Preparing for Death 5 (Scroll Down for Part 4)

In the last few days, we have been thinking through the rewards of the believer, and have come to the conclusion that character is the goal of our faith. We will be rewarded by how much of the character of Christ is in us.

Dictionary.com defines the word character as: “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.” We are being transformed day by day in the area of our souls and spirit through every event that we experience. Everything in life is a test of our character, and a man’s character is accurately measured by his reactions to life’s inequities. Reputation is not character. Reputation is what men think you are; character is what God knows you are. If we respond in obedience to the Spirit of Christ in each situation we encounter, we are made more and more into the image or likeness of Christ. If you are a Christian, you are predestined by God to be made into the representation of Jesus Christ.

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:28-29, Emphasis mine).

God foreknew you and predestined you to be made in the image of His Son. We can easily go by this passage without thinking through the implications of what the Spirit wants to teach us. We cannot blame God for the bad things that have happened in the course of our lives. Sometimes, these things have happened because of our own choices. What God says is that He will use each situation to work good into our lives if we will be open to His teaching and leading us by His Spirit. The wonderful thing is that God has seen the end from the beginning. He had each of us on His heart before the world was made. He foreknew you and predestined you to be shaped and molded into a person like His Son. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). The Message Bible translates that verse in this way, “Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” The work of God in the world is to prepare you for eternity.

“Character on earth will prove an everlasting possession in the world to come” (J.C. Ryle). If you want to be great in the sight of God, how are you responding to the difficult circumstances that have come your way? Are you ready and prepared to meet your God? How much of His character will you reflect in that day?

What do you want the outcome of your life to be? What do you want for Jesus to say to you on that day? He will say to many, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and I hope that you are a believer and that He will say it to you, dear reader. If you want to be effective with your life and leave the world a bit better by being here, then it is wise to stop and ask yourself what kind of a difference are you making with your life? Is it a difference that only lasts for this life, or is it something that is eternal? Do you labor for temporary rewards for your skills, time, energy, and money that you spend, or for eternal rewards? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matthew 6:19-20). Please help us, Holy Spirit, to live for eternity.

Keith Thomas. Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study Preparing for Death.

The Testing is to Build Character

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name (1 Peter 4:12-19).

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

We have been thinking on the fact that God tests those that are His in order to build character. Sometimes the things that God has prepared in advance for us to do can be hindered by a lack of godly character. God has to work on us before He can work through us. The purpose in all of this is not just so that we can perform works. Whatever we accomplish in our lives will be linked to our character, to the person we are becoming. This in itself is important to the Father; that we become more like Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22 as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self- control. This will be evident in the way one’s life is lived among others. Such an individual is one who has learned to give priority to that which is on God’s agenda.

It means in a practical way, to exhibit the character of God, which is only possible if the life of God is dwelling in you, by God’s power and presence. This is why we are dependent upon His Word and the Holy Spirit. Many people have reached out for influence before true godly character has been laid in their lives. When this happens, it usually results in moral collapse and the ridicule and accusations of the enemy. King David is an example of this. When he chose to give in to temptation and an adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan confronted and rebuked him. The prophet Nathan told David that he had made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt for the things of God (2 Samuel 12:14). Preparation of our heart and character is key, for when we are not available to the Holy Spirit to work in our life and form our character, we give Satan an opportunity to accuse Christians before the world, especially when we have influence and yet give in to temptation. We make ourselves open candidates for sabotage either from the enemy or from ourselves. There are many examples of those who have acquired greatness before they were ready, and have sabotaged their own success. Many examples of this can be seen throughout history. Our character must be bigger than our influence.

Keith Thomas