Courage in Character Building

By John Thiel, mp3

The day is at hand. For the lessons to be learned, the work to be done, the transformation of character to be effected, the time remaining is but too brief a span. {Ed 184.2}

This statement, if we haven’t a good answer for it, it really creates discouragement. If character building takes a life time and it says that the time remaining is too short to develop a character, there comes this terrible overwhelming thought. Am I ever going to reach such a perfect character?

In this calling that is given us to be among the 144,000, to be a people who will be ready to meet Jesus when He comes, we need courage in character building. Every time we deal with subjects of character building and we go into the depth of them I keep on feeling that I have to keep on applying the courage that we need – to focus upon the courage-giving aspects of God’s word so that we don’t become so overwhelmed with the high calling that we despair.

The quote above is punctuated by the scripture of Romans 13. We are here reminded of the seriousness of our time:

Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now [it is] high time to awake out of sleep: for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof].

The time left for us to develop a character is nearly far spent. “The day is at hand. For the lessons to be learned, the work to be done, the transformation of character to be effected, the time remaining is but too brief a span.” “Awake out of sleep,” says the apostle, “for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” What are we to do to ensure the character success that we are called upon to reach?

Romans 13:12 …let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

There is something we must put off, and there is something we must put on. The character defects of our human frailties must be put off; the works of darkness that have established faulty characters must be put off. And the righteousness of Christ must be put on in living reality.

The rapidly diminishing space of time between us and eternity should more deeply impress us. Every day that passes makes one less left us to complete our work of perfecting character…. {OHC 346.5}

Every day leaves us with one less, and we haven’t got enough time, have we?

As long as there are many asleep, many sporting away the precious hours in careless indifference, as it were, upon the very brink of the eternal world, those who do believe must be sober, must be awake, must be earnest and diligent, and watch unto prayer…. {OHC 346.6}

This is the call of God’s word upon us, that we do not become sleepy and lukewarm at such a time as this. We must do what the apostle says – To awake out of sleep because of the rapidly diminishing space of time between us and eternity, with less and less days left us to complete our work of perfecting character. We are on the brink of the eternal world. We know it when we look at prophecy. This seriousness is really something that should keep us on the alert, to listen carefully, to learn closely what is given us so that we can secure the perfection of character.

As we look back at our pace of character building and at the short time that’s left us, the task is even more daunting. Will I ever get there? Frightening, isn’t it? You know, when I’m driving at night time and I get sleepy, I think of things that frighten me, and it wakes me up. This is a frightening experience here! We are not yet ready for Jesus to come! We must wake up! so we don’t go to sleep and just drift along as we have in the past!

Psalm 27:13 [I had fainted], unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.

Be of good courage! Am I going to get there? This is the alertness that I need to awaken to – I have to apply myself here, and not depend on the pace of the past. I have to develop that character fast; I must cast off all those character defects and replace them with the beautiful character of Jesus.

As it says here, unless I had believed what God is trying to help me, I would have fainted. I want to share something with you that will prevent us from fainting with the overwhelming sense that we will not make it, as we look at our character defects that are still bothering us. Don’t permit yourself to be so discouraged that you let your hands hang down. When a person is overwhelmed with his weakness and his incapacity he gives up and let his hands hang down.

Hebrews 12:12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13 And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

The important message for this hour is to awaken out of sleep. Lift up those weary arms. Don’t become discouraged when you see the overwhelming appreciation of the little time that is left us to develop those characters.

Let nothing, nothing discourage you, and make you sad. Think of the goodness of God. Recount His favors and blessings. {UL 30.4}

We will hide in Jesus Christ. We will trust in His love. We will believe day by day that He loves us with a love that is infinite. Let nothing, nothing discourage you, and make you sad. {Ibid.}

As we see our character defects this can make us sad. It can make me sad that I am not changing quickly enough. But it says, Let nothing, nothing discourage you, and make you sad.

