A character in a book can really do anything. They start out as a blank slate and it’s up to the author to draw some lines around them to really define who they are. The dictionary defines “Character – the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Things that will define a character are their morals and values. The things that they believe and don’t believe. This helps determine the villains from the heroes. This determines their actions, their behaviors, their lifestyle, their habits.
A habit defined is “Habit – a settled or regular tendency or practice.” Habits are the daily routines for a character. I wake up and read my Bible and have my morning coffee every day. It is not who I am. It is a habit I have developed. I also bite my nails (and no thanks I don’t care to quit). Habits can be positive or negative, but while they contribute to the life of a character heavily, they by themselves are not a full picture or who a character is. Habits can be learned and habits can be broken and although bad habits take work to quit and good habits take work to develop, they are something that we as humans can accomplish if we persist.
Another factor that contributes to a persons overall character is their lifestyle. Where do they live, what is the culture like, what is their financial standing, or their role in society. This places your character into a specific world. Lifestyle – the way in which a person or group lives. Lifestyle isn’t usually something we see as a fluid thing in our daily lives, but in a story, often a lifestyle change becomes a triggering factor in the progression of a story and the development of that character. In life, this happens too. A natural disaster puts a family out of their home, a close friend dies, or a spouse cheats and divorce begins. Major catastrophes happen, especially for those of us who pursue Christ. When those things happen, the way you previously lived your life may no longer be the way you live. You have to adjust. Again, changing your lifestyle is difficult and takes work, but is completely doable with perseverance.
When God is moving in us, it is not about changing habit or lifestyle. Although these are important and God will work in these places too, the Holy Spirit is most concerned with developing our character in order to build our hope and faith in Him. He is the author and perfector of our faith. Character development has to be deeper then a change that I, in my own strength, can cause. If I change my habits, that’s great, but it’s too easy to skip a day then two and before you know it I’ve lost the habit. If I change my lifestyle that’s great too or even if I am quite happy with the lifestyle I live, but when life happens, I fall back into my old crutches again or I take on new crutches to cope with the loss or changes. Changing habits and lifestyles are things we can do and face in our own strength, but only God can develop a character and that takes more than hard work, persistence, and practice. It takes a movement of the Holy Spirit in our souls and it is the only change that holds. It’s a reshaping of our souls.
From 2016 to 2017, I changed my eating habits. I started developing a health lifestyle that began with small habits of watching my calorie intake. That resulted in me losing 84 pounds over the course of about 2 years. Obviously I am proud of that accomplishment. It was hard earned. But as I was reaching my goal weight of that journey, my family life suddenly changed and my husband and I filed for divorce. What was my lifestyle, suddenly was uprooted and I had to learn to live a new life without. Without a husband, provider, protector, friend, spiritual leader. You all know the struggle of loss if you’re reading this. You’ve been in that boat too. But that lifestyle change caused me to slip in my eating habits. Instead of tracking my calories religiously, I started having cheat moments and cheat days. My sadness took control and that turned into more moments of failure which caused more bad moments. Before I knew what was happening, my good habits were gone, the bad had returned, and my lifestyle without my husband accompanied a lifestyle of unhealthy eating. Over the next year and a half, I regained half of the weight I had worked so hard to lose. My true character, although I’d developed good habits and a healthy lifestyle, was not that of a “skinny girl”. I did get to my goal weight by changing my habits, but my character hadn’t been shaped. I still thought like a heavy girl and when life got bad, she knew just what to do. She quickly fell to old crutches, because you can change a habit and even a lifestyle, but a permeant change is caused by the Holy Spirit and it is a change in character.
It’s developed in the battlefield.
