I’ve made plenty of mistakes in life including in my marriage. Sin and failure are a part of being human (unfortunately).
But I’ve also made some good choices that brought the blessing of God. One was taking Shirley Jean Cookson as my wife on October 10, 1976.
One of our sons is getting married this week on the same day–forty-five years later. We’re happy to share the date (we were married on my Grandma Boehme’s birthday.)
Marriage is the bedrock of a thriving nation. Nothing creates greater social stability and happiness than great marriages.
What are the secrets to a successful marriage?
I wrote a book in 1992 called If God Has A Plan for My Life, Why Can’t I Find It? At first glance, the focus appears to be on finding God’s pathway for your life. That’s true.
But the heart of the book centers on causes, not effects. It explains how growing godly character is key to both direction and success in life.
I’m learning some character lessons right now. I’ve lived long enough to know life has many chapters to it–some wonderful and others difficult. I’m currently experiencing one of the “hard” seasons we all go through.
And I’m convinced that the key to victory is the overcoming power of Christ-filled character.
The Overcoming Power of Christ-filled Character
Our family-world changed three weeks ago when my eighty-eight-year-old mother fell and broke her hip. The unfortunate incident led to days in the hospital, being moved to a nursing home for healing and rehab and navigating the medical bureaucracy for needed surgery.
The problem is my mom fractured the femur in her replaced left hip. We are looking at weeks of healing the fracture, then having her hip replacement re-done, followed by more weeks of healing and rehabilitation.
She’s handling it well, but our world has changed.
It was already a busy season before the incident. A summer drought requires daily dousing of water and detailed care of our family property. Now I must also take care of my mom’s home, which is a mile away (praise God for good neighbors).
At the same time, I have my largest student load ever at Faith International University. They are an intense and energetic bunch from all over the world. Most of my spare hours are spent grading papers and dialoguing with them. It’s a joy–but also takes time.
Plus, I’m helping to coordinate our South Kitsap ’71 Golden Reunion which takes place in September. Yes, fifty years since graduation! The committee has a great heart to encourage and bless our childhood friends. Our home church is hosting the two-day event and many hands are on deck.
So, I have numerous responsibilities to attend to while racing between properties, daily visits to the nursing home, grading papers, watering flowers, writing blogs, mentoring and meetings, working on two books, and dealing with a personal medical condition.
Maybe I’m whining, but I thought you could relate. We all go through these difficult seasons in a lifetime.
So, what do we do?
The other day I was whizzing around realizing I was counting the minutes in each hour I’d allocated for various tasks, not just “numbering my days” (Psalm 90:12). With a bit of an attitude, I blurted out to Shirley: “I just wish there were more hours in the day.”
Then I caught myself. No, I don’t need more hours. Twenty-four a day is enough.
I just need more of Jesus.
That’s where character comes in.
If God Has a Plan discusses in depth the eight pillars of godly character found in 2 Peter 1:2-11. They are:
- Faith – how we begin our walk with God through trusting in Christ’s salvation.
- Virtue or moral excellence–Developing “goodness” and purity in our hearts.
- Knowledge–so necessary for insight and direction.
- Self-control–the number one quality of a leader and key to avoid sinning.
- Perseverance–continued self-control while under trial or distress (my present state).
- Godliness–the fullness of divine character.
- Brotherly kindness–small acts of blessing that are “points of light” to others.
- And love–the full expression of God’s moral perfections (“God is love”–1 John 4:8).
Peter ends this discussion of Christ-like character with a warning/promise: (2 Peter 2:9-11:
But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (New Living Translation).
Notice that character is not automatic. We must “work hard” to grow, build, nurture, and fully develop these character qualities. How? By realizing that Christ is in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Then consciously “clothing ourselves with Christ” (Romans 13:14) and following the lead of His Holy Spirit with our minds, emotions and will (Romans 8).
There is an initial key to being filled with the presence and power of Christ.
One of the phrases I often use with my students is that “humility is the throttle of spiritual growth.” In other words, pride–and the things that go with it–is usually the “brake” in our walk with God. We just don’t want to do it, to change, to make the effort. That self-choice is nothing but pride stopping the flow of Jesus’ work in our lives.
Pride prevents growth. But the more we humble ourselves, confess our need for him, and look to his power in our weakness, that puts the “pedal to the metal” of spiritual flourishing.
I’m saddened how people have de-emphasized godly character in our post-modern world. Just a generation or so ago, when you went to a library seeking books on success or personal growth, you would find scores of “Wisdom Books” on developing character to handle life’s challenges. The shelves were loaded with works on hard work, perseverance, joy, goodness, virtue, chastity etc.
The “honest” world has always known that character is the master key to achievement.
But today we are told to “Dress for Success,” and “Look Out for Number One” to be productive in life. This emphasis elevates personal style or manipulation to get ahead and achieve your dreams.
Not in God’s Kingdom. Humbly allowing Christ to fill your life with His thoughts and motivations is the key to a fulfilled life.
We are facing the character problem getting our classmates to attend the reunion due to fear about Covid (and the Delta variant) being pushed by some government leaders and the secular press. They seem to want masks on every face and a new round of lockdowns (taking away our liberties).
Here’s how we are responding in a soon-to-be-sent out email:
[The Golden Reunion] will be a richer and more rewarding night for everyone if you attend. We are confident we will have a wonderful reunion without fear. Quoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” We agree.
Our class of ‘71 has always faced the future with faith, not fear. Let’s do it again on September 17 and 18 in Port Orchard.
Fear is a fruit of weak character. The enemy of our souls wants us to live in anxiety and bondage. Faith is the by-product of a Jesus-filled life. He is the engine, power, focus and goal that fuels our trust in God.
Some people confuse personality (or temperament) with character–but they are different. Your personality contains God-given natural attributes that you possess all your life (e.g. quiet, assertive, analytical, intuitive etc.) They are like hair or skin color. God doesn’t want you to change them. Personality is the “glove” people see on the outside.
But character is the hand inside the glove. It can fill the space with bad things and “punch” someone in the face, or fill it with goodness and lend “a helping hand.”
I need more of Jesus’ character in my life right now–not more time.
Character is destiny. It is the overcoming power of a Christ-filled life.
The world in general and the people of God specifically have learned much from the global pandemic over the past year.
Though the United States is emerging from the crisis through mass vaccinations (thank you President Trump for Operation Warp Speed), many nations remain in crisis. In Mongolia, the failure of the Russian and Chinese vaccines has led to new lockdowns and Soviet-like controls on the people. There are many deep-seated problems in numerous nations.
What has the Church learned from this “pause” in world history? Yes, God has pruned us, re-prioritized our focus, released new technologies and emphases, and taught us to persevere.
But the biggest lesson is the call to discipleship. It must be our clarion priority–for a lifetime. Here’s how.