What a comfort it is to know that the Lord wants us in His family above. {UL 30.3}

Let nothing discourage you. The Lord wants me there. I am very sleepy, so the Lord is going to wake me up. The Lord wants me to get there. He wants me to develop a character that is perfect. He wants that. Our sanctification is God’s will. It’s God’s will that we should be with Him in His family above.

See how intensely He is actually trying to encourage us. “You are weak, yes, you are not making your progress fast enough, but I am here to help you. I want you to be there.” God repeats it several times in Isaiah. You see, we start to become overwhelmed with fear and we think, Oh no, I’m afraid I’m not pure in character yet. But He says:

Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

God’s righteousness is to be imparted to us by justification and sanctification – imputed and imparted. I am here to uphold you! I am here to do this work! Just don’t become discouraged. Don’t let fear paralyse you. You know what fear does, don’t you? If you are standing in front of a snake that is ready to bite, you freeze, because of fear. As we see that the serpent the devil is trying to destroy us by discouraging us with regards to our character building, we freeze; and the Lord is saying, Fear thou not.

Isaiah 41:13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. 14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, [and] ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

“I will help thee.” What is His help going to do? He is going to do things through the work of the gospel that require us to be willing to receive His help. There are many helps that God wants to give, but many times our old character doesn’t want that help. That is our greatest need. We are to cast off this kind of thinking. The point is that, in the little time we have left, if we will diligently tune in to the help of God, and not become sleepy, He can do something that will hasten the process.

Romans 9:27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

Now that’s a discouraging statement. These great numbers of Israel; Israel, the children of God, but only a remnant will be saved. Why?

Roman 9:28 For he will finish the work, and cut [it] short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

There lies an important appreciation. The great majority of Israel are sleepy – Laodicea. They’re not listening. But to those who will be alerted and feel, “Oh no, this is too much, but I need to be awake, I need to make progress,” the Lord says, “You can become a remnant. It’s only a remnant that shall be saved. I will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, if you will cooperate with Me. Take it seriously. Don’t go along like the past. Okay, the work has been slow, but if you will rely on My help, O thou worm Jacob, I can cut it short in righteousness.” We are a crawling worm in our character, aren’t we? But He says, Look, don’t be afraid, I am going to work with you fast. So take heart. With the little time left, God says, Don’t be afraid of the little time left, the diminishing space of time between you and eternity, let Me take hold of you and we will work together.

Is this not what is written? Are we not to work together with God?

The work of gaining salvation is one of copartnership, a joint operation. There is to be co-operation between God and the repentant sinner. This is necessary for the formation of right principles in the character. {AA 482.2}

Character building – this is what it’s all about. We are to work together with God.

God works and man works. Resistance of temptation must come from man, who must draw his power from God. On the one side there is infinite wisdom, compassion, and power; on the other, weakness, sinfulness, absolute helplessness. {Ibid.}

It makes your arms hang down, doesn’t it? With those weakened conditions of our being, with the Lord saying, I am going to cut short the work in righteousness, He is also saying, Alright, yes, you are weak, but don’t look at your weakness, don’t look at your shortcomings, just remember that, in developing your character, resistance of temptation must come from you, but I am there to help you. I am there to give you the power, the wisdom, and I have compassion. So don’t give up, I have compassion for your weakness. Let this stir us.

God wishes us to have the mastery over ourselves. But He cannot help us without our consent and co-operation. {AA 482.3}

God wants to help me to deal with those character defects that I have inherited from my parents and that I have nurtured over the years. He says, I’m going to help you, but you must consent, you must cooperate. So when He shows us our defects and how to overcome them, and when He shows us to remind us of what He has done to help us, we are not go, Oh, yeah, I can’t though. I’m too weak, and I don’t even want to be told, thank you very much. Have you ever gone through that? Someone who loves you wants to help you, and you say, Go away! Have you ever said that? I’ve heard it even. Even the people that I have sought to help, when we get a little bit more familiar they say, Oh, go away; I don’t want to hear that! These are the things that we hear from those that need help! The very help that is given to us we sometimes do not lovingly respond to. It’s a help, and we do the same with God. Remember the scripture? “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” (1 John 3:14) If we love the help that they give us then we know that the way we react to them is the way we react to God too. Inside of me the help that God wants to give to hasten my preparation, is not always appreciated.

