Luke 23:32-43, Luke 7:11-17, Matthew 5: 33-37, Hebrews 12:1-4, 1 John 3:16-18
One of the privileges I have had over the last three years is being a part of a team and providing an important leadership to growing young leaders, developing a course that I can help them go through and awarding them certificates at the end. There is a model within the course that contains many words beginning with the letter ‘C’. One of these words is Character. It is all about the importance of developing, growing and nurturing a Christ-like character.
This is probably one of the most important aspects of any Christian’s life, but can be one of the hardest to develop as it requires changes in the way we live our lives. It seems to me that when we look at today’s society we do not see a Christ-like character being promoted in many things. This makes it even more important that we equip our young people with them.
Mentoring is a great way to help the young people, as it creates accountability for them. Mentors can be there to help them work through any issues that they encounter on their journey.
It is amazing to work with these young leaders and to see them taking on board the need to have a character that is instantly recognisable to others as that of Jesus. This is especially true when we consider how much easier it would be for them, and indeed for anyone, to act differently in different settings and with different people in their life. This really fills me with admiration for their stand.
I would like to encourage you with just five of the Christ-like characters that we use with the young people on the course, with a hope that they will also help you in your journey with Jesus.
- Forgiveness – Luke 23:32-43 shows Jesus as He hangs on the cross forgiving the thief next to Him and securing another soul in heaven.
- Compassion – Luke 7:11-17 shows Jesus having compassion for a mother at her son’s funeral.
- Honesty – Matthew 5: 33-37 with Jesus saying, “Do not swear on anything, let your yes be yes and your no be no.”
- Endurance – Hebrews 12:1-4 running with perseverance the race marked out in front of us fixing our eyes on Jesus.
- Love – 1 John 3:16-18 showing love in actions and truth.
Imagine an iceberg floating in the sea; the ice we see sticking out of the water is, as we say, just the tip of the iceberg. There is another much bigger mass of ice underwater that cannot be seen. We use this picture in the Growing Young Leaders course asking the young people to think of their lives as an iceberg, explaining that the bit at the top sticking out is the bit of you that people see. These are the things that you do and are the things that, rightly or wrongly, they will judge you by.
We also say that the bigger mass of ice underwater is like their character and that it is this that dictates what is seen at the top. The more Christ-like your character is, the more of Jesus will be seen in you and in the life you lead by the people around you. Our aim is to encourage the young people to continue this development as a Christian and to nurture their character, so that as with the iceberg, the part under the water gets bigger and bigger as they journey deepens with Jesus.
These five lifestyle choices are a great starting place. There are so many other Christ-like characteristics that are seen in the Bible; but even with these five we would begin to initiate change and impact people’s lives in a very positive way! This often leaves people wanting to know more; so the more we change, the more we become instruments of change for others. I think of Peter and his relationship with Timothy and of how he mentored him. He helped him develop his Christ-like character until Timothy went off to fulfil Christ’s commission of making more disciples himself, which is what we are called to do.
There are three quotes I would like to leave you with that are very relevant to testing our character development and I hope will help you in your journey.
- ‘People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt
- ‘The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.’ – Thomas B Macaulay
- ‘Character is what you are in the dark.’ – D L Moody
by DAVID KNOWLTON