Does the Title bother you? It bothered me. I see people without character who are being followed and even admired and it makes me want to scream, “you do not really know the person”. Success seems to cover over a multitude of character flaws and our society will tolerate almost anything because they believe the “end justifies the means.”
We all know that the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line. It has been said that if you draw a straight line from where you are to where you want to be then you will have to compromise your character. It is a temptation we all have to face in our daily lives and we even develop cute sayings in order to ease our guilt or to ignore the truth of what we are really doing.
“It’s only cheating if you get caught”
“This is how the business (real) world operates”
“Rubbing is Racing” (For the Nascar fans)
So in a world that does not mind a few character flaws, especially if they help the bottom line, how does one choose character over success or profit?
In Daniel 3 we find the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego. Most people that grew up in church are familar with the story but if you have not read it in awhile then I would encourage you to read it again with fresh eyes.
These men were in leadership positions placed in a difficult spot to compromise a core belief that they had.
vs 16- 18 are some of the most powerful words we all must learn. “… we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of god you have set up.” (NIV)
We can all say we would have done the same thing because we know the outcome of the story. But think about the times that you caved into coworkers or even bosses out of fear of losing your job or friendships. They could have easily said, “we are in a position of leadership in this foreign country and with our high ranking we will be able to do more good for God if we just bow this one time”They could have said,” we do not believe this stuff and who cares if we bow?” I am sure all the excuses went through their minds and the fact that they would be killed, made them have more excuses for why they should just give in this one time. Most of us give into less character testing than what they faced and we either justify it or ignore it as being wrong all together. One thing we can be sure of is the character testing will come and when it does it reveals something about us.
Proverbs 11:3 says, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaitfhul are destroyed by their duplicity.”
We have all seen the character flaws in peoples lives eventually destroy them and unfortunately the people that are involved with them. Eventually you will reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7) but when that harvest comes is not predictable. Did these people start out as bad people, or did the pressure of the moment reveal a character flaw in their life slowly but surely, wearing a crack so big in their life that it destroyed them?
First of all, before we throw stones, none of us are good people (Romans 3:10) and we all have areas in our lives we need to work on. The key of course is to first accept the saving work of Christ but then out of obedience and the work of the Holy Spirit to develop the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If you are a Christ follower then it is always an obedience factor just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego. What we have to look for is the areas that are in our lives that may be trouble spots. If an airplane has a trouble spot we cannot just ignore it because by doing so you will put many lives at risk. It may have started out as a flaw but eventually it will become a disaster. You have to address the character flaws in your life the same way because we no one just hurts themselves when they fall.
So how do you prepare to stand and not give in? You have to determine what your non-negotiables are. For Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego it was not worshiping any other god. For you it may be not fudging the numbers on that busines report or not telling the whole truth when asked about a product. We all will be tested and the best way to be ready is to think with the end in mind.
What do you you want to be known for?
What things will you not bend on no matter what?
What do you want the people, who really know you, to say about you at your funeral?
For me: “I want those who know me best, to love and respect me the most.”
I cannot promise you that if you take a stand at work that everything will work out like Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego. What I can promise you, is that God will see the times you stood and He will reward you for the times no one even saw how you stood. (Hebrews 4:13, Matthew 6:4)
For more resources on Character read: The Bible, The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley and The Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell