The following are excerpts of a sermon given recently at Living Hope Church by pastor Paul Schindler:
I was sitting in my favorite Chinese restaurant a while back when a prominent minister showed up on CNN. He was being interviewed because he allowed a senator to speak at an AIDS conference held by this minister's church. It was just another sound bite until I heard the minister say about this leader, "He is a man of good character."
That statement really sent me spinning. What? This senator is known for supporting and enacting many things that are against Christianity and even the Bible. Sure this senator is popular, but how does this pastor know "he is a man of good character"?
The truth is he does not know. Only God knows fully the hearts of men and women, and it takes us a lot of time to fully know a person. I live by a two-year rule. If you know someone for at least two years, you will just then have gone through enough life situations to get a good picture of their character.
Why two years? During that time, you will be around them as they express and experience things like victory and defeat, loss and success, rejection and hate, along with love and acceptance. You will see them act alone and in full view of the public. You will see how they treat those they say they love the most. You will see where they spend their money, and you will see whether what they say matches up to what they do. Anyone can say the right words and act the right way for a short period of time, but the genuine person will eventually be revealed.
You see, if the person you are relating to has bad character, it will rub off on you. Don't be deceived to think you are stronger than them, that you can resist. Your sin nature will attract to theirs, and like a bug to a bug light, you will get zapped. I like what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character." Who you connect with is who you will become, just give it time.
The bottom line is that we need wisdom in our relationships. Wisdom helps us make good choices at the right time. It helps us to say the right words in the right way so that those that hear them will receive them and be better off because of them. Wisdom helps us avoid embarrassing mistakes and from jumping to conclusions without knowledge of the facts. True character is discerned through wisdom. Wisdom is not concerned with doing but with being, thus it's not easy to spot. So look for people with steady demeanor and attitude. Are they humble or self-centered? Are they genuine or deceptive?
Humility is the primary key to wisdom. You can't gain or enact wisdom without it. Also, does this person hide in the shadows of life using excuses as their flash light to draw your attention away from the real problems? A genuine person will admit when they are wrong and learn from it. They are sincere and seek the other person's good over their own. Remember, the decisions you make each day are the individual building blocks to your life. Make no mistake, if you lay a block the wrong way, it will have to be fixed or it will limit how high you can go.
The Apostle Paul's words: "For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (Colossians 1:9).
Character comes from wisdom. Over the years of being a Christian, I have found few things that pull my life back into alignment quicker than fasting. Few things in life are more accurate in showing the real me than fasting. Just go without food for two days, and you will see the real you. You might get bummed out. You might get snappy. You might shut down. People turn off to the world and in the process find themselves again in God.
Food and water are essential to living. They sustain, grow and develop life. They also can mask the reality of a person's heart and soul. Paul told the Corinth Church this: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5) What better way to see how much Christ is actually in you than to fast. When you go without food, you put yourself under a test to see how much you profess is actually personal. It pulls out the influence of this world and replaces it with godly influence.