We are now brought face to face with the challenge to wake up. I can’t go on this way. I must take hold of the help that is given me. And with the assurance of this help and this cooperation I will engage in earnest deliberation. This is practical reality that we must face here.

The Spirit of God does not propose to do our part either in the willing or the doing. This is the work of the human agent in cooperation with the Divine agencies. As soon as we incline our will to harmonize with God’s will, the peace of Christ stands to cooperate with the human agent. {6MR 14.2}

My inclination must be exercised to harmonise with God’s will.

It is only the human agent accepting the light, rousing the energies of the will fully to that which he knows is righteousness and truth, and thus cooperating with the heavenly ministrations appointed of God in the saving of the soul. . . . {6MR 14.2}

There are heavenly ministrations that He exercises through His servants. That is part of it.

Always the Lord gives the human agent his work. Here is the Divine and the human cooperation. There is the man working in obedience with Divine light given. {6MR 14.3}

The divine Light is given and we are to take it obediently; not to say, Later on, thank you very much, I’m uncomfortable here. No, if He is going to cut short His work in righteousness, then the man must be willing to obey the divine light.

If Saul had said, “Lord, I am not at all inclined to follow your specified directions to work out my own salvation,” then should the Lord have let ten times the light shine upon Saul, it would have been useless. It is man’s work to cooperate with the Divine. And it is the very hardest, sternest conflict which comes with the purpose and hour of great resolve, and decision of the human to incline the will and way to God’s will and God’s way, relying upon the gracious influences which accompanied him all his life long. The man must do the work of inclining, {Ibid.}

I must incline my will to the help that God wants to give me.

The doing was not in accordance with the feeling or the inclination, but the known will of our Father which is in heaven. Follow and obey the leadings of the Holy Spirit. {Ibid.}

Do it! Do it! Don’t say in your heart, Oh, I can’t at the moment, maybe later on. That’s dangerous thinking. Right there and then, because He’s going to cut short the work in righteousness; we haven’t got time.

Here is the consistency of true religion. We are to be “labourers together with God,” working in harmony with Him. “Ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9). This figure represents human character, which is to be wrought upon point by point. {HP 59.5}

Building a character – that is what our whole study is about.

Each day God works on His building to perfect the structure, that it may become a holy temple for Him. Man is to cooperate with God, striving in His strength to make himself what God designs him to be, building his life with pure, noble deeds…. {Ibid.}

This is why the Lord has so graciously given us this Sabbath school lesson, so that we actually realise that this is now extremely important to engage myself in this, and then to look carefully to incline my will to God’s will and God’s instructions so that He can hasten the work in me.

I ask the question, What is God’s direction?

He who would build up a strong, symmetrical character, he who would be a well-balanced Christian, {AA 483.1}

What must he do?

…must give all and do all for Christ; for the Redeemer will not accept divided service. Daily he must learn the meaning of self-surrender. {Ibid.}

I must learn the meaning of self-surrender.

He must study the word of God, learning its meaning and obeying its precepts. Thus he may reach the standard of Christian excellence. Day by day God works with him, perfecting the character that is to stand in the time of final test. {Ibid.}

The test is going to show whether my character is strong enough to stand. How do we stand at this time when the little tests come upon us? This is how we are to examine how we are standing. There is the need of self-surrender. It is always self that is the obstacle to us to get the benefit of God’s help. We may reach the standard of Christian excellence by letting God work with us day by day, perfecting the character that is stand in the time of final test.

