“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.“
Romans 5:3-5 NLT
What is this entity “strength of character”? The dictionary defines the word character as, “the particular combination of qualities in a person or place that makes them different from others”. But the “character” that Paul was referring to was much more than that. Just to be different in character to other people is all very well, but Godly character is something else. This type of character is active, not something that is passive. Godly character is something that is constantly improving, drawing us closer and closer to the person God designed us to be. As we endure the hassles of life, our endurance in maintaining our faith and relationship with God strengthens us, so that when the storms hit, we stand firm.
Someone who has a Godly character is like the wise man in Jesus’ parable about the builders. In Matthew 7:25-26 we read, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock”. The wise man had the right character, because he knew, perhaps from previous experiences, the consequences of building on a dodgy foundation. Perhaps previous “problems and trials” had taught him much and honed his character. He knew that only Jesus had the words of eternal life and would lead him to the right outcome. But so many people instead put their trust on sandy foundations. They trust a friend, or a political party, or their bank account, trusting a substitution for God that will collapse like the foolish man in Jesus’ parable when the storms of life crash against them. They lose their jobs, or their friend moves away and cuts off contact. Their bank account is swallowed up by inflation and they find that there is too much month left at the end of their money. But whatever happens, they find that they have no endurance to get through the crisis. Their character fails the strength and endurance test.
We pilgrims are made of sterner stuff, of course. Not for us a trust in worldly systems that could collapse at any moment. We have built our foundations on the Rock that is Christ. Psalm 18:30-31, “God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?” Who indeed!
Father God. Only You can develop our characters through the trials and problems of life. Only You can hold our hand and help us. We praise and thank You today. Amen.