Romans 12:2a Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
I know that too, because I remember back to the day I was saved, the day that I began to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. The adulterous lifestyle that my husband and I were living from 2009 to 2015 was supposed to be a fun, casual occasion that quickly became lifestyle that then turned into this dark looming cloud over my life. I remember the day, driving home from work, listening to K-love on the radio. I was listening, because I had decided to make it a habit from hearing their 30-day challenge. I thought that maybe if I let God a little bit more into my life, well God is light, and that would brighten the darkness a little. It wasn’t something I really cared about. It was just a habit that I was developing, more out of convenience for myself or maybe to be able to convince myself that I wasn’t as wicked as I felt, but it definitely wasn’t because I cared about God. But that day, driving home from work, I suddenly realized that I couldn’t live in this lifestyle we had chosen even one more day. I had hit a wall, a dead end. The only way I could see out was to kill myself and somehow that habit was the only light I still had and was keeping me alive. God broke through. He started to whisper to me that maybe there was a different lifestyle option that I’d overlooked. He called to me and actually got through. He began to convince me that I should give God and His lifestyle a shot and see how that works. And I had nothing left to lose at that point, so I said sure. I’ll give it a try. From there, God did a work in my soul. He changed my character. And it was a real sudden change! It didn’t come with perfection of course. I still had bad habits that needed to be weeded out of my life. I still had this old lifestyle that I had to actively say no to, but that change in my character changed everything. When He came to me and suddenly told me who I was, that I was His child and that He loved me and knew my name, it changed me. That I was special and famous in His eyes (Francesca Battisteli, He Knows My Name). My name was regret and defeat, but now my name is child of the King (Matthew Wests “Hello, My Name Is.” Yeah that was my jam!) And like I said, the habits and lifestyle didn’t change overnight. Just my drive did. My heart did. I wanted to be better. I wanted to serve Him. I wanted to try to do the right thing. I say try, because I’m still human and I’m still a sinner and I’m never going to get it all right. In fact, even after my character change, I did live for another month in that adulterous lifestyle, before God gave me the strength to say no and end it. But I did borrow His strength and it did stop over time and my habits did change and now I serve and I pray and I tithe and I love people and I know my worth. I didn’t know that before.
Jeremiah 31:3b I have loved you with and everlasting love; I have drawn you with and unfailing kindness.
See, sometimes life hits very hard and the lifestyle that you were certain would never change changes. Yeah, you can be in the good habit of going to church and serving. You can have a lifestyle of prayer, tithe, and put yourself around men and women of God and that is perfect. But when life hits you hard in the face, that is when your true character is really shown. Was this just a Pharisee phase for you? No judgements here, cause most of my life was spent as a Pharisee, but trust me that’s an empty life of chasing good deeds instead of chasing a good God. Are you living by the rules, habits, lifestyles for the glamour and glory of it? Or is there something deeper going on in your soul? A relationship with Him. A character being developed in you. Galatians 2:21 says “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” A character, His Spirit living inside of you, is going to accept His grace and understand that although I want to and try to do what is right, yes, I must accept His grace, that He died to set me free.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
And as for habits maybe today, I’m too tired to get up and read my Bible. As for lifestyles, maybe I’m too depressed to get dressed and go to church. Or maybe I’m not depressed, but I’m tired and lazy and I don’t feel like it today. Or maybe even the church just doesn’t feel the way it used to. And maybe even those friends that I love so much can’t come knocking down my door to lift me up today. Maybe its sadness, sloth, depression. Maybe it’s just a natural emptiness from the world and I need God to refill me. But my character is set. I am a child of God. It’s who I am. A Queen, the bride of Christ. Yeah, I might not be in the mood to listen to another sermon that’s going to touch all my hurt places and pour out all my tears. I might not feel like getting on my knees and praising today. It’s okay. To just sit quietly with Him and know He is with me is enough. To be persistent in just being, is persistence still. Sometimes I do just sit and play video games and ask God to come play with me. Sometimes I do take my kids to a movie and we buy too many candy bars and spill most of our popcorn on the floor and chairs and then run away. (Sorry people who have to clean up after us. I know its difficult, because I clean up after us too). But I enjoy Him in those moments too. Sometimes fighting the good fight and finishing the race just means living another day. It doesn’t always have to be about learning a new lesson or developing the better habits or living the lifestyle that most reflects Christ to the world. Yes, those are good habits and good lifestyles and you need to do your best. But some days, your best really is just living a life of good character. That means spending time in the presence of His Spirit. Sitting and resting with the Lord and enjoying the blessings He’s given you. Yeah, even video games and movie popcorn!
Psalm 23:1-3 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Do you understand? Character is greater then just what you do. It is who you are. In seasons of sadness and seasons of joy, a persons character does not change. Seasons do not define a person. Real and true character change can only happy when the Spirit interacts with our spirit and changes our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. When the Spirit enters us, it is His character that shines out of us. I am grateful Lord that you chose me and changed me. I am praying for God to develop my husbands character too. I realize that this isn’t something my husband can do on his own. A true heart change means a true character change. Father, please trade his heart of stone for a heart of flesh. Fill him with your Holy Spirit, just as you did for me.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.