And day by day the believer is working out before men and angels a sublime experiment, showing what the gospel can do for fallen human beings. {Ibid.}

This is the direction. As I have to meet these character defects of mine with all its ugly reactions to human relationships around me, I am to deal with it by surrendering self entirely. Whenever anything happens to me or you, what is it that reacts? If something is not going according to my expectations, what is it that reacts? It’s simply self. But if I am totally surrendered, if self is totally surrendered, as it says, if I give all for Christ, then the Lord can do His work fast because it’s all surrendered! I don’t have to react anymore if I will surrender all, even self. Self-surrender. I must study the meaning of it. So if you don’t quite know what the meaning of self-surrender is, study it.

Here is a direct application to these thoughts of God’s directions:

The man who has true zeal for God will be distrustful of self, and little in his own eyes. {ST, February 24, 1890 par. 7}

What is meant with being little in your own eyes? What does that mean? “The man who has true zeal for God will be distrustful of self, and little in his own eyes.” This is the biggest challenge to self. Self believes that what I want to do and what I see is important and what I believe should be done here, if it isn’t getting done, then I will enforce it! That is what is meant with being the opposite of little in my own eyes. If I am little in my own eyes, how will that portray itself in character? Won’t it be, “Not my will, but Thine be done”? Won’t it be that we will give over to what the other person has a strong belief about, instead of my way? Well, I will be humble, I will be little in my own eyes, I will just give over, That’s alright. It won’t go as I want it to go, but okay. That is when I am little in my own eyes.

Love teaches us to be meek as well as lowly. Sanctified love will enable us to exhibit the grace of patience; {Ibid.}

Follow very carefully; this is the word of God speaking to us here. This is the word of Jesus. What is it that teaches us to be meek and lowly so that God can hasten the character development? “Sanctified love will enable us to exhibit the grace of patience.” An exhibit is a demonstration. When someone is exhibiting a painting, it is for you to see. To exhibit patience in the character, it has to come from a sanctified love. What will this patience, this meekness, this smallness in my own eyes, do?

…it will help us to restrain impetuosity and fretfulness, so that we shall repine at nothing. {Ibid.}

What causes me to repine? Impetuousness and fretfulness. When I get fretful in things that aren’t going right, I can get fretful and I can get impetuous, and I have to actually realise that, Oops, this is not sanctified love. This is not doing all and giving all for Jesus. Sanctified love will enable me to exhibit patience; it will help me to restrain my impetuosity and fretfulness, so that then I won’t be repining because nothing is going my way! I won’t be repining because I am such a terrible person. It will be a sanctified love that will be just happy to go on, no matter what the circumstances. I won’t be the king and the queen in this whole thing. I am small in my own eyes. This is what the Lord wants to do with us.

Love to God and our neighbor will melt away all hatred, bitterness, wrath, malice, prejudice, envy, and evil surmising. {Ibid.}

O how much we see this in the world around us. The love to God, and the work that God is doing to mould and fashion our character, when we give all and surrender self, then there will be an attitude of mind in which I am small in my own eyes and I am able to develop a revelation of such patience that there will be no repining, no fretfulness within – a total surrender. And all those little things like bitterness that arise in our relationships will melt away. Wrath, malice, prejudice, and evil surmising even – you’re watching another person and you start to think, Ohh… you surmise. That will all disappear, it will melt away. This is the character the Lord wants us to have.

There is nothing which will weaken the strength of a church like pride and passion. . . . Christ has given us an example of love and humility and has enjoined upon His followers to love one another as He has loved us. We must in lowliness of mind esteem others better than ourselves. {TMK 176.2}

Remember, this is in answer to the question I posed in the beginning, What is God’s direction in developing our character? Here is a very important direction:

We must be severe upon our own defects of character, be quick to discern our own errors and mistakes, and make less of the faults of others than of our own. We must feel a special interest in looking upon the things of others–not to covet them, not to find fault with them, not to remark upon them and present them in a false light, but to do strict justice in all things to our brethren and all with whom we have any dealings. {Ibid.}

