Last year, I was reading a book called “The Millionaire next door”. The book is based on the principle that people who are rich don’t live the way we think they do. More often, those who are wealthy tend to live more basic, frugal lives. In contrast, those who appear to live flashy, ostentatious lives tend not be as rich as they would like us to think.
Another interesting thing, the authors shared was that most wealthy people tend to come from humble backgrounds and have had to work very hard to climb up the success ladder. Interestingly, they found that the children of the rich tend not to do as well as their parents. When they looked into this, they found a couple of reasons. Here is one of them, these children have never lacked, tended not to see the need to work hard for money because it was always available. As a result, they did not develop the outstanding work ethic that got their parents to get to the level they were at. In addition to this, some of the parents excessively pamper their children on a bid to “protect” them because they don’t want their children to “suffer” in the same way they did.
It struck me a few days ago how Christians go through a similar situation in a different context.
The message of grace and God’s love is such an amazing one. So, we come to Christ as we are. No pretending, no covering up. And we are reassured that there is no shame and Jesus loves us no matter what we have done.
It’s a beautiful message. It tells us that salvation is not based on how good we are. All we need to do is confess with our mouths that we are sinners and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour of our lives. As we say this with faith, we immediately become part of God’s family. If you would like to join the family, there is a prayer here for you and feel free to drop me an email. I would love to encourage and spur you on this new journey.
So, it’s true that we are expected to come to God as we are but that’s only half the truth. Here is the full version, we come to God as we are, but we don’t remain there.
We can see this in the example of a child from poor destitute home who is adopted into a very rich family. While it is true that the child now has access to all the privileges of the biological children of that home. It also means that child must now assume a new lifestyle and culture. If the family speaks a certain way, the child will have to learn that language. If they all go to certain prestigious university, the child now has to work as hard as possible to gain admission to that university. As the child had been adopted by the family, the child also has to adopt the family’s lifestyle so as not to stain their reputation.
When we come to God, we are told of all the amazing things we now have access to. The money, the healing, the good life. But we don’t want to be like the kids I mentioned earlier who only care about their privileges and don’t develop the work ethic of their parents.
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 [KJV]
When Jesus made this statement, He was challenging the listeners to subscribe to a higher way of life, a Christ-centred culture. In this account He was talking about walking in love and by so doing distinguishing ourselves from the rest of the world. Here is the full account below,
“Your ancestors have also been taught ‘Love your neighbours and hate the one who hates you.’ However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you,and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil. What reward do you deserve if you only love the loveable? Don’t even the tax collectors do that? How are you any different from others if you limit your kindnessonly to your friends? Don’t even the ungodlydo that? Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, you are to be perfectlike him.” Matthew 5:43-48 [TPT]
As we grow in Christ, we are expected to start building character with the help of the Holy Spirit. The uniqueness and steadfastness of our godly character through every phase of life is more proof to the world that we are the children of God we claim to be.
Anyone can live a good healthy life but the thing that sets us apart is the depth of character and godliness that we have partnered with the Holy Spirit to birth in our lives.
The bible gives us clear indicators for how much we have grown spiritually. These are called “fruits of the Spirit”. And we should strive to see that these fruits become apparent in our lives as they do we begin to look more like Jesus. Then our message to the world can move beyond what people can get if the accept Jesus to who they can become in Christ.
Remember the bible says that it is through our lives that God makes a plea of reconciliation to the world (2 Corinthians 5:16-21), the question is, how loud is the message in our lives? Have we muted it or is it screaming loud and clear through the Christ -like life we portray to those around us.
Paul makes a similar plea in the book of Romans, that we should not be conformed to this world and its value system (Romans 12:1-2).
I’ll briefly talk about two practical ways we can build character
- The Word of God.
As we study the Word of God, we need to get intentional about implementing the principles we read in our everyday lives. Let’s stop seeing them as suggestions but rather see them as instructions. Let us constantly examine ourselves in the light of the Word and see how we can change things in our lives. We can look at the scripture I mentioned earlier Matthew 5:43-48. Jesus says, “Pray for those who treat you wrongly”, rather than glance over and keep reading that would be a perfect moment to pause and think about the people who aren’t very nice to you and say a quick prayer for them. Or where he says, “do something wonderful for those who hate you” that’s another sweet spot for you to make a plan for how you are going to do something shockingly nice for someone who has been incredibly mean to you through the help of the Holy Spirit.
2.Don’t waste your experiences (good and bad)
Every experience or situation in life is a classroom where you can learn something new particularly the things that don’t go so well. So maybe you started a project that didn’t go how you planned, maybe it’s time to learn something about time management and organisation. You never know. Look to that situation and ask yourself, “Is there a lesson here for me?” The scripture below explains it perfectly,
“My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing, but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.” James 1:2-3
Let’s strive to let Jesus shine through us. As we do so, we become more like Him. Just imagine a world with loads of Jesus replicas. Nothing would stand a chance against us.
“ Be not overcome of evil but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 [NKJV]
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Written by: Ayowade Adeleye ( through the Holy Spirit)