Character Matters More than Success

The success or failure of our work as a church or mission depends, in the last resort, largely, not in the number of preachers we put into the field, nor on the size of our congregations, but rather on the character of Christianity we and our work produce. –Duncan Campbell, preacher and revivalist

“Then we turned and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me, and circled Mount Seir for many days. And the Lord spoke to me, saying, ‘You have circled this mountain long enough.’” Deuteronomy 2:1-3 (NASB)

There’s no escaping the God-ordained reality that genuine progress in life is dependent upon character growth. Through the general course of our lives, God is more concerned about what’s going on inside of us than He is with where we’re going. That’s not to say that direction in life is unimportant, only that it’s secondary to character development.

The person formed into the image of Christ can be used by God anywhere across the face of this earth. The one with flawed character will inevitably wreak havoc in those very same places.

Shaping Our Character

It is not beyond our Lord to use adverse circumstances for disciplinary purposes as He transforms us into the image of Christ. As a loving Father, His desire is always to form and never to punish. All too often, however, we conveniently ignore what He’s trying to accomplish, usually blaming all unfavorable circumstances on the actions of others.

Much can be learned through study and prayer, but true growth must be tested through the fires of adversity. Unfortunately, this usually involves pain of one type or another, but it is wise to distinguish between good pain and bad pain. Good pain serves to further mold and shape our character. Bad pain amounts to eating the unpleasant fruit of our own foolish choices. We can learn and grow from bad pain, but a little personal honesty seasoned with courage will help us avoid its bitter taste.

How can we tell when the Great Sculptor of the Universe is trying to shape our character? We tune our ear to His, taking deliberate care to look for patterns. If you find yourself saying, “Why does this always happen to me?” there is a good chance that some type of character issue is at play. During such times, I often pray for wisdom, asking my Father what it is that He wants to accomplish in my life.

Are You Helping or Hurting?

Does it matter whether or not we know what God is after? In some situations it absolutely does! If we know what He is doing, we can “get on board” with the process, often shortening the duration and intensity of the trial. But if we remain oblivious to His plans and purposes, we will face similar circumstances somewhere down the road.

You can be sure of one thing: the obstacles will be bigger and more intimidating the next time around. Eventually, we will come to a place where the barriers are so large that we have no choice but to deal with our issues.

Becoming a Champion

Are there any among us who don’t dream of becoming champions in life? It is our Father’s desire for us as well! Like a wise and caring coach, He molds and shapes us to fulfill dreams we never even knew we had. This leaves us each with the ongoing choice of joining His heavenly program in preparation for future exploits, or sulking and complaining about our difficulties.

Would you rather grow in God’s grace, or take yet another proverbial trip “around the mountain?”

If you can be honest with yourself, if you can pray for wisdom (and really mean it), if you can recognize disciplinary patterns in your life, then you can become a willing participant in the champion-growing process. How much better for us to get with God’s program than to spend our days in bewilderment, complaining about the same problems time and time again!



This post is drawn from Chapter Thirty-Six of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers