When a person devotes his entire life striving to get money or power or honor, he always winds up being a loser. Even if he is able to reach his goals in life, he finally agrees with Salomon that all was vanity. At best, (or actually at worst), he would be like the great conqueror who had won empires. Although he ruled multitudes and had great wealth, the monarch somberly requested that he be buried with his hands uncovered, to remind the world that he could carry none of his spoil with him into eternity.
Yet there are certain things, fruits of character, that men do carry with them out of this world. A man’s character does not die with the man. It says around his home after he is buried. It lives in the community where he was known. And, at the same time, he carries his character with him into the other life. Character, good or bad, lives forever! “bury my influence with me,” begged a dying young man, his life wrecked by sin and carelessness. But that is not possible. Your influence is as immortal as our soul. Even today, the entire
world is affected by the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Cain’s murderous character fills our minds with bitterness. And Abel, who “offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice…being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4).
Our character not only endures to influence others, but it is built by the influence of others upon our lives. In ancient times, the word “character” referred to the stamp or mark used by an engraver, brick maker, or other crafts man to distinguish what he had made. Applied to life, character shows what our experiences have impressed upon our souls.
A baby has no character. His life is like a blank sheet of paper, ready for something to be written. Every day as the baby grows some mark is made. His mother writes something, as does his daddy and his grandparents and his teachers and his friends and all of his acquaintances. Every day’s experiences write some new words. Every influence of other lives leaves some mark. Temptations and struggles do their part in filling the page. Books, TV and radio programs, everything he sees and hears either paints some line of beauty or scratches an ugly mark. Final character is shown when the page is filled, the picture finished.
Christian character is a matter of maturity. Proper development takes both time and effort. Christ’s character is the model for every Christian life. We will not become just like Christ in the twinkling of an eye. John Stott reminds us: “You can become a Christian in a moment, but not a mature Christian. Christ can enter, cleanse and forgive you in a matter of seconds; but it may take a lifetime for your character to be transformed and molded to his will.”
While viewing a great painting, a young artist said to Ruskin: “Ah, if I could only put such a dream on canvas.” “Dream on canvas?” growled the critic. “It will take ten thousand touches of the brush on the canvas to make your dream come true!”
But it is easier to put the dreams of an artist on canvas than to put the character of Christ into a life. The cost of fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives is always high. We must painfully prune away everything that does not please
God if we are to flourish with the fruit of Christlikeness. Self-denial is required. Our natural desires must be put to death if Christ within is to control and be revealed to others.
Nibintije Evangelical Ministries International (NEMI)