Sleep on This: Character (April 17)
Good evening, friend!
How is your soul this night? We have now completed three weeks of these nightly check-ins (or pastoral tuck-ins, as one reader described this blog—I liked that!) I asked Bekah in our communications department to analyze the response to the Sleep on This nightly blog. To my amazement, she told me that 500-600 of you are reading this blog every night for an average of four minutes. Which means that, except for those of you move your lips when you read, most of you are probably finishing the whole thing off.
This is very gratifying and encouraging to me and I am content to keep going as long as you find it helpful.
We’ve been loitering this week among the riches of Romans 5: 3-5. And full disclosure, we might meander through it for part of next week, too. It is so apt for this moment in our lives and it deserves to be memorized. So, here you go. Again:
… we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (NRSV)
Last night I suggested that we cannot flit, humming bird-style, from “sufferings” to “hope” without paying attention to those crucial intervening steps. How DO we traverse from sufferings to hope? Well, through endurance (hupomone) and then, character.
Character. Most of us want to be described as a person of character, don’t we? We may not be able to describe precisely what “character” is… but we recognize it when we see it. We miss it when it is absent. We want it for ourselves, most of us. And those who do NOT possess character, don’t care…and THAT’S their problem!
Well, I have some hard news. The pathway to character is often through suffering and endurance. Unlike the pathway to endurance, which I argued is always via the way of suffering, there are other ways to character. Being raised by godly parents and paying attention is one. Being raised by ungodly parents or influenced by ungodly friends… and rebelling in the good direction is another.
But learning to endure…to hang in there when things are hard…nothing etches character lines in our souls like that. The Greek word for “character” means that which has been “put to the test” and found to be “genuine.” To steal a noble motto from soft drink with an inflated self-image, character is the “real thing.” The REAL real thing.
Every day of suffering that strengthens our endurance produces in us character that is time-tested and genuine. Do you want to be a person of character? Well…hard times are one of God’s paths to that quality. Paul could boast about his sufferings because he knew what they were forming in him. Let us do the same!
Dear Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, would you please use these resting hours to deepen in me the qualities that define a person of character. May I embrace life, especially hard moments of life, with the victorious spirit of Jesus who lives within me. Amen!