Faith: Living a Transformed Life (Building Character Together)
You cannot successfully bolster a weak character with the cloak of pretense. In time one who makes decisions based upon circumstance is virtually assured to commit serious transgressions. There is no iron rod of truth to keep that person in the right way. He or she will continually be faced with many subtle temptations to make deviations from the commandments.
Those choices are justified by arguing that they are not that bad, that they are more socially acceptable and provide a broader base of friends. A clever individual without foundation principles can at times acquire, temporarily, impressive accomplishments. Yet that attainment is like a sand castle. When the test of character comes, it crumbles, often taking others with it.
Despite how carefully a transgressor seeks to keep the violation of commandments hidden, in time they nearly always become publicly known. Satan himself sees to that. One serious act of disobedience or violation of trust invariably raises questions of whether or not there are others. This mortal life is a proving ground. How well you meet its challenges determines how strong your character will be.
Your faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings fortifies your character. I have personally verified that concepts like faith, prayer, love, and humility hold no great significance and produce no miracles until they become a living part of us through our own experience, aided by the sweet prompting of the Holy Spirit. In early life I found that I could learn gospel teachings intellectually and, through the power of reason and analysis, recognize that they were of significant value. But their enormous power and ability to stretch me beyond the limits of my imagination and capacity did not become reality until patient, consistent practice allowed the Holy Spirit to distill and expand their meaning in my heart.
I found that while I was sincerely serving others, God forged my personal character. He engendered a growing capacity to recognize the direction of the Spirit. The genius of the gospel plan is that by doing those things the Lord counsels us to do, we are given every understanding and every capacity necessary to provide peace and rich fulfillment in this life. Likewise, we gain the preparation necessary for eternal happiness in the presence of the Lord. A testimony is fortified by spiritual impressions that confirm the validity of a teaching, of a righteous act.
Often such guidance is accompanied by powerful emotions that bring tears to the eyes and make it difficult to speak. But a testimony is not emotion. It is the very essence of character woven from threads born of countless correct decisions.
These choices are made with trusting faith in things that are believed and, at least initially, are not seen. A strong testimony gives peace, comfort, and assurance. It generates the conviction that as the teachings of the Savior are consistently obeyed, life will be beautiful, the future will be secure, and there will be capacity to overcome the challenges that cross our path.
A testimony grows from understanding truth distilled from prayer and the pondering of scriptural doctrine. It is nurtured by living those truths with faith anchored in the secure confidence that the promised results will be obtained. Your testimony will be made strong through willing obedience to the law of tithing and by giving fast offerings, and the Lord will bless you richly for it.
As your testimony is fortified, Satan will try harder to tempt you. You will become stronger and his influence on you weaker. The devil will not triumph. Even now he must operate within the bounds set by the Lord. He cannot take away any blessing that has been earned. He cannot alter character that has been woven from righteous decisions.
He has no power to destroy the eternal bonds forged in a holy temple between a husband, wife, and children. He cannot quench true faith. He cannot take away your testimony. Yes, these things can be lost by succumbing to his temptations. But he has no power in and of himself to destroy them. The more your character is fortified, the more enabled you are to exercise the power of faith. Humility is that quality that permits us to be taught from on high through the Spirit or to be taught from sources whose origin was inspiration from the Lord, such as the scriptures and the comments of the prophets.
Humility is the precious fertile soil of righteous character. In it the seeds of personal growth germinate.
The Transforming Power of Faith and Character - Richard G. Scott
When cultivated through the exercise of faith, pruned by repentance, and fortified by obedience and good works, such seeds produce the cherished fruit of spiritual direction. Divine inspiration and power then result—inspiration to know the will of the Lord, power to provide the ability to accomplish that inspired will.
May I share four principles which have brought the deepest feelings of peace and happiness into my own life? Pay attention to what God is doing in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom to discern what matters most, and then base your priorities and decisions on that every day so you can focus on what God wants you to focus on. Pray for the ability to break free whatever distracts you from God.
See the blessing of God-given possibilities. Live in hope by looking for the potential for good in each person and situation you encounter. Fight the fear of scarcity by believing in the abundance that Jesus promises and freely using your resources such as time, money, and energy to serve him.
Trust Jesus as you improvise in life. Jesus will often work in unexpected ways in your life. So always be willing to set aside your plans to respond to Jesus if he surprises you. Practice spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading regularly to strengthen your ability to trust Jesus no matter what. Adapted from Christ-Shaped Character: She is a spiritual director for the Academy for Missional Wisdom, and a consultant with the Transformational Listening Center.
A frequent retreat leader, she is ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church. She is the author of Journaling as a Spiritual Practice.
How to Develop Character that Leads You Closer to God
She and her husband, Max, live in Anchorage, Alaska. Combining study, discussion, and shared experiences, here is a pathway to growth both individually and as a group. Learn lessons from their successes and failures and from their relationships with God and other people that you can readily link to yourself and your own life circumstances. And put it all into action in a one-day group retreat, a service project, a mini-mission work, and other experiences that help you make the leap from good words to good works. Faith That Listens Mary and Martha.