Let me start by acknowledging that I have often struggled with the message for today. I have had many occasions when the words I spoke did not always match my actions. Now, don’t be alarmed. I suppose many of us have struggled with this character challenge before. The book of James tells us, when speaking about how unruly and uncontrollable the tongue is, that the tongue is a mean thing. James asks rhetorically, “Can a spring bring forth both fresh water and bitter water from the same opening?” We all know this is not possible. The point is that we have to fight to match up the things we say with the things we do. For me, when I came to my senses, the answer is simple: speak less than what comes to my mind and do more from my heart, then the character of my actions will reflect the character of my heart. But still, we often find it easier to say things than to do those same things.
Why? Because you and I are not God. We are imperfect and sinful. Yet, God demonstrates to us, and the book of James tells us, that what we do should match what we say, and those two should match who we are. Now, we don’t have to be perfect at this because we cannot be. But we should always be working towards being better than we are at heart. Psalms 119:68 says, “You are good, and You do good.” David is speaking of God here. He is saying, “God You are good and because You are good, You do good things. And You do good things because You are good because you are God”. God shows us how the character of what we do should match the character of who we are.
Still, you might say but you have done so much wrong that you cannot see how you can possibly change who you are. But then that is the point of this message; we should be careful not to think that the things we do are the best indication of who we are. If you take a piece of food that is not yours and give it to a child who is starving are you a thief or an angel? There is more to this, and here is what that is. Clearly the character of our acts must stand on their own. What we do is what we do. But the character of who we are can reshape the character of how we view the things we do.
How is this so? Well, I know that a criminal did it so it must be possible for you and me to do it. Scripture says two men who were criminals, thieves to be exact, were crucified along with Jesus. One of them, in the agony of being crucified, repented of his wrongs and defended Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom. Jesus responded to this man by saying, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Being a thief is what earned this man the cross; a repentant heart and belief in Jesus is what got him to paradise. Still, was he a criminal or was he a believer? Could he be both at the same time?
RW Emerson is quoted to have said, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” I believe this thinking does not quite describe you, me, and other people of faith. Clearly what we do in life will follow what we think in life, so it seems to me that our thoughts must come from a character of life that exists before we act. In a moment, this criminal changed the makeup of his character and so it was reflected in the character of the most amazing act of his life: the act of belief in Christ. The habit doesn’t reveal the character of the believer. The character of the believer shapes and defines the character of their acts and habits. We should all want this for ourselves.
You and I are indeed imperfect and so we are like one of those two criminals. There is one who isn’t repentant about anything and is set on living apart from God. And the other who in knowing that he is apart from God tries to find his way back to a place with God. We are all made to be like God in the ways that we have the control to become. But we fail, so at best we want our acts to speak of the character we want others to believe for us, and at worst we want our acts to disguise our real character from the sight of others.
But the scripture is true; just as it is not possible for a spring to bring forth both fresh water and bitter water at the same time, it is not possible for the things we do to fully and accurately reveal the character of who we are. So, if you want your character to be truly revealed in your acts, and you want your acts to be a true representation of your character, do these things:
- Love others quickly and lavishly and others will see the character of the love that you are;
- Speak less and others will see the character of the listener you are;
- Do less and others will see the character of how you inspire action with no action;
- Start your life journey on the inside and others will see the character of that journey in what goes on outside;
- Speak more good about others and others will see the character of the selflessness found in you and;
- Serve the Lord and His interests in others and others will see the character of His interests in you.
When you learn to do all things in these ways, you will be one whose character is seen in the things you do, and the things you do will be done because of the character of person you are. God, You first make us better so that we will do better, and we will do better because You first make us better. Live a Delivered Life. Love you.