THE WHOLEHEARTED LEADER
PILLAR 4: Holiness of Character
The Soil of Adversity
In this fourth pillar of becoming a wholehearted leader, I want to share what it means to walk out holiness of character. Paul said that “suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). We must learn to grow the fruit of the Spirit in the soil of adversity. We must learn to see ourselves as the righteousness of God and to live by faith to become like Christ, so that we display His character.
How do we become holy?
God made us holy and said to “be holy as I am holy” (Lev.11:44-45; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16). We want to grow and mature, becoming holy as God is holy. We want to learn what it looks like to be in the character of Christ, to display the fruit of the Spirit, and walk out life in wisdom, continually growing to become the best version of us.
How do we become holy as God is holy? Holiness of character comes when we really begin to embrace the character of Christ. Let’s look at what God’s Word has to say:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:1-5 NIV)
The whole point is that suffering develops perseverance, which develops character, which develops hope.
Where does the fruit of the Spirit grow?
One time, in a quiet moment with Him, God shared with me, “The fruit of the Spirit is grown in the soil of adversity.” When we’re looking at the process of developing character, we must recognize that suffering is going to come. And the soil of adversity – the trials, the tribulations – that is what grows the fruit of the Spirit.
Take heart! He’s overcome the world and so can we. Anything we’re going through, anything the devil throws our way, we’re able to become like Jesus in that situation.
What opportunity does a test give us?
A test is always an opportunity to prove what you know at the time.
If you’re taking a math test in school, to go to the next level, you must pass the test! God wants to take us from glory to glory to glory. That means we must go through some tests. Because God is good, I personally do not believe the Father throws testing our way to punish us or make us suffer. He is a good God. Remember, we have an enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy!
But Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance!” God takes what is evil and turns it around for good. When we are tested by the enemy, God uses that – when we let Him – to grow perseverance, then godly character, and then hope. He uses the soil of adversity to cultivate holiness in us.
What can we learn from Job?
In the book of Job, remember, Job lived in ancient times. Most of the Bible hadn’t been written – if any! The perspective of Job and his friends was that trials came from God – as judgment for sin. They never acknowledge the enemy; they don’t seem to realize that Job’s trials came from Satan and not God (although God-filtered).
It’s important to understand that Job did not have a full revelation about how the enemy can wreak havoc in our lives. God is bragging on Job to Satan and then allows Satan to test Job. Job, not understanding that all his misfortunes came from Satan, said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21)
Job thought all the testing was from God, but, even so, Job remained faithful to God. He persevered in praise. He maintained his integrity and his character.
What happens when we persevere?
It’s important to recognize how to walk through trials and trouble and tests, because just like Jesus endured the cross for the joys set before Him, so we must keep our eye on the prize. We must keep our eye on becoming like Jesus.
Yes, we all experience lots of suffering. It’s part of our human nature because we live in a fallen world. We’re going to endure all kinds of suffering, tests, and trials, so how do we persevere through all that? How do we grow in the fruit of the Spirit through suffering?
The fruit of the Spirit is grown in the soil of adversity. Man! If we can persevere, the Holy Spirit develops within us the character of Christ. And character produces hope and hope does not disappoint, because hope is a confident expectation of good things coming. Hope is a happy certainty. Biblical hope is a confidence that good is coming around the corner.
I think of little kids coming down the stairs on Christmas morning, expecting presents, expecting joy, expecting to receive. And that place is where we ought to be. That’s what hope looks like, even though what’s happening right now doesn’t feel good.
How do I live “inside out?”
Feelings are not always facts, but when we’re in the midst of the pain or suffering or fear or worry, we have to pay attention to what truth are we believing. Feelings come and go, and they change all the time, just like our circumstances, but we want to learn how to live “inside out” not “outside in.”
We want to become so strong internally – one with God – that we begin to influence the environment around us. Our spirit, our light begins to shine outside of us regardless of the storm, regardless of the circumstances that are going on.
It’s like when Jesus was in the boat and told His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side” (Mark 4:35-41). Notice what He said: “We’re going to the other side.” But the disciples freak out when a storm happens. Their feelings were influenced by their outward circumstances. Jesus is taking a nap and they’re going, “Teacher! Don’t You care if we drown?”
Jesus had to tell them, “Do you still have no faith?” “I told you we were going to the other side!”
But then, what did Jesus do? He gets up and calms the storm. He speaks peace to it. I think He also calms His kids – those disciples. Sometimes He calms us, sometimes He calms the storm. Sometimes both.
I also think we can hide away in the boat with Him. Cuddle in! When the storm is going on, we become one with Him and rest our head on His chest. We go into that place of intimacy, cocooned in the love and in the heart of God, trusting Him fully. Knowing that He is good, anchored in that so strongly that we’re able to deal with whatever comes.
How are we purified?
As we persevere through testing, we are refined in the refiner’s fire. All the junk that’s inside our heart, all the stuff of our humanness begins to rise up and bubble up. When they purify gold, it gets so hot that all the impurities rise to the top. The hotter it gets – and it’s got to be hot enough to melt the gold – all the impurities rise to the top. And it’s the impurities that are taken off so that it’s purified. That’s how you purify gold.
To be purified we must embrace the fire of trials and tests and the things that come because that develops the very character of Christ in us. That’s how we test it out, that’s how we grow in it. We must remember that suffering develops perseverance, which develops the character of Christ, which develops hope – a confident expectation of good things coming.
It’s already done!
I’d like to leave you with Romans 8:28-30. Notice that all of it is past tense – it’s already been done! And yet, we are still manifesting. We are still growing to manifest the character of Christ.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters;
and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
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