We must be severe upon our own defects of character, be quick to discern our own errors and mistakes.” That is what we should concentrate on and let Jesus help us, not to become discouraged about those things, but let Him deal with them. And what should we do? Make less of the faults of others than of our own. It’s usually the other way around. But we must look for the benefit of others–not to covet them, not to find fault with them. Not to find fault with them! Find fault with me, but not with them. As I am sharing this with you, the Lord has shown me this in the past, and I have to pick myself up frequently, Oops, here I go again. I have just found fault with the other person, and I feel better because I’m not as bad as that person. The fact is, I must see myself much worse than the others. This is God’s direction; this is what we are reading under inspiration. This is the counsel of God to us, this is not my opinion.

The first and foremost is to follow God’s direction here, when it comes to realising what God’s truths and practices are; but then we see the people around us not doing them exactly like it was given, and we start to destroy our inward peace. No, I must concentrate on my errors and concentrate on letting God show me my ways that are wrong, and show a good example of patience with others. This is God’s direction, and this is where many, many Adventist people lose their direction, because they know what are God’s directions in so many other areas but they forget God’s direction in regards to how they should relate to other areas and other people’s lives. God’s direction first and foremost is to concentrate on myself in understanding my faults and errors, and leave the other alone. This is God’s direction.

In following this principle of God’s processes of dealing with us in cutting short our work in righteousness by following these counsels, we have a profound source of encouragement. As we have been reading all this, you can see, Oh, the nearer I come to Jesus the more I see that I’m not like Him. Well, let us pick ourselves up on that and be encouraged by this:

The work of redemption involves consequences of which it is difficult for man to have any conception. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9. {COL 162.4}

He is going to cut short His work in righteousness, praise the Lord. It’s wonderful.

As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus. Holiness finds that it has nothing more to require. God Himself is “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Romans 3:26. And “whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Romans 8:30. {Ibid.}

We are justified. Okay, I haven’t followed God’s directions, but now I am falling prostrate at the foot of the cross, Oh dear, I am such a sinner. I haven’t followed God’s directions in the past, so I fall at the cross of Jesus. And now, as I fall there and I repent of the things that I have learnt, my heart is filled with total surrender, I receive a new heart, I receive new direction, and,

Great as is the shame and degradation through sin, even greater will be the honor and exaltation through redeeming love. To human beings striving for conformity to the divine image there is imparted an outlay of heaven’s treasure, an excellency of power, that will place them higher than even the angels who have never fallen. {Ibid.}

Isn’t that encouraging? As we submit to this power, as we surrender to it in our character reactions, and we realise, “Oh, I see God’s beautiful character, I see Jesus, and look at me here;” instead of being discouraged, I take up the surrender, falling at the cross of Jesus again. Surrender everything, self and everything. As I do that, as shameful as I feel about myself, “great as is the shame and degradation through sin, even greater will be the honor and exaltation through redeeming love.” What is the honour? It will place us higher than even the angels who have never fallen. Encouragement indeed. It is courage that is found by looking at Jesus and by following the beautiful guidance in the statements of God’s words that will fill us with precious comfort. God is able to do much more than we are able to ask or think, and He can change my faulty character very quickly as I follow these instructions. And He will lift us into such a high position because we have surrendered all.

It’s a strange mind exercise. I have to meet this time and time again in my own experience. It looks like when you have to surrender your own way you are actually diminishing your sense of being somebody. But as we look at Jesus, He surrendered everything, and look how the Lord lifted Him up above everyone. Here is the same principle.

May God help us to take hold of what we have been reading here in God’s holy word. We have heard His word and He wants us to give all, to surrender all, so that He can finish His work. As we study the Sabbath school lesson and as we make this our deliberation in these last moments of earth’s history, we will be among the remnant. He will cut short His work in the lives of these people, and I want to be among them; don’t you? God grant us this, is my prayer.

Amen.

 

 

 

Posted on May 7, 2016, in Divine Service Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. HAROLD BAKER

    Thankyou.! >

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