lets assume that we want our lives to improve and we want to build character to make our lives improve. What is the first step? My first step each day needs to be to acknowledge Christ as Lord of my life for this day. That needs to happen the moment I begin to be aware of my surroundings as I wake up in the morning. Then I must thank Him for what He is going to do in my heart this day. That is the first exercise. It focuses my mind on God acknowledging who He is and who I am in relationship to Him.
If I start a day without doing this, I know it is going to be a miserable day. But that is a choice I can make if I want to. But I do not have a right to blame anyone else for my miserable day. My misery comes from within my own heart. Being disciplined with my choices is just the beginning of sweeping out the garbage in my heart. That garbage controls me and makes demands of me. Maintaining it is exhausting. I just want to get rid of it so that I have a clean heart that the Lord can dwell in. My heart is God’s dwelling place. I am filled with the Holy Spirit. I want Him to work in me building godly character so that His dwelling place will be pure; a holy place for Him.
So what is the next important thing to do after I set my focus on God? Put on the armor of God. We are entering into a battle field that requires a special dress code for our safety. The helmet of salvation protects our minds against doubts and attacks against our knowledge of who we are in Christ. The breastplate of righteousness covers us with the righteousness of Christ and protects our hearts against the lies that cause us to sin if we believe those lies. Without the breastplate, we are at the mercy of the attacks of the accuser, the devil, who will continually bring up the things we have done wrong and will make us believe we have done wrong when we have not. The breastplate covers the heart where our emotional experiences reside. Then there is the belt of truth. I think that holds us up so we are not overwhelmed by the lies we are bombarded with. The shield of faith is something you have to hold to protect your self. Faith holds us steady against the onslaughts of the devil. It keeps us going by not allowing the darts through. The feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. The sword of the spirit is the word of God. Read Eph 6:10-18. These things are necessary because we are in battle, but the battle is not with family, friends or other people. It is with evil spirits who attack us using those who are undisciplined in their spiritual life.
Putting on the armor of God is a necessary daily practice. Spend time in the word of God. Know it as well as possible. It is our guide and comfort. It can be used to prevent attacks from reaching our hearts. But the next thing is to make sure you are not allowing anything to control your mind. Be alert. Be aware of your own heart and its responses to things. Teach yourself discipline in your responses. If you struggle with an ungodly response to something, take it to the Lord. Spend time with every part of your heart in communion with God. Ask Him to minister to the struggle you are having and allow Him to minister in His way. He knows better than you what will change your heart.
Throughout the day, keep returning to your focal point, God, and give Him thanks and praise. It will refresh you all through the day. Every time you react to something, immediately take it to the Lord so you can learn what He wants to teach you in it. The last thing you can do in your character building quest is at night before you sleep, go to the Lord and thank Him in the places where He helped you to grow. Acknowledge before Him where you still need to grow and ask Him to prepare your heart through the night for the things He has for you the next day.
This is a journey of faith and challenge, requiring self discipline and choices. The longer you stay on this path, the more you will grow. You will begin to like what God is doing in you and eventually, through you in others as a result of your faithfulness. Just remember, the more you do this, the more challenged you will be. Satan will attack you. But know this; all attacks are opportunities to grow in Christ. Do not be discouraged. You are on a journey where you are the winner if you stick with it.
Praying